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Homeward Bound ~ June 1
Jack and Jude ~ Life afloat
Dateline June 1
Strong winds lash far north Queensland, rain buckets down in Sydney, but here in Hobart the winter has been more than kind with clear crisp days in the high teens. Just beyond our companionway the mountain bursts skyward in dolerite columns of bronze and green forests flow to the first suburbs of Australia’s second city.
Six weeks ago after sailing a gale out Port Davey and rounding Tasmania’s south coast, we found a safe mooring for our lady then drove back to Strahan on the wild west coast to help friends clear a forest track. Not just an ordinary track, but the very first path linking the east to the west coast, cut especially to allow Governor Sir John Franklin and his adventurous wife Lady Jane to travel overland from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour. The year, 1842 and a hundred kilometres of thick luxuriant rainforest and boggy plains remained untamed. Establishing this track fell upon the young James Calder, who latter became Tasmania’s surveyor general. Prior to his posting he was a burly giant more at home in the bush than an office, who, over a two year period surveyed and cut a swath through what was then, and still is, impenetrable vegetation.
The Governor’s party numbered a huge 28 persons and included three constables, a doctor, lady in waiting, and 17 convicts acting as porters. And their journey, expected to last eight days, stretched to twenty-two due to the west coast’s infamous foul weather, and Calder’s caches of provisions ran short, forcing him to return twice to replenish them. Meanwhile, others had to forge ahead in order to hold the Governor’s schooner from departing Macquarie Harbour.
After ten days hard travel, the River Franklin’s dashing torrent 100 metres wide held them back. Every hour praying the waters would drop, they waited a week with little to eat. And when they finally could cross on rafts, the last twelve kilometres to their salvation on the Gordon River, they had to traverse the thickest forest and boggiest plains yet encountered.
Since the Governor’s party, this last bit of track in the shadow of the Elliot Range has been trekked by adventurers and kayakers. But lately, due to a shortage of funds and lack of willing workers, it has become impassable, overgrown in a few seasons. Trees fall and the curse of the bush, bauera, quickly sends tendrils weaving its tangled net, and of course, the wet rainforest grows fast.
This track joining the Gordon and Franklin Rivers had been one of the most beautiful day walks in all the planet and a group of dedicated locals were determined not to lose it back to Nature. So, Jack and Jude joined them to help find and re-tag it. In arduous conditions where every tree rained cold wet drops and man height grasses cut like razors, where blood sucking leaches hid under nearly every leaf, we almost made it all the way – before the harsh conditions washed away our available time. But fear not! Come spring, we’ll be back to complete the task!
It’s coming onto three weeks that Jack and Jude have enjoyed the good life in this friendly capital city, Banyandah on display alongside the world famous Constitution Dock. Just a few steps away lays the city’s museum, art gallery, markets, cinema and fine eating houses, as well as numerous pubs featuring cheap counter lunches. Adding to our comfort, included in the cost of mooring alongside are hot showers and unlimited electricity that keeps our little heater pouring out warmth when the yellow sun slips away.
Of course it’s not all been glorious weather. We’ve had a few rainy gales. But Constitution Dock, a landlocked tiny square of water originally used to unload cargo from lighters, is well sheltered. In plain sight, two historical cranes adorn the foreshore that then runs down the Derwent towards the Channel and beyond.
Although in the centre of town, we’ve put the Green Machine to work, or rather it’s had us labouring hard, keeping us fit as we’ve paddled under the Tasman Bridge’s great arch, across to the northern shores, and downstream to Sandy Bay where toffs look over the waterway first explored by D’Entrecasteaux in 1792. Everywhere scenically a treat, everywhere moored vessels backed by hillsides of gardens and houses, have I mentioned the fragrant aroma of roses and magnificent colours of autumn?
Sadly for us, all this loveliness is fast coming to an end. Come Monday next, Banyandah will travel under the access bridge out Con Dock and down the Derwent for her appointment with a travel-hoist, to be plucked from the briny and plopped on hard ground for winter storage. Then the following Friday, Jack and Jude will board the large ferry crossing Bass Strait, homeward bound by motor vehicle. Home – hardly sounds correct. Banyandah is our real home for we are people of the sea. But nevertheless it will be grand to cuddle the grandkids once again and hear their squeals of delight.
Til next time, be safe, have fun,