Stunning Cygnet

The weather on Saturday was rather ‘ordinary’ – cooler, windy and trying to rain on us. With a choice of travelling west to Dover or north to Cygnet we chose the latter, trying to avoid the lowering grey clouds that signaled a front sweeping across the bottom corner of Tassie. We looked at the main Cygnet anchorage and decided it offered little protection, and opted instead for Copper Alley Bay. Here we were spun around a bit with the variable wind, but missed the worst of it, and retreated below for a lazy day on board. The wind dropped out over night and with only one other occupied yacht in the bay, enjoyed a quiet night.

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At anchor – Copper Alley Bay

Sunday dawned still and clear. The front had moved on and the sky was cloudless and blue. Feeling that we had really been lazy enough, we decided to motor up closer to town and make a trip ashore in the kayak. Cygnet was looking stunning, with barely a ripple on the bay.

We anchored near the yacht club – avoiding the start box area just in case Sunday was race day – and paddled ashore. Here we took the water-front walkway up to town. We were greeted warmly by locals out for a walk, and stopped to chat to Aubrey, who had just knocked off from his shift at the pub. As well as friendly locals, Cygnet sports a thriving artistic community, with a bunch of talented writers, crafts-people and artists. The old apple processing sheds have been taken over by a few of them, and though the studios weren’t open we were intrigued by some of the works on display, including this replica canoe fashioned from wire.

Soon we came upon the town’s namesakes – not as many as the French found back in 1792. I imagine they made a slap-up meal out of a few back then (poor swans!).

Cygnet is also home to a popular annual folk festival earlier in January, and a bunch of crafty knitters have yarn-bombed the town, making the ordinary rather extraordinary!

I felt quite at home. Knitting is a good pastime on the boat (as long as you hang on to the balls of wool!). Here’s a pic from earlier in the month (Alice’s jumper still in progress).

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After wandering the town, grabbing a drink and piece of yummy cake from the famous Red Velvet Lounge, and almost buying a beautiful wrought iron bird bath at the craft shop, we returned to the boat and headed homeward. And it was race-day. As we pulled up anchor the yachts were milling about the start line. They put on a good show for us in the light wind as we motored out.

It was farewell to Adamsons Peak, Arch Rock and the Middleton Light (with Mt Wellington in the distance).

Then we passed the Bruny Ferry, Mirambeena, on its way to Kettering with a full load of holiday-makers on their way home. The queue for the ferry on the island side stretched all the way up the hill.

The river too was full of boats making their way homeward. At Taroona we waved to my sister Nancy, and she waved a sheet from her garden close to the river bank (her place is to the right of centre in the photo below, but it’s hard to make out the sheet – I don’t have much of a zoom sorry!).

And to top off four days of sunshine and relaxation, Derek’s sister served us lasagne on the way home!

Salmon on the Menu

Friday dawned clear and calm – well, to be honest we were experiencing a little slop in our anchorage, but not enough to be uncomfortable. After breakfast we set sail (but only figuratively) for the south. The Channel here, between Middleton and Gordon on the west bank and Simpsons Point, Allonnah and Lunnawanna on the Bruny Island side, is exposed to the south and can get quite rough. Today, though, it was smooth, and the light winds meant we could either dawdle along under sail all day – as did one of our companion yachts from last night’s anchorage – or motor, as we did, perhaps with some headsail up.

The Channel was dotted with boats: a handful of tiny runabouts and dinghies full of keen fisher-people (this is a top spot for catching flathead), yachts and cabin cruisers heading up or down for a day out, and the odd working boat from the many salmon farms. Soon we could see the marker for Zuidpool Rock. This reef lies in the middle of the Channel, just below the surface. I tried to find out how it got its Dutch name – a whaling vessel called the Zuidpool visited Hobart in the 1840s, but I can’t tell you conclusively if this boat ran into it! The local Lunnawanna-Allonnah people may well have visited the reef in their bark canoes over millennia. The French didn’t run into it in 1792 or 1793, nor did John Hayes in 1793 from what I can see. I will continue my research!

