Elixir of Glorious Voyage
As the elixir from our glorious voyage down Tasmania’s east coast sorted out any doubts roaming round my head, the physical exertion had my body bristling with renewed muscular power, and with the coming dawn we knew that pushing on into strengthening winds to complete miles that could be sailed in days ahead would spoil the moment. That decision saw us turn to sail straight through the spectacular rouge red and golden streaked ramparts of Schouten Passage, where immediately we caught a small Barracouta on our trailing lure.
Having decided to shelter within the large bright-white smile of sand protected by the Freycinet Peninsula, we beat upwind across calm smooth waters, enjoying the fun of sailing in complete tranquillity. With her massive Panasonic FZ2500 beside her at the helm, Jude captured happy snaps and mega-pixels of video while coaxing our lady up into the lessening breeze towards the north and shallows. Seeing four or five others yachts along that stretch of uncluttered beach, to better protect our lady we picked a spot well away from them and plonked our hook down while still under sail, capping off a fantastic voyage.
Almost immediately the aquamarine sea behind us ruffled darkly as wind willy-willies whooshed down the valleys, setting our BOSS anchor more deeply into the clean sand bottom. Turning to each other we smiled like kids hearing the school bell releasing us to play. Out the absolutely clear blue sky, as the wind bullets gained strength, first one vessel then another blew sideways before dragging away from shore. And so the drag-parade began. And while those demons gathered ferocity from the heat of a clear sky, more vessels gathered under Bryans Corner, and more found difficulty holding position.
A Tale from Yesteryear
Around the corner in Promise Bay, where for many days we’d been enjoying the majestic purple granite peaks of the Hazards all by ourselves, then the weather changed. The bay wasn’t a worry because the wind gusts came straight over the nearby eastern sand bluffs. But our contentment was soon to end when a flotilla of vessels rounded the southern point and were seen laboriously powering towards us like a fox spying its prey.
I suppose seeing a vessel anchored signals to most that it must be in the very best spot, because during the ensuing few hours we became surrounded by yachts like a wagon train surrounded by a band of Indians. Now it’s not that we’re antisocial. It’s more a matter of self-preservation as we’ve been put under threat by dragging craft many times in our travels around the world, so let’s just say we’re gun-shy. Anyways, against my menacing glare, this house sized catamaran placed himself directly in front of our beloved home on the water, and to-boot paid out little scope, ending up within spitting distance. Buffeted by gusts, I stood at our bow and shook my head and called out, to wit, the fellow ignored my pleas, turned about and went through his sliding glass doors, closed them then drew the curtains. Normally yachtie’s are first class folks. The best we say. They’ll come to your aid, pass info, loan you gear, and are upright citizens of Earth. But the odd one is not.
Anyways, darkness was coming and I knew I’d not sleep a wink with that bus poised to run over us, so, with much grumbling we shifted. Geez, that beast was that close we almost went in through its back door when picking up our hook, which I might say, was nicely dug in. When free, we obviously moved well away from that lot, unfortunately further out into even bigger blasts, where we tried to get a new grip of the bottom. Well, our first attempt ended in failure as our bow fell away and off we went. Attempt number two also ended in failure bringing my inner core temperature to near boiling.
Moving to a new spot we tried again, but, alas, a sudden gust saw us shear off and begin dragging little by little with each gust. When we’d slipped a quarter mile we hauled up the hook again, and this time pulled it right out the water, to find, much to our surprise that we’d speared a rather large oyster shell with the point of our 45lb CQR. That’s a lesson. Take a look. Once that was corrected, we got a good grip, and a beer later, calm returned to my inner self. But ever since then, we shy away from other craft when strong winds are expected.
Behind Bryans Corner it blew big time all night and most of the crafts shifted, ending up in a tight bunch at the nook. We and another held well. Since changing anchors in 2013, our big Manson BOSS has not let us down, whereas, the CQR we used for many years was sometimes temperamental, especially in weed. Anyways, dawn found us becalmed just where we’d parked.
There’s a funny thing about this part of Tassie. When the wind on the West Coast backs south of west, over on the Hobart side it generally runs up the coast and meets a northerly coming down from Bass Strait. And these two flows often meet around Schouten Passage. So, vessels sheltering from a northerly find the next day needing shelter from the south, creating what the locals call the Schouten Shuffle – moving the few miles from Bryans Corner on the Freycinet Peninsula to Schouten Island across the channel.
Our second day, we did the Schouten Shuffle, parking in our normal spot off the Ranger’s house just inside of the weed. As the day progressed and the southerly winds became more established, more boats arrived. Most choose the more popular Crockets Bay, next to us in Moreys Bay. Over the years, we’ve been ashore many times and climbed Bear Mountain an equal number, and when we saw that the Ranger in residence wasn’t the one we knew, we stayed on board to read and write up our journals. Our last blog was created that day. As the weather was set to change back again the next day, we also rested for another hop instead of doing another Schouten Shuffle.
