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.

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.


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.

A Family Weekend

Fri 23 Jan
Crew: Derek, Marion, Ben and Sarah
Course: BYC to the Duck Pond (North Bruny)
Wind: North-westerly  to Westerly, 10-15 knots

We were underway by 11.30 am – the younger crew took longer than expected to get ready for our weekend trip! We hoisted the main straight away, to take advantage of the favourable winds, thinking ourselves lucky to be sailing with the wind behind us for a change. It seems all too often we find ourselves travelling into the wind, or worse still, into bad weather. We set the headsail and enjoyed the quiet, training our new crew in perfect conditions. It is lovely to have Ben along with us for a change. He does have a lot to learn about sailing though!

We managed to keep the sails set until we were south of White Rock (at the end of South Arm), then we dropped the sails and served lunch – yummy salad rolls – as we motored into the Channel. There was a bit of wind about, so we proceeded into the calm waters of the Duck Pond, where we anchored quite close in to shore. We were greeted by two black swans, who noisily demanded food. The tide was out, exposing heaps of oyster beds, like strange plants emerging from every solid bit of sea bed. These were a bit of an obstacle course for our inflatable craft – dinghy and kayak – which we took out for a spin in the afternoon. We went ashore at the nearest ‘beach’, then around the small reef at the entrance and to another beach on the point. Ben and I tried the kayak sail on the way – but we were in a wind shadow. We could see the wind and waves rushing into Barnes Bay from the west.

We sat snug in our anchorage for the evening, playing board and card games and having spaghetti bolognaise for dinner.

Sat Jan 24
Same crew
Course: Duck Pond to One Tree Point and back the Quarantine Point overnight
Wind: south to south-easterly

A lazy morning with late breakfast of eggs and bacon today – the usual for a day on the boat with no fixed plans. At around midday we pulled anchor and nosed out of the protection of the Duck Pond to see what was happening in the rest of the world. We heard from Dave that he and Sue were out on Trouble, and having lunch and a swim at One Tree Point on the north east shore of Bruny Island, so we headed around to join them.

A good south-easterly breeze meant we were able to sail up the Channel, but we took the sails off when we rounded Dennes Point and were bashing into it. For a moment we wondered what we were doing out here in the wind, but soon we could see Trouble, a tiny white dot sitting calmly in the nook of One Tree Point. We pulled up alongside and dropped anchor, finding ourselves in the most beautiful protected little bay. We invited Dave and Sue on board for afternoon tea – a batch of fresh scones I whipped up on the way out! 2015-01-24 16.33.06

After scones we all went ashore in the dinghy and kayak – all except for Derek who had to take a support call from the US… Dave and I had a swim in the crystal clear water – beautiful but cold! Wading out we met a small skate. Once I had dried off I walked with Ben and Sarah along the lovely little beach and up to the cliff-top to look down at the bay on the other side, where kelp surged in the swell. we relaxed for a while in the warmth of the sun, and before we knew it, it was 5 pm and time to head in to a 2015-01-24 16.52.282015-01-24 16.46.01more protected anchorage for the night. One Tree Point is lovely, but a bit exposed for comfort, especially as the wind was predicted to swing around in the night. Dave had a story to tell about the last time he anchored here overnight, having to leave in the middle of a pitch black night and losing his tender, Short Wavelength, in the process, so we chose prudence, and both headed back into Barnes Bay, anchoring in our favourite spot off Quarantine Point – just near the Sea Eagle nest.

Dave and Sue came aboard for a BBQ dinner, and we spent a pleasant evening. After dinner they left and anchored a little way off before dark, and the rest of us played Catan (Pirate Isles) – with Ben the victor.


Sunday 15 Jan
Same Crew
Course: Quarantine Point to BYC
Wind: westerly ten to twenty knots

The morning dawned grey and drizzly, and though our anchorage was still and peaceful we weren’t lured out early. We had breakfast down below, but when I popped up on deck I did spot the sea eagle gliding over the trees to perch at the end of the point.

We spent the morning at anchor playing more games. The weather didn’t improve and after a hot lunch Ben and Sarah helped Derek deflate and pack away the dinghy and kayak before we headed out around the point into the westerly weather and made for home.

Once in the Channel the wind varied between ten and twenty knots. We put out a shortened headsail and rugged up. The kids hunkered down below, and slept for most of the trip home, while Derek and I sat on deck under the dodger reading and keeping an eye on the river traffic.

By about six we had berthed at Bellerive. Ben and Sarah collected the wheelbarrows while Derek and I packed and cleaned the boat. Soon we were on the road home, stopping at Susan and Sarah’s place to offload the kayak so they can borrow it for next week. We arrived home to a couple of lonely cats, and lots of washing!

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…?!