Brisbane couple Heather Wood and James Brown with children Eloise and Lincoln on their homemade raft they pedalled more than 70km down the Clarence River to Grafton this week.
Brisbane couple Heather Wood and James Brown with children Eloise and Lincoln on their homemade raft they pedalled more than 70km down the Clarence River to Grafton this week.

RAFT OF SKILLS: ‘Why aren’t people on this river?’

IT SOUNDS like any other holiday - a family of four in a tent, no technology for the kids, living off dried food and beautiful scenery to enjoy.

Brisbane couple James Brown and Heather Wood and children Eloise and Lincoln have spent the past week doing just that - with one significant difference.

Their campsite was a travelling raft built from five 40-gallon drums, bamboo poles, pallets and a whole lot of rope.

A map of the route a Brisbane family took as they pedalled a homemade raft 70 km down the Clarence River to Grafton last week.
A map of the route a Brisbane family took as they pedalled a homemade raft 70 km down the Clarence River to Grafton last week.

For their latest weeklong holiday the family floated on their paddle-powered homemade vessel for 70km down the Clarence River.

And according to them, they're "not really water people".

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"We're adventurous I guess," Ms Wood said. "We've done all sorts of crazy stuff with the kids.

"We've driven across the Simpson Desert with them, and we tried to do the Overland Track, but we had to pull out because we were rescuing too many people."

Mr Brown, who used his engineering knowledge to create the four-metre pontoon, developed the idea with his children as "something to build with the kids", and prepared the plans.

They did a test-build in their Brisbane front yard, before transporting the parts to the remote river location at Lilydale and building the boat in a day by the waterside.

Brisbane couple Heather Wood and James Brown with children Eloise and Lincoln on their homemade raft they pedalled more than 70km down the Clarence River to Grafton this week.
Brisbane couple Heather Wood and James Brown with children Eloise and Lincoln on their homemade raft they pedalled more than 70km down the Clarence River to Grafton this week.

"I knew it would float because I'd done the calculations, but because we'd never put it on the water we weren't sure how quick it would be," Mr Brown said.

There was no motor at the back, just a rudder, with the entire raft powered by a bike-pedal set-up, the parts scavenged from roadside collections in Brisbane.

"We guessed it would do about 10km a day, and it was fairly spot on," Mr Brown said.

Pedal power brings Brisbane family down Clarence: A Brisbane family shows off the makeshift raft they built and pedalled 70km down the Clarence River
Pedal power brings Brisbane family down Clarence: A Brisbane family shows off the makeshift raft they built and pedalled 70km down the Clarence River

"The seat moves back and forward so the kids could paddle as well."

They chose the Clarence River after their earlier plan to float the boat from Somerset Dam to Wivenhoe at Easter was scuttled by COVID-19 restrictions.

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"South East Queensland Waterways hadn't opened up the area, and we weren't sure if they would allow us to do what we wanted anyway," Ms Wood said.

"And we looked for a Plan B, and some said to try the Clarence River.

"It's been glorious. The scenery is spectacular, and we were surprised there were so few people on it.

"We hadn't seen anyone until we got closer to Grafton and kept wondering why aren't people on this river?"

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After seven days surviving on dried food prepared on the JetBoil, Ms Wood said the children, who she described as "pretty resilient", had managed the journey with no technology or other modern distractions.

"They didn't hop in the water much though," she said. "It was a bit cold for them."

Arriving in Grafton on Monday, the family began the daylong task of disassembling their floating home before driving back to Brisbane.

"I think we've gotten it out of our system now," Ms Wood laughed. "It has been pretty special."

Eloise and Lincoln Brown show off the pedal power of their homemade boat they travelled down the Clarence River on this week.
Eloise and Lincoln Brown show off the pedal power of their homemade boat they travelled down the Clarence River on this week.