Cruisy Sail South
Next day, while the other vessels hopped back to Bryans Corner, we had a cruisy sail south past little flat topped Phoques Isle then onto Maria, the voyage getting better as the miles ticked past. Towards the end, it was so sweet that we sped close along dramatic Maria Island with great views of the convict penal settlement at Darlington, in use during the mid-1800s with a number of buildings and structures surviving relatively intact that are now a tourist attraction. We ran wing n’ wing past these impressive stone buildings then continued through Mercury Passage towards Chinamen’s Bay, a large shallow inlet in the island’s southern part, where we nursed our lady into a sheltered nook just inside Point Lesueur and put our anchor down on the run. Here’s a five year old vid filmed on Maria with a GoPro3.
One night was all we enjoyed at Chinamen’s, catching enough flathead for a good feed, before hoisting our BOSS for a sail-away start to what became a golden sail to Fortescue Bay. Gosh, a perfect wind in just the right quarter had our lady scampering at maximum comfort speed. So fast, a pod of dolphins chased us to play at our bows, zooming past before turning about for another blast. Both of us filmed them and there’s a short vid online, Dolphins Having Fun.
It should be noted that our voyage around Tasmania isn’t actually a cruise; we’re heading for a much-needed haul out, coupled with a quick visit to the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival before heading across the bottom to Port Davey and then home to Strahan. So we’re clocking up miles whenever the wind is favourable. Jude, the on board statistician, records miles by sail versus those assisted by diesel, and so far we have notched up some impressive distances under sail.
We had considered the option of going through the Denison Canal to Norfolk Bay, or around the Tasman Peninsula, which can see big seas, albeit with dramatic, impressive scenery. The forecast said we’d have a good run if we opted to sail around, whereas we’d be motoring a long way the other option, so you can understand our choice.
Once entering the abrupt entrance into Fortescue that’s bounded by perpendicular cliffs, we found the tiny spot behind the wreck of the William Pitt in Canoe Bay vacant. How fantastic! That meant no annoying swell like what can be found further into the wider anchoring area. We slipped straight in to be immediately surrounded by tall gum forests, and could look out at the impressive Cape Hauy and Candlestick Dolerite column.
What was even better was the walking track not a stone’s throw away that took us to those massive vertical cliffs we came past. That was day two’s main activity. A walk through gorgeous tall forests, stressed a bit by the extended dry, then over the still flowing stream at Bivouac Bay, where you can bush-camp, before a heavy climb up to a frightening sheer drop-off overlooking eternity. Of course we just dawdled along at half throttle taking the whole day, but, gosh, we took lots of photos.
The following day’s forecast wind looked good for a run around to Port Arthur, but I guess someone forgot to tell Eurus, god of the unlucky east wind who must have taken a holiday. So we motored. One fabulous outcome, we got to pass between the impressive Cape Pillar and massive sheer sided Tasman Island. Wow! What a treat. Firing off photos in every direction, some finding sea level caves of monumental proportions, we even found a friendly current going our way and sped through at an alarming rate.
So there we were in Port Arthur, a place of notoriety for more than one reason. First, it was the penitentiary that replaced Sarah Island in 1832, housing the poor sods that had re-offended after being shipped down to the colony from Britain, mostly for petty crimes. And more recently for the Port Arthur massacre of April 1996, a mass shooting in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a man who will remain nameless.
We didn’t go near the penitentiary, electing instead to park in Safety Cove, the first bay and guess what? We had the place to ourselves. There we withstood a westerly blast in good holding sand with a bit weed, and when that blew out, we marched off to see what the Remarkable Cave offered. It lay just over the hill, accessible by tarmac and we soon found it to be rather popular. There must have been fifty vehicles parked at road’s end that held a magical view of blue sea bashing white against these gorgeous cliffs of reddish hexagonal dolerite. I wasn’t impressed by its popularity but by biding our time, we had our moment alone with a wonder of creation. Fortunately for us, and a lot of others, the tide was out; so we could saunter safely through this amazing cave tunnel to the wonderful deep blue sea, breaking white on a clean buff beach which had one lone sea lion asleep basking under the midday sun.
Hey, this is getting a bit long winded. Too much detail, so I’ll speed ahead to say that we parked off the penitentiary only one night and found it too busy with giant powered Catamarans doing trips one after another, taking mostly Asian tourists around the bay, before moving on to quieter surrounds in Ladies Bay. A few nice restful days there found a window opening to move further along, which we took even though the day was forecast to get angry. Yep! Never sail the beginning of a front. Those forecast Northeast winds crossing land hardly ever bring good sailing conditions, and they didn’t again as we rounded Cape Raoul and had to bash into headwinds to reach Wedge Island, where we motored hard to get into Nubeena. a lovely, narrow, well-protected pocket where I’m writing this.
There’s just one quick skip across Storm Bay to our haul out destination. Australia Day was splendid here at Nubeena, but that can wait till next time.