Wildness and Wet…

Monday 9 March
Course:
Clayton’s Corner – Joe Paige Bay and the Spring River – Wombat Cove
Winds: light to 15 knots

Today was a day for adventure. Our first minor adventure was a dinghy trip to the southern shore to investigate the blue-roofed hut. This is an oddity in the landscape which has everybody talking – a pre-fab hut plonked in the middle of the heath and button-grass in the most unlikely of locales. Exposed to all the elements it doesn’t look inviting to walkers, and is highly visible from the water. Derek herd someone say it was an ‘installation’ by MONA. Was it intended to highlight the conservationist view that the wilderness should not be able to be bought by developers to build private facilities? No luxury hotels with FIFO tourists… An interesting argument which will go on no doubt. Even in the four years since we were last here there has been more development. Some might argue this has only served to protect the environment – duck boarded walks for instance – but at the same time it makes the area more accessible to more people. And with the ‘Spanish Armada’ here, as well as multiple other yachts, regular fly-in tour groups, kayak tours and bushwalkers, it is certainly a busy wilderness.

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I went ashore at a marked track which led through the tea-tree and on to the button grass, but I didn’t walk all the way to the hut, for we had more adventure planned for the day. Later I read more about the project, actually intended to highlight a brief and little known chapter in the history of the area. In 1942, when the world was searching for a solution for displaced European Jews, one Critchley Parker suggested this area as a potential Jewish homeland. Sadly he died exploring the area in support of his proposal – his grave can be visited about half-way along Bathurst Channel at Parker Bay. The MONA installation is a mock subdivision – see the Mercury article here.  (We didn’t see the subdivision sign; it was possibly hidden by the undergrowth).

Back at Ariadne’s Clew we upped anchor (slowly on account of the stinky black sticky mud attached to the chain) and motored out to Joe Paige Bay in the middle of the Bathurst Channel. We cautiously headed north in the bay, which is unsurveyed, shallow and dotted with rocks, to anchor near its head. We ate lunch, keeping an eye on the anchor to ensure the boat wouldn’t drag, then packed the dinghy, attached the kayak behind, and headed up into the Manheer Inlet. Our presence made the huge flock of swans nervous, and they swam away until with a flurry of wings they began to run along the surface of the water, white underwing feathers flashing against the black, then took flight, wheeling overhead.

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In the middle of the inlet the water got very shallow, and without a clear channel to follow we eventually grounded. Then with a combination of poling and paddling we navigated the dinghy into the opening of the lagoon. Here we stepped ashore onto a mossy green bank, tied up the dinghy and transferred into the kayak. East and north of here the river and lagoon is a ‘non-motorised boating zone’. We paddled up river, the only sound our dip and pull on the paddles, and the occasional puff of wind in the trees. The low-lying banks were lined with green moss, reeds, ferns, heath and tea-tree. Where the ground rose higher the banks were packed with a dense understorey of banksia, tea-tree sporting spears of white flowers, and heath. Above these rose a canopy of eucalypts. All was lush and green, with multiple small creeks and streams adding to the fast-flowing tannin-stained water, that reflected the greenery all around us.

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We paddled on for what felt like hours, stopping once for a break at a huge gum tree that had toppled into the water. We named it the afternoon-tea-tree.

The map showed a series loops in the river, getting tighter until about 4 km upstream we would reach a camp on the Port Davey- Scotts Peak Dam walking track, and a place where the track crosses the river. We wound our way up and up, the river getting narrower and swifter, until, several loops below the camp it began to rain. Big drops spattered our thin trousers and made percussion on the hood of my jacket. We decided we had pushed our luck far enough and turned around. The rain pocked the water’s surface, shattering the reflections, and began to drip from the trees, making bubbles on the surface.

Derek hoisted the sail to try to take advantage of the tailwind, and for a while we coasted down on the current until the volume of water funnelling down the sail into the kayak became a flood, adding to the discomfort of water oozing down the open sides of the kayak and pooling under our bottoms. We kept paddling with the current, letting the water drip down our faces as it seeped into every part of our beings until we felt at one with the green dripping wet wilderness. I recited Gerard Manley Hopkins – ‘wildness and wet, wildness and wet, long live the weeds and the wilderness yet’.

