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!

Casting off for the Furneaux Islands – 16th February

Position: At anchor, Murdunna (Fredrick Henry Bay)

It seems like we’ve been planning this trip for ages. The last few weeks have been a rush to tick off lists of jobs. And buy new equipment and supplies.

We are heading north, all the way to the Furneaux Islands. We’ve never sailed there before, having only visited once with our camping vehicle and three small children almost twenty years ago. This group of around 80 islands is a beautiful area to explore by boat. It does, however, hold many challenges for sailors. The Bass Strait is a submerged land bridge and, located in the Roaring Forties, strong winds and currents are funnelled into it between Tasmania and the Australian continent. This causes strong tidal currents, big tide variations and even underwater waterfalls where currents plunge down over the shelf. It is also dotted with islands, rocks and shoals, and a graveyard for hundreds of wrecks. Let’s make sure we don’t add to that tally!

Over several days we provisioned and replaced a few expensive pieces of equipment – the biggest being our anchor – upgrading it to a more reliable model recommended for its ability to bite. We also had to replace our generator after it seized up. With our new solar panels we shouldn’t need to use the noisy generator, but best to have one just in case.

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With a fully provisioned boat we cast off the mooring lines from Bellerive Yacht Club, which was buzzing with the activity of the Crown Series Regatta. Boats of all sizes and divisions put on a display for us as we motored over to Sandy Bay to fill up with fuel, and then began the trip down the Derwent, unfurling the headsail for an extra boost from the tail-wind. This dropped out near South Arm so we furled it up again and I made lunch so we could eat before we reached the Iron Pot and the anticipated change of wind and direction as we turned north near Betsey Island.

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See here for some video of us sailing.
It is lovely to be back on the water, leaving all the cares of the city behind us. The shushing of the waves and an abundance of sea birds – cormorants poking their heads up unexpectedly, little penguins bobbing black in the waves, short-tailed shearwaters rafting on the sea and capped terns diving and splashing – all entertained us. We passed a lone seal using his flippers as sails while he rested.

The tides are not favourable for us to get through the canal at Dunalley this afternoon. Our boat draws two metres and we need a high tide to navigate the shallowest spots at the approach to the canal, as well as the approach to the Marion Narrows at the far end of Blackman Bay lagoon. High tide tonight will be at around 8.30pm and the canal bridge only operates between 8am and 5pm. For a while we considered the option of sailing all the way around the Tasman Peninsula, but in the end turned north into Fredrick Henry Bay, deciding to anchor near the canal entrance ready to make the transit on the morning high tide as soon as our friendly bridge operator begins work in the morning.

So we’re now at anchor within earshot of the Arthur Highway and I’m about to bake beef puffs and vegetables for dinner.

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