Arrr, me hearties, we’re off to Rum Island, where treasure be found. Not gold doubloons, but crates of strong Indian rum that got hid two centuries ago. Twas long before Franklin and Flinders became famous, when the fledgling Colony was run by the Corps, that’s when Captain Hamilton beached the sinking Sydney Cove. Aye, with water up to the lower-deck hatches he run her up on what’s become Preservation Island in the Furneaux Group. His crew, thankful to be saved from that almighty storm, starting breaking open the grog for a wild time, until her good captain shifted the last crates onto a small offshore island – Rum Island she’s come to be known.
Roll the clock forward to present day, it’s no longer February of 1797 and the good ship Banyandah is slipping along in the Sydney Cove’s wake. Away westward, land slips below the horizon as we enter turbulent waters, ahead a strange collection of motley islands. Some tall and stately, others squat and treeless, all lined with gigantic boulders tinged red. Buff in colour like winter wheat, these giant pillars stand as if guarding those shores from wild weather known as the Roaring Forties. Captain Hamilton thought he was entering a well-protected bay, but he was traversing the much-respected Banks Strait. Matthew Flinders was sent to reconnoitrer the wrecked Sydney Cove’s and became suspicious that it was a strait and not the southern extremity of Terra Australis.
North East Tasmania
The North East Coast of Tasmania does not have any secure anchorages except St Helens which is dangerous to enter. Schouten Island and the Freycinet Peninsula are the last to offer protection from all weather. After it lays a hundred odd miles with a few small nicks offering scant protection from southerly winds. In summer, easterlies prevail, and even when the wind turns south, the easterly swell can make these hidey-holes a living hell. With the strong currents flowing through Banks Strait, careful planning is required to negotiate this part of Tasmania.
After our nearly two months of hard yakka on the hard at the Kettering Marina, February’s halcyon weather brought an intense desire to be on honeymoon aboard our Banyandah. Originally we had planned to move her north to a safe berth then return by land to Hobart’s Wooden Boat Show. But the fine, warm weather found us lazing in bed, strolling Maria Island’s lonely beaches and taking our Green Machine on slow paddles exploring nooks to do a bit of fishing. Seems the boat show would have to wait a couple more years.
Issues to Resolve
Plus, we had a few issues to resolve. Our newly acquired mainsail from hell needed more than a little thought on how we’d reef it and we still had to determine a course of action to fix it, requiring careful inspection under load. The other issue is my bad shoulder. The muscle I tore during our refit is causing not only a lot of pain, it makes running our ship even more challenging. Ever try hauling up a mainsail or grinding in a full headsail with a lame shoulder? It hurts. Yeah, I know, I’m becoming a wimp, but I just had to ask my dear lady if she’d be my winch wench.
Look lads, if we could make a pattern from Jude, and mass-produce her, we’d be in heaven for all of our lives. She cooks, loves to helm, she can row a tinny, hates outboards or motoring anywhere and loves exploring dangerous isolated places. And now she grinds in the headsail when I can’t. Pain be damned. My shoulder will fix itself in time. So we keep paddling our kayak, have a few swims, while I take copious amounts of panadol. A few coldies certainly help.
Maria Island & Freycinet Peninsula
We had a sail away start from Maria Island then explored the south coast of Schouten Island, poking into three nooks on that ruggedly beautiful coast backed by cinnamon red mountains, a feature of that area. But the east swell rolling in made it too dangerous, so we scooted off upon a zephyr to Morey Bay to anchor smack in the middle of a holiday camp. Boys and their toys zoomed every which way, but that didn’t matter. The ultra clear water beneath soaring rock mountains added beauty to the laughter floating upon the warm air. Our very first morning we scaled Bear Rock Mountain for one of Nature’s most outstanding views. Watch this vid and you might be planning your very own trip.
The Van Diemen’s Land Circumnavigation crowd caught up to us there, more than forty boats. That seems a good way to sail around Tasmania. Every two years, in conjunction with the Wooden Boat Show, The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania organises a circumnavigation, 800 NM taking about 45 days. Logistical support includes several radio relay boats and a loose itinerary that you and your friends can arrange to suit any special places you may want to visit. Weekly get-togethers, dinners and BBQs are organised to help keep the fleet in touch.
While the fleet was at Freycinet, a strong northerly attacked. Banyandah prefers to be away from the throng in bad weather so we hid in Hazard Bay. What a mistake. Those strong northerlies blew bullets like cannon fire blasting down those steep mountain slopes that knocked us about until we dragged. When daylight returned, sleepy eyed and out of condition we lugged our 65-pound admiralty up from under the saloon floor. Oh well, it would be needed in the Furneaux Group.
As everyone knows, Tasmania’s weather can change in an eye-blink. Going to bed cowering from a viscous northerly we awoke with a southerly putting our bum to shore. Time to move. And in a sparrow’s fart we were hauling up our modified admiralty and motoring into Cook’s Corner for an early morning kayak that yielded two flathead and a squid.
Most of the fleet left that afternoon, heading north towards Banks Strait, taking the southerly that was then blowing 20 knots with rain showers. Everyone was planning to traverse those straits mid-next day to have the tide favourable; otherwise it would be mountainous with wind against fast currents. We opted out.