Back at the boat, several hours later, we stripped off layers of wet clothing and a leech dropped to the floor. Only one, I thought as I carefully checked my bare skin before drying off rugging up and making a nice cup of tea. As I did so I spared a thought for any bushwalkers out there trying to get dry in a tiny tent. It wasn’t until later that I found the itchy spot where the leech had sucked my blood!

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We donned wet weather gear again and motored around to Wombat Cove for another night, where only one other boat was tied in along the shore.

Melaleuca Inlet

Saturday March 7
Course: Clayton’s Corner to Melaleuca
Wind: 5 to 15 knots

Earlier we had made plans with the fellows on Alpine that they would follow us up Melaleuca Inlet. We had been there before on our last trip and knew the location of the hidden rock (by experience, though thankfully not a too damaging one) and besides, we draw more water, having almost two metres of boat below the waterline. As we were about to leave Clayton’s Corner the other wooden boat, Vardo, upped anchor and headed up the inlet ahead of us. We followed at a safe distance and hailed him as we reached the end of the inlet – where Melaleuca Creek, Lagoon and Inlet all meet. Fortunately there is enough depth to turn the boat around here – and as long as the wind isn’t against you it’s an achievable manoeuvre. I won’t detail what happened during our last visit, suffice to say we had trouble turning around and a comedy of errors ensued, involving me, the dinghy and a long rope…

Anyway, it wasn’t long before all three boats had rafted up together with Vardo lying against the old wooden pylons and tied up to trees on the shore, and all crews exchanging pleasantries. I rang Par Avion to check on Fiona’s flight and was told the plane had just left Hobart and would be arriving in twenty minutes or so. Fiona grabbed her stuff and we climbed into the dinghy and hurried up the creek to the airstrip in driving drizzle verging on rain. As we waited in the wooden shelter that serves as an airport lounge the weather closed in, with low cloud obscuring most of the landscape. We waited for nearly an hour wondering how they could possibly land before we decided they weren’t coming. In our haste we had forgotten to bring the satphone and when we got back to boat – wet and bedraggled – we rang them again. Yes unfortunately the weather report had been wrong and the plane had had to turn around. They will try again in the morning. So Fiona is stuck here for another night with us, poor thing.

We turned the heater on and dried off as best we could then played a mega game of Catan with all the options and Fiona won. I baked rolls and scones and we invited the crews of both our neighbouring boats over for afternoon tea/sundowners. All four gentlemen (retired or semi-retired) had a long history of boat ownership, building and sailing with which to entertain us.

Sunday 8 March

The day began clearer than Saturday, which meant the planes were flying. According to my trusty friend at Par Avion, three planes were due in at around ten o’clock in fact. We hied it up to the airstrip again, which this time was a hive of activity. Two tour groups arrived in the first two planes, with the third offloading a bunch of fresh and eager walkers, and taking Fiona on board along with four tired and dispirited walkers who were heading out. We chatted to two, who had walked in from Cockle Creek. they had had a miserable trip, getting caught in bad weather on the Ironbounds and having to make emergency camp there, then further on being held up for a day at a swollen river while they waited for it to abate. They were looking forward to getting home. So was Fiona.

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We waved her off and then walked to the bird hide. One orange-bellied parrot was feeding at the table amongst three beautiful fire-tail finches.

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We whispered to a birdwatcher who was camped out in the hide, and thrilled to be watching one of these critically endangered birds. Then we sneaked a peak at the tin mine workings – Denny King’s now derelict and rusting equipment, and the more serviceable elaborate workings of another local family. We were unsure if it was still in operation. The house nearby looks occupied, with wind and solar generators on the roof. We mused at the tenacity required for someone to make a living at this work, and contentment and simplicity of lifestyle it could induce.

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We walked back to the airstrip, passing a couple of the newly arrived walkers just heading out on the track looking energetic and optimistic. I hope they enjoy their walk more than the other pair! There is a new short walk circuit around the point between Melaleuca Creek and Lagoon – the Needwonne Walk, with interpretive signs, a dreaming story pictogram and replica shelters and artefacts.

