Junior Captains Abbey and William jump on the latest Whittley 2380 to show how to have the ultimate family camping trip under the stars.
When Dad pulls into the driveway with the latest Whittley, nobody is happier than us. We’re always invited on Whittley missions — Dad needs us to make the beds look big and comfy, and he makes us collect all the firewood for the campfire. Captain Mum usually comes on Whittley missions, too — she normally has too many champagnes and we get to stay up late and tell stories around the campfire. Captain Dad is pretty happy because on this trip we’re heading back to the place his father taught him to fish. He says he knows every good bream hole, but then he always says that. To mark the occasion, he’s packed his favourite floppy glass rod that Poppy gave him.
Our Whittley mission (Dad likes to call it a mission because it sounds hard-core) takes us to the tannin-stained (Dad says tannin is what tea is made out of, but we think it looks like pee) waters of East Gippsland. We turn off at the Wild Rye bakery where we get hot pies that burn our tongues. Dad gets his usual — a cup of English Breakfast tea and vanilla slice. Holidays are the best because we get to eat whatever we want and don’t have to have baths with our little sister, Molly. We head down a dusty winding road to the boat ramp, peering out the window, trying to spot kangaroos or the giant monitor lizard that steals our bacon off the campfire.
We get to the boat ramp and unload everything from the truck into the boat. Dad is usually grumpy by now, when he remembers the things he forgot to pack. This time it’s the donut for towing behind the boat. He also forgot the ice, but it doesn’t matter because the Whittley has a fridge with a freezer. He’s also grumpy because we just want to run up the sand dunes — and he wants to pump nippers. Dad can’t be bothered fishing with soft plastics or lures, because he knows nippers produce the goods. We head to the sand flats with the little yabby holes and Dad pumps until he gets blisters. We name each of the yabbies, but before long there’s too many and we run out of names.
Then we cruise to the camping spot. We’re up the back of the boat, which is a giant L-shaped couch that can change to a U-shaped couch. It’s super-comfortable. Behind us there’s a boarding platform (marlin board) and we can fish straight off the back of the boat. We can’t see the engine, but we know it’s there because Dad is showing off by doing 35 knots. It feels real fast. At the campsite, our job is to collect all the sticks for the fire. We love doing this, because it means marshmallows aren’t far away. We pick the best cooking sticks — long and strong, but not too thick.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Whittley and The Captain go back more than 50 years. Trevor, father to one of The Captain’s crew (and Poppy to Abbey, Will and Molly) purchased one of the last timber boats built by Jim Whittley in the late ’60s.
As Trevor remembers it, “A mate and I bought a bare-timber 17ft hull and deck. We did a complete fit-out including paint, upholstery, dash, engine and drivetrain. We fitted a hotted up six-cylinder Holden 202 with a worked head, hot cam and twin carbies. We couldn’t afford a stern-drive leg back then, so it had a driveshaft with a dog clutch. Most ski boats had shafts back then.”
Trevor reckons the boat could crank it up to 42mph and had “the perfect wake for slalom skiing”.
With a grin on his face, Trevor continues. “Lake Eildon in Fraser National Park was our favourite place to head with our girlfriends (who would later become our wives). We’d be up at first light and ski nearly all day. We’d ski all the way up to Bonnie Doon or Jamieson, find a quiet spot then have a picnic or snooze in the half-cabin.”
Trevor was a plumber and welder and his mate Geoff was a brake mechanic, so the fit-out on the Whittley was pretty tidy. For a classic marine look on the top deck and floor, the handy duo cut grooves in the marine ply, then filled it with white putty and sealed it with clear two-pack Forminex lacquer. They even built their own trailer.
As Trevor says, “Jim Whittley, founder of Whittley Boats, reckoned it was the best finished boat he’d ever seen.”
The Whittley family affair doesn’t stop there. Trevor also bought one of the first Whittley glass boats. “
The Voyager was a much bigger and heavier boat, better suited for fishing,” he recalls. “It had a stove-hot Holden 308 and went much faster and harder. But it wasn’t as nimble as the smaller timber boat.”
We figure this just might be where The Captain’s crew get their hankering for fast fishing trips.
Dad cooks dinner on the BBQ on the back of the Whittley. He sets up the table in the middle of the seating — it’s just like at home with heaps of room. He cooks spaghetti, but the ends get burned because the pot is too small. It doesn’t have much taste, but that’s OK because there are ice-creams in the freezer.
We love it around the campfire, cooking marshmallows while Dad drinks Captain Morgan. He tells funny stories while the sparks from the fire float into the night sky to be with the stars. We hear all kinds of animal sounds from the bush. Dad says they’re frogs, owls and koalas, but we’re pretty sure he just farted.
When one of us falls asleep, Dad carries us up the boarding ladder on the front of the boat and puts us to bed in the cabin. It can be closed up with a sliding door and is really cosy. Mum isn’t with us this time, so Dad uses us like hot water bottles to keep warm.
In the morning, we head down to the entrance where the inlet meets the river. Dad says there’s a deep gutter that the fish use like a highway. We cast the nippers straight off the back of the boat and after five minutes, all the rods go off.
It’s a good fight, but we take our time like Dad says and bring the fish to the boat. Dad only lets us keep a few, because he says he wants our kids to have plenty of fish when they come along.
Dad says that his Dad had a Whittley, too — one of the last timber ones ever built. We figure we’ll have a Whittley one day as well. That would be cool, because there’s heaps more fishing places for us to explore along the coast. We’ll be sure to remember to pack the donut though!
WILL AND ABBY’S 10 FAVOURITES…
01. Roasting marshmallows: “The best way to cook them is with a long thin stick — crunchy on the outside, but not burned and soft in the middle” Abbey
02. Catching big fish: “I love it when the reel goes zzzzz! Dad always says to let it run” Will
03. Campfire stories: “I love being warm around the campfire and telling stories under all the stars” Abbey
04. Sounds at night: “You get to hear all kinds of cool sounds at night time. I wonder what animals make those noises?” Abbey
05. Fast boats: “Dad likes to show off” Will
06. Sleeping on the boat: “You can snuggle up next to Dad when Mum’s not there” Will
07. Pumping yabbies: “Nippers are great for catching big bream” Abbey (the yabby)
08. Rolling down sand dunes: “In summer, I roll all the way and into the water” Will
09. Whale watching: “When we saw the whale at Eden I was scared, but so excited” Abbey
10. Road trip snacks: “I love getting a meat pie from Wild Rye” Will