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.

13 home to Hobart

Off south for a winter cruise

The shortest day is only two weeks away, but these clear still winter days are somehow invigorating and irresistible. We haven’t taken the boat away since Easter, other than for a trip to the slip to replace the through-hull fittings (another ouch to the wallet!), so we jumped at the opportunity to join the CYCT winter cruise to Port Huon and Franklin. It fitted perfectly with Derek’s travel plans, as he’ll be flying off around the globe a mere 48 hours after our planned return.

On Friday I collected an old family friend from the airport. We chatted over lunch, then I handed her the keys to my sister’s car – on the proviso she drop me and our provisions to the boat on her way to stay with my Mum! We loaded up the boat – an unusual single barrow load for four nights away – and she farewelled me to stow the groceries and prepare the boat for departure.

Derek managed to wriggle away from work early and by 3pm we were slipping our mooring lines. A 12 knot northerly gave us perfect downwind sailing conditions, so we hoisted both sails and were able to enjoy a quiet run down the river at 7 knots.

On the previous weekend we had replaced our faulty VHF radio, but even with expert advice Derek had been unable to get it working with the masthead aerial (which means that someone is going to have to go up the mast again…). For this trip we will be using our emergency backup aerial, which did test out okay. We had also refitted our repaired chart-plotter (remember that at the height of excitement navigating the Vansittart Shoals in February, the backlight on this device had failed? See Surviving the Vansittart Shoals   for the full story!). Just a few weeks before, we had also replaced one of our failed ST70 instruments with a new version (another three ouches the the wallet!).

Early into our sail we started experiencing issues with the GPS and instrument readings. Alarms were beeping and signals kept dropping out. Which of the three recent electronic upgrades was responsible? After fiddling with things below decks Derek climbed into the port-side lazarette to investigate the wiring to our five binnacle-mounted instruments. Whilst he was head-down in the cupboard I kept the boat sailing, but as I turned in towards Sandy Bay Beach in order to avoid a close encounter with the John Garrow light, that beautiful northerly breeze started to fade. Soon it was replaced by a light 6 knot breeze from the south. Time to drop the sails and turn the motor back on.

Derek’s penance in the cupboard finally paid off after unplugging one device. He’ll need to get some new parts to fix the wiring, but that’s enough about electronics for now!

We were treated to stunning skies as the sun set over kunanyi (otherwise known as Mt Wellington) and then made our way into Quarantine Bay by the light of a sliver of moon and the brilliant stars – with the aid of the chart-plotter. We found a mooring in amongst the intrepid winter cruisers who were already bedded down in the darkness, and went below for dinner and a bit of tv.

A Night on the Town

It’s not often I get the opportunity to stay as a visitor in Hobart, to sleep right on the city’s waterfront without having to pay for a hotel room. When our eighteen-year-old son persuaded us to let him have a party at our house we decided to escape the noise (and our responsibilities perhaps) and sleep on the boat for the night. This provided the perfect opportunity to take Ariadne’s Clew over to the city for a night out. On Saturday afternoon, after bomb-proofing the house (removing Turkish rugs from the living room, and the prize bottle of whisky from the drinks shelf – oops forgot that!) we drove to the marina, hopped on board, cast off and motored across the Derwent River to the docks. The low winter sun sparkled on the water this bright winter’s day. On the way in we passed the Mona Roma (MR2) heading north for it’s final trip of the day, and the Spirit of Hobart, a boxy red and white ferry that always reminds me of a bath toy. We entered through the gap in the sea-wall to the Kings Pier Marina and reversed into one of the pens on the public marina just outside Elizabeth Street Pier and the Lady Nelson replica sail training vessel.

There was one other yacht tied up for the evening with three young men on board, and later another larger yacht arrived complete with large labradoodle, which quickly persuaded its owners to take it for a walk. The public marina has capacity for around five vessels of our size and another two larger ones, plus space for dinghies and run-abouts to tie up. It was the first time we’ve used this fantastic facility. Once we were settled we locked up and headed into Salamanca Place for dinner. Our first pick of restaurants were full, but we got a table at Barcelona where we ate a huge meal, rounded off with coffee and desert!

