Nosing home

We awoke to another calm day and though the sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as some of the previous ones, it was still pretty impressive. I watched the birdlife – a lone pelican paddling gracefully then stopping to stretch into awkward angles and dabble; a handful of tiny grebes, that I fondly call pop-up-ducks due to the fact you can never count them accurately (there’s four, no two, no, ten… etc); a murder of crows cackling in the trees and stalking the shore; the occasional black cockatoo screeching overhead; and plenty of unseen feathered friends peeping and tweeting. The silky smooth water reflected the muted skies, trees and sandstone shore.

Reluctantly we set off for home, and nosing out of the protection of Quarantine Bay were pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of Barnes Bay and the Channel were just as calm. A couple of die-hard sailors were doing their best to fill the canvass, but there was no wind. Rarely have I seen it this flat. The reflections of light, scattered cloud, hills, and shorelines followed us all the way.

Even North West Bay, which tends to funnel any north-west to northerly winds, was still as a pond, and we rounded Piersons Point to find the Derwent sparkling and flat all the way to Taroona.

11 Iron Pot to Cape Raoul

Here was a clear line of demarcation, and just to its north a yacht was heeling into the wind. If only it wasn’t a wind on the nose we could have finished our weekend as it had begun, with another half hour of sailing! Even this breeze died and we were able to motor Ariadne’s Clew easily back into her berth, where we tied and tidied up, and returned to life on shore.

13 home to Hobart

From Franklin to Quarantine

The river was as still as a pond this morning, and the winter sky was low, with scraps of cloud caught in valleys and mountain tops, and smoke from bonfires and chimneys casting a haze over it all. Rain was pattering percussively onto the deck and canvass awnings, but fortunately we weren’t immersed in fog.

1 Still river morning

The rowing club was humming with activity when I got up. First the women’s fours set off with their coach following in a tinnie. Then half a dozen single sculls. The swans weren’t so impressed and flew off to find somewhere more peaceful.

2 Rowers

Some of our fellow CYCT cruisers set off early, right on low tide. We hoped they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud!

We were still dawdling when I was contacted by my Mother. She and our family friend Helen were already in Franklin to meet us for brunch! We jumped into the dinghy and putted ashore to the rowing shed’s floating jetty to tie up. The rowers had packed up and were long gone. Together we drove the short distance to Frank’s Cider house. This cider tasting café is situated in a charming old hall, probably a facility of the old church just up the hill.

Frank’s is decorated inside with relics from a history of apple-growing and cider making. Helen was charmed with their history room. It transpires that her grandfather arrived in Tasmania in his late 50’s and bought up an apple orchard in the north-west. With no background in physical work, let alone apple farming, he took to it with gusto and was soon exporting apples to the UK. Here she was able to see the old apple sorting and grading equipment, as well as photos of the old draught horses at work in the orchards.

We sat by the roaring wood fire and treated ourselves to scones with jam and cream until it was time to get back to the boat and begin the long journey home. We waved goodbye to our visitors and then prepared the boat. The forecast was for strengthening winds during the afternoon, so we brought the dinghy on board rather than risking it capsizing in the waves.

Travelling downstream again the river presented a beautiful panorama of views and reflections. The pelicans were still perched on their log, and we saw swans, cockatoos and other birds along the way.

Past Port Huon the river was still glassy, and even into the Channel the wind did not pick up. I made salad for lunch from all the leftovers, and added half of the crisp and juicy Jonagold apple offered free to patrons at Franks.

We motored past Middleton in barely a breath of wind. Where were the 40 knot winds predicted by the BOM? We made it back in to Quarantine Bay before the sun set, and borrowed a mooring for the night. The anchorage was very quiet. I whipped up a simple chicken pasta dinner and we spent another peaceful night at anchor.

Port Huon to Franklin

This morning I was up before the sun and watched the colours of dawn blaze across the sky and the slick surface of the water around me.

