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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Caught out in a storm, the two made the best of their situation.

Submitted: December 14, 2016

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Submitted: December 14, 2016



‘The minister wants to spend the first week of New Year at Chew Tobacco Bay.’ The boss told Henry and Hooks, ‘We’d better clean up a campsite and make a bivvy for him.’

‘By ‘we’, you are meaning Hooks and Me?’ Henry asked the rhetorical question.

‘Well yeah,’ the boss grinned, ‘I know you won’t have much time, but Jerry has bundled up tarps, ropes and all the usual gear. It will go over on the ferry tomorrow and you guys can catch the amphibian over the next day. Give you time to pack your personal gear.’

‘What about tucker?’ Hook’s first thought was always his stomach.

‘Yep, Jerry’s got that sorted too.’ Replied the boss, ‘I told him to put in some spam in case you miss out on a deer.’

Bosun was on the beach to meet them and had already stowed the gear off the ferry aboard his fishing boat. All Henry and Hooks had with them was a pack each of personal gear, their rifles and fishing rods. Bosun’s fishing boat was moored out in Halfmoon Bay and his little clinker-built dinghy was beached a little way from where they were standing. With the pair’s gear stowed in the dinghy, they pushed her into the water and Bosun rowed them out.

On board the Heron, Bosun secured the dinghy to her stern and off they steamed for nearly four hours on calmish sea to Chew Tobacco Bay. There was no wind but there was thick cloud cover, nevertheless, the colour of the sea, luminous, clear blue sea with the yellow sand on the beach, a backdrop of forested hills and the swooping, white mollymawks was scenery some auspicious painter would fizz over or perhaps some gifted writer describe with finesse.

Bosun’s two passengers had to be rowed separately to the beach because of the other gear that needed to be ferried ashore. Hooks rowed the last load giving Bosun a well-earned spell, while Henry hefted the gear up to the site where they had previously camped. There was a stream of sorts that carried brown, fresh water. It had an earthy taste, but was the only fresh water in the vicinity.

The Heron left the two alone with Bosun’s promise that he would bring a feed of crayfish later in the week but if not, after five day he would pick them up. It wasn’t said, but they all knew that the pickup depended on the weather. The seas of Foveaux Straight are notoriously dangerous!

Hooks went off in search of meat while Henry set up a rudimentary camp, collected some firewood and boiled the billy for a brew. While the billy brewed, he took an axe to search out some poles to make the bivvy. The rule was not to take a chainsaw because it is too easy to decimate the bush with one. The idea was to make as little impact on the bush as possible, which meant that even driftwood would be used if there was anything straight enough. The thought he heard a deer padding along in front of him. After a few seconds a yellow-eyed penguin came strutting along the track!  He heard a ‘bam’ and knew they had a supply of meat.

Over the next four days the pair built a tidy bivvy for the minister and were expecting Bosun to turn up with a feed of crayfish but there was no sign of him so they decided to do a bit of fishing. Hooks had caught five big blue cod, and Henry was behind! The completion was on! There was a sudden gust of wind, straight from the Antarctic by the feel of it, so they decided to head for the camp before the rain started. The sea became angry, roaring in the now howling gale! Obviously Bosun had listened to the forecast!

Luckily they had collected a good quantity of firewood and the campsite was sheltered, the whole bay was sheltered from the southerly, but just the same, the ropes on the bivvy were taunt and the guys holding up the poles had their work cut out! Their own little tent didn’t cut the mustard though, so they settled down comfortably in the minister’s bivvy. The storm raged for three days so the lads ate the fish, venison but avoided the spam! At least they were able to collect rainwater. They snoozed, warmed by the fire and yarned.

‘Remember the time we brought old Percy here with us?’ asked Henry.

‘Yeah, but not here, we took him to Murray Beach.’ Corrected Hooks. ‘Ha, Percy liked his rum eh? Gutsy bugger brought a couple of big bottles with him. Maybe it was three!’

‘I think so.’ Recalled Henry, ‘Still the lousy bugger didn’t shout once for us!’

‘Well, he did say that we could have brought our own booze.’ Hooks grinned at the memory.

‘He was carrying bugger all!’ said Henry, ‘We had all the tucker, rods and rifles. He didn’t even bring a rifle did he?’

‘No, he was too focused on his Cap’n Morgan!’

‘Whose idea was it? Can you remember? Asked Henry.

When Percy had gone off to collect some rock oysters, Henry and Hooks knew his last bottle had an inch and a bit of rum left so the pair removed a little and topped it up with cold, black tea. Between them they adequately disposed of the amount they removed. When Percy came back, he decided on a swig from his bottle. The pair didn’t dare look at each other but Percy hardly reacted! The next night the same thing happened, but more rum was removed. Percy reacted with a quizzical look on his face, as if his taste-buds weren’t working! Hooks completely lost it by busting out guffawing! Henry followed suit, but only after suffering stomach cramps through suppressing his laughter! As their reminiscing ended, so did the storm and to celebrate they went out into the starry night.

‘Bosun will probably be here tomorrow.’ Said Hooks.

‘Maybe,’ replied Henry, ‘but tomorrow’s Christmas Day, so maybe not.’

‘Bugger me days, I completely lost track!’ exclaimed Hooks. ‘Well anyway, this is a brilliant, if quiet Christmas Eve! And the storm’s gone’

Back in the bivvy, as they settled to sleep, Hooks, asked Henry what he missed by being in Chew Tobacco Bay on Christmas Eve.

‘Oh, I accept the situation just like you do.’ He replies.

‘What about your port? Isn’t your tradition to have a port on Christmas Eve?’ Hooks asked.

‘Yep, it’s one of me traditions.’ Were Henry’s last words before he succumbed to sleep.

A noise woke the pair at about 2:30am! They just sat up and eyed at each other without speaking, but the sound was no repeated, so they nestled down again to sleep. On Christmas morning Henry was first up for a pee, and as he walked back past the fireplace he had a second look!  There was a bottle-shaped object wrapped in gold paper. He took it into the bivvy to show it to Hooks, who was more surprised when Henry unwrapped it!

The pair had an early morning Christmas toast of port (out of their mugs).

‘That noise last night.’ Hooks said seriously. ‘Sounded like, ‘ho, ho, ho’ to me!’  

To this day, how that bottle arrived in the campsite is unexplained!

Merry Christmas all!



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