Our Life Afloat

April 2020                                                   March 2020 >>
Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, authors, photographers & videographers

COVID-19 and Earth ~
Jack and Jude have been on Earth for three-quarters of a century and have never witnessed an event so testing of the human spirit. Great numbers of our fellows are falling and many many more are fearful of succumbing to an invisible killer that we know not how to defeat. It is an insidious attacker that can be carried by your best friend, your neighbour or any stranger that you pass on the street. Therefore it invades our peace with visions of death from an unseen assailant.

Jack and Jude believe it will test the bonds of social living and we say to you, maybe bigger is not better. A smaller population would be easier to manage, give all more space, require fewer resources, produce less pollution and with our labour-saving devices in place, give everyone more time to enjoy the beauty of Earth and her myriad creatures.

In the moments of solace ahead, imagine more time to savour the beauty of sunrise bringing light to a new day, more time to listen to children’s laughter that carries reflections on the joys of life, more time to feel the fresh spring breeze and hear the minute rustle of leaves. Time to read human thought, ponder our artistry, explore the meaning of life.

Look around and remember the flock of travellers with earplugs hiding them from the outside world. Why? is it not that we all pine for space and time for our thoughts. On this, possibly it is the creator reminding us that we have lost touch with the creation in our lust for bigger and more.

Sir David Attenbourgh:
“All of our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people,
and harder and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”


Fast Voyage Completed ~
250 Nautical miles in less than two days, from 10 AM Monday to 3 AM Wednesday, plus another hour to sail through Hells Gate after daylight.

Starting with fast currents sweeping us out the Tamar River and finding strengthening northeast winds that took us to Tasmania’s NW corner. From there, a gentle north wind carried us down the coast to the “Gate.” Arriving before dawn we hove-to. These light breezes freshened after daybreak to send us through the Gate flying just a reefed mainsail. Fabulous! We might need a day or two to recover, meanwhile, our broad smiles remind us of how fortunate we have been.

Voyage Planning Rules Our Lives ~
As I write, we’re in the midst of an intense decision. No telling what we’ll do. It’s getting colder down here at 43 south, and when the virus alarm bells first rang, we made bookings on a Jetstar flight back to our shack in the Northern Rivers of NSW, where our kids and little ones live. In less than a day, we madly packed the boat for its winter stay. Then, just as we finished, our flight was cancelled. That put us in a pickle as no future flights were offered.

First, we looked at returning home in a campervan as the Spirit of Tasmania was still crossing the Bass Strait. But then the borders started closing. Staying the winter in Macquarie Harbour, where water can freeze in July and August, would risk pneumonia or something just as deadly, so we reckoned that shifting somewhere warmer and drier would fall under the essential travel exemption.

Around midweek, we had the choice of sailing a thousand miles home to Ballina or sailing five hundred northwest to Adelaide, where we have a berth at a quiet yacht club.

Of those options, Jude favoured sailing home, so we made a few calls only to learn our neighbour’s jetty was unavailable. With no other safe moorings, we decided sailing home was not such a good idea.

Then a weather window appeared for a four-day journey nor’ west to the Adelaide Gulf, and we have been watching it while our thoughts have switched between staying here to freeze through winter and taking our chances across the seas. This weekend is the decider. A big front is passing over, bringing a juicy big high-pressure cell lingering behind. But it’s still too far away to see if we can cover all the miles to South Australia with it. Meanwhile, both of us are prevaricating over what’s best to do. Tasmania has the lowest exposure to the deadly virus. But, it gets mighty wet and grey and cold in Strahan.

Adding extra spice to this mix is the fact that Jetstar has just reinstated flights from Hobart to Sydney, completing the first. So, is Australia getting on top of this pandemic? Could air travel be restored before the onset of freezing weather? To see what we do, you’ll have to check our yellow-brick tracker.

Never Throw Anything Away ~
Here’s a tale of smelly origins that would have most of us turn up our noses and say not me. Ah, but sometimes there’s no choice in a sailing life that takes us to faraway places without a serviceman or marine shop.

Enter one toilet. Dastardly things that are ever so useful and necessary; devices that I used to charge triple to fix when earning my living afloat. Having fixed several horrible clogged ones, for our boat, I designed a system as fool-proof as any can be, and can claim with great pride that it has done a magnificent job several times every day for nigh on fifteen years.

“Nothing lasts forever,” is attributed to Plato upon his death bed. Clever lad, he knew how time takes its toll even on well-designed things like our bodies and excreta disposal devices. Ours packed up a few weeks ago. Being well endowed with spares, I changed its diaphragm with a used one stored in a dark locker and loudly proclaimed victory, feeling oh so clever.

Alas, that diaphragm ruptured this morning only three weeks into its tenure, putting us further into a terrible fix. We’re miles from everything, watching a weather window develop that may take us hundreds of miles away to further isolation. So what to do?

As it happened, we had a second pump. Used to be sure, but worth a go. So in it went. Tightening the last bolt, securing the pump in its awkward position, I gave it a few strokes and saw the water go up and down but not out the bowl. Oh No! What a predicament. We need to pump out our toilet or shudder to think of what crossing an ocean could mean.

With steely determination, that pump was extracted from its tight spot, and once out, I tore it down to reveal a corroded valve. My brain ticking feverishly, I remembered that the original pump had a ruptured diaphragm, and now its replacement has faulty valves. Easy solution, right? Nope, they were different makers. One a Whale Gusher, the other a Henderson Mk V. But a closer look revealed similarities. In fact, one’s a copy of the other. So taking the top off one and attaching it to the bottom of the other, I had a whole. Perhaps a bastard, but one that works.