Today would be a lazy day on the boat, first a slap-up breakfast of eggs, bacon and a mushroom (yes, just one, rather large) on toast, and then a chance to relax, write, read and work online while we waited for the tide to rise so we could get up the river to Franklin without touching the bottom. Our boat draws two metres below the waterline, and there is one dodgy patch of river, just off Castle Forbes Bay, which is very shallow. Last year when we joined this same winter event, the high tides were around 4 or 5 am, and very late in the evening. We chose to leave at dawn to catch the end of the early tide. However, that morning there was a very heavy fog laying in the valley. Nevertheless, we set off in the cold clinging fog on a falling tide, navigating with the radar and GPS and a keen lookout! When we got to the shallow spot we touched bottom. Fortunately, the bottom was soft river mud and we were able to plough through the 30 or so metres until the bottom fell away again and we could motor freely. Not that we would choose to do so again, for fear of sticking tight, but in a way this was actually a bonus, as it wiped our keel clean of weed and barnacles. A free keel scrub! At our next slip, instead of being encrusted with about six inches of mussels and other marine flora and fauna, our keel bottom was squeaky clean.

So today we waited until after midday to make the trip. Every other boat in our fleet had already left and made the trip without getting stuck.

Negotiating the corner near Castle Forbes Bay – where the deep channel is very close to shore. Just past here is the very shallow stretch of river. 8 2m on the depth sounder We navigated the dodgy spot cleanly, with the lowest depth reading 1.9 metres. Our depth sounder is positioned about half a metre below the waterline so that still only gave us about 40 cm to play with!

We motored gently up the river watching the reflections of gentle rolling hills, forests of gums, sedges and reeds on the Egg Islands and moored boats that we passed. A few houses had their own jetties and moorings – perhaps we should keep an eye out for one as a retirement option?

Along the way we saw plenty more bird life – pelicans, swans, ducks, cormorants, grebes, herons and a mottled kelp gull that swooped us from behind.

We anchored at the back of the fleet, just off the rowing club, and not far from the underwater cable that connects Franklin to Cradoc on the other shore. These two communities are within sight, but a good way away by car as the nearest bridge is in Huonville. Which is just as well for us as bridge-builders often don’t factor in the height of our mast!

We sat and relaxed for the afternoon until it was time to go ashore for the evening meal and get-together at the Living Boat Trust. Franklin is a centre for traditional wooden boat building, and the workshops are world-renowned, teaching these age-old skills to willing students from around the globe. The Living Boat Trust specialise in building a particular type of skiff, and currently the team are participating in a regatta in the UK.

In this modest boat shed we were treated to a lovely Asian-style meal cooked by a local, Kate. We all ate on trestles amidst the clutter of boat building tools and boat equipment. We joined a long table and spent the evening swapping stories once again, before heading back silently in the dinghy, across the silky-smooth river to the boat.

Quarantine to Port Huon

The sun was up before me on Saturday. I poked my nose out of the covers to discover a crisp cold winter morning. The boat was covered in dew, but the anchorage was dreamily still.

I rugged up and sat on deck with a hot cup of coffee and began counting the wildlife. A fish splished, then a seal surfaced right beside me on his patrol of the bay. On he proceeded, after the fish perhaps, popping up here and there to snort and grab another breath. Near the shore a sooty oyster-catcher peeped as it took off in flight, watched by a white-faced heron. Cormorants bobbed up and down, also after that fish I expect. It was too early for the sea eagles as we pulled up the anchor and began our trip south for the Huon River.

We passed fish farms (I don’t think the thousands of Atlantic salmon can be counted as wildlife!) and the Mirambeena, ploughing across a glassy Channel with a load of long-weekend trippers aboard (another introduced species). Soon we merged in with a handful of other CYCT cruising boats headed in the same direction. Near Middleton the wind filled in from the south, but it was short-lived and dropped out once we had turned the corner around the Middleton Light.

Snow was visible on some of the southern peaks as we turned into the Huon River, where we met a gentle wind on our nose. This wasn’t unexpected, as the valley tends to funnel the winds regardless of where they’re blowing from elsewhere. The only exception seems to be during a summer sea breeze. We sat snug behind our clears.

