Tuesday 10 March
Course: Wombat Cove – Big Caroline Rock – Wombat Cove
Wind: 10-15 knots
We turned on the sat-phone to catch up with the news from home, and deliberate over the weather reports. A few days of windy weather ahead, with big seas outside, so we decided that Friday was our best option to head around the bottom of the island and make for home. A boat day today, after our adventures of the day before, we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed out of our anchorage into the waters of Port Davey to dump our holding tank – the waters of Bathurst Channel and Harbour are a declared marine reserve and no dumping of waste is permitted. On the way out we looked south, and with relatively settled weather and sunshine on the horizon made an impulsive decision to make for the open sea and sail around the bottom before the next lot of weather came. We met with a bit of swell breaking onto the many islands dotting the bay, and nosed into Spain Bay, a lovely enclosed sandy bay where we had swum on our first trip down four years ago. In the shelter of the bay we made everything ship-shape, deflated and stowed the kayak, brought the dinghy on board and tied it down to the foredeck. I prepared a bag of scroggin and water bottles and we got prepared in our full weather gear, PFD jackets and safety harnesses. Then we headed out to the open water – it would be a surprise to everyone we had just told we were staying, but perhaps we could have a few quiet days in the Channel before we came home.
Out past invisible but treacherous Nares Rock, then Swainson Island the swell began to build. It was coming in from the south-west and for now we were heading straight into it. We rose and fell with the swell, and as we neared and passed Big Caroline, a huge quartz rock weathered on the south-west side and lush and green on the sheltered north-east, the swell continued to build, until we were rising and falling on swell at least four metres from trough to peak. The wind was light, and once we turned south-east we would be able to put up some sail, but the prospect of pitching about in a south-westerly swell first on our stern quarter, but as we rounded South-West Cape, right on our beam, was a little uncomfortable… We thought again and turned around, bound for Wombat Cove to wait. In a few days, once the next weather system has passed the swell should have abated a bit more and the crossing we trust will be more comfortable.
In Wombat Cove we tied the boat stern ashore – another opportunity for me to mess about in the dinghy and practise my bowlines. Another boat was there already, having tied up to shore in our absence, and before we’d made all secure another boat arrived – our old friends Michael and Bruce aboard Alpine, the 64 year old Huon pine yacht. We enjoyed some fresh air and rare sunshine, taking the opportunity to dry off our wet gear from the day before, and I rowed over to Alpine for a drink and chat with the blokes.
The evening was very mild and we ate on deck, then I lay on the foredeck and watched the stars appear as the sunlight faded from the sky. It was one of those magical evenings on the boat, when you are far from civilization with no city lights to dim the stars. I thought of a poem I had found in a free book of poetry I picked up in a London tube station. The next day I found a copy in my recipe book on board:
On Lake Nicaragua
Slow cargo-launch, midnight, mid-lake,
bound from San Miguelito to Granada.
The lights ahead not yet in sight,
the dwindling ones behind completely gone.
Only the stars
(the mast a finger pointing to the Seven Sisters)
and the moon, rising above Chontales.
Another launch (just one red light) goes by
and sinks into the night.
We, for them:
another red light sinking in the night…
And I, watching the stars, lying on the deck
between bunches of bananas and Chontales cheeses,
wonder: perhaps there’s one that is an earth like ours
and someone’s watching me (watching the stars)
from another launch, on another night, on another lake.
by Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua), translated by Ernesto Cardenal and Robert Pring-Mill