The EchucaFari is a social PWC ride that a group of friends have been doing for the last 7-or-so years. It is based from Echuca on the Murray River. The Murray River forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. Because June-through-August is winter in Australia so this ride is traditionally a very cold ride. Every time we have come back from the ride we get so many of our ride friends saying we wish we had gone.
This year Krazy Koika Nick decided to start the ball rolling by publishing the ride date back in February and selecting the middle weekend of the Victorian School holidays 3-to-5 July 2015. This was set and published on OZPWC.com.
Brett Carroll took the initiative and published the ride as a Facebook event in March. I then invited all of my Facebook friends who had an interest in PWC. The invited list grew to about 180. Of the total invited we had approximately 20 elect to ride in the first month. This grew to approximately 60 going from Facebook event 3 weeks before the ride and approximately 20 OZPWC.com riders who were not on Facebook. Prior to this year our biggest numbers for the ride had been 23.
We confirmed with all of the riders their intention to attend but as always, a big drop off occurs immediately prior to a ride as Life happens. To our friends not able to attend due to ill health we wish you a speedy recovery. By the Thursday before the ride we had 52 skis and 58 riders confirmed.
The River Murray has fluctuating river heights and one week before the ride the river was at its lowest point in years. Lucky for us the river authorities began releasing water into the river and by ride time the river was back to easily navigable levels.
A smaller group headed to Echuca on Friday July 3rd, with riders coming from as far as Sydney NSW (8.5 hour drive) and Berri SA (6 hour drive). After some exciting rescues on the road for broken wheel hubs, we launched 10 skis and explored the Goulburn river branch of the Murray, rotating leaders so everyone had a chance to ride on the mirror smooth waters in the lead. There were lots of snags to navigate around and lots of fun was had.
We will ride more of the Goulburn in the future. As it started getting late we headed back to Echuca. We had covered 65k, with lots of zigzagging. It was great to be back on the water. One of the highlights of the ride was having Bella, the blue heeler dog that traveled all the way from South Australia, along for the ride. She had a barking good time!
Most of the riders stayed at the Neribo Motel and we headed to the Shamrock Hotel for dinner. Numbers grew as our friends who had to work that day progressively arrived. Dinner was served to approximately 50 people. The hotel had “a buy 1 meal, get 50% off a second meal” deal on Friday nights so we felt very looked after. Some riders proceeded to the Star Bar and had sore heads in the morning.
Saturday July 4th we woke to the full moon setting and very cold temperatures ( -1 degree Celsius). After heading to Maccas for a regulation jet ski breakfast, we met at the ramp at 8am for a 9:30am departure. We were riding upriver to Picnic Point. As usual we had people slowly arriving and some who decided to launch from another ramp. This played to our advantage as we were able to group the riders and allow time between group departure times which meant more space on the river.
Hutch, Rebeldoo and Brett lead the first group; Anthony (Diptech) DiPietro and Tony lead the second group of mostly modified skis; River Rat Mike and I led the third group and Krazy Koika Nick and Ed led the stragglers. Corey even managed to get the faster skis to obey the slow speed zones. A big thanks to these guys.
It was a great sight to see all the skis out there having fun in the cold, especially the amount of wake generated by so many skis bunching up and obeying the 8 knot zone. We got to Picnic Point Caravan park for lunch with 38 skis on the river bank. Unfortunately not all of the skis made it. We believe eight skis turned back or did not make the distance. One of the modified skis pulled out with a broken fuel rail? The 46 skis that attempted the ride was a new record for the event.
Most of us had fish and chips for lunch and then refueled before heading back to Echuca. There were lots of opportunities for wide open throttle (WOT) after the slow zones had been negotiated. Several of the riders who still had fuel, continued up the river for another 10 km. We saw several wild horses by the riverbank and found a nice spot to tie up and have an ice cold beer. Heading back we did a sweep to check all riders were accounted for. I was especially pleased to see my ski clock up 200 hours since I had purchased it in September 2014 as we rode at WOT for most of the trip back to Echuca.
About 10 kms from Echuca we came across one of the skis being towed by NSW Waterways (state water police) after it had broken down. Thanks for the assistance. By the time we arrived at the ramp, everyone else had retrieved their skis and we were last off the water. 168 kms for the day.
Saturday night saw us back at the Shamrock Hotel for dinner and for swapping stories about the day. The American Hotel up the road put on a spectacular 4th of July fireworks. Some again went to Star Bar and this started the demise of our numbers.
Sunday was another cold morning and we had another Maccas breakfast to start the day. Assembly was scheduled at the downstream ramp at 8:30 am for a 10 am departure to Torrumbary Weir. We had 18 skis in the water as some of our core group was missing due to heavy celebrations the previous night.
A few of the early arrivals ventured up passed the Port of Echuca in the slow speed zone to check out the Historic site with its still active paddle steamers (see photo of Emmylou). Ten o’clock arrived and we departed. Glenn Snashall had his quadcopter filming our departure from above. He then drove down to the midway point and filmed the skis as the group arrived. We can’t wait to see the video.
Not far from the start a skier’s modified Yamaha had clouds of smoke pouring from it and so they abandoned the ride. Five more latecomers caught up to the bigger group. There was lots of opportunity to ride with your mates and test top speeds while maintaining distance off. Glenn did some more quadcopter filming from Deep Creek, a marina complex on the river.
I called the Lock Master at Torrumbary Weir and arranged with him to open the lock for us at 11:30 am. The Lock is a chamber with massive gates on either end that allows watercraft to move from the higher waters levels above the weir to the lower levels beyond the weir. We moved 18 skis in the chamber and the upriver door was closed.
The water level then dropped in the chamber approximately 18 feet (from the photos you can see the high water waterline mark). When the low water level was achieved the downriver doors were opened. We filed out and headed to a nice sandy bank to refuel. Here we took the group photo. I forgot to organise the bigger group photos on Saturday. Oops.
After our photo opportunity the skis reassembled at the lock and went back through the gates. Some riders decided to skip lunch and blasted at WOT back to Echuca. I heard stories of some skis running out of fuel in the last km. The other riders went to the Deep Creek Hotel and had yummy hamburgers and parmigianas. Afterwards we went WOT back to Echuca with Mark and Rebecca on Mark’s ski and Katie with me on my ski, sweeping the river to ensure all riders had been recovered. 172 km for the day. Total 404 km for the weekend. Last back to the ramp again. Another great ride.
I have been told that one of the riders was very tired on Sunday morning and accidentally filled his ski with diesel fuel. Lucky he did not start the ski but was therefore a non-starter for the day’s ride. The maximum GPS speed on my Seadoo RXT 260RS was 115km/hr on each of the three days, possibly assisted by some downstream river current. Thanks to everyone who came along and had fun.