B-log ~ January 2015

Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, photographers, authors

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Walk to the Wild Side

Trevor Norton - Macquarie Harbour-001Trevor Norton’s very informative chart of Macquarie Harbour, available at West Coast Charters, shows a dashed line leading from our anchorage in Betsys Bay and over the narrow neck of land to Tasmania’s wild West Coast. In a phone call, Trev said he walks across in an hour and half, but knowing his long legged gait, we allowed 3 hours!

Tassie's west coast in perfect weather

Tassie’s west coast in perfect weather

Perfect west coast weather, with hardship over east, under picture perfect blue skies and a few fluffy whites drifting past, we set off with a kit bag containing lunch and our safety gear, which included medical kit and PBL. It’s pretty remote, and we like to be prepared.

P1040244The track was easy to find following the white scar down a ridge to where it came out on the beach next to a creek. There’s a leveled camp site there perfect for kayakers. The first half was easy going in open sedge with expansive views over the magnificent Macquarie Harbour and its backdrop of crisp mountains. Jude was in heaven snapping photos and shooting video, her bum knee not a worry using her walking stick. I had plenty of rest stops catching my breath while waiting for her to catch up.

Must admit, I lost the track about midway when the terrain turned a bit thick with higher tea tree and thicker stuff. But no dramas. Just wandered about till we found it again. It is not dangerous ground. There were many trickling creeks to jump or step over, a few areas of bog that would have been much worse if it had rained recently. But ours was a great day.

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The four kilometre walk, each way, took us three hours going, and only two coming back when we never lost our way and took far fewer photos. Wearing boots or sneakers is best. Long pants and long sleeves are mandatory or the scrub you have to push through will tear you up.  Don’t fret over snakes. Doubt many are around and they’ll feel you coming and get out your way. Plenty of wombat poo. Saw a couple of dens too.

The rest is best told by the pics we took, here on Google Plus:

As we left, more action with afternoon southerly sea breeze

As we left, more action with afternoon southerly sea breeze


Rough, Tough ‘n Satisfying

Green water awashThe need to be in Tasmania came in a dream while in our non-rocking, dry land bed, as a vision of launching our third book, “Reflections” at Tasmania’s Wooden Boat Festival. ‘What a blast’, Jude said the next morning when I laid out my idea. At the time, she and I were pounding nails, fixing up our wood and stone house and building a new steel shed. Straightaway we decided to get our fourteen year old life raft surveyed. It hadn’t been opened since tackling the Southern Ocean four years earlier and crossing Bass Strait without it in survey just didn’t seem wise.

Thanks heaps to Colin and John at the GIYC, and Peter at Pacific Australia, Adelaide for taking care of that. What a brilliant fraternity the boating world is; each helping the other.

New Moon over Portland night before departure

New Moon over Portland night before departure

Our voyage away from Portland on the mainland, bound for west coast Tassie began with faint hearts and tender feet, all sails flying, chasing a nor-westerly with staysail poled to weather, full main and genoa sheeted easy on the lee. Forecasts for the next few days were for that northwest wind to turn to strong, even gale force westerly then ease a bit when swinging to the southwest. We wanted to be at Hell’s Gate by that time. Well! That was the plan. Strong headwinds were forecast for the following week, so it was go then or not at all.

By midday the shipping lanes were behind us and open water lay ahead inviting us to dream as we kept an eye on storm clouds building on the western horizon. However, sooner than expected a chilly blast heeled our lady to an alarming angle and sped us into action. Crikey, already the mainsail quickly got smaller. We knew the weather would only get worse, so down to number two reef without pulling in number one. Goodbye to that lovely lazy pace as suddenly the miles began ticking off while the sun sank into those menacing clouds getting nearer.

5 m swells sent us rocking

5 m swells sent us rocking

The first black clouds struck with sickening squalls, Jude already tucked up in a rollie bed, the cold raindrops raising the tempo demanding I assist Sir Aries at the helm. Relentlessly the squalls clobbered us, the wind at 30 knots, the sea a mishmash of confusion with Banyandah thrashed by wave tops thrown on board by the gusts, and each lull raising hopes of a steady breeze. The kind of weather every sailor hates.

