Finding flat water – Sunday 3rd March

I got up for an early morning walk on the beach. As I left I wasn’t sure whether the sun was up or not as thick sea mist hung low in the sky. I walked the lagoon path enjoying the birds and the rumble of surf over the dunes. When I emerged onto the beach I went barefoot, skipping the waves’ hungry tongues that rushed up the beach. I got wet of course. And greeted Ariadne’s Clew that was still bobbing wildly on the mooring.

When I got back to the bungalow the sky was clearing and I sat outside to upload the latest blog posts with the phone propped up on the water tank for the best reception. Then we packed up ready to leave. As we paid the bill the owner offered us a lift back to the boat ramp. It wasn’t far to walk but with all our bags we gratefully accepted his offer.

We had intended going back to Lichen café for breakfast, but they weren’t yet open when we arrived at a quarter to nine, so we decided to give it a miss and get on the water as we had a lot of sea miles ahead of us.

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Getting into the dinghy was a piece of cake in the quiet little dinghy dock, and we made it out of the opening without getting swamped by a wave, but things got more interesting as we encountered the swell. Derek handled the tiny inflatable expertly, keeping us nose-into the metre-high surges and travelling perpendicularly towards the yacht in the troughs between them. The real challenge came when we got to the back of the yacht, which was pitching up and down quite alarmingly. I grabbed the handy grab-handle and held on, trying not to let the dinghy get squashed underneath the transom. Next I had to scramble out in a most unladylike fashion, whilst holding on to the dinghy’s rope, then make it secure and catch all our bags as Derek, pitching around like dice in a shaker, handed them to me, followed by the oars and the outboard motor. I grabbed it all, he didn’t fall overboard, and we then managed to pull the dinghy up onto the foredeck to make our getaway. All to the amusement of the various families who had emerged onto the beach, and the first customers at the café, no doubt. I had feared the scene down below, but was happy to find only one thing on the floor and no disasters in the fridge. I guess that we pitch around a lot whilst sailing anyway; perhaps it just looked worse from the shore.

All the way down the east coast, from Binalong Bay to the Freycinet Peninsula, we had a following sea and a tail-wind. With a missing lazy-jack we decided it was too roly-poly to hoist the mainsail, especially if we had to take it down again in this rolling sea, and the headsail would have been too hard to set, so we motored all the way. In the end the winds were light, only reaching 15-20 knots for an hour or so of our nine-hour journey, justifying our choice!

A sea-mist clung to the coastline in places, and cloudy skies made for a palette of soft greys. We saw a scattering of birds: gannets, cormorants, terns, another of those tiny fairy prions skipping the waves, short-tailed shearwaters and eventually an albatross or two. And we were visited by curious dolphins now and again, though we didn’t get an escort this time.

As we neared the entrance to Wineglass Bay we looked at the swell running straight in there, and looked at each other. It would add another hour and a half to our journey if we were to continue past to Schouten Passage but it would be worth it if we could find a flat anchorage for the night. After spending two roly-poly nights at Wineglass Bay on our way up we didn’t fancy another – and I’m sure Ariadne’s Clew agreed with me (even if, as Derek reminds me, she’s an inanimate object!). A warm breeze blew off the land and we began to anticipate an idyllic evening.

We rounded the corner between the tip of the Freycinet Peninsula and Schouten Island and the swell immediately petered out to nothing. And presto, here were boats! We hadn’t seen another boat the whole day, and only one during the previous leg. I always wonder what we’re doing wrong when we find we’re the only boat on the water. In the quiet anchorages of Crocketts Bay and Morey’s Beach were half a dozen yachts and another half-dozen fishing boats. We putted around and found ourselves a spot to drop the anchor in five metres of crystal-clear water, calling out greetings to all the boats as we passed.

We were all settled before sunset and sat on deck eating the last of our oysters in the pink hues of evening. Bliss!

An Unscheduled Swim (or diving with the cormorants)

We woke to a grey and overcast start to the new year. Planning on an early start for our trip to Wineglass Bay, our plans hit a hitch at the first opportunity when the anchor, so nicely set the night before, refused to come up the final 5 or so metres. We had hit a snag! Jiggling up and down did not good, so there was nothing for it but an unscheduled swim. The chosen diver – me! I stripped off all my wet-weather gear and put on bathers. Equipped with mask and a torch I plunged into the not-so-pristine waters of Spring Bay (notorious for the introduction of the North Pacific Sea Star, amongst other things, with the ballast water from Japanese freighters in its past heyday as a wood-chip mill). Here I began my impression of a cormorant.

With the first dive, pulling myself down the anchor chain, I could see we had collected a huge chain, no doubt the anchor to a mooring, with links about 15cm long, and it was firmly wedged in our anchor flukes. After reporting the situation to Derek, he lowered the anchor a little and I dived again to wiggle it but couldn’t budge the chain. I realised the best approach would be to pass a rope under the chain, tie it firmly to the boat to relieve the pressure on the anchor, then lower the anchor to free it. Down I went again with a rope, which I passed under the offending chain, all good – only on the way up I ran out of rope! It was too short. I had to let go and return to the surface. Derek pulled that rope back in and went in search of a longer rope while I waited at the bow and got my breath back!

Down I went again with the longer rope and this time I looped it around and was able to bring the end back to the surface where I passed it to Derek and he made it fast to the cleat. With fingers crossed he dropped the anchor down, then pulled it up again – but alas, no luck, it was still stuck fast. So down I went again, to find that the rope had jammed in the anchor as well. I tried to pull it free but it was jammed tight at the point where the anchor swivels on the chain, as well as around a fluke. Back at the surface I suggested Derek drop the anchor a bit to see if this helped, but when I dived down this time it was a good few metres further than before. The water got murky and I was worried about going down that far – I bailed! Derek pulled the anchor up and tried again, but it was still stuck. So I went down for another look – I really was feeling like a cormorant by now, but without the fishy treat! This time I could see that the rope was partly freed, but looped around the anchor. At the surface again I got Derek to give me some slack on the rope and with another dive I moved it to the other side of the anchor getting it clear. He then tightened the rope again, dropped the anchor a bit and with a final dive I managed to pull the anchor free! Hooray! Now we were just held by the rope. I swam back to the ladder while Derek pulled in the rope. We were all free with no damage – just me a little cold and with ears full of water!

As we motored out of Triabunna I warmed up with lots of clothes and a cup of tea. We motor-sailed north for a few hours then dropped anchor in a clear sandy spot (I watched it land to be sure!) at Crocketts Bay on the north end of Schouten Island for a slap-up lunch. Though my friend Rachel is doing a stint as volunteer ranger on Schouten Island I wasn’t about to go for a swim to say hello, sorry Rachel! The water looked much more inviting and the sun came out – but even so… As we ate a beautiful schooner anchored next to us and dropped of ten passengers who headed off into the bush for the walk up Bear Hill. Sadly for them as we left the anchorage the sun went behind the low cloud had drifted in from the east and covered the tops of the hills. We hope the clouds parted for them to enjoy the stunning view from up there.

At Wineglass Bay we found another four boats at anchor in the corner. Once again we dropped the pick onto a sandy patch in amongst them; not as far in as we would have liked to be as the easterly swell was wrapping around the corner making the anchorage a little lumpy. But who can complain when you can stop here at one of the world’s best beaches? We enjoyed the view for the evening, once again attempting a BBQ on board. This time however, we had run out of those handy coconut-fibre bricks and tried the charcoal, which didn’t burn nearly as well. The vegies didn’t roast at all, so it was steak, corn and reheated spuds and a bumpy night’s sleep.