top of page

The Kemp Sculling Odyssey June 2021

I recently guided four mates from Balmain Rowing Club down the majestic Hawkesbury on an historical adventure. The Honourable Joseph Grech our fine President, the Rake like powerhouse James Hutton, the magic maestro of the blades Michael MacCormick and the jocular genius Jeremy Childs.

Along the way we paused a while so as the lads could hear the story of my family’s 200 year history of competing in rowing. The first stop was at The Reach at Windsor, where in the 1840’s, my 4 x great grandfather competed. My forebears competed here at the long forgotten Windsor Regattas for 60+ years.


A little further downstream we pulled up and heard about mighty match races between warring families, Kemps and Gronos, where against raging flood waters two men fought it out in the 1870’s.

We pushed on again gliding through the kilometres, winding our way beneath tall golden sandstones cliffs, past crumbled ruins & historic churches, until finally arriving at another famous Reach. This legendary stretch of water is where once giant men fought giant battles and thousands gathered to witness rowing match races contested furiously by the Kemps in the late 19th century. These Hawkesbury Regattas were a great spectacle for many year.

The weather quickly turned and we found ourselves having to put in a giant effort just to get down the Reach. Once around the bend though we found solace in a remarkably calm bay. Here a beautiful mound of river sand had been dumped by recent flooding making a perfect spot to recuperate. By this time we had done a marathon and thirst overcame some poor retches, who found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

This was the last stop before camp so we pushed on desperate now to make landfall. "How much Further?", "Surely we must be nearly there?" came the calls. "A little further”, I replied. Then, tucked away up a little sandy track, off a private hidden beach lay our campsite. 57 kilometres travelled so far.

After feasting on the world's biggest steaks that evening, we fed a friendly Frogmouth. Then our heads hit the pillows hard.