Since leaving Adelaide two weeks ago, we have suffered a cyclonic blow and several frontal blasts. Quite unusual for summer. But we can’t complain. The westerly flow has been better for us than summer’s easterly breezes. Unfortunately though, those low depressions have been taking a more wintry track, bringing with them much bigger seas and swell. There lies the danger. Not the wind, it’s the sea that breaks boats and hurts people.

In planning this voyage and seeing that a cold front would pass over us, anticipating the wind change we had set off on a southerly course, thirty degrees off the rhumb line, and so we had gained twenty miles of westing by the time the change arrived.

The next band of menacing blackness didn’t bring much extra wind, just thick drizzle and that wind change. Still sailing the same sail plan our course line started heading towards King Island, and instead of braving the dark rainy night to de-pole the staysail, I procrastinated over whether to wake my mate or wait two hours for midnight’s change of watch while watching our gain evaporate.

When eight bells signalled my turn in bed, Jude got up to deck lights blazing and complaining of not having had any sleep in a rollie bed. Then I’m scampering round the pitching foredeck just in undies storing the staysail pole and clearing lines, a light jacket my only protection from a wetting. Providence kept me safe and dry for I slipped into our sea berth with just freezing legs and cramping hands. Peace lasted but a few short minutes.

On the other side of that cold front, the anticyclone was bunching the isobars closer together bringing increasingly gusty winds from the west that would turn more south as the High moved closer. Under half reduced headsail, staysail, and double reef main, the wind now on our beam, we’re pounding along parallel to the swell, crashing, swaying, and yawing over the wave tops our sleeping cabin a mad cacophony of noises. Did I sleep? Not a wink. In hindsight, I should have gotten up, put on my wet clobber and further reduced sail, but I was so warm I lay there waiting for dawn.

The west wind gusting past gale force chucked green water over our lady most of that night. Jude copped heaps on her watch and at first light looked a bit weary as we put in number three reef after fully furling the headsail. Wow! Our veteran lady righted herself, and she stopped pounding and trying to round up. Green seas still watered our decks, but below, peace prevailed while Sir Aries again regained full control. A note here, reducing sail lost little speed.

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Trevor and Dez united to special deliver our first final copy of Reflections  More on Reflections here

When setting off from Adelaide, utmost in our thoughts was the fact that we’d not sailed for more than six months, and knowing how easy it is to become injured in heavy seas, we concentrated on moving safely about our ship and getting all the rest we could muster. On this passage we hot bedded a lot, seeing little of each other except for thirty minutes at the change of watch. And while we did not sleep we got rest, probably lots of those micro sleeps the boffins talk about where the mind is ticking over and you feel awake, but for a few seconds everything shuts down so you regain a bit of sense that makes you less accident prone.

Sunday was supposed to be a better day, but seems someone forgot to tell the weather gods because it just kept blowing near gale. And while the wind howled all Sunday, Cape Grim slid past forty miles off our beam and a new worry entered our heads. If the wind should shift southwest could we keep enough westing to lay Hell’s Gate? Or would we have to come about and run back for King Island? That thought went round ‘n round my head as I lay prone on Sunday arvo. I finally put a stop to it by calculating wind angle and course, over and over again.

Glory be! As the first moments of Australia Day chimed on our ship’s clock, the wind started taking a holiday with longer spells between blasts and began easing a little bit. Then the seas started becoming more orderly. Oh, they were still just as big and impressive with brilliant white tops that the albatross loved to soar along, but they became more in one line.Banyandah rose up and slid down each of these, and the power of nature we so admire became the star attraction. Since we were kids, we have not found anything so impressively beautiful as a deep blue sea rolling white with giant sea birds swooping up and down on her powerful forces.

Mount Sorell dominates Macquarie Harbour

Mount Sorell dominates Macquarie Harbour

After being at sea nearly 48 hrs, Jude found some sleep just after daybreak Australia Day morning. Distant dark mountains were to our east, 50 miles remaining to Hells Gates. Every hour Jude slept, I unwound a bit more headsail. The sailing was beautiful with the wind gradually creeping forward of the beam. At eleven when Jude arose, together we raised the full main, and under full sail we closed in on Macquarie Harbour, the big swell our only concern.