Back to Friday 27th Jan – and soon we reached the southern salmon farms with circular pens stretching almost all the way across the mouth of Great Taylors Bay.

We skirted the leases, keeping outside the yellow markers, and made our way around to the beautiful Butlers Beach.

Butlers Beach lies on the northern tip of the Labillardiere Peninsula, in the Bruny Island national Park. It is a beautiful sandy beach only accessible by boat or by a couple of hours walk from the car park at Lighthouse Jetty Beach. Today it was one of those rare warm sunny and calm Tasmanian summer’s day, and all the boats from miles around had converged here to spend the day! We found a spot to anchor in the middle of over twenty boats, inflated our kayak and went for a paddle in the crystal clear waters, and a wander along the shore.

Back on board we whipped up a scrumptious salad – garnished with smoked salmon! I wonder if it came from one of the fish-pens nearby? Just as I was contemplating a swim, the wind came up and we decided to beat a retreat to our chosen overnight anchorage at Mickeys Bay on the other side of Great Taylors Bay. We anchored at the north-west side with only a couple of other boats. It was windy, but we were anticipating that the wind would soon change direction and die out, which it did. During the afternoon we were also joined by several other boats… and a few more… and more again… and eventually as the light began to fade, a whole armada of boats made their way in and anchored here and there in any available gap, making a total of over 30 boats! Most were well behaved, but three party boats rafted up not far enough from us and a bunch of kids on board began to screech country & western songs at the top of their lungs. Argh! Fortunately they must have worn themselves out during the day as the noise did not continue much beyond sunset and then we all had a peaceful and still night.

 

South for the long weekend

With the public holiday for Australia Day falling on a Thursday, it made sense to take Friday off (easy for me as I don’t work on Fridays!) and make it a long weekend for a cruise. We took our time on Thursday morning, packing, provisioning and driving to the boat. It was windy, and as we stowed everything on board we kept the wind instrument on to check – it was gusting to over 30 knots in the marina! On our drive we had seen a few boats sailing down the Derwent amidst the white-caps. We were ready to go by late morning, but decided to eat lunch on board and wait for the wind to abate. It didn’t. So we made ourselves ready and waited for a lull to make the dash out of the marina pen and avoid being blown into any other boats. Fortunately Hughie and Julie, who were out for a walk, happened to come past and gave us a helpful shove. We were off.

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With just the two of us we didn’t want to bother with hoisting the mainsail in the strong wind, and it wasn’t abeam of us enough to set the headsail easily, so we just motored down the river. Near the John Garrow light we passed Don’t Bug Me, their crew cheerfully sailing for the finish line after a long night to Zuidpool Rock and back. After we had passed Blackmans Bay Derek took a nap and I navigated us into the Channel. Here the wind changed a little again, funnelling up the Channel and across from Northwest Bay. We’ve named Piersons Point, on the Tinderbox side of the Channel entrance, Dodgy Point, as the winds here are always fickle! We continued on into the wind past Kettering, successfully avoiding the two vehicular ferries doing a roaring trade taking holiday-makers over to the island and island dwellers elsewhere!

Just past Apollo Bay we could turn further to port, and the wind came more abeam, so I unfurled a small headsail to help us across to Simpsons Point. The wind was quite strong coming up from the South, but tucked away around the corner of the point we had flat water and a peaceful anchorage to spend the night with only a handful of other boats dotted along the shoreline. We roasted vegetables and barbequed steak under the watchful gaze of Fluted Cape from the south and Kunanyi (Mt Wellington) from the north.

Course C for Charlie

Wednesday 25th Jan was a lovely evening for a race. With a stiff breeze of over 20 knots, we put the mainsail up with a reef in the pre-start warm-up, but as the wind was north-westerly and our first leg looked like it would be down-wind, we shook it out. Our course was C for Charlie – a triangle via Punches Reef, Howrah and back to the start line (mark A), then a ‘sausage’ down to mark X in the middle of the river and back to the finish line – quite a long race, but with plenty of wind we would make good time and have plenty of fun!

