Standing in knee deep water, in my neoprene waders of course, I was up in the north western area of Western Australia, in the Panton River to be exact about to pull a stranded Mitsubishi four wheel drive off the rock it was sitting on. You remember that bit don’t you? Okay, so you probably also remember too that my name is Dean and I run a modified OKA four wheel drive and rescue people from the Aussie outback when they breakdown or get stuck. That’s great so there is no need to rehash everything, want a fried egg?.
Alright so to recap on where we were. 🙂
Gary was up on the river bank spotting and ready to unhook the Pajero’s winch from the large tree it was wrapped around should we have any troubles with that winch. Jarrod was standing at the waters edge to my left with the Pajero’s winch remote spotting and ready to let the winch out, keeping it tight but not too tight. I was standing beside the Beast, my winch cable was securely hooked to the after market tow hook and I had my own remote in my hand ready to start the rescue. We all knew our jobs and providing I took things easy, which I always did, the four wheel drive should have come off the rock without drama and with minimal damage.
Although the distance between us was less than thirty metres we all had two way radios, something I always carry spares of in the Beast because I think I might have told you before I don’t like yelling. I ran through a mental check list again making sure we had everything right, check twice do once, or something like that!
I looked over to Gary and pressed the call button on the radio. “Ready Gary?”
“Yep, go for it!” he replied.
Although I didn’t need the radio to talk to Jarrod I used it anyway so that Gary could hear us and knew what we were doing. “Jarrod?”
The instant I hit the winch retract button on my remote there was a screech of steal on rock I automatically looked up at Gary, not worried but cautious. Gary was using a pair of binoculars to keep a closer eye on his side of the vehicle, I made a mental note to congratulate him on the clever move of taking his pocket binoculars with him when we finished the rescue.
“It’s all good. Looks like it’s the slider mount. The entire thing is hooked on the slider mount. If we’re lucky it will help the slider pull over the top without ripping it off. Keep going Dean.” It was his car so I followed his lead.
I slowly wound in the winch, Jarrod wound out theirs as required, there was more screeches of metal and more shared looks between us but no calls to stop and within a few slow minutes the four wheel drive came off the rock and landed with a splash as the two airborne tyres flopped into the water.
So with the first stage of the rescue over you could be excused for thinking I took a bit of a breather, but that’s not entirely true. While the hardest part was over and I was just left with a straight winch pull up onto the Beast there was still some risk involved. I was pulling against the flow of the water, if Jarrod didn’t let the winch out at the right speed we could end up breaking a winch cable and I also didn’t know exactly what was in the water between the Beast and the Pajero. Sure I had walked the area there a few times but I didn’t step on every spot, I was fairly confident that we’d be fine but there is always a little bit of doubt. It’s that doubt that makes one take their time and think, which is a good thing.
The waters of the Panton River were not flowing that fast but they were flowing and I could feel the added strain on the winch as I pulled the Pajero towards me. It wasn’t a strain that worried me, the winch on the Beast was over engineered and could easily pull such a vehicle, but it was something I was weary of. I was also weary of the water flow picking up, it was unlikely and there would be little I could do if a surge came down the river but it was in my mind and I turned to look up river more than a few times.
When the Pajero was about half way back to the Beast it was clear that we were going to have to unhook the winch cable from the tree because the angle of it would see it pulling against the winch of the Beast. I stopped the Beast’s winch and called for Jarrod to let out enough cable for Gary to release the hook. Once the Pajero’s winch cable was released from the tree Jarrod wound it in, we were of course weary that it could catch on anything under the water as it came back but it was a risk we had to take and one that paid off.
About five minutes later the Pajero was slowly coming up onto the tray of the Beast, water was dripping off the under carriage and covering the tray. Once it was pulled up into position I tilted the tray back into the horizontal position. The boys were standing beside me looking up at their dripping vehicle.
“Well that’s the hard part over boys!” I said to them.
The boys were keen to look over their vehicle and see what damage had been done but there was no point doing it while we were standing knee deep in water.
I climbed into the cabin of the Beast, the old girl was tough and water dripping off my waders onto the floor was not an issue. With the boys out of the water I started the engine, dropped the box into reverse and slowly rolled out of the water.
By now you know my stance on safety and you know I wont risk myself or the Beast, I also wont risk the safety of other people or their gear so with the Pajero not chained on I took it extra slow up the dirt ramp. It’s not as risky as it sounds, even with the angle of the ramp, providing I took it slowly and made no sudden movements or corrections. What that meant for me was that I had to get the old girl in the right place first time and keep her moving slowly but steady all the way up onto dry land.
Honestly I make it sound harder than it is sometimes and I got the Beast up the ramp without any dramas. See I’ve got these two things, one on each side of the cabin, they are called mirrors and they are used to show you what is behind you, learn how to use them properly and you can reverse anywhere.
I parked the Beast next to the boys camp and we set about unloading the Pajero from the tray. Now you might be wondering why it is I chose to put the four wheel drive on the back of the Beast and not let them drive it out by themselves once it was back on the track.
Previous Desert Rescue story here.