Eating at Barcelona and showing off one of the historic sandstone walls of Salamanca Place

Then it was time to head to the Peacock Theatre to see one of the shows forming part of the Festival of Voices, What Rhymes with Cars and Girls? We enjoyed the show – an entertaining light-hearted musical romance with two strong leads and a band. The plot was woven around the songs of Tim Rogers and performed by two talented young local actors.

After the show we headed back to the boat, which was warm and cosy thanks to our little diesel heater. Down below we played a game then watched the Tour de France until our eyelids began to droop.

Ariadne’s Clew on the Hobart public marina

In the morning we had a lie-in before heading to T42 restaurant for breakfast where we took a window seat in the bright morning sunshine. From our seat we watched the Lady Nelson crew doing a training session, and both our neighbouring boats as they prepared to cast off.

We checked with Ben to make sure the house had survived the party, then went back on board to cast off and head back across the sparkling river to Bellerive.

Leaving Hobart

A Balmy Breeze

It was one of those hot late summer days we get in Hobart – when the mercury pushes over 30 degrees and you can feel the desert heat on the northerly wind. All day I was anxiously watching the wind buffet the plane trees in Salamanca Place and my office window – an old French door that was propped open to relieve the heat – and watching my weather app which promised the wind would drop to a comfortable strength for the evening’s race.

And it did. By the time I’d mustered my crew, readied the boat and motored out into the river, the wind had dropped to a brisk 15 knots, and remained between 10 and 22 for the race. With Derek still overseas, the crew for this final race in the series was Tim, Nick, Paul, Michael, Andrew and Anne – who decided she would leave the work to the fellas and enjoy the beautiful evening.

We were set course T for Tango – a two lap course beginning with a triangle to mark X at mid-river, to B1 (permanent mark off Bellerive) back to the start line, and then a ‘sausage’ from the start out to X and back to the finish.

I was determined to make a better start this week, and steeled my nerves to jostle with the quicker boats around the start line. As usual, Tim played the role of tactician, and also confidence-builder, encouraging me on at every step. I offered him the helm this race, but he declined, preferring the role of encourager, delightful boy!

With the wind from the north-west the race began with a down-wind run. We crossed the line mid-fleet for a change! Then pointed our bow towards the mark and set the head-sail out on the pole. With the wind behind you sailing is quiet and the boat remains flat. You can hear the sea sizzle along the hull. The sun beat down on us, turning the river to copper. What a way to spend the evening!

Despite our better start we eventually ended up near the back of the fleet, crossing the line only 13 minutes behind the outright winner, Hot Prospect. So I added another 13th place to my belt – oh, well, I don’t really like those T-shirts they give out for first place… I’m hanging out for the prize next week for the women’s race! Oh, and Tim did take the helm to park the boat, doing a super job of reversing.

 

Regatta Fireworks

Alongside the Wooden Boat Festival runs the Hobart Regatta, culminating in a fireworks display on the waterfront on Monday night. We hadn’t competed in any sailing events for the regatta, but this was a different way we could participate, taking along a boat-load of family and friends. So we rallied the troops at the boat well before sunset and set off across the river for the Regatta foreshore. The weather all day had been horrid – squally rain and cold (whilst the rest of the country suffered intense heat and bushfires!) – so we all rugged up.

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We anchored a little way off the jetty where people in high-vis vests were preparing the fireworks display. We judged our distance perfectly, as any boats between us and the jetty were moved on by the Water Police in their patrol vessel, Dauntless. At anchor we brought out the wine and cheese (and beer and chips) and watched the water settle to a mirror as the sun began to set. Quite a number of boats had gathered for the fun, including the Navy flag-ship, some of the sail training vessels and a number of wooden boats, as well as launches and a fleet of jet-skis. It was just after dark when Willem (who had been waiting for Tim – his frisbee training went late!) motored along and rafted up beside us in his beautiful wooden sailboat. His first time doing a rafting-up manoeuvre and he looked like a pro!

Then the fireworks began, and we discovered the reason for keeping us back – many of the first set went off right in the water in front of us! Soon they were popping and banging overhead in myriad patterns and colours.

In celebration of Tim’s birthday the previous day, we broke out the ginger cake, singing him a Happy Birthday.

We motored back into the marina in the dark. A great night out for all.

