Sat 28 Feb
Course: Waterhole Cove, Recherche Bay to Wombat Cove, Bathurst Channel – South-West Wilderness World Heritage Area
Wind: nil to 20knots north-westerly
With a north-westerly change forecast for the afternoon we made an early start on our passage across the bottom of Tasmania to Port Davey. Shortly after 4am we upped anchor in the dark and motored slowly out of the quiet of Recherche Bay, using GPS and the lights of Cape Bruny, Sterile Island, Fisherman’s Point, and then Whale Head and Maatsyker Island in the distance to navigate. Derek and I harnessed on to the boat while Fiona slept below in the forward cabin. Soon we felt the ocean swell, coming in from the south-west, a long gentle rise and fall. As we rounded South-East Cape the sky began to lighten, a low bank of cloud in the east gradually changing colour – grey, gold, pale pink, orange – as the sun rose behind us.
With the dawn we began to see birds – gulls, capped terns peeping as they flitted overhead, gannets soaring, stalling and spearing the water to capture their breakfasts, graceful albatross and flocks of shearwaters skimming the sea’s surface. It is only as it flies past the smaller birds that you realise how huge the albatross is, its wing-span almost matching that of the boat. Usually alone, they dip and glide, wheeling effortlessly over the ocean. They seem to find us interesting, and glide around the boat watching us curiously. At one point an albatross honed in on us and came to land on the water just metres behind the boat.
Fiona appeared from her cabin annoyed that she had missed her alarm and slept past sunrise. Derek and I were amazed she had slept so soundly as the swell was not insignificant and the forward cabin must have been bumpy. But Fiona is resilient. We watched and tried to name the many peaks of the south coast – Precipitous Bluff the most spectacular with its razor-back striped with mist resembling a thylacine. The Ironbound Range too looks formidable and we spared a thought for the walkers on the south coast track.
We threaded our way through the Maatsuyker group of islands – Flat-top and Round-top (original names!) De witt, Flat Witch, in the lee of Maatsuyker, white houses visible on the lee slopes, the lighthouse concealed on the south side, and the Needles. The sea here was uncannily calm, and the wind dropped out to almost nothing, so that we furled the flapping headsail.
As we neared South-West Cape I could see the change approaching, the water ruffled and dark as it swept around the point. I roused Derek who had gone below and we prepared for the weather change. The last two hours we bashed into short choppy north-westerly wind-waves, but still the underlying swell was low and slow from the south-west. It was slow going into around twenty knots, but eventually we made it past Big Caroline Rock and into the calmer waters of Port Davey. We headed into the Bathurst Channel and found a nice quiet anchorage at Wombat Cove with a couple of other boats. Here we had a late lunch and relaxed for the afternoon.