Yes, it is a strange title for a sailing story, but when you go sailing you must sometimes expect the unexpected.
This was a fine Sunday and we had invited some friends, a husband and wife from New Zealand, for a dayís sailing on the Broadwater. I had always conceded that New Zealanders were a rather fearless lot, and in their own environment very hard to upset, but apparently there is one thing that does worry them, and that is snakes.
I must admit that I donít care for snakes much either, but certainly not afraid of them having been brought up in the country where snakes abounded. We had Tiger snakes, Black snakes and Brown snakes, and always attempted to kill them when possible, although these days we donít see them as the threat that they were then.
We had often seen a family of small sea snakes swimming in the shallow water just off the south westerly point of Crab Island but they offered no threat and we left them alone.
It had been a pleasant day out on the water and we were almost home. Our Kiwi friends were busy stowing sails, and I had just started the motor when I noticed what looked like a tree branch, but it was moving, so swung the boat around to investigate only to find a very large snake heading for the beach where several young children were playing in the water on inner car tubes.
My first instinct was to kill the snake, and grabbed the spinnaker pole and gave it a whack, but this had little effect as it just pushed it down in the water and only made it angry. The snake then attempted to swim under the boat, and next thing, it had popped its head up in the motor well even though the motor was running but not in gear.
This snake was a beauty and obviously a Carpet Python. It was nearly three meters long, had an unusual patterned skin and obviously had just had a big feed. It must have swum from South Stradbroke Island, where they feed on, amongst other things, bandicoots, birds eggs, and I have been told that they will even take a young wallaby if they get the chance.
When our friends saw what was going on there was rather a panic on board, and when I announced that we would try and capture the snake, the husband headed for the cabin top, and refused my request for help. His wife headed for the cabin and shut herself in. Meantime June had emerged from the cabin with a large rubbish bin that we always carried, and with the help of a towel and the spinnaker pole, June and I managed, with some difficulty, to wrestle the rather heavy snake into the bin, and tied the lid securely in place.
It was explained to me that NZ has no snakes, but I was still surprised by the reaction of our friends and strangely some weeks later an invitation to go for a sail was refused by the same couple, even after I explained that there was little chance of running across a snake again.
What to do with the snake? Well it was gratefully received the next day by the then Bird Life Park on the Southport Spit and it lived on happily, and in snake luxury, as one of their exhibits until the park was closed several years later.
Just by the way, donít be mislead. Maybe these snakes are not poisonous, but they can certainly give you a decent BITE.
This snake on a sheep breeding property had got in under an electric fence into a lambing enclosure, he swallowed a new born lamb, but got caught by the fence on the way out, it turned around to bite the fence, but then got hooked up. It was still alive when the photo was taken some time later.