Pilot Bay outside Hell's Gate

Pilot Bay outside Hell’s Gate

Outside Hell’s Gate is a very convenient anchorage called Pilot Bay which is protected from southwest winds, and as we found out, quiet with five metre swells running outside. And even though Hell’s Gates looked perfect for entering, we weren’t in a hurry anymore and anchored in Pilot Bay hoping to hook a couple of flathead to celebrate our special Australia Day. Then after the anchor found good bottom, and the noise and motion ceased, we looked about at the green hills and brooding mountains, humbled by the majesty of life and feeling very grateful to be Aussie sailors.

humbled by the majesty of life and very grateful to be Aussie sailors

Do hope your Australia Day was as fun and rewarding as ours.


We’re Away

Predicted swell Bass Strait
Predicted swell

A new system passing under Tasmania will bring a strong westerly flow for the next few days, subsiding on Monday which is enough for us to reach Hell’s Gate, West Coast Tasmania. While the breeze will hit 35 knots when the front passes over us, mainly we’re thinking 20-25 will be the norm. But the swell will be up 4 to 5 metres. In the open sea, it should be long and not horrific, just uncomfortable. But all next week following this system comes southerly winds straight in our face when going to Tasmania, so we’re away with this one.

Portland, VictoriaP1040040-001

This town has suffered a wee bit of downturn since our last visit four years ago. A manufacturing firm had to lay off 100 workers after their contract to build wind generator towers was not renewed due to the Abbott government narrow views on climate change. Our Prime Minister would rather dig up and burn coal than produce electricity by naturally occurring means.Vacant shops, less traffic gives this seaside town a less than happy demeanor during school holidays. Even the weather seems against the kids, cloudy with cold winds.

Portland Harbour
Portland Harbour

They built a new marina of sorts since our last stay. No toilets, no showers or laundry. No break wall, just security gates. The Harbour Master told us the old moorings, which had been well looked after by locals as it is windy here, were declared unsafe and made to be replaced by a newer design that would cost the owners nearly three thousand dollars. Naturally all but one rebel moved into the marina or had their boats taken out the water. The Harbour Master had the mooring lines cut and let the rest lie on the bottom. So that area is now foul ground where no one would dare put an anchor down for fear of getting tangled up.

Banyandah swinging on her anchor
Banyandah swinging on her anchor

At least we can swing where we anchored last time. Beautiful out here with plenty to watch and no noisy rigging from other boats nor splashing of water against the pontoons. Love swinging with the wind, brings a changing vista as the day progresses and all the little boats passing us give a wave or stop for a chat with Judith who hails them all. Good way to met the locals.

Eumeralla, Garry Kerr's vessel cray fishing southern Tasmania
Eumeralla

Portland is our mate Garry Kerr’s hometown. He told us the other night that he’s been a cray fisherman for 50 years.  In all kinds of craft. His latest is built to withstand just about anything Nature can throw at them. Heavily built of steel with 350 HP driving her, well protected working area to withstand southern storms. Garry is also an avid historian and has documented much of Australia’s recent marine history in DVDs.
We highly recommend them all.

Couta Boat Ariel
Garry Kerr’s Couta Boat

This is Garry Kerr’s “Couta Boat” used for heaps of years in the old days for fishing barracouta on the south coast. Restored by Garry Kerr, cray fisherman, filmmaker extraordinaire, and genuine good bloke.

More than Halfway!

In one monotonously long motorsail, followed by two quick hops, we have landed in Portland, Victoria – that’s 370 miles from Adelaide – 270 miles to go to Tasmania’s West Coast. Unseasonable cold westerly winds drove us southeast at a hellish rough pace with 25 to 35 knot winds producing up to 6 metre seas. Further south, Tasmania has been clobbered by a series of cold fronts that has everyone wondering where is their summer.

FZ200
While we were away, birds made a nest in our boom!

On board Banyandah, we’ve had our ups and down getting use to standing watch after the comparative easy life ashore the last six months. Both of us have had our falls. Alarming to say the least. And poor Jack has been totally bamboozled on a couple of occasions when trying to remember how to setup his ship. Crikey! The last night coming to Portland, the wind howling, seas breaking over us, he was in a right mess. Sheets not leading right, locking over on the winch. A halyard hooked on a mast step stopping the main from going up. All happening while trying to stay on his feet!