Wooden Boat Festival

Every two years in February the Derwent River comes alive with a vast collection of wooden boats. On Friday I made my way to meet my Mum and sister Nancy down at Sandy Bay Beach to watch the sail-past, which begins the festival and brings hundreds of boats into Sullivans Cove. It was quite a spectacle, with many of the replica tall ships enabling us to imagine we had slipped back in time to early Hobart.

Boats ranged from kayaks and open row-boats, to sloops of all eras, and huge square-rigged sailing ships, including the sail-training vessel Tenacious. This ship, 65 metres long and 10.6 metres wide, was launched in 2000 and is rigged as a three-masted barque. It is owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a UK charity and is equipped to carry a crew of about 40, half of whom may have a physical or sensory disability. Late last year our crew member Willem’s sister Julia was accepted as crew, and has done a stint on board, sailing around Australia.

On Sunday Derek and I joined good friends Dawn and Gary at the Festival on the waterfront. For a while there it looked like we had got the better of the erratic Hobart weather – we sat outside in the sunshine for a while then visited the exhibitors shed in PW1 just as the rain came down. Dawn purchased a lovely slice of famous Huon Pine as a cheese-board for daughter Emily’s upcoming wedding, I got temporarily lost at the book stall while Derek and Gary visited all the gadget stalls and managed to come away without making any impulse purchases!

When we left the shed the sun was shining again and we took a tour of the marinas. So many beautiful wooden boats were on display, all varnished and polished and decked out with flags and pennants, creating a true carnival atmosphere.

We wandered around gazing and admiring the beautiful craftsmanship. Everywhere we saw evidence of countless hours of hard work and passion. Then the rain came down again and drove us under cover for  a drink until we were rewarded with a stunning rainbow.

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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!

Lucky Last?

This week we were back to a full fleet for Wednesday’s twilight race. Under leaden skies we set off with a full complement of crew on board – well, we were missing Willem this week as he’s had an unfortunate windsurfing accident: a close encounter with some oysters – ouch! Hope he has a speedy recovery. With Tim, Jess, Nick, Lachlan, Rohan, Derek and I we were well covered.

Our course for the night was H for Hotel – the photo below shows the little blue start box on the foreshore, positioned at one end of the start/finish line, displaying our course letter on a card, as well as flying the ‘H’ flag and our division flag, on the mast above. All yachts must also keep outside the green flag in the water – the other end of the line is a chequered buoy a good way off!

 

Course H sent us first on a ‘sausage’ to mark B2 and back, then on a triangle to mark X in the middle of the river, back to B2 off Bellerive Beach and back to the finish. With fairly light and variable winds we slowly ended up at the back of the fleet… though we weren’t lonely, as the other divisions on different courses made for a busy river. The grey skies, steely blue water and purple hills made for dramatic scenery.

Tim showed off his new haircut to best effect, though not everyone looked impressed!

Sadly our result was not so good – 16th out of 16 starters. We put this one down to ‘working on our handicap’. The mathematicians amongst us were quick to point out that our results pattern – 2nd-last, 2nd, last… – puts us in position for a win next week! Here’s hoping.

Family Day to Mary-Anne Bay

With a warm day and fair winds forecast for Sunday we took the opportunity to invite some of the family out for a sail. Derek is one of seven, most of whom live locally and have families, so we can’t invite them all at once – for this trip we were nine: Derek’s mum Linda, partner David, Derek’s two sisters Susan and Sarah, Sarah’s partner Roy and his two boys Ryan and Jake, and Derek and I.

We headed off late morning under a northerly wind, so we began with a gentle down-wind sail. Linda had been on board a few times, but not under sail, and was enchanted by the smooth quiet progress we made down-river. Years ago she and Derek’s dad Roy (not to be confused with Sarah’s Roy on board today – we have to excuse Sarah’s penchant for a partner with a confusing name) owned a motor-launch and spent weekends away in the Channel, and she noticed the difference between sailing and motoring today. Aside from the quietness of your progress, where you are lulled by the susurration of hull through the water, a bit of sail up also puts the boat on a bit of an angle and gives it mores stability. Plus there’s something magical about harnessing the wind to take you places. Not that it’s ever a tame beast – it’s fickle, wont to change in a moment, and never to be taken for granted – at least not here in the roaring forties!