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We enjoyed the short stroll then returned to the dinghy to head back to the boat with the supplies Tim sent in for us by the plane – rather a lot of cheese and lollies, plus eggs, bread and milk. All were slightly warm, having spent the past twenty-four hours awaiting the plane unrefrigerated. We’re not sure what state the milk and cheese will be in.

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We found our raft reduced to two boats – Alpine had already left. So we untied and headed back up the inlet. At one point we grounded in the soft mud, and only unstuck when I employed the rocking the boat tactic – standing on one side, leaning out and jumping up and down – yes, you should have seen it!

When we arrived back at Clayton’s Corner we discovered the advance party of the VDL Circumnavigation fleet – referred to by our friends Michael and Bruce as the Spanish Armada – had already arrived and dropped anchor.  We anchored in the middle of the bunch and lunched on fresh bread, tomatoes and the suspicious cheese – hoping we don’t pay for it later!

One Perfect Day

Friday 6 March
Course: Cassilda Cove, Bathurst Channel to Claytons Corner, Bathurst Harbour (via Port Davey)
Winds: calm to 15 knots

Friday dawned bright and calm – the sort of weather we had been waiting for. We pulled up both anchors and retrieved the two lines from the shore, then motored out past the Breaksea Islands into Port Davey to empty our holding tank outside the marine reserve.

Fiona was booked to fly out from Melaleuca airstrip on Saturday, so we decided to spend Friday night at Claytons Corner so that we could head down Melaleuca Inlet early on Saturday. This well protected cove is the site of Clyde and Win Clayton’s house, one of the few families who lived permanently in the area before it was declared a national park. Since they left the house has been maintained by ‘Friends of Claytons’ and is available for public use as a day shelter. Clayton also built a sturdy jetty here, which is also available for boats to use.

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A few boats were anchored in the area, two in the first bay, two in the Corner, and one tied up at the jetty. We took the vacant side, and stepped ashore for the first time in a few days. We filled our water tanks with fresh south-west rainwater, collected from the roof of Claytons house, and chatted to the crew of Taurus, who were doing their own circumnavigation of Tasmania just ahead of the 40-strong Van Diemens Land Circumnavigation fleet who were expected in a few days. An interesting bunch of characters, they included the only other woman we had seen in the area – the other boats being all male domains so far. We exchanged stories, expertise and goods. They introduced us to a very simple and useful device – the jiggler – which we used to siphon diesel from our jerry-cans into our tanks; we gave them a nearly full bottle of gas for cooking. Their gas supplies had just run out and they had fired up the old wood-stove in the Claytons’ house to cook dinner. They were very grateful, but it was our opportunity to pay it forward; the last time we were here we had been the grateful recipients of a spare can of diesel.

We also chatted to a young man all decked out in bushwalking gear who ended every sentence with ‘ay’. He was the ‘shore party’ from one of the yachts anchored around the corner, and told us of their adventures in the area over the past four weeks. During this time he had walked out to attend a mate’s wedding – assuming he took the quickest route to Scotts Peak this would be a four-day walk each way! He did look extremely fit. We hoped his mate appreciated his dedication.

Fiona and I walked up to the house for pre-dinner nibbles and a chat with the crew of Taurus, then took advantage of the evening light for a walk up TV Hill to look at the view.

Claytons Corner

Claytons Corner

Celery Top Islands

Celery Top Islands

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Bathurst Harbour and Mt Rugby

Bathurst Harbour and Mt Rugby

We watched the sun set and ate on deck enjoying the complete calm.

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Cornered in Cassilda Cove

Tues 3 to Thurs 5 March
At Anchor: Cassilda Cove, Bathurst Channel
Winds: strong, blustery and uninviting!

Tuesday
The forecast for the next few days indicating strong westerlies and snow down to 600 metres, we decided to dig in at Cassilda Cove to wait out the weather. A sunny but blustery day we took the opportunity to catch up on the washing, hanging it out to dry in the sun, along the lifelines to starboard. Derek fixed the oven door, and the rest of the day we spent playing games and reading.