Our fleet was rather depleted, with only nine boats in our division. With the Australia Day public holiday the next day some were heading off for a long, long weekend on the water or elsewhere, whilst others had taken the opportunity to enter the special night-race to Zuidpool Rock – a small reef in the middle of the lower D’Entrcasteaux Channel, roughly on a line between Ventenat Point and Huon Island. From Hobart to Zuidpool Rock and back is a distance of 60 nautical miles (1nm = 1.8km for you landlubbers). This long overnight race can count towards the required experience for yachts and crews entering ocean races, such as the Launceston or Sydney to Hobart races. The next morning, as Derek and I arrived at the boat for our own long, long weekend, we met some of the sleep-deprived crews who had just returned.

With only nine in division B we had a better chance, and kept in touch with the leaders as we headed for Punches Reef. On board we had a crew of 5 strong young men – our regulars Tim, Willem, Nick, Rohan and Paul, and newby Lachlan (a temporary swap for seim-regular Lochy). The strong winds meant plenty of work for everyone. I was happy to hand the hard main-sheet work over to Rohan, which meant I could sneak in some opportunities to take photos.

The division A boats had been set the same course, and over the course of the race we seemed to be catching up the five-minute gap. The final leg to X and back provided some good photo opportunities.

Dinner in the club-house was a fairly small affair with so few boats on the river, but we were happy to receive a bottle of wine for our second place! We had sailed a pretty good race. Despite the favourable odds, however, we still didn’t win the lucky door prize of a carton of beer. Good thing there are still plenty of beers on board.

Family Day to Mary-Anne Bay

With a warm day and fair winds forecast for Sunday we took the opportunity to invite some of the family out for a sail. Derek is one of seven, most of whom live locally and have families, so we can’t invite them all at once – for this trip we were nine: Derek’s mum Linda, partner David, Derek’s two sisters Susan and Sarah, Sarah’s partner Roy and his two boys Ryan and Jake, and Derek and I.

We headed off late morning under a northerly wind, so we began with a gentle down-wind sail. Linda had been on board a few times, but not under sail, and was enchanted by the smooth quiet progress we made down-river. Years ago she and Derek’s dad Roy (not to be confused with Sarah’s Roy on board today – we have to excuse Sarah’s penchant for a partner with a confusing name) owned a motor-launch and spent weekends away in the Channel, and she noticed the difference between sailing and motoring today. Aside from the quietness of your progress, where you are lulled by the susurration of hull through the water, a bit of sail up also puts the boat on a bit of an angle and gives it mores stability. Plus there’s something magical about harnessing the wind to take you places. Not that it’s ever a tame beast – it’s fickle, wont to change in a moment, and never to be taken for granted – at least not here in the roaring forties!

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With the wind behind us it is fairly easy sailing and we were able to keep the boat flat and steady. But soon we could see a line of dark water to the south: it was the sea-breeze making it’s way up the river to meet us.  Then it was time to pull in the sails and begin tacking into the wind. We made several long, wide tacks, trying not to bring the boat onto too steep an angle – didn’t want to unseat the in-laws and lose them overboard! We put the novice crew into action on the jib sheets and soon we were slipping into Mary-Anne Bay, where I dropped the anchor on its shiny new chain and ran it out until it passed our brilliant new splice onto the rope.

Then it was time to switch to catering mode. Well actually, in true Stoneman fashion everyone had brought a contribution and soon we had a sumptuous spread laid out on the cockpit table and with the nine of us squeezed around it we had a good feast. The youngest on board, Ryan, was keen to try his hand at fishing, so we gave him a hand-line and a bucket and set him to it. He got a few bites, but only one flathead big enough to keep. David supervised the keeper in the bucket, making sure his vital signs indicated health, while Ryan tried to catch enough of his fellows to make a meal. Sadly Ryan had no further success, so we released the lone captive to live another day.