Storm coming as we depart Robe bringing  25 gusting 35 knots
Storm coming as we depart Robe bringing 25, gusting 35 knots

Little sleep is part of the problem. Overnight passages are our worst friends. Who can sleep on a rocky-rolly ship with the coastline not far away and shipping popping out the inky black night. Topping off Jack’s list of ills, his treasured hammock has been squeaking. Yes squeak squeak with every roll of the ship!

Jude's handiwork - Yummy banana muffins
Jude’s handiwork – Yummy banana muffins

On the positive side of the ledger, we are immensely enjoying sailing our boat once again. The feeling of achievement is far greater than anything land life can provide. So too the magnificent wonders of Nature. The wind in our hair gives a feeling of power bringing visions of far away places. No matter how tired we become, how frustrated at our limitations, we cherish the shared moments of challenge, beauty, and ultimate success. Yes we’ve had a few strong words pass between us. We are a team whipping ourselves back into peak condition, who once again realize just how challenging this sailing life really is. Other good news is we’re still relatively unharmed, except for aching bodies and hands that feel like creaky robotics.

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running wing ‘n wing as storm gathers strength

Two more over-nighters and we’ll be facing Hell’s Gate. Or maybe three more sails if we pop over to Three Hummocks. Time is no longer our enemy. Not as it was when leaving Adelaide one week ago and thinking we might be held up by summer easterly winds.Later this week looks to be our next challenge. Strong north winds preceding a cold front will get us on our way to lovely King Island where so many ships have come to grief. Here in Portland we met up with Garry Kerr, film maker extraordinaire, sharing a well deserved landfall dinner after an afternoon nap of course. Later we watched his final cut of “Two Men in a Punt.” That’s the film we helped film last January/February. Gosh, Garry is a magician. Countless hours of trimming and blending, he has created a masterpiece that brings together the unsurpassed beauty of SW Tasmania with historical interviews and real visions of the forgotten time of the Piners – those who harvested the unique Huon Pine. His film will be released at the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart at the same time as our latest book, Reflections in a Sailor’s Eyes. If you haven’t ordered your copy, maybe you should. This one volume tracks our ups and downs across just about every continent, starting in war torn Africa of 1969, building Banyandah, the best stories of raising our children afloat and the challenges of our mature years. Inspirational, confronting, informative and very down to Earth.P1030983We have a new YellowBrick on board. We fried the other one by locating it next to our solar panels. See the Yellowbrick page for details.

GIYC Sausage Sizzle

logo2J_coralsea_03Big night at the Garden Island Yacht Club last night – First the sausage sizzle then we showed our Coral Sea film to about 150 appreciative sailing folk. Course Jude missed the meal as she’s a vegetarian, instead she was treated to a liquid red one and immensely enjoyed herself. Belle of the ball so to speak. Ssh.. she’s still sleeping.

Comments: “the biggest BBQ on record…great night and a very impressive film and adventure ….”
“yes awesome night …..I never washed so many plates in one night before !”
“Thanks for sharing your travels with us. I really enjoyed your DVD and the effort you put in to make it narrative and entertaining was impressive.”
“great video night …epic travels …..

Reflections in a Sailor’s Eyes

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To be released at Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival beginning on February 6th. Hope to see some of you there. Our best book yet.
More on Reflections Here

$28 Delivered Worldwide


Jude’s blog, 5 January 2015

Our first week has passed since returning to Banyandah, and once again we are in the throes of preps for another adventure. Hey presto! It doesn’t take us long to change hats. Adelaide has been hot all week, 44 degrees last Friday, bushfires are raging in the Adelaide hills, a few houses have been lost, one positive note has been the smoke affected sunsets are smashing. P1030866Banyandah looked great when we got back and even better now that we have bent on her mainsail and put the jib on the roller-furler. This morning our life raft was picked up from the surveyor and given a five star rating. Later this week, using the old flares removed from the raft, I’ll update our emergency grab bag. However it’s not all work and no play; we have plenty of visitors, both human and other. Being just a stones throw from the mangroves there’s wildlife about; herons and seabirds dig for titbits in the mud and dolphins frequently swim past. Then there are groups of kayakers on tour; a great place for them in these quiet waters. Yes! There are mosquitos about at night. But four years ago when we were last here I bought a double bed mosquito net – and that gets strung up under the main-boom every night before dusk, completely covering over the cockpit.P1030853With us both a bit bogged down at times in tight living quarters while simultaneously trying to make order out of mayhem in our particular areas; clutter is everywhere. So yesterday I went off the boat in the middle of the day, stores shopping with a very helpful Lisa, leaving Jack the opportunity to unbolt and lift the engine room floor for maintenance while I was away. Best I get off the boat; don’t want to fall down the deep gaping hole while getting around the boat.

