Nosing home

We awoke to another calm day and though the sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as some of the previous ones, it was still pretty impressive. I watched the birdlife – a lone pelican paddling gracefully then stopping to stretch into awkward angles and dabble; a handful of tiny grebes, that I fondly call pop-up-ducks due to the fact you can never count them accurately (there’s four, no two, no, ten… etc); a murder of crows cackling in the trees and stalking the shore; the occasional black cockatoo screeching overhead; and plenty of unseen feathered friends peeping and tweeting. The silky smooth water reflected the muted skies, trees and sandstone shore.

Reluctantly we set off for home, and nosing out of the protection of Quarantine Bay were pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of Barnes Bay and the Channel were just as calm. A couple of die-hard sailors were doing their best to fill the canvass, but there was no wind. Rarely have I seen it this flat. The reflections of light, scattered cloud, hills, and shorelines followed us all the way.

Even North West Bay, which tends to funnel any north-west to northerly winds, was still as a pond, and we rounded Piersons Point to find the Derwent sparkling and flat all the way to Taroona.

11 Iron Pot to Cape Raoul

Here was a clear line of demarcation, and just to its north a yacht was heeling into the wind. If only it wasn’t a wind on the nose we could have finished our weekend as it had begun, with another half hour of sailing! Even this breeze died and we were able to motor Ariadne’s Clew easily back into her berth, where we tied and tidied up, and returned to life on shore.

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From Franklin to Quarantine

The river was as still as a pond this morning, and the winter sky was low, with scraps of cloud caught in valleys and mountain tops, and smoke from bonfires and chimneys casting a haze over it all. Rain was pattering percussively onto the deck and canvass awnings, but fortunately we weren’t immersed in fog.

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The rowing club was humming with activity when I got up. First the women’s fours set off with their coach following in a tinnie. Then half a dozen single sculls. The swans weren’t so impressed and flew off to find somewhere more peaceful.

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Some of our fellow CYCT cruisers set off early, right on low tide. We hoped they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud!

We were still dawdling when I was contacted by my Mother. She and our family friend Helen were already in Franklin to meet us for brunch! We jumped into the dinghy and putted ashore to the rowing shed’s floating jetty to tie up. The rowers had packed up and were long gone. Together we drove the short distance to Frank’s Cider house. This cider tasting café is situated in a charming old hall, probably a facility of the old church just up the hill.

Frank’s is decorated inside with relics from a history of apple-growing and cider making. Helen was charmed with their history room. It transpires that her grandfather arrived in Tasmania in his late 50’s and bought up an apple orchard in the north-west. With no background in physical work, let alone apple farming, he took to it with gusto and was soon exporting apples to the UK. Here she was able to see the old apple sorting and grading equipment, as well as photos of the old draught horses at work in the orchards.

We sat by the roaring wood fire and treated ourselves to scones with jam and cream until it was time to get back to the boat and begin the long journey home. We waved goodbye to our visitors and then prepared the boat. The forecast was for strengthening winds during the afternoon, so we brought the dinghy on board rather than risking it capsizing in the waves.

Travelling downstream again the river presented a beautiful panorama of views and reflections. The pelicans were still perched on their log, and we saw swans, cockatoos and other birds along the way.

Past Port Huon the river was still glassy, and even into the Channel the wind did not pick up. I made salad for lunch from all the leftovers, and added half of the crisp and juicy Jonagold apple offered free to patrons at Franks.

We motored past Middleton in barely a breath of wind. Where were the 40 knot winds predicted by the BOM? We made it back in to Quarantine Bay before the sun set, and borrowed a mooring for the night. The anchorage was very quiet. I whipped up a simple chicken pasta dinner and we spent another peaceful night at anchor.

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.

Saturday Sunshine

During the latter part of the week we were struggling to get together a crew for the next long race on 4th of Feb. Saturdays hold a host of activities and attractions for our younger crew – from soccer, to high tea, to crewing on opposition boats (oooh!)! So, we were down to the bare minimum for a long spinnaker race – just Derek and I, Rohan and Andrew, whom we just managed to tear away from his weekend work building lifts, though he did bring along a pen and paper to work on some design issues during the slow bits.

We were ready at the start line, with the spinnaker lines run out and the bag on the fore-deck in readiness, sunscreen slathered liberally on exposed skin, drink bottles to hand and the all important lolly tub (also known as ‘morale’) replenished. The sun beat down as the temperature climbed towards the mid-twenties. We enjoyed the stunning view of Hobart’s beautiful setting from the water.

The first boats to start were sent on a course to Variety Bay – I’d never heard of it, but being on the outside coastline of north Bruny Island I haven’t been there often. On the map it looked like a long way. We were the second division to start, and our course was ‘O’: in to Ralphs Bay, across the river to Piersons Point and back home.

