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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Trip two – South Bruny

Monday 5th Jan – depart Kettering Marina
On Board: Marion and Derek

As we motored out of Kettering Marina, a little after midday, we were farewelled by a pair of swans accompanied by their five fluffy cygnets. The morning had been quite busy with a family breakfast for my cousin Mike, who was on a flying visit from South Africa. Derek had some loose ends to tie up at work. We motored south down the D’Entrecasteaux Channel heading for Great Taylor’s Bay on South Bruny. With the wind south-easterly there was little opportunity to raise any sail until we had turned the corner at Gordon. We had no particular destination in mind and put our nose into the Quarries near Lunnawanna. Finding it not particularly sheltered we continued on into Great Taylors Bay, trying and rejecting North Tin Pot, Tin Pot and Mickeys Bays and heading instead to Lighthouse Jetty Beach in the South Bruny National Park. There was minimal shelter here, but as evening closed in the wind dropped and we enjoyed watching the full moon rising over the water.

We ate pan-fried salmon with pink-eye potatoes and vegetables within sight of an array of salmon farms. I joked that in the hazy distance these looked like a huge swell on the horizon. We had heard on the radio sked, to look out for new markers near Butlers Beach that indicated a new salmon farm lease. I can’t help wondering what impact these fish farms are having on the environment. Butlers Beach is a lovely spot to go ashore. We have enjoyed swimming, walking and lazing about on this pristine white sand beach right at the end of the Labillardiere Peninsula. It is only accessible by boat or on foot – a five and a half hour round trip from the nearest road.  The next day when we went ashore at the beaches in the south-west corner of Great Taylors Bay we noticed an abundance of green algae – could this be linked to an excess of nutrients in the bay from the fish farms? It would be a shame if this industry is polluting the pristine waters that we all enjoy and that they rely on for the health of their product, which we are eating! Perhaps I should stop eating salmon?

Tuesday 6th Jan

This morning dawned with clear skies and a light south-easterly breeze. We enjoyed a slow start – one of our boating pleasures – and after second breakfast packed our backpack with lunch and plenty of water and went ashore in the dinghy. From the little beach nearby we picked up the Luggaboine walking track (part of the Labillardiere Circuit) and walked south-east through dry eucalypt scrub. We had been on this walk several years ago shortly after a devastating bushfire had ravaged the entire peninsula (apologies to Greg, Jackie & family – not a great time to show interstate visitors the Bruny Island National Park!) but now we were surprised to see how well the bush had recovered. New growth had sprouted from all the gum-trees, their blackened trunks the only evidence left of the fire. In many places there was a thick understorey of tea-tree,

Blandfordia punicea - Christmas Bells

Blandfordia punicea – Christmas Bells

and a profusion of wildflowers, including the showy Christmas Bells (Blandfordia punicea), heath (epacris impressa) and Trigger Plants. We heard rustling in the bushes (perhaps an echidna or wombat) but only saw one tiny brown whip snake wriggling off into the leaf-litter by the path. I listened to the profusion of bird-calls, but I’m not good with identifying birds by call alone!

Once we reached Lighthouse Jetty Beach we took the road for the four kilometres to the Cape Bruny Light Station. The view over the coastline to the Southern Ocean was spectacular. We marvelled at how calm the sea looked, only a couple of fishing boats taking advantage of the fine weather.

Looking south from the Bruny Island Lighthouse

Looking south from the Bruny Island Lighthouse

The dolerite coastline is spectacular here, much like Port Arthur, though the sea-cliffs are probably not as tall. The original lighthouse – now replaced by an automatic light – was only the fourth lighthouse built in Australia. The three light-keeper’s cottages are well preserved, and it looks like two are used for accommodation. The third and smallest is a museum, but we were disappointed to find it closed. We walked the steep track to the base of the old lighthouse and enjoyed our packed lunch sitting on a convenient bench which looks out to the south. This bench has been erected in memory of Hamish Saunders who died in April 2003 when he was washed off the remote rock, Pedra Branca, located twenty- two nautical miles south of the light. He was part of a research team visiting the rock to study the Pedra Branca Skink and the nesting seabirds, and was washed from near the top of this sixty metre high rock by a rogue wave. Yes, that’s a wave almost sixty metres high – terrifying and hard to believe on a day like this! As we sat gazing into the hazy southern horizon we could eventually spot the rock, but not its neighbour the Eddystone.

Pedra Branca – white rock – was named by Abel Tasman as he rounded the south-east corner of the island. It is sedimentary sandstone with a coating of guano from the thousands of sea-birds that call it home. The Eddystone was named by Cook’s voyage of discovery, after the Eddystone Lighthouse in England. This is a tall thin sandstone stack that looks for all the world like a lighthouse. Both Tasman and Cook sailed north-east of these rocks to land at Adventure Bay on Bruny’s east coast, missing the star attraction of this area – the channel between the island and Tasmania’s mainland. It was a navigation error made by the French on board La Recherche, commanded by Bruny D’Entrecasteaux, when they arrived in 1792 that led to the European discovery of the channel. At one point the navigator reported these rocks to starboard rather than to port causing the captain to steer north much earlier than planned.

We sat and enjoyed the view from the lighthouse for a long time – punctuated by lunch and a few phone calls for Derek – before making the walk back. I soothed my aching muscles in the icy water off the back of the boat – two quick dips! I whipped Derek at cards until he rigged up the television aerial and we watched some comedy on the ABC. By now the wind had swung around to a north-easterly, but it was so light we didn’t consider it a problem when we went to bed. By midnight, however, we were bouncing around a little uncomfortably. Though the wind was only measuring around six knots, the fetch across the bay (around four kilometres) was enough to raise a nasty little bouncing slop. Under the full moon we motored across to Mickeys Bay and dropped anchor in the middle of half a dozen boats, which had prudently chosen this anchorage at a more sensible hour.

Wednesday 7th Jan

We slept much more successfully at Mickeys. By this morning the wind has strengthened from the north and is whistling in the rigging, but there is no nasty bounce. Today is forecast to be warm, around 29 degrees, and it looks like the usual hot northerly wind. This will mean the trip home will be into the wind with little prospect of sailing again. Such is life.

We spent most of the morning at anchor, hoping for the wind to abate a little so we could enjoy the warm weather. At about midday we gave up and headed out of Great Taylors Bay back into the Channel and motored north into the wind. It was very mild, and by the time we rounded the corner at the Middleton Light the wind had dropped considerably. We unfurled the headsail and motor-sailed for a time, until we hit a dead patch just north of Green Island. The clear water and warm weather was too much for me and I convinced Derek to cut the engine, throw a line overboard with a fender attached as a float and I jumped in for a swim. I went in clad in my wetsuit (knowing the temperature of the water) but once I acclimatised and peeled it off this convinced Derek he should have a try as well. We furled the sail and drifted, mid-channel, for a refreshing frolic in the invigorating water.

We continued on home and arrived at the marina as the sun was beginning to set behind Mt Wellington. After an hour or so of cleaning, packing up and making everything secure we said goodbye to Ariadne’s Clew for a few weeks at least. On Friday Derek will be off to New York – his life as an IMW (International Man of Work) resumes. Perhaps one day he can retire to become an IML (International Man of Leisure) and we can spend more time sailing…?!