9 Arch Rock

We found ourselves a spot to anchor in Hospital Bay surrounded by fellow cruisers. We inflated the dinghy on the foredeck, and launched it ready for our trip ashore. Then I went below to prepare a salad, as our contribution to tonight’s event.

At around 4pm people began to gather in their tenders for the trip up the shallow channel to the marina. We joined them and with our new little electric motor fitted purred silently past the reeds and mudflats of the Kermandie River, where we could add to the wildlife tally: two pelicans, an egret and some hoary headed grebes. That’s not to mention the various gulls, ducks and the farm geese and sheep on the other shore.

Local Port Huon boatbuilder Dean Marks was our kind host for this evening’s event. His boat shed was toasty warm, with gas heater and wood fire both roaring. Outside he had meats and vegetables roasting in the camp ovens. We were able to explore his two current building projects – a full scrape-down and refit of a fibreglass cruiser suffering from osmosis, and the rebuild of a beautiful little wooden yacht that had sunk in Dover a while back. Both these projects will keep Dean and his team busy over the winter when the days are too cold and short for the outside jobs.

We spent the evening chatting with fellow cruisers, listening to tales of adventure. Some were quite new to sailing and others old hands with many years’ experience. The meal was delicious. Each boat had contributed either a savory or dessert to supplement Dean’s meat and veg. By 8pm, however, we were all ready to tackle the trip back in the dark, and set off from the marina in a convoy of assorted craft with torches to light the way. We pootled slowly and quietly back to Ariadne’s Clew and tucked up toasty warm for another night of blissful sleep.

Off south for a winter cruise

The shortest day is only two weeks away, but these clear still winter days are somehow invigorating and irresistible. We haven’t taken the boat away since Easter, other than for a trip to the slip to replace the through-hull fittings (another ouch to the wallet!), so we jumped at the opportunity to join the CYCT winter cruise to Port Huon and Franklin. It fitted perfectly with Derek’s travel plans, as he’ll be flying off around the globe a mere 48 hours after our planned return.

On Friday I collected an old family friend from the airport. We chatted over lunch, then I handed her the keys to my sister’s car – on the proviso she drop me and our provisions to the boat on her way to stay with my Mum! We loaded up the boat – an unusual single barrow load for four nights away – and she farewelled me to stow the groceries and prepare the boat for departure.

Derek managed to wriggle away from work early and by 3pm we were slipping our mooring lines. A 12 knot northerly gave us perfect downwind sailing conditions, so we hoisted both sails and were able to enjoy a quiet run down the river at 7 knots.

On the previous weekend we had replaced our faulty VHF radio, but even with expert advice Derek had been unable to get it working with the masthead aerial (which means that someone is going to have to go up the mast again…). For this trip we will be using our emergency backup aerial, which did test out okay. We had also refitted our repaired chart-plotter (remember that at the height of excitement navigating the Vansittart Shoals in February, the backlight on this device had failed? See Surviving the Vansittart Shoals   for the full story!). Just a few weeks before, we had also replaced one of our failed ST70 instruments with a new version (another three ouches the the wallet!).

Early into our sail we started experiencing issues with the GPS and instrument readings. Alarms were beeping and signals kept dropping out. Which of the three recent electronic upgrades was responsible? After fiddling with things below decks Derek climbed into the port-side lazarette to investigate the wiring to our five binnacle-mounted instruments. Whilst he was head-down in the cupboard I kept the boat sailing, but as I turned in towards Sandy Bay Beach in order to avoid a close encounter with the John Garrow light, that beautiful northerly breeze started to fade. Soon it was replaced by a light 6 knot breeze from the south. Time to drop the sails and turn the motor back on.

Derek’s penance in the cupboard finally paid off after unplugging one device. He’ll need to get some new parts to fix the wiring, but that’s enough about electronics for now!