The sea-breeze was still blowing at about 15 knots when we left for home. We pulled up the anchor and hoisted the sail – I entertained everyone by performing a monkey-trick at the mast to sweat the main halyard. Our new mainsail is hard to hoist, and we’ve put it onto our list to lubricate the lugs before the next race, hoping that may make it easier.We made good progress back up the river zig-zagging on a broad reach, and gave David, then Roy, a turn at the helm. The wind was still strong as we turned into Kangaroo Bay, dropped the sails and parked in the marina, but with lots of hands on deck all was achieved smoothly. All in all a lovely day, and a good sailing experience for our first-time guests. Even if it wasn’t warm enough to swim.

Course E for Echo

This Wednesday night was the first in the new series of twilight races. When we got to the boat we were thrilled to see that ‘Scrubber’ Jeff, our boat painter, had been hard at work sanding back and coating the timberwork. It was looking spiffing!

There was plenty of wind out on the water once again, and we were set course E – from the start line heading south-east to Howrah, then across the river to the Garrow – an inflatable buoy placed about half a nautical mile south of the John Garrow light off Sandy Bay – and back to the finish line at Bellerive. Rather than the south-easterly sea breeze we usually get on a summer afternoon, this wind was from the north-west, so we started on a broad reach, then, once around Bellerive Bluff, we poled out the headsail to catch the wind from behind. With a sea-breeze this sail-set is usually our home run and referred to as the beer-leg, so our boat-load of young men were a little muddled!

We had drifted towards the back of the fleet by the time we reached the first mark, and rounded it to begin the long beat across the river to mark G. Derek, being fond of anything mathematical, and having memorised the updated handicap rating of every boat, was keeping a keen eye on the competition and lamenting the fact that since we won the first series this summer our handicap has suffered and we now give time to so many other boats in our division. Well, all the ones we could see around us anyway.

With the wind over 20 knots we had furled the headsail a little to make it smaller and theoretically the boat more manageable, however it made the boat hard to balance and we lost ground slowly as we tacked into the wind. Finally we rounded the mark, close to the back of the fleet, and began a close reach back to the finish line. Half-way there the wind seemed to change, so we poled out the headsail again and the boys dived for the beer.

All was rosy for a time, until, approaching the Bluff, the wind decided to play tricks. It dropped out, then swung around to the north again. Willem, who had taken his beer to the fore-deck and was leaning on the boom to keep the mainsail out wide, had to make a sudden dash forward to take the pole off the headsail. He sat his half-drunk beer can on the deck, but of course it didn’t last, and toppled, spilling his beer, before anyone could retrieve it.

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Of course the wind changed again before we crossed the line, keeping everyone on their toes, and the beers disturbed once again. It also made parking the boat a bit of a challenge, and the crew of Ciao Baby II, our pen-neighbours who were already home, all rallied to help by passing the mooring lines. We packed up and hosed off the beer then headed into the club-house for dinner.

Result: 13th. Elapsed time 1:12:44
Crew: Derek and I, Rohan, Willem, Lochy, Paul, Nick.

Wildlife and the Picasso Coast

Tuesday 3rd, and after another uncomfortable night bumping up and down all the boats in Wineglass Bay voted with their propellers or sails and headed off for smoother waters early in the morning. We motored south along what I’ve named the Picasso Coast because of the amazing Cubist-like granite formations. As we passed I saw faces of people and creatures etched into the rock.

We were joined by a graceful albatross for a time, looping, dipping and shearing off the waves with barely a movement of its wings. I’d love to show you a photo, but they move so fast and swiftly that I’ve never managed it. We stopped at Schouten Island for brunch, and saw a juvenile sea eagle surveying the shallows – distinguishable by its mottled brown plumage. Here we also found another gathering of boats enjoying the sheltered anchorage, and plenty of tinnies out for a fish.

Later we sailed in close to Ile des Phoques (aka Fock Rock) to see the seals. As we approached two sea eagles were circling above. Our arrival was heralded with a chorus of barks from the seals, and as we got close they jumped into the water and swam out to get a good look.

Soon we neared the southern end of the rock where a colony of cormorants have made their mark in white, and the not-so-delightful aroma of seal and bird guano assailed us.

