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.