In the afternoon Michael and Bruce from Alpine, the boat next door joined us for a chat. I whipped up scones with jam and cream. Bruce, the boat owner, lives interstate but spends summers on his boat in Cygnet. We discussed boats, and swapped stories of the storm in the Huon last February. Michael knew some of the racing fleet that had been sailing that day – the fleet we saw knocked down, with sails torn and mayday calls sent out, right in front of us as we sheltered in Surges Bay. Their calls lured us out of our safe spot, quickly changing out of our bathers, deflating dinghy and kayak and donning safety gear, to tail the fleet as they struggled to regain control and limped into Cygnet Bay.

Storm on Huon River

Storm on Huon River, Jan 2014, with Andrew

 

After the gentlemen left to ‘sort their box of screws’ – having little else to entertain themselves with over the next few days as they also wait out the weather – Derek whopped Fiona and I at games.

Wednesday

Another day hunkered down in Cassilda Cove while the wind whistled through our meager protection of trees around the cove. I baked bread – two loaves – and after scoffing half a loaf for our late lunch, Fiona and I headed out for a kayak, stopping first at Alpine to deliver the second loaf. The lads were grateful, having run out of fresh bread long ago. We continued our kayak, sticking to the sheltered southern shore of our anchorage as much as possible.

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Cassilda Cove is near the Bathurst Channel end of Horseshoe Inlet, a large shallow body of water where a number of substantial creeks and marshes drain. Further in the waterway is too shallow to be navigable by any keelboats. We investigated a creek, its tannin-stained water gushing in over tannin-stained quartz rocks in a mini waterfall, as well as the inlet past the first lot of rocky islands, but didn’t go all the way into the large body of water that forms Horseshoe Inlet proper, as once we decided to return we were paddling into the wind, still blowing strongly from the west.

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We returned to the boat freshened and invigorated from the fresh air and exercise, brief though it was, and spent the rest of the evening chatting, playing cards and dining on chicken tacos and chocolate pudding. Poor Fiona is having rather a dull time I fear. She’s read all her books. She did beat us both comprehensively at cards though, even Hearts on her first game!

Thursday

Another rainy blustery day. We crossed the inlet in the dinghy and climbed Balmoral Hill. The anchorage guide says this walk is your best value view for effort in the area. A smallish but steep sided hill, it sits in the middle of Bathurst Harbour with water on two sides.

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Balmoral Hill, the climb – Horseshoe Inlet in the background

 

Views up and down the Channel were quite something. Spectacular on a clear sunny day I’m sure.

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Bathurst Channel east, The Narrows and Mt Rugby

For walkers, the Port Davey Track (a four to five day extension to the South Coast Track from Cockle Creek to Melaleuca) crosses Bathurst Channel at the Narrows on the way from Melaleuca to Scotts Peak. To cross the narrows walkers must shuttle rowboats to and fro, always leaving at least one on each side.

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Bathurst Channel west

 

Cassilda Cove and Horseshoe Inlet

Cassilda Cove and Horseshoe Inlet

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After our short walk we made a visit to Alpine, where Bruce proudly showed us over this 64-year-old Huon pine boat. It is beautifully crafted and very solid. He has done a lot of work to restore and refit the interior, however the hull needed very little work thanks to the durability of the timber. We invited Bruce and Michael over for a barbecue dinner, cooked on deck in our little kettle BBQ, but it was too cold and blustery to eat al fresco, so we ate in the saloon below and chatted into the evening.

A Day up the Davey River

Mon March 2
Course: Wombat Cove, Bathurst Channel – Carvers Point, Port Davey – Cassilda Cove, Bathurst Channel
Wind:   15-20  knots

We set off after breakfast for a brisk sail across Port Davey where we anchored in the shallow head of the port at Carvers Point. Here we readied our packed lunch and supplies for the day, and headed off in the dinghy for the trip up the Davey River to explore its gorges. This is a fast-flowing river, like its cousin the Franklin. Add to the current a northerly headwind and it was a struggle for our little 3hp outboard. We meandered slowly up the lower reaches, and were disappointed to discover that a fire had completely burned out the river-valley in recent years. Another party had gone ahead of us and we met them on their way back down. One of the two blokes said the fire had gone through about two and a half years ago, and he was surprised at the slowness of the recovery. Here and there were a few pockets of unburned bush, but the vast majority of tea-tree, scrub and forest were gone, nothing more than bleached trunks. The usually heath-covered hillsides were bare, exposing barren white quartz. In this area a fire will often burn for a long time in the peat soil itself, leaving little to sustain new growth.