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gelatinous long weedy stuff

Returning to boat three hours later, the engine floor is up. Jack had just then shut down the engine as salt water had stopped coming out the exhaust and he’s saying. ‘Let’s hope it’s just the strainer that’s clogged.’ Which it was; clogged the most we’ve ever seen it, full with weed; and other stuff and tiny crustaceans, all sucked in through the water intake when he was testing the propeller thrust in reverse. Banyandah’s hull is reasonable clean from last April’s anti-foul, except around the water line, where, gelatinous long beardy weed loves to grow, nourished by the warm water flowing out the power station upstream. That’s another job to do before we set off next weekend – scrape it off!Boy! Did we feel good that we got off lightly when water gushed out the exhaust again. No major hiccup. Hurrah! Until, after the engine had been running a few minutes, we heard a sudden rush of a lot of water falling into the bilge. Seems the increase in amount of water rushing through the heat exchanger blew off the end. Now that was a stroke of luck! Good karma we say. Why you’re wondering? Because while Jack was examining the engine room, one of his jobs was to remove the heat-exchanger for repair (a temporary repair had been made near Port Lincoln last May when it was found leaking). But he’d not removed it because the repair looked to be very good. Imagine: getting away and maybe going down the 7mile long twisting Barker Inlet between the heaps of port and green marks and then coming unstuck.This morning the heat exchanger went off for repair. Phew!
Until next time. Fair winds and calm seas, Jude

New Years 2015 Sydney
New Years 2015 Sydney

Yet another year has passed, Jack and Jude are hoping the next year will be as good as the last, and we’re hoping your’s turns out really super too. A friend commented on the above photo saying “Stunning indeed. Not very environmentally friendly, hey! Heard they burned through 7 tonnes of fireworks this year.”Our reaction is we could debate the effects many things have on the environment when the truth is our quality of life is being affected by over population. Solve that and we do not need to mention pollution or specie decline ever again. Double edge sword that. An increasing population might mean greater fireworks and maybe even greater medical services and bigger events which some may prefer. But not Jack and Jude, who say “Bring back the good ol’ days when there were fish in the seas, birds in the air and clean air to breath.” But let’s have it under today’s technical advances. Not easily done most would think, but for our grandchildren, in this day of worldwide communications, a dialogue on Earth population should start amongst the grass roots. Comments welcome.P1030848-001 The Green Machine has been resurrected back to life, a few puffs in its bladder will stiffen it up for a New Year’s paddle around the mangroves.  Jack and Jude arrive back to Banyandah after leaving her abandon for 6 winter months. Nice to see her floating level and smelling sweet, no water in the bilges. OK Let’s go!


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Comments

B-log ~ January 2015 — 2 Comments

  1. Just ordered the “new book” I look forward to reading and enjoying more of your adventures and stories.
    Would be great if it could be signed before being posted (hint hint) completly Understand if thats not possible!
    PS hope those characters at Garden island looked after you and didnt lead you to far astray

    Fair winds!
    Jeff
    TS Excallibur

    “Think we might sneak a copy out of the carton awaiting us in Hobart. Be our pleasure for a mate. :>) Approaching Portland 6m seas 25/30 o’nite.”

  2. HNY to you both! Was great to have you two back for a brief soiree in the rainforest! Good luck on your next sojourn which we will follow with keen interest. Happy days .. Love Trish


    “It was a fabulous birthday party and a treat to reconnect with so many old friends at your place. perfect camping under the stars with the lush forest all around.” XOXOXO Jack and Jude