We were treated to stunning skies as the sun set over kunanyi (otherwise known as Mt Wellington) and then made our way into Quarantine Bay by the light of a sliver of moon and the brilliant stars – with the aid of the chart-plotter. We found a mooring in amongst the intrepid winter cruisers who were already bedded down in the darkness, and went below for dinner and a bit of tv.

Home to Hazy Hobart – Tuesday 5th March

Position: Home!

During Monday evening, as they returned from trips ashore, the occupants of most of the boats in the anchorage pulled up their anchors and pootled across the bay to the far south-eastern shore. This was because the wind was forecast to change to the south during the night, exposing the anchorage to a bit of fetch, but as it was only forecast to be very light we couldn’t be bothered moving and settled down for our last night on board.

In the wee hours of the morning we were gently rocked about, but after so long at sea we barely noticed it, and slept peacefully until the dawn, when we got up and got going so as to reach the canal close to high tide. The sky was hazy and we could smell bushfire smoke, something we hadn’t experienced in the north at all, and a sage reminder of the devastating fires still burning in our precious wilderness areas.

IMG_7230_Small

After setting us on course with the auto-pilot Derek sneaked back down below for a bit of extra sleep leaving me keeping a lookout. Once again, we barely met another boat until we neared the Marion Narrows and I kept reading my book, The Secret Life of Whales, a memoir by Micheline Jenner about her nearly 25 years researching whales around the Australian coast and into Antarctic waters.

Beautiful blue-green breakers were rolling onto Marion Bay Beach right beside the entrance. It’s a little disconcerting to be sailing towards the beach, but we had the chart plotter as well as the leads to line up and follow into the narrow entrance. As usual I called out depths and directions based on the chart-plotter’s record of our out-bound track two weeks earlier, while Derek steered us through.

 

We were soon overtaken by a fast vessel used for mooring installation and maintenance, and we were still quite a distance from the leads to the canal when we heard him call the bridge operator on the radio. We weren’t going to be able to get through at the same time and by the time we got to the leads and called up, the bridge operator had reclosed the canal to let the waiting traffic through. It wasn’t long, however, before he reopened it for us and we were able to glide on through without waiting.

Through the bridge is another very shallow channel, indicated by red and green channel markers, and negotiating this we found ourselves back in our home waters of Fredrick Henry Bay. There was barely a ripple on the wide bay and we motored past Fulham Island, Lime Bay and Sloping Island before nearing the sculpted sandstone cliffs of Cape Deslacs, at the end of Clifton Beach. Here is another short-tailed shearwater rookery and hundreds of birds were rafting on the water. As we neared the flock, birds took flight streaming off to either side of the boat.

Along Hope Beach, we passed another yacht with the crew on the foredeck hoisting a spinnaker. By the time they had set it in the light breeze we had passed between Blackjack Rocks and Betsey Island on our way to rounding the Iron Pot. I always look fondly on this little lighthouse at the entrance to the Derwent River. I remember as a child going up Mt Wellington with my grandfather, from where he pointed it out and told me, with straight face, that it was the south pole.

IMG_7322_Small

We ate a simple lunch of cheese and crackers, and with the city looming up in front of us through the smoke haze our thoughts drifted to home and we began to pack up the boat. Our trip was almost over.

Our son Ben was waiting to meet us as we pulled into our marina berth at Bellerive. We tied up and began to unload, and whilst Derek and Ben took loads to the car I began washing two and a half weeks of salt and grime off the boat. By late afternoon we were home, tired but grateful for a wonderful trip. It had not been without its challenges, but also full of rewards. And we have tomorrow’s twilight race to look forward to!

Up the Mast – Monday 4th March

Position: Chinaman’s Bay, Maria Island

We had consulted charts and tide tables on Sunday night to determine our plans for today. To get through the Marion Narrows and the Dunalley Canal we need to arrive close to high tide, otherwise we risk running aground! From Schouten Island it would take us around 5 hours travelling at 6 knots to get to the Narrows. High tides today would be around 9am and 9pm. That made it a tad tricky, so our only real alternative was a lazy day with a short sail down to Maria Island, and an early start the next morning to get the high tide just before 10am.