Lower reaches of the Davey River

Lower reaches of the Davey River

Eventually we reached the lower gorge, with high quartz cliffs either side of the tannin-stained water, which swirled around jagged rocks.

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Before the first set of rapids we encountered a tight channel, where the river was concentrated between two large rocks. Even on maximum revs we couldn’t make any further progress, so we coasted into the bank where we found a convenient picnic spot. This was as far as we were going today.

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We lunched amongst mosses, lichens and tiny plants, under a niche of unburned bush, then headed back downriver, quietly drifting and paddling back through the magic of the gorge. As the river widened our progress slowed and we motored the rest of the way, our return much faster than our upriver journey had been. On the way we passed flocks of black swans, which took off as we approached, flying overhead, their white under-wing feathers flashing. We grounded once in the sluggish reaches, and on the sandbar at the entrance, but were easily able to pole off with the oars. Fortunately we didn’t break the shear-pin on the propeller else we would have had to do a lot of paddling.

Exhausted from hours of cramped ‘economy style seating’ in the dinghy we took a welcome cup of tea before setting off to investigate Bond Bay. This anchorage is surrounded by low hills with low vegetation, offering little shelter from westerly weather, though it seems well sheltered from the waves. However the whole bay is very shallow and our anchorage guide says boats can bump on the bottom during a heavy storm surge – the reason Clyde Clayton moved his house from here to Claytons Corner at the eastern end of the Bathurst Channel. With westerly weather on the way and already blowing around twenty knots we quickly decided to move on, motoring back into the Bathurst Channel. Returning to Wombat Cove we found it subject to squalls from every direction – this was not the place to be either.

We motored further east, to Cassilda Cove, a tiny niche near the mouth of Horseshoe Inlet. We had anchored here during our last visit. We came around the tight corner to find a boat already here, tied bow to the shore with a stern anchor. The gentlemen, two we had earlier met in Wombat Cove, kindly helped us place a stern anchor using their aluminium dinghy (our inflatable being rather unsuitable for the task). I rowed lines ashore, having practiced tying my bowlines before doing it for real onto two trees. We spent a long time laying and adjusting lines, then reheated lasagne for dinner. When we  looked at the clock after washing up it was after nine. I turned in for an early night.

Practice bowline knot

Practice bowline knot

Bowline to hold the boat!

Bowline to hold the boat!

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Of Wombats and Mountains

 Sun March 1:
At anchor: Wombat Cove, Bathurst Channel

The boat screwed around on the anchor on and off through the night, and rain fell heavily, with squalls continuing into the morning. A day to sit tight and wait out the weather. As the day improved Fiona and I inflated the kayak and went for a spin around the bay, greeting our neighbours, both wooden boats one from Cygnet and the other from Franklin, each crewed by a pair of older gentlemen. Then we went ashore in the north-east corner where a track of sorts heads up Mt Stokes and Mt Misery. We scrambled uphill a little way, for an increasingly spectacular view of the Bathurst Channel and surrounding mountains, but decided we would come back for the full walk when we were better prepared. The track was very hard to follow and we got lost on the way back, scrub-bashing our way back to the cove where we had parked the kayak.

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Later, Peter, from Vardo came over in search of the weather report I had promised him. Here we were out of VHF radio range and couldn’t receive the weather sked. But using the sat-phone Derek was able to download some weather information. This showed the weather deteriorating later in the week, so we decided we would seize the following day for a dinghy trip up the Davey River to the Gorges.

In the afternoon we dodged the showers and all three of us shuttled ashore in the kayak for the walk up to Mt Stokes. Once again we lost the track – not maintained at all by Parks & Wildlife, the anchorage guides suggest that they actually discourage use of the track as it is a phytophthora-free area, so we made sure we scrubbed our boots well before and after the trip to minimise the possibility of spreading this plant disease which lays waste to our sensitive vegetation. We picked out what we hoped were tracks, but inevitably these proved to be wombat trails, dotted with their characteristic square droppings. Unfortunately wombats don’t usually go looking for mountain-top views!

