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.