Port Huon to Franklin

This morning I was up before the sun and watched the colours of dawn blaze across the sky and the slick surface of the water around me.

Today would be a lazy day on the boat, first a slap-up breakfast of eggs, bacon and a mushroom (yes, just one, rather large) on toast, and then a chance to relax, write, read and work online while we waited for the tide to rise so we could get up the river to Franklin without touching the bottom. Our boat draws two metres below the waterline, and there is one dodgy patch of river, just off Castle Forbes Bay, which is very shallow. Last year when we joined this same winter event, the high tides were around 4 or 5 am, and very late in the evening. We chose to leave at dawn to catch the end of the early tide. However, that morning there was a very heavy fog laying in the valley. Nevertheless, we set off in the cold clinging fog on a falling tide, navigating with the radar and GPS and a keen lookout! When we got to the shallow spot we touched bottom. Fortunately, the bottom was soft river mud and we were able to plough through the 30 or so metres until the bottom fell away again and we could motor freely. Not that we would choose to do so again, for fear of sticking tight, but in a way this was actually a bonus, as it wiped our keel clean of weed and barnacles. A free keel scrub! At our next slip, instead of being encrusted with about six inches of mussels and other marine flora and fauna, our keel bottom was squeaky clean.

So today we waited until after midday to make the trip. Every other boat in our fleet had already left and made the trip without getting stuck.

Negotiating the corner near Castle Forbes Bay – where the deep channel is very close to shore. Just past here is the very shallow stretch of river. 8 2m on the depth sounder We navigated the dodgy spot cleanly, with the lowest depth reading 1.9 metres. Our depth sounder is positioned about half a metre below the waterline so that still only gave us about 40 cm to play with!

We motored gently up the river watching the reflections of gentle rolling hills, forests of gums, sedges and reeds on the Egg Islands and moored boats that we passed. A few houses had their own jetties and moorings – perhaps we should keep an eye out for one as a retirement option?

Along the way we saw plenty more bird life – pelicans, swans, ducks, cormorants, grebes, herons and a mottled kelp gull that swooped us from behind.

We anchored at the back of the fleet, just off the rowing club, and not far from the underwater cable that connects Franklin to Cradoc on the other shore. These two communities are within sight, but a good way away by car as the nearest bridge is in Huonville. Which is just as well for us as bridge-builders often don’t factor in the height of our mast!

We sat and relaxed for the afternoon until it was time to go ashore for the evening meal and get-together at the Living Boat Trust. Franklin is a centre for traditional wooden boat building, and the workshops are world-renowned, teaching these age-old skills to willing students from around the globe. The Living Boat Trust specialise in building a particular type of skiff, and currently the team are participating in a regatta in the UK.

In this modest boat shed we were treated to a lovely Asian-style meal cooked by a local, Kate. We all ate on trestles amidst the clutter of boat building tools and boat equipment. We joined a long table and spent the evening swapping stories once again, before heading back silently in the dinghy, across the silky-smooth river to the boat.

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.