Cobdogla map

A few WBA members made it to the Cobdogla ‘Cobby Capers’ event.

For those that don’t know, Cobdogla is a small village on the Murray River in South Australia close to Berri. It was setup as a major pumping station supporting agriculture irrigation. It is the home of an unusual but very high capacity pump, the Humphrey pump.  For me, I had visited Cobdogla before, during my long trip through the Murray River in 2014 / 2015.

Hanh and I started our road trip to Cobdogla on the Tuesday before the weekend event, stopping overnight at Inglewood and Murrayville.
Our early arrival saw us see the other boats arrive and launch. We also launched Mars and made ready for the weekend.

There were a handful of putt-putts and a dozen or so steamboats from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The steamboats varied a bit. There were paddlewheelers but most were propeller driven, steam engines varied between single cylinder double acting, two-cylinder double acting and compound engines. The hulls were mostly fibreglass with timber trim, which gave an appearance of the hulls being wooden as well.

Cobdogla1  Cobdogla2   Cobdogla3  cobdogla4

On the Friday the plan was to go downstream through Lock 3, 20 river kilometres to the riverside hotel (seemingly in the middle of no-where), the Overland Corner Hotel.

The aim was for us all be ready to move at 8:30 am. For me it meant wandering down to my boat at 8:15 and turning the key. For the steamboats it meant getting to their boats at 6:30, lighting fires in boilers and slowly warming through their machinery while blowing out condensate until all was ready. This meant there was a bit of tolerance applied to the 8:30 start.

When everyone was “fired up”, we proceeded to Lock 3. On arrival the Lock doors were open. When all the stragglers were loaded, the gates closed and the water level lowered a few metres before the gates at the other end opened allowing us to leave. Mars was second last to leave as our mooring line was tangled. The last to leave had an engine problem so I towed them a small distance before their engine got going. Cobdogla boats


On arrival at Overland Corner Hotel a frantic beer and eating affair ensued while talking about the morning events.

Then we needed to meet the Lock deadline of 4:30pm. By the end of the Lock transit we were losing light. With my lack of navigation lights, I improvised with an all-round light I always carry on Mars. Dinner was then at the Cobdogla Pumping Station.

On the Saturday the start was again at 8:30, the aim was to reach Lake Bonney through Chambers Creek via downstream Murray River. Chambers Creek was a real challenge, although there were tiny arrows marking the way the directional mix ups were plenty. The channel was narrow with hairpin bends and had many snags both in the water and overhead and the depth on my sounder showed as low as 0.4 of a metre. Many boats ran aground and I only touched when I towed out a steam boat from grounding, when I drifted into shallows when he was slow to take my tow.  Having reached Lake Bonney, I returned through the creek again. This time the way was much easier as I just backtracked my GPS. Again, dinner was then at the Cobdogla Pumping Station.

Cobdogla overland corner hotel

            Overland Corner Hotel

Cobdogla museum
Cobdogla Museum – Thompson
1000hp 
triple expansion steam
engine and pump
from Loveday
Pumphouse

On Sunday the Cobdogla Pumping Station and Machinery Museum opened especially for the ‘Cobby Capers’ event.

Unfortunately, the Humphrey Pump couldn’t be shown as Worksafe had closed access due to bad floors and roof. The good news was that the pump had been run in March and two new operators had been trained, so when the floor and roof issues are resolved the Humphrey Pump can be operated.

Monday saw us begin our return home with an overnight stay at Sea Lake
.
Andrew Campbell

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