The view from the top, once we did make it, was superb. We could see out to the Southern Ocean, and the many rocks that dot the entrance to Port Davey. Running east to west we could follow the path of the Bathurst Channel, with its many coves and islands, and to the north the craggy face of Mt Misery close by and either side barren mountain ranges stretching into the distance.

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Bathurst Channel with Ariadne’s Clew at anchor in Wombat Cove

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View east to Port Davey and Breaksea Islands

Called Mt Berry on the map, it is commonly known as Mt Misery, which seems to fit. The ridge up to the summit looked very steep and exposed, but the view from the top would be quite something. Considering the non-existence of a well-marked track and the high likelihood of getting caught in mist, we were not tempted to try the climb. Besides it looked like hard work.

Fiona on top. Mt Misery behind

Fiona on top of Mt Stokes, with Mt Misery behind

Coming down, we once again lost the track and ended up on the same unorthodox approach to our kayak. Fortunately we made a safe descent.

That night at anchor was blissfully still and mild. With a two-thirds moon and a ragged gap in the clouds, I lay on deck to watch Orion for a while before heading to bed for a restful night.

Around the Bottom

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.

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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.

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Precipitous Bluff

 

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.

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Maatsuyker Island

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Flat-top and Round-top Islands

 

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.

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Big Caroline Rock

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Ariadne’s Clew and Vardo in Wombat Cove

 

To Recherche Bay

Friday 27th Feb
Course: Stringers Cove, Dover, to Waterhole Cove, Recherche Bay
Wind: not much

A quick breakfast and we set off in the early calm at around 7.30 am. Heading south into almost no breeze we motored into a long slow half-metre swell. The surface was oil-slick calm and we gently rose and fell. We passed fish farms and a few fishing boats out early about their business.

In the Channel we were soon joined by a pod of playful dolphins. The three of us stood on the bow looking down on them playing in the bow-wave. Such graceful nonchalant creatures they seem to do it purely for the fun. They came and went, zipping off, and back, leaping and cavorting, for about half an hour. Fiona enjoyed the fun, standing right at the bow with her camera. One thing ticked off her wish-list already!

The weather stayed calm as we passed the beaches of Southport and rounded Eliza Point inside Actaeon and Sterile Islands, keeping clear of Black Reef and Blind Reef, where a big surf was breaking. A bunch of fishing boats was busy at work on the reefs. We passed outside of the Images and turned north-west to enter Pigsties Bay, where we found a calm spot to anchor just off Bennets Point.

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In the middle of morning tea we were joined by a friendly local in his dinghy. He was off to make soundings for a mooring. We discussed the new development proposal for the area – a floating hotel, a string of pontoons made in the shape of aboriginal bark canoes and the hulls of the sailing ships of the D’Entrecasteaux expedition, with a shore-based visitors’ centre at Moss Glen. He was not averse to the idea, aware that the plan was well conceived, but wary that though the architect’s vision took into consideration the needs and rights of locals and sailors like us, that it all depends what the backers want – will they discourage people like us from anchoring in our lovely little cove because it’s where the sea-plane moors, for instance?

He was somewhat of an expert on the area, and showed us where to find petrified wood, and named half a dozen birds just from their call. He said Derek was lucky to have a wife who enjoyed sailing. His wife won’t come out on his 27 footer – he takes his daughter instead. It was my turn to be envious when he described visiting France and having afternoon tea with Bruni D’Entrecasteaux’s descendant at the family home in Aix-en-Provence. He has also spent time travelling around Brittany and recommended we go when the sailing festival is on. I’ll be packing as soon as we get home!

Then it was time to head ashore. We ferried ashore in the kayak and went in search of the petrified wood – finding many pieces strewn on the shore where he told us. Then we all headed into the bush to find the remains of the French observatory – a long drystone wall, all moss and lichen covered, with huge gums growing out of it. The French built this construction during their visits in 1792 and 93, to test the earth’s magnetic field. Their experiments proved that the magnetic field increases further south as well as north.