The wind was north to north-westerly, so behind us for the first leg. This meant we could hoist the spinnaker and run downwind straight for Tranmere – no tacking hard into the wind. This was a relief with just four of us on board, but the trickiest parts would be setting, dropping and gybing the spinnaker, so we went across the line with the mainsail eased out and the jib billowing out to catch the breeze. Other boats around us hoisted their spinnakers at the line, but we headed out a little to get some clear air before hoisting ours. The wind was kind, blowing steadily at around 12 knots, and soon we were in the groove on our way to Tranmere with plenty of boats around us.

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Thanks to Nick for this image of the Clew, taken from on board Lock on Wood. (Congrats to them – they sailed an awesome race and took out first place!) After this, however, it wasn’t all plain sailing – we did have to gybe at least 8 or 9 times on the way, which kept the four of us very busy.

The faster division one boats started five minutes after us and were given a course to Ralphs Bay then Blackjack Rocks and back, so they gradually caught us up and it was very busy around the Ralphs Bay mark.

From here things got interesting – fortunately for us the wind didn’t get too strong, but it did become quite light and fickle. Here, around the very mouth of the Derwent River we would usually expect a south-easterly sea breeze to come in soon after noon on a hot Tasmanian summer day, however, today the forecast was for south-westerly winds later in the day. For the beginning of this leg the wind was still quite northerly so we all continued with our spinnakers trying to cover as much water as we could with the wind behind us. Most boats in our division headed straight across the river towards Piersons Point, others followed the division one boats along the shore of South Arm on the eastern side, while a few headed west toward Blackmans Bay to find a breeze on this side. At this stage it’s often more a case of luck than tactics, and we spent the next couple of hours avidly watching the water for signs of the wind’s behaviour – and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in the middle of a pod of dolphins.

(Dolphin video to come – sorry, technical difficulties!)

For the next couple of hours we played a cat and mouse game with the other yachts – catching up, getting left behind, sneaking past, only to watch the others catch the breeze and get away again. We don’t call Piersons Point Dodgy Point for nothing. Here’s where the breezes all meet – the northerly funneled down the Derwent, the southerly from Storm Bay, the south-westerly funneled up the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and sometimes an Easterly from around the corner of South Arm. And this is where sailing can become the slowest form of racing. Andrew pulled out his pen and paper. Rohan got a sore neck from craning up at the top edge of the spinnaker and constantly trimming. We all reapplied the sunscreen, then I put on the coffee pot and we all pulled out our lunch.

I recently attended a book launch for A Little Book of Slow by Sally Wise and Paul McIntyre – all about the slow way of living: cooking and making things from scratch, contemplative pastimes. Sailing wasn’t in it, but I vote it could well be included. There is something rewarding about being in tune with the wind and the sea. You learn valuable patience when you are forced to go with the rhythms of nature.

A change did come in, just before we reached the mark, so it was a slow and frustrating rounding after which we found ourselves well towards the back of the fleet. So the wind was behind us again for the trip home and we hoisted the spinnaker again. It’s not often you get the wind behind both ways! Coming back the wind was light and variable, so the spinnaker went up and down a few times, keeping us all busy.

Nearing the finish we came upon various fleets of little yachts and had to avoid interfering with their races. Lovely to see so many people enjoying the river under sail.

We reached home pleasantly tired and recharged with vitamin D and fresh air. We were second-last over the line but ninth on corrected time. Not a bad result for such a small crew on a big slow boat!

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.

A Sail of Two Dragons

Today (4th Jan) we motor-sailed from Port Arthur to Kettering. There was enough wind to carry the mainsail all the way for some wind assistance, but not enough to sail without the motor.

I’ve never seen a sea monster, but each time we round Cape Raoul I can see a dragon, just waiting to snap its jaws. With a big swell I’m sure it would look like the dragon was snorting steam, but yesterday there was barely a splash on his nose.  Just out of Port Arthur lies another dragon, but this one is much older and sleeps most of the time.

 

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Cape Raoul -the watchful dragon

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Dauntless Point – the sleeping dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had an uneventful crossing from Cape Raoul to Dennes Point and the opening of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. One flock of mutton birds; a sprinkling of rain; a pass and wave to a beautiful luxury yacht (major case of boat envy); a bit of sunshine and a lot of book reading.

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Looking back – Cape Raoul & Tasman Island

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Out of the dragon’s jaws

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Along the coast

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All calm at Shipstern Bluff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tied up at the Kettering Marina where we refilled the water tanks, plugged into power and had a nice long shower. The new facilities are lovely, the only issue being that tied to the outside wall we felt the slop – a sideways wobble all evening until the wind died down around midnight.

