03/02/2012, Farm Cove, Macquarrie Harbour, Tasmania
We waited until the tourist boats left the dock in Strahan this morning and then went over a tied up at their dock to fill the water tank and wash the deck off a bit. The water hose they had for the big tourist boat was really big and it only took about 10 minutes to fill our water tank even though I did not have the nerve to turn it up full blast. I was afraid it might damage the tank to fill it as fast as the hose could deliver water.
The deck was really sandy because we had tracked a lot of sand into the dingy from our beach landings in Paynesville and at Deal Island. When we flipped the dingy upside down on the foredeck for a few days during our passage the inside of the dingy dried out and the sand fell out all over the deck. There were piles of sand under the dingy when we hoisted it up to put it in the water when we got to Strahan.
The super powerful hose was great for washing off the deck.
While I was filling the tank and washing the deck, Shawn make a quick trip to the grocery store to get some onions. He also found a good deal on a hunk of corned beef. I hope we can make that last until St. Patrick's day. As soon as he returned we shoved off and headed down the harbour.
There was a moderate 14 kt breeze against us as we motored down the 18 miles to our intended anchorage for the night. It started raining and was really cold. The temperature inside the pilot house was in the low 60s even thought the diesel was running. The presence of the hot engine in the boat was a real curse in Vanuatu a few months ago but barely made a dent in the cold temps we were experiencing today.
Once we got to our anchorage and got the hook down I started the propane heater in the cabin and set it on low. At its lower setting the heater keeps the cabin comfy in these conditions. Once we start the oven to cook dinner we will turn the heater off.
The doors from the cockpit into the pilot house have louvers in them to help ventilate the boat. When we were in San Francisco I made some Plexiglas panels to cover the louvers and keep the cold out. When we left California I stowed the plexiglas covers deep in a locker under a bunk. Today we dug them out and are glad to have the final air leak sealed.
Where we are anchored is a strangely beautiful place but is almost totally devoid of wild life. After the zoo of Raymond Island and abundant wallabies and bird life of Deal Island this place seems strangely sterile. Intellectually I know its teaming with living creatures but they are so well adapted to surviving in the dense rain forest that covers this part of Tassie that you never get to see them. Its probably just as well since a lot of the things that live in the forest are lethal. Even the bird life is very sparse. This is the land of dominating vegetation.
The rain forest comes right down to the water in most places. Where there is a little sliver of a beach it is quickly barricaded by dense forest. It is easy to understand how the bush rangers (escaped convicts) who mastered survival in this rain forest, were able to avoid capture and prey on the early settlers.
This place must have been incredibly depressing for both the inmates and the keepers alike when this was a prison colony. Its easy to understand how their fears of the convicts possibly rising up drove the officials to incredible acts of cruelty to keep their prisoners subdued. Of course its likely that those who volunteered to be keepers in a place like this probably already had a taste for the S&M side of British colonial policy.
It has rained all day. Its not a hard rain. We cant even hear it hitting the deck but when we look outside there are big drops about 6 inches apart that are hitting the water. The wind has died down and we are just sitting in the middle of the anchorage area all by ourselves.
The bright side of the situation is that the batteries are fully charged after all that motoring so we can watch TV shows and movies as much as we want.
I also have a new Issue of the New Yorker with a very interesting article about how altruistic behavior favors survival in the Darwinian sense. One of the social insects that is studied to try and understand how selfless behavior benefits survival of genes is leaf cutter ants. I did not know that the biomass of leaf cutter ants, on the planet, is about the same as the biomass of humans. Its a good thing they are not as smart as we are......or are they? How many leaf cutter ants does it take to make up the biomass of one average sized human?
After reading about how leaf cutter ants organize and cooperate for the good of the colony I cant help but wonder if we should amend the US constitution to require all members of of congress must be from some genus of social insect.
03/02/2012, Strahan Tasmania
We have been sitting here in Risby Bay right across from the bustling metropolis of Strahan waiting for the weather to calm down so we can get down to the other end of the harbour without it being all bouncy and wet. If that last sentence makes me sound like a wimp it's because I am. We have dealt with a lot more threatening weather than 30 kts on the nose in an enclosed harbor but we dont do it if we have