Home to Hazy Hobart – Tuesday 5th March

Position: Home!

During Monday evening, as they returned from trips ashore, the occupants of most of the boats in the anchorage pulled up their anchors and pootled across the bay to the far south-eastern shore. This was because the wind was forecast to change to the south during the night, exposing the anchorage to a bit of fetch, but as it was only forecast to be very light we couldn’t be bothered moving and settled down for our last night on board.

In the wee hours of the morning we were gently rocked about, but after so long at sea we barely noticed it, and slept peacefully until the dawn, when we got up and got going so as to reach the canal close to high tide. The sky was hazy and we could smell bushfire smoke, something we hadn’t experienced in the north at all, and a sage reminder of the devastating fires still burning in our precious wilderness areas.

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After setting us on course with the auto-pilot Derek sneaked back down below for a bit of extra sleep leaving me keeping a lookout. Once again, we barely met another boat until we neared the Marion Narrows and I kept reading my book, The Secret Life of Whales, a memoir by Micheline Jenner about her nearly 25 years researching whales around the Australian coast and into Antarctic waters.

Beautiful blue-green breakers were rolling onto Marion Bay Beach right beside the entrance. It’s a little disconcerting to be sailing towards the beach, but we had the chart plotter as well as the leads to line up and follow into the narrow entrance. As usual I called out depths and directions based on the chart-plotter’s record of our out-bound track two weeks earlier, while Derek steered us through.

 

We were soon overtaken by a fast vessel used for mooring installation and maintenance, and we were still quite a distance from the leads to the canal when we heard him call the bridge operator on the radio. We weren’t going to be able to get through at the same time and by the time we got to the leads and called up, the bridge operator had reclosed the canal to let the waiting traffic through. It wasn’t long, however, before he reopened it for us and we were able to glide on through without waiting.

Through the bridge is another very shallow channel, indicated by red and green channel markers, and negotiating this we found ourselves back in our home waters of Fredrick Henry Bay. There was barely a ripple on the wide bay and we motored past Fulham Island, Lime Bay and Sloping Island before nearing the sculpted sandstone cliffs of Cape Deslacs, at the end of Clifton Beach. Here is another short-tailed shearwater rookery and hundreds of birds were rafting on the water. As we neared the flock, birds took flight streaming off to either side of the boat.

Along Hope Beach, we passed another yacht with the crew on the foredeck hoisting a spinnaker. By the time they had set it in the light breeze we had passed between Blackjack Rocks and Betsey Island on our way to rounding the Iron Pot. I always look fondly on this little lighthouse at the entrance to the Derwent River. I remember as a child going up Mt Wellington with my grandfather, from where he pointed it out and told me, with straight face, that it was the south pole.

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We ate a simple lunch of cheese and crackers, and with the city looming up in front of us through the smoke haze our thoughts drifted to home and we began to pack up the boat. Our trip was almost over.

Our son Ben was waiting to meet us as we pulled into our marina berth at Bellerive. We tied up and began to unload, and whilst Derek and Ben took loads to the car I began washing two and a half weeks of salt and grime off the boat. By late afternoon we were home, tired but grateful for a wonderful trip. It had not been without its challenges, but also full of rewards. And we have tomorrow’s twilight race to look forward to!

Wineglass Wobble – 17th February

Position: Wineglass Bay (wobble, wobble!)

 

 

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As we neared the Dunalley leads we could see a convoy of boats just heading into the canal as the bridge opened. We hurried to catch up with them and tagged along behind through the swing bridge opening and along the short canal that joins Fredrick Henry Bay with the east coast via Blackman Bay lagoon and the Marion Narrows. Gliding through the canal we waved at the long line of traffic waiting for us to pass. Many people had got out to stretch their legs and watch the passing parade.

We motored slowly through the lagoon, past oyster farms where cormorants and gulls perched, following the channel markers.

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With such a high tide, and a string of sailboats to follow we had no trouble following the channel. The lowest point we saw was 2.2m on the final stretch before turning north-east to exit. There was a light north easterly breeze and a little bit of swell which made it a slightly bumpy exit. On the way we passed a surfer riding the breaks beside the channel.

We saw a dozen or more small boats out fishing in the Mercury Passage as we travelled north past Maria Island. At Ile des Phoques we went in for a closer look at the seal colony. Along the shore the seals lay resting or frolicked with much barking and yelping. The island is also dotted with cormorants and other shore birds. A flock of gannets took flight off the water as we approached and we also saw a few dolphins playing in the waves.

We headed on north inside Schouten Island, then through the Schouten Passage, where at least a dozen boats lay at anchor in Bryan’s Corner, and around the outside of the Freycinet Peninsula towards Wineglass Bay. About half way along this coast we saw a pod of dolphins approaching, leaping through the waves. They surrounded the boat, dashing along with us, underneath the bow, crossing sides. There must have been at least fifty of them, and they stayed with us for half an hour. What a thrill! There was a bit too much swell for them to play in the bow-wave as the boat’s nose was heaving up and down erratically, but they leapt right beside us so that you could hear them breathe. All around us they surfed the waves, groups of ten or more to a wave crest side by side.

The dolphins had all headed out to sea as we rounded Lemon Rock to enter Wineglass Bay. The swell was coming from the north and the bay is open to the north-east so the swell funnelled right in with us. There were two yachts anchored at the east end of the bay and one at our preferred choice at the west end. With the wind predicted to come in strongly from the west in the next twelve hours we chose a spot off the beach at the west end and dropped the anchor in about 8 metres, letting out all the chain and some rope. And here we have sat, wobbling up and down on the swell all evening and all night.

First we watched the stragglers of the day trippers arrive by foot on the saddle track, and with amusement as some braved the cold waters for a quick dip. A wallaby hopped on the beach doing its best to evade the walkers. As the sun sank behind Mt Amos casting shadows on the flanks of Mt Dove with the almost full moon just risen we sat on deck with a drink and cheese listening to the sounds of evening – mostly drowned out by the gentle rush and roar of the waves crashing on granite boulders and sweeping up the sand in wide arcs.

For dinner I cooked Teriyaki beef and rice, which went down well with a glass of red. Cooking on board is a case of trying to make simple but tasty meals. I have vacuum packed all the meat to avoid that nasty ooze you get with plain plastic bags (nothing worse than diving head-first into the fridge to wipe up a sticky mess), so tonight’s pack of beef strips was marinated in a packet of sauce, then pop some rice on the two-burner gas stove (set to swing on the gimbal), fry up some veg and chuck in the beef – hey presto! A tasty meal. Eaten on deck with a view to die for – what more could one want for a birthday celebration?

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Note: I’m posting this while I have connectivity offshore of Bicheno on Tuesday. I’m having problems uploading all my ‘brilliant’ video footage of the canal, Marion Narrows, seals and of course the dolphins. So you may have to wait to see these but I will post them when I can!