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.