PIERCING SHRIEK!!! Jesus Christ, it’s five o’fucking clock in the morning. Is it coming from the boat? Uh-huh. The mechanical room in the stern. Ali can sleep through anything. No, she can’t. What the fucking fuck!!! Okay, let’s start our day and pretend the boat won’t explode. At 7:30 (ever so considerate) I call the service & repair number Chris gave us. Josh, the other guy, answers.
“Did you run the generator for four hours?”
“Turn it on and the noise will stop.”
Last night, we had been so relieved to have stopped moving that I turned off the clattering generator without really thinking. Problem solved: we don’t explode. Breakfast is Cheerios, perpetrated on the Australian public by a gentleman named Uncle Toby. They are perilously crunchy, these Cheerios in-name-only. We become unmoored and proceed to go with the flow. The Murray is a placid torrent. It winds through stands of eucalypts, flanked sometimes by tall, raw embankments of golden earth. We encounter other houseboats along the way, both moored and chugging, and motor past holiday camps that are basically houseboats on stilts on top of bluffs. Paddle-wheel tourist vessels approach the Mayflower and we discover that the people aboard can be baited into waving. We smile gaily, wave, and say, “Fuck you, you fucking tourists!” Powerboats towing skiers zip by, as do obnoxious jetskis.
The Murray is Australia’s longest and most navigable river, delineating the border between New South Wales and Victoria, and at last passing through South Australia to empty into the Great Australian Bight. Compared to other river systems on other continents, the Murray is small potatoes. The river’s lack of water volume is due to the Australia’s arid nature. Still, it winds powerfully, yet leisurely, for 1,500 miles through forest, scrub, and wetlands.
We slip downstream. Once we get the hang of the blue markers at two-kilometer intervals, we feel more confident of where we are. The real estate has become more upscale: the embankments reinforced with wooden bulkheads or even riprap. Despite the neighborhood, we tie off on two dead trees and begin serious work on the puzzle while contemplating dinner prep. The burgers set off the smoke alarm. Then we turn off the lights and watch The Dressmaker on DVD that Ali had bought at the supermarket. The soccer-like game the sweaty, young Hemsworths are playing at the beginning of the film turns out to be … Footy!