Moral of this tale: Throw away nothing. Second moral: Carry adequate spares.

Margate Marina – Next stage completed ~

The redevelopment of Margate Marina represents one of Tasmania’s biggest recreational boating investments and is a significant recent addition to Hobart’s boating infrastructure with several unique points of difference; a combination of secure gated access with CCTV, a dual fuel pontoon, berths to 40m and an office open 7 days.

The second stage of Margate Marina’s redevelopment was completed late last year with the construction of an extra 83 floating berths and a 150 m extension of the attenuator/breakwater.

Now, the Marina accommodates 133 new berths with more to come. The attenuator/breakwater extension now includes a 90 m section to the south and a right-angled 60 m westward arm, which provides additional protection to the Marina offering a safe haven for all conditions.

Margate Marina Fuel Dock and berths

Demand for the additional berths has been strong, driven by the Marina’s range of facilities and its immediate access to the famous cruising waters of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

Anyone interested in berthing facilities can visit https://margatemarina.com.au/, ring the Marina office on 03 6267 9600 or email admin@margatemarina.com.au

Fish Farm Trash Collected ~
Our Macquarie Harbour Wildcare Group continues to collect fish farm trash whenever we’re onshore around the harbour in an effort to convince the farm management to instigate a full-time collection team to police the litter their operations dump on these pristine shores. The farm workers are as distressed by this pollution as we are, but management sets the agenda. And sadly, they place a higher call on profit than protecting the environment.

trash collected on Steadman Beach

Trevor Norton, master of the charter vessel Stormbreaker and Rob Harris, both committed members of our Wildcare group went out just this week to survey Pine Cove, a bay near the township of Strahan, and they were appalled at the farm trash littering the beach. Of course, they spent their time collecting what they could, then hauled it back to their vessel, the 73′ Stormbreaker, taking it back to the local tip.

Deck trash plus ute load to tip

This is not trash from the community. The majority are bits of plastic ropes, from 50 mm diameter down to 10 mm, plus lumps of styrofoam and parts of farm walkways.


We report these offences with position reports, but little action is taken.    

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Our Life Afloat — 13 Comments

  1. Hi Jack and Jude .
    Not a bad voyage for a couple of salty septuagenarians.
    Love and kind thoughts
    Brian and Sandra Dorling

  2. Hi Jack and Jude, I feel your pain, dealing with Australia’s massively oversized bureaucracy is like banging your head against a brick wall; feels good when you stop. I recently got fined $260 for “fishing from a tender”. I wrote a letter and finally got my money back, but some fisheries inspector had decided that one little old man and his young grandson picking up 2 crab pots in a 10ft tinnie, deserved the full force of the law. Ridiculous! Waste of taxpayer money. The inane replies that you’re receiving to your well documented issues concerning illegal polluting are another case of taxpayer money being wasted on oversize, incompetent, dysfunctional public service. All jargon and no action. Keep up the good work guys, and good luck! Steve.

      • reply from Stephen: Queensland, where else? Apparently, in Qld, it is illegal to use a tender for fishing. All the boaties that I’ve spoken to are unaware of this regulation. You can pay registration on your tender and then it is technically not really a tender anymore, but another registered ship that you lug around on your big boat. But being a registered ship means you must display your registration number, and carry all the safety gear, flares, V-flag etc., which is what I now do. I can understand the concern that a commercial operator might be able to use a mother ship and run a fleet of fishing vessels from that ship without paying rego on all of them, and I suppose that’s why the law is there.

  3. Excellent example of citizen science. Inspiring stuff guys, keep up the good work.

    Richard, ‘Heart of Gold’, currently in Metung VIC but potentially heading to Tassie soon

  4. Hi Jack and Jude! Angie and I are like-minded sailors here in Tasmania with our 35′ timber yawl “Neptune”. We keep her moored at Kettering although we live in the north of the state… will you be anywhere near Kettering on your travels? We’d love to catch up for a yarn! Cheers Jim & Angie

    • Hello Jim and Angie, nice of you to send us greetings and let us know of your timber yawl Neptune.
      We just returned from down-harbour without comms. Our plans are to stick around Macquarie as we’re in a new writing project and this is such a fabulous place to work. We’re so lucky here in Tasmania. If we take a run around the island later this summer, we’ll drop by for a cuppa. Cheers, J&J

  5. Hi Jack and Jude
    Always enjoy your blog.We are aiming for the west coast Tas during January /February.If you are around ,we owe you a beer.(we always use your cruising guides).
    Kind Regards
    Brian and Sandra Dorling

    • Hello Brian and Sandra – Great news – we should be around here somewhere. Must finish our outside paint work which means we may go up to the north coast for a spell. Cheers, J&J

  6. Hi Jack and Jude, great to hear you are both still going well, like you most of us are very concerned about climate change and the effect it may have on our planet and life styles. Hopefully nature can adapt, because the major polluters are not going to change anytime soon.
    We are still sailing on the east coast and out to New Caledonia on Olivia III, but at present back in Albany, WA for Xmas.

    • Hello Peter and Liz – Regarding our concerned about climate change, we feel more pressure on politicians will demonstrate the need to change. Climate change concern helped Labor at 2019 election but Coalition won on economy – survey. Would love to be in Albany again. Cheers J&J

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