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With the wind behind us it is fairly easy sailing and we were able to keep the boat flat and steady. But soon we could see a line of dark water to the south: it was the sea-breeze making it’s way up the river to meet us.  Then it was time to pull in the sails and begin tacking into the wind. We made several long, wide tacks, trying not to bring the boat onto too steep an angle – didn’t want to unseat the in-laws and lose them overboard! We put the novice crew into action on the jib sheets and soon we were slipping into Mary-Anne Bay, where I dropped the anchor on its shiny new chain and ran it out until it passed our brilliant new splice onto the rope.

Then it was time to switch to catering mode. Well actually, in true Stoneman fashion everyone had brought a contribution and soon we had a sumptuous spread laid out on the cockpit table and with the nine of us squeezed around it we had a good feast. The youngest on board, Ryan, was keen to try his hand at fishing, so we gave him a hand-line and a bucket and set him to it. He got a few bites, but only one flathead big enough to keep. David supervised the keeper in the bucket, making sure his vital signs indicated health, while Ryan tried to catch enough of his fellows to make a meal. Sadly Ryan had no further success, so we released the lone captive to live another day.

The sea-breeze was still blowing at about 15 knots when we left for home. We pulled up the anchor and hoisted the sail – I entertained everyone by performing a monkey-trick at the mast to sweat the main halyard. Our new mainsail is hard to hoist, and we’ve put it onto our list to lubricate the lugs before the next race, hoping that may make it easier.We made good progress back up the river zig-zagging on a broad reach, and gave David, then Roy, a turn at the helm. The wind was still strong as we turned into Kangaroo Bay, dropped the sails and parked in the marina, but with lots of hands on deck all was achieved smoothly. All in all a lovely day, and a good sailing experience for our first-time guests. Even if it wasn’t warm enough to swim.

Setting Sail Again

I know I’ve been quiet – well, slack is really the truth – but it’s time to begin again being a new year and all that, so here goes! (It’s not that we haven’t been sailing for the past 12 months or so…)

The end of a year is always hectic. Wrapping everything up at work for the year and getting ready to celebrate Christmas, but also getting ready for our summer sailing trip. After our first Christmas without Ben (our youngest went overseas on his own to experience an English Christmas!), our 19th Christmas in the Mall (hot), the usual Stoneman Family Boxing Day BBQ at ours (raining!) and a lovely time with our house-guests (Gayelene, our best and oldest family friend from Sydney, with her two boys Jordan and Trent, and a new addition, Molly, from Chicago!) we embarked, the two of us with Susan, Derek’s older sister, and motored out of the Derwent River under lowering grey skies on Thursday 29th December.

As usual we were going against the flow of boat traffic. The middle placed yachts of the Sydney to Hobart were coming up the river to the finish line, and the river was buzzing with spectator craft. We passed close to three or four 40 to 50 footers, and gave them a congratulatory wave, before we rounded the Iron Pot and headed east towards Fredrick Henry Bay. This year the lead maxi-yachts shredded the previous race record to bits, as they enjoyed perfect racing conditions – a brisk northerly the whole way down. We had visited the waterfront to have a look at the line-honours winner Perpetual Loyal – a row of empty champagne bottles proudly displayed on deck! – and the other maxis before we left. Looking at the size of everything – the huge winches, long prod, tall mast, and the width of the boat to negotiate when tacking (a daunting climb if you’re late and the boat is heeling over!) it’s interesting to imagine racing on board these huge boats. Note that my imagination is enough – I don’t feel the need to actually experience a Sydney-Hobart race!

In our 40 foot cruising yacht, we motor-sailed behind Betsey Island and across Fredrick Henry Bay to a little beach around the corner from Dunbabin Point, close to Murdunna. The tide was way out as we came in to anchor. A tinnie had been abandoned on the sand flats near a couple of shacks and later we watched as a couple of blokes wheeled their boat trailer gingerly across the flats to retrieve it. We had a peaceful evening of curry and cards as we waited for the full tide in the morning to make our way through the Dunalley Canal and out to the east coast.

Sydney to Hobart yacht arriving on 28 December 2016

Sydney to Hobart yacht arriving on 28 December 2016