MUDMAN AND HIS CREW: A re-enacted photo from that fateful day.
MUDMAN AND HIS CREW: A re-enacted photo from that fateful day. Angus Gale

The googans 'n' the mudman

AN OLD fisherman once told me, "Don't get too smart, matey! Don't take the mickey out of anyone because they're seasick, they've stuck the boat on the mud or fallen overboard, 'cos next time it might be you”.

I admit I love watching YouTube videos of people making mistakes in boats, but the words of that old salty seadog ring in my ears when I have a good chuckle at someone else's expense.

I'm a big believer in karma, but I suppose most of all I believe that if you do something for long enough you are likely to make a few mistakes yourself.

I was talking to some friends of mine recently who reminded me of a little "episode” we had once.

Now I can't name this person, but he is in the newspaper business, (not writing for them, rather chucking them over people's fences).

Let's just call him Mumbles.

We were at Caloundra and rather than Mumbles buy his own boat, he decided to come out in mine and do a bit of fishing and crabbing.

He brought a couple of his kids along and I had at least one of my tribe with me too.

Mumbles was a pretty good fisherman but not much of a boatie.

He made this clear as we passed under a road bridge in my boat.

The harbour-master marks the span of the bridge that you drive the boat through with a blue light shaped like a triangle and Mumbles asked my why they had a "bug zapper” on the bridge.

This wasn't the first time someone had asked me this same question. The last time someone made that observation I was on the flybridge of the police vessel "Brett T Handran” going under the Captain Cook bridge in Brisbane.

The person who asked that same question was the head copper in Queensland, the Commissioner.

I carefully thought out my answer and replied "They must have plenty of mozzies to deal with here sir”.

Whew, what a diplomat!

After a while when we'd pulled a few pots and harvested a couple of crabs it was time to head back.

Mumbles was grizzling because he was late for a date with a carton of Toohey's so I decided to take a risk. I decided to take a short cut through a shallow section.

My patience was unravelling and I needed to get this Googan* off my boat.

I'd spent many a day crabbing in this location. The passage was very shallow in parts, there's not much tide and if you do run aground, you just lift the engine up and push the boat off the bank, simple.

I took on the short cut and lost. The boat pulled up abruptly and stopped.

"Don't worry,” I said as I stepped off the back of the boat onto what I thought would be firm sand, "We'll be of in a jiffy.”

Firm sand, umm no.

Thick sticky goo about the consistency and colour of chocolate mousse engulfed my body up to the neck.

I struggled in the muck looking like an overweight Tarzan stuck in quicksand,

Mumbles said later it was more like a pink hippo rolling in a mud hole.

Mumbles and the kids cracked up as I struggled for my life. Somehow, with strength from places unknown, I managed to stay above the water and mud and pushed the boat over the "sand” bank.

I climbed back on board. To say I was muddy would be like calling the Sahara a sandbox. There was mud from head to foot. My pockets and even my jocks were full of it. I stripped down and washed myself off with a few buckets of seawater. I looked at Mumbles and his boys and saw the looks of horror on their faces as I sluiced the mud from my now naked body. My kids had seen it all before. Don't worry, one said, "at least we're not in the middle of the city this time”.

Mumbles and his kids haven't been out on the boat again. There's a boat in his driveway now that he grumbles about from time to time but he reckons it's worth it... at least for his children's eyesight.

*Googan. A term of derision that fishermen with boats used to describe shore-based fishermen.

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