2 Jan 15:
Yesterday we left our beautiful yacht, Ariadne’s Clew, in a floating berth at Kettering Marina and drove home for a few days, having spent the previous five days aboard. As seems typical for Tassie and our trips, the first week after Christmas brought mixed weather. And what is more, today’s forecast is for 29 degrees and light winds! Just when we’ve bailed out. Let’s hope the weather is better when we recommence our floating holiday on Monday 5th (all things going to plan).
On 27th December we departed Bellerive Yacht Club, where we have a permanent berth, with our long-time friends (and willing crew) Anne and Andrew. Cruising with A&A has considerable benefits. Anne subscribes to Over-caterers Anonymous, so we always have something interesting to eat. Andrew (aka McGyver) loves to do boy stuff with Derek, plus he builds lifts (as a sideline to being a lawyer) so he’s quite handy at anything mechanical. Besides all this A&A are willing participants in on-board entertainments such as cards, Catan and our newly acquired board game Carcassonne (thanks for the Xmas gift Tim & Ben!).
Our first day out we headed to Port Arthur intending to rendezvous with the shore-party (various members of the extended family who were staying at the Caravan Park). With a following breeze we hoisted the mainsail, but encountered a problem trying to deploy the headsail – it unfurled less than two metres then stopped. Even after much wiggling and jiggling we couldn’t fix the problem so motor-sailed out into Storm Bay. The seas were less than two metres as we rounded the spectacular cliffs of Cape Raoul, but unfortunately Anne had to add her photo of this location to her album ‘beautiful places I have spewed’. The swell didn’t abate until we were well inside the extensive harbour, but Stewart’s Bay is so sheltered that we were able to anchor in dead calm water. Anne recovered quickly and the catering began.
After dinner we went ashore to visit the family in their cabin, affectionately called ‘the box’. With six of them crammed in it wasn’t much bigger than our boat. We all crammed into the box to watch the soccer (more important to some than others) and for dessert.
The next day we had a lazy start. We invited the shore-party on board, but they had headed out for a drive, so when Derek consulted the Sydney-Hobart yacht tracker and saw that the leading super-maxis were close by we headed straight out. We soon saw Wild Oats XI crossing from Tasman Island towards Cape Raoul, but were too far away to get a good view. Comanche was following about 45 minutes behind, so by the time she rounded Tasman Island we were in a good position. We cheered, photographed and filmed as the huge yacht sped past barely fifty metres away. It was amazing to see them in action, the crew working hard to get sails trimmed as they screeched along on a beam reach. One or two waved as we cheered. They quickly disappeared from sight around Cape Raoul for the final leg into Storm Bay and the Derwent to the finish line. Hobart turned on a spectacular day for their arrival, with spectator craft lining the river and people waving from on shore.
After our excitement we motored back into Stewart’s Bay – the following yachts were around twenty-four hours behind the lead boats, so there was no point staying there. We did take a moment to enjoy the scenery. The cliffs surrounding Port Arthur are spectacular, and among the highest sea-cliffs in the world. Most are dolerite columns, with geometric shapes, and sea-caves, fissures and ledges often form at the base. You can see paler patches where sections have recently sheared off. Others are time-marked layers of sedimentary sandstone, or combinations of dolerite on sandstone. All are tall and create a forbidding inhospitable coastline – we pondered on how terrifying it must have been for convicts transported here in the early nineteenth century, the whole landscape looking like a prison.
These cliffs also create bizarre and unpredictable wind conditions in the bay. Last time we sailed here, Derek and I were just two-handed. We approached from the north, and had a stiffening north-easterly breeze for the reach down from Maria Island. Naively we supposed that once we turned the corner, taking the narrow channel between Tasman Island and Cape Pillar, we would be sheltered from the worst of the wind and could then easily drop the mainsail. Instead we rounded the corner and found that close to the cliffs we were not in a wind shadow, but somehow the effect of these 300 metre high cliffs was to amplify the wind from around twenty to forty knots. Whilst we were struggling to hold the boat off the cliffs and reef the main Derek received a frantic support call from our son Tim, working in Sinagpore. He had to wait until we had the boat under control and managed to get out of the wind further into the harbour.
We spent the next few days relaxing in Stewarts Bay, with swimming, walks, and general messing about in boats. The shore-based family joined us for refreshments and a swim, and we ferried them ashore just minutes before a thunderstorm, replete with hail, hit us. On New Year’s Eve we set out again back around Cape Raoul, across Storm Bay and back into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. This time, dosed up with Kwells, Anne avoided seasickness. We were joined by a pod of dolphins for part of the trip. The friendly thrill-seekers zipped back and forth across our bow, and entertained us with spectacular leaps and at least one side-slap. Andrew and Derek then had a lengthy discussion about how dolphins swim so fast and efficiently, and how this movement related to developments in submarine technology…
We made for the marina in Kettering where we refilled the water tanks and collected Gayelene, our friend from Sydney, then headed across the Channel, Gayelene at the helm, for an overnight anchorage in the lee of Quarantine Point. We weren’t the only boat to choose this area, and we found ourselves amongst about twenty other boats – all fortunately good neighbours! We had a barbeque in the cockpit, fed the swan, watched for the sea eagles and enjoyed a superbly calm evening at Bruny Island. Later we went below for games – Gayelene and I won rounds of Up and Down the River – until the new year was announced by someone’s horn and a burst of fireworks.
On New Year’s Day we slept late, then had a slap-up breakfast of crepes (cooked by me) and beautiful fresh plump raspberries from the Huon Valley (bought by Gayelene), then motored back to Kettering, where we left the boat and headed home for a few days. We hope to resume the holiday cruise on Monday the 5th. Let’s see what happens.