The Last Leg

We woke to a little slop wobbling the boat as the northerly winds flicked up the surface of the Channel and ripples curved around the point. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but just enough to rouse us and we cooked up a big breakfast for our final day’s sail using the last of the eggs.

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Nosing out of the Quarries we found the wind on our nose as we set a course for Middleton. We unfurled the headsail for part of the trip, but couldn’t sail all the way as we had a long way to travel and were keen to get home.

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As we turned the corner into the Derwent River the huge bulk of kunanyi/Mt Wellington resumed it’s familiar profile, it’s blue bulk lurking over the city, and we knew we were almost home.

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Winds were light to middling most of the way, but once we reached Taroona, where we caught up with the Saturday racing fleet, the winds strengthened to 25 knots and we furled the headsail. We watched as the fleet battled fickle conditions, with gusts causing havoc, boats rounding up and crews madly reefing mainsails and shortening headsails left and right.

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We motored on steadily through the carnage, and arrived back at our berth in time to get the post-race low-down from Gary and crew on Ciao Baby II – including news that they had torn their spinnaker.

We bundled up the dirty linen and left-over food and most of our belongings and made a quick getaway, saving the hard work for Sunday, when we planned to bring reinforcements to help out!  Back on land – and it didn’t even wobble too uncomfortably.

On Sunday we spent a couple of hours unloading the heavy gear – life-raft, dinghy etc – and cleaning the boat inside and out. We even had four willing helpers whom we rewarded with a trip to Bonorong Park in the afternoon.

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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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Planning the big trip

We have just returned from our latest voyage aboard Ariadne’s Clew – an epic seventeen day getaway to Tasmania’s South-West Wilderness World Heritage Area. As the area is really in the wilderness, with no access to mobile phone or internet, not to mention shops or internet cafes, I wasn’t able to post anything during the trip. I did write our experiences as I went, and took lots of photos, so now I will bring you a blow, by blow account of our adventures, posting a bit each day for the next little while, until we’re all caught up. Do hope you enjoy.

Wednesday 25 Feb

My last day of work – it’s hard to believe I’m about to switch into holiday mode.

This trip we will be taking Fiona, our exchange student from the US. She’s never been sailing before, but she’s up for adventure, so I’m sure we’ll have a good time.

This afternoon Fiona met me at work and together we went to do the big shop. Exhausted, we pushed two heavily laden supermarket trolleys to the car. As we struggled on the slope to pack it all into the car boot, we laughed at how we could possibly eat all this food. Hopefully we won’t end up enormously fat in a few weeks’ time!

Today Derek spent the day preparing the boat with extra fuel cans of various types and fixing other odds and ends. Andrew came over after work to help service the engine so all is now ship-shape.

I spent the evening ticking off lists, vacuum packing meat and making last-minute arrangements for the children we are leaving behind.

Thurs 26th Feb

Course: Bellerive Yacht Club to Stringers Cove, Dover
Winds: Variable – 5 knots northerly, to 30 knots south to south-westerly

Derek was still catching up on sleep from a demanding couple of weeks away for work in Samoa, so we didn’t make a very early start. Packing and bits and pieces around the house meant we didn’t leave home until after 9. We dropped Ben off at school and then spent the next hour or two stowing food and belongings into all the storage spaces available on the boat. Surprisingly the fridge isn’t over-full for once. I just hope we have enough cheese to last the journey!

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We filled an extra water container, then over to the fuel wharf to fill up with diesel. Now we were all set. We headed out into a five knot northerly breeze to sail down the Derwent River. It was a beautiful send-off and we watched the busyness of the city recede as we drifted into holiday mode.

By lunchtime we were off Taroona, with sails set, making a leisurely two to three knots. We waved to my sister and I went below to make sandwiches. Half-way through eating them we met the southerly wind-shift and wind waves of almost a metre. Sandwiches went flying as we adjusted to the change. We furled the headsail, but something jammed and Derek had to go forward to fix it. On his way back he was caught in the face with a flying sheet (ie rope) and almost lost his glasses overboard from the impact. Luckily they dropped to the deck and he was able to grab them before they went over. He received a nasty bump on the eyebrow and a sore head though!

We reefed and dropped the main sail, then endured a bumpy hour or so before turning into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The wind funneled up it from the south, varying between twenty and thirty knots on the nose, but the bumping wasn’t too bad until we passed Huon Island for the dash across the more exposed southern Channel to Port Esperance. Here we found our favourite niche, Stringers Cove, set between two fish farms behind Hope Island. To our relief it was unoccupied and blessedly calm, and we anchored here for a peaceful night.

After our cheese platter I whipped up a stir-fry. Too much for one meal, so we can have left-overs for lunch tomorrow. The three of us played a quick game of Carcassonne then turned in for an early night. So calm we all slept soundly.