While Derek enjoyed a Monday morning sleep-in, I was up on deck enjoying the peace and quiet of Crocketts Bay. Soon after dawn all the fishing boats had left and I watched a couple of them collecting and setting cray-pots along the nearby coast. It seemed the other six or so cruising boats were also enjoying a sleep-in on the calm waters.

After eating my signature bacon and egg scramblette (a scrambled omelette) we motored out of the bay and around the corner of Schouten Island. Our first challenge was to weave through the field of craypots laid around the coast and reefs by our fishermen friends of last night. I had sympathy for the poor crayfish, with so many waiting traps! We continued south to the Mercury Passage, passing Ile des Phoqes this time without getting close enough to see or smell the phoques/folks (seals). It was a mild day with little wind, and with that broken lazy-jack, well we just couldn’t be bothered sailing – so I guess we’re the lazy-Jacks today.

At Maria Island we turned in to Chinamans Bay to find another half-dozen cruising boats in the anchorage off Encampment Cove, as well as a few scattered along the shore to east and south. We found ourselves a patch of weedy sand in three metres of water and set the anchor. Maria Island is a beautiful spot to go ashore, and in the past we’ve done a variety of walks, a favourite being to French’s Farm to watch the wombats and kangaroos graze at sunset. This time, however, we stayed aboard. As it was so calm this was the opportunity we needed for a trip up the mast!

As I mentioned, the lazy-jacks are a web of thin ropes strung up each side of the boom to make the mainsail stay in the boom-bag as it is hoisted and lowered. Without these the excess sail tumbles out of the bag onto the deck (as well as any crew hovering its zone). When lowering the sail in a strong wind or rough seas it would get blown about, making the job of flaking (folding) the sail and securing it in the bag, or with ties, a difficult task. Our starboard-side lazy-jack had snapped a few days earlier, with the break near its highest point where it attaches to the top spreader, over two-thirds of the way up the mast.

So, the question is – who goes up the mast? Or more accurately, who wants to winch the other person up the mast? Yes, you guessed it – I go up the mast and Derek does the winching. Phew! And as I was going up, why not go right to the top of the mast and replace the masthead light globe with a power-saving LED? To get me up we attached the bosun’s chair to the main halyard (the rope that pulls the mainsail up to the top of the mast) with a second halyard attached for safety. This nifty little seat-harness has a pocket for all the tools you need, so in went pliers, screw-driver, globes, tape and my phone to take some pics. Then Derek got to work on the winch, and I helped a little by pulling and climbing where possible.

From the top I had fantastic views of the anchorage, and whilst I replaced the light-globe someone on shore sent their drone out to investigate! I gave it a wave, hoping they might share any footage with us later*.

I took photos of all the masthead fittings. Our problem number two this trip was the VHF radio – it has been flaky since we left Wineglass Bay on the way north, and testing and trying various connections it seems to be an issue with the aerial or its wiring. So, I took a look at the aerial up top. I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong up there, but took photos for us to scrutinise later. And if you’re worrying about us out on the high seas without a radio, worry no more – we have two backup handheld radios which we used instead.

On the trip down the mast I repaired the lazy-jacks with my newly learned knot – a double sheet-bend. The rope is fairly worn so will need replacing before long, but this will get us by for a bit.

Later, once I was back with my feet on the deck and all was squared away, we pulled out and dusted off the little portable Cobb barbecue. Tonight was unbelievably our first opportunity to use it for the whole trip! Every evening it has been either too windy or too late getting to our anchorage, or we were staying on shore. I had provisioned us for a minimum of four barbecues during the trip and the tiny freezer was still bulging with steak and chops. We chose loin lamb with roasted potatoes, pumpkin and carrot, followed by golden syrup pudding, eaten on deck in the colours of another spectacular sunset to the accompaniment of a whistling gull. This is the cruising life at last – and literally last as this will be our final night on board.

*As we didn’t go ashore we didn’t catch up with the drone operator. It could have been someone from the next-door boat Close Encounters. If you know who it might have been do ask them to get in touch!