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As well as the observatory, they built a garden, where Felix de la Haye planted a variety of vegetables, hoping this would provide sustenance to sailors and interest the aborigines as well. During their second visit when they had contact with the local people, they showed them the garden. I wonder what they thought of this activity – when they obviously enjoyed the natural bounty of the area.

We didn’t go in search of the garden. The scrub is thick. The insects are voracious. And we were ready to go back for lunch. The kayak only takes two at a time, and when I suggested I paddle Fiona back to the boat first, she volunteered to swim. Of course I said ‘me too’ and the two of us braved the bracing water while Derek kayaked back alone with all our gear.

We ate lunch on deck, then moved the boat into D’Entrecasteaux’s Waterhole Cove – where the expedition first thankfully refilled their empty water casks at the creek. There we undertook a few boat maintenance jobs – re-tensioning the headsail furler and fixing the deck-wash water pump. These sort of tasks provide Derek with endless hours of distraction from the stress of his job.

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Planning the big trip

We have just returned from our latest voyage aboard Ariadne’s Clew – an epic seventeen day getaway to Tasmania’s South-West Wilderness World Heritage Area. As the area is really in the wilderness, with no access to mobile phone or internet, not to mention shops or internet cafes, I wasn’t able to post anything during the trip. I did write our experiences as I went, and took lots of photos, so now I will bring you a blow, by blow account of our adventures, posting a bit each day for the next little while, until we’re all caught up. Do hope you enjoy.

Wednesday 25 Feb

My last day of work – it’s hard to believe I’m about to switch into holiday mode.

This trip we will be taking Fiona, our exchange student from the US. She’s never been sailing before, but she’s up for adventure, so I’m sure we’ll have a good time.

This afternoon Fiona met me at work and together we went to do the big shop. Exhausted, we pushed two heavily laden supermarket trolleys to the car. As we struggled on the slope to pack it all into the car boot, we laughed at how we could possibly eat all this food. Hopefully we won’t end up enormously fat in a few weeks’ time!

Today Derek spent the day preparing the boat with extra fuel cans of various types and fixing other odds and ends. Andrew came over after work to help service the engine so all is now ship-shape.

I spent the evening ticking off lists, vacuum packing meat and making last-minute arrangements for the children we are leaving behind.

Thurs 26th Feb

Course: Bellerive Yacht Club to Stringers Cove, Dover
Winds: Variable – 5 knots northerly, to 30 knots south to south-westerly

Derek was still catching up on sleep from a demanding couple of weeks away for work in Samoa, so we didn’t make a very early start. Packing and bits and pieces around the house meant we didn’t leave home until after 9. We dropped Ben off at school and then spent the next hour or two stowing food and belongings into all the storage spaces available on the boat. Surprisingly the fridge isn’t over-full for once. I just hope we have enough cheese to last the journey!

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We filled an extra water container, then over to the fuel wharf to fill up with diesel. Now we were all set. We headed out into a five knot northerly breeze to sail down the Derwent River. It was a beautiful send-off and we watched the busyness of the city recede as we drifted into holiday mode.

By lunchtime we were off Taroona, with sails set, making a leisurely two to three knots. We waved to my sister and I went below to make sandwiches. Half-way through eating them we met the southerly wind-shift and wind waves of almost a metre. Sandwiches went flying as we adjusted to the change. We furled the headsail, but something jammed and Derek had to go forward to fix it. On his way back he was caught in the face with a flying sheet (ie rope) and almost lost his glasses overboard from the impact. Luckily they dropped to the deck and he was able to grab them before they went over. He received a nasty bump on the eyebrow and a sore head though!

We reefed and dropped the main sail, then endured a bumpy hour or so before turning into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The wind funneled up it from the south, varying between twenty and thirty knots on the nose, but the bumping wasn’t too bad until we passed Huon Island for the dash across the more exposed southern Channel to Port Esperance. Here we found our favourite niche, Stringers Cove, set between two fish farms behind Hope Island. To our relief it was unoccupied and blessedly calm, and we anchored here for a peaceful night.

After our cheese platter I whipped up a stir-fry. Too much for one meal, so we can have left-overs for lunch tomorrow. The three of us played a quick game of Carcassonne then turned in for an early night. So calm we all slept soundly.