 

We sailed on to Maria Island and spent the night in Deep Hole where we counted seventeen boats at anchor – a stark contrast to our first night there.

An Unscheduled Swim (or diving with the cormorants)

We woke to a grey and overcast start to the new year. Planning on an early start for our trip to Wineglass Bay, our plans hit a hitch at the first opportunity when the anchor, so nicely set the night before, refused to come up the final 5 or so metres. We had hit a snag! Jiggling up and down did not good, so there was nothing for it but an unscheduled swim. The chosen diver – me! I stripped off all my wet-weather gear and put on bathers. Equipped with mask and a torch I plunged into the not-so-pristine waters of Spring Bay (notorious for the introduction of the North Pacific Sea Star, amongst other things, with the ballast water from Japanese freighters in its past heyday as a wood-chip mill). Here I began my impression of a cormorant.

With the first dive, pulling myself down the anchor chain, I could see we had collected a huge chain, no doubt the anchor to a mooring, with links about 15cm long, and it was firmly wedged in our anchor flukes. After reporting the situation to Derek, he lowered the anchor a little and I dived again to wiggle it but couldn’t budge the chain. I realised the best approach would be to pass a rope under the chain, tie it firmly to the boat to relieve the pressure on the anchor, then lower the anchor to free it. Down I went again with a rope, which I passed under the offending chain, all good – only on the way up I ran out of rope! It was too short. I had to let go and return to the surface. Derek pulled that rope back in and went in search of a longer rope while I waited at the bow and got my breath back!

Down I went again with the longer rope and this time I looped it around and was able to bring the end back to the surface where I passed it to Derek and he made it fast to the cleat. With fingers crossed he dropped the anchor down, then pulled it up again – but alas, no luck, it was still stuck fast. So down I went again, to find that the rope had jammed in the anchor as well. I tried to pull it free but it was jammed tight at the point where the anchor swivels on the chain, as well as around a fluke. Back at the surface I suggested Derek drop the anchor a bit to see if this helped, but when I dived down this time it was a good few metres further than before. The water got murky and I was worried about going down that far – I bailed! Derek pulled the anchor up and tried again, but it was still stuck. So I went down for another look – I really was feeling like a cormorant by now, but without the fishy treat! This time I could see that the rope was partly freed, but looped around the anchor. At the surface again I got Derek to give me some slack on the rope and with another dive I moved it to the other side of the anchor getting it clear. He then tightened the rope again, dropped the anchor a bit and with a final dive I managed to pull the anchor free! Hooray! Now we were just held by the rope. I swam back to the ladder while Derek pulled in the rope. We were all free with no damage – just me a little cold and with ears full of water!

As we motored out of Triabunna I warmed up with lots of clothes and a cup of tea. We motor-sailed north for a few hours then dropped anchor in a clear sandy spot (I watched it land to be sure!) at Crocketts Bay on the north end of Schouten Island for a slap-up lunch. Though my friend Rachel is doing a stint as volunteer ranger on Schouten Island I wasn’t about to go for a swim to say hello, sorry Rachel! The water looked much more inviting and the sun came out – but even so… As we ate a beautiful schooner anchored next to us and dropped of ten passengers who headed off into the bush for the walk up Bear Hill. Sadly for them as we left the anchorage the sun went behind the low cloud had drifted in from the east and covered the tops of the hills. We hope the clouds parted for them to enjoy the stunning view from up there.

At Wineglass Bay we found another four boats at anchor in the corner. Once again we dropped the pick onto a sandy patch in amongst them; not as far in as we would have liked to be as the easterly swell was wrapping around the corner making the anchorage a little lumpy. But who can complain when you can stop here at one of the world’s best beaches? We enjoyed the view for the evening, once again attempting a BBQ on board. This time however, we had run out of those handy coconut-fibre bricks and tried the charcoal, which didn’t burn nearly as well. The vegies didn’t roast at all, so it was steak, corn and reheated spuds and a bumpy night’s sleep.