The next morning dawned blue and clear, so Jude and I took the track starting in Cook’s Corner through forests to climb Freycinet Peak at 600 metres for views worth the arduous climb. And later that day, after a quick tidy up to cinch everything down, we were sailing out Schouten Pass, hoping we’d not left too late for the wind. Systems hurtle through down here.
As the sun sank behind those magnificent red mountains called The Hazards at Wineglass Bay, the now cooling sea breeze intensified to a mild 12 knots, and Banyandah with her clean bottom just scooted along under a mantle of brilliant southern stars. Her motion so sweet, both Jude and I managed pretty lovely sleeps. Next morning at dawn, as St Helens slipped past on the distant horizon, our trolling line enticed a very nice 3 kg tuna to bite. Yum! For our first overnight sail in quite a few months, it doesn’t get any better than that. By late that day we were flying along in light winds, 5 knots on the log, 8 over the ground, into Snug Cove on the western end of Clarke Island, the third largest in the Furneaux Group. Wow! Did these two grandparents sleep soundly that night.
Furneaux Group of Islands
Captain Hamilton piloting his waterlogged ship must have passed that very same anchorage when seeking salvation for himself and his men. And he must have seen just a few miles ahead the yellow white sand of a long beach almost dead downwind of the gale blowing. With the pumps not able to stem the flow, he made the decision to run his cargo up on that shore. And that set in play circumstances that eventually lead to the discovery of Bass Strait.
We love history and we love taking our vessel to remote locations that are important to our development, and then stand in our cockpit conjuring up images of history taking place.
Till next time, be wise, be brave, enjoy life. Jack and Jude
Click here for more Furneaux Islands photos
Here a short Vid of us climbing Bear Rock Mountain. Above in the background.
It’s great to be back at work. A squall’s just hit. It’s dawn, and a Sunday. Blast! Big ones from the only direction open to long fetch, so Banyandah’s irritated and bobbing about, and I’m wondering, hoping, praying we’ll not have to shift. Not now. It’s raining. And down here in Tasmania, rain’s got a real edge. A cold keen edge that makes you wonder what the heck you’re doing here? Yeah, it’s great to be back at work.
Straight after splash our guard went up. The old sailor protective thing just came over us and we eagle eyed every approaching craft, game plans forming in our heads. Sheesh! Why does everyone want to pass so close, why do they need to park right on top of us.
But it’s not all been like this. Jude and I got off the Kettering Welcome Dock after two days of sorting ourselves out, packing away more mountains of food, checking that more systems still work, but still managing a couple of nice dinners with new friends.
To get out of there we had to drive hard against our spring-line to jack our bum off the dock against the onshore wind. Then we gave her full blast astern. We had less than a dinghy length behind us to a chunky boat and even less to one worth more than our house in front. Not exactly the elegant departure imagined. But once free we hightailed it straight across The Channel to the first empty bay where we plonked down our hook right in the middle. Phew! Just had to sit and take it all in! Wow, we’re afloat. No neighbours in sight. No noise. Just a great view around a sunburnt landscape that might have had trees in some distant past.
Straightaway two fishing lines went over the side, and eagerly we waited, and waited. All afternoon we waited. When the lowering sun turned those grassy hills golden yellow, Jude opened her magic box and whipped up a veggie delight, but neither of us had the hoped for fresh fish.
For three days we hid out like Butch Cassidy in the Hole in the Wall. Can you blame us after eight weeks of slogging our guts out doing acrobatic feats, balancing while sanding and painting. First night, slept like angels, every nerve ending connected to heaven. Awoke wanting some adventure so we launched the Green Machine and off we went for a paddle. God, it felt great. There’s something about touring vacant bays surrounded by open hills in one of these low-slung craft. We stopped when we liked. Took heaps of photos. Nothing overly fantastic. But why not? With digital you can push the button all you like, recording memories that might only last until deleted.
That first weekend it started getting crowded. Australia Day. Plenty of boats, all sizes and shapes clad in blue Aussie flags, along with a fair swag of speedy boats towing kids yelping as their wake rocked our boat. So we joined them, jumping back into our Green Machine to paddle around the fleet.
Met a Kiwi varnishing his hatch, getting spruced up for the Wooden Boat Show. Nattered for an hour until he realized his brush had gone stiff. Another lot were swimming! Imagine that. When asked if they were numb, they laughed. So we jumped in. Later an old codger was doing push pull exercises at the back of his boat, so we gave him a cooee. Seems he’d lived in that out of the way bay for nearly ten years and knew everything and everyone plus a whole bunch of the history.
When the crowd went back to work, we set sail across Storm Bay for Port Arthur, putting the Mainsail from Hell up in earnest for the first time. Not much of a test. More a drifter than gunwales under. But still we gaped at its ridiculously tiny tack cringle that’ll probably let go first blow. Crikey, that New York sailmaker must sail on a different planet.
Port Arthur has a very special aura starting right at the towering rock pillars of Cape Raoul and gets even better once past Arthur Point where a lonely bay with wind swept sand towering into slopes any kid would love came into sight. Seemed a good place to snag a flathead, the magnificent Tasman Island right in sight, bit of swell too, but it turned out not too bad for a lunch stop.