Lexie Clissold and her houseboat Katalong before it sank yesterday.
Lexie Clissold and her houseboat Katalong before it sank yesterday. Samantha Elley

Woman's beloved houseboat sinks

FOR the past six months pensioner Lexie Clissold had lovingly restored her rundown houseboat on the banks of the Richmond River at Coraki – calling it the Katalong.

Yesterday, after less than a week on the water, the Katalong sank.

Jamie Smith, of Woodburn, and Andrew Rogelja, of Bungawalbin, who work in an engineering business next door to where the Katalong was moored, watched it go under.

“The boat seemed to have caught under some tree branches,” Mr Smith said.

“As the water rose the boat couldn’t go anywhere and water started flowing in.

“We were too late. If we had known earlier we could have saved it.”

Both men managed to tie the submerged boat to a tree and checked that no one was aboard.

“We saw Lexie walking up the road at 8am, so we knew she was okay,” MrRogelja said.

At 79 years old, Coraki pensioner Mrs Clissold has done a lot of living.

After raising eight children and running a building contractor business with her husband, she did some itinerant work and also became a professional cook.

When her husband died and she lost her job as a cook, Mrs Clissold decided that she wanted to travel around Australia on a bicycle.

“At that time I was cooking for the local surf life saving club, so I followed them in their training,” she said.

“I used to ride with bottles of water up hills so I could get fit to travel.”

Then for the next 30 years she travelled around Australia with her bike and camping equipment.

“I went around Australia that many times I lost count,” she laughed.

“I used to ride about 100km a day, so I reckon I covered 40,000 to 50,000km in my time.”

It was only 12 months ago that she decided that she didn’t want to bike ride any more.

Mrs Clissold came to Evans Head and saw a dinghy for sale.

“I bought that and brought it here to Coraki,” she said.

“I didn’t want to have to pay rent any more so I lived in it while I decided what to do.”

The opportunity came up for Mrs Clissold to buy and restore a very old, rat-infested boat that to most people wouldn’t have been worth restoring.

“It was bad, but I saw the future in it,” she said.

“I cleaned that whole boat by hand. Being a builder, I did a lot of the work myself.”

Katalong was to become her new home and it was decorated with Mrs Clissold’s personal touch.

The interior had been lined with tiger skin print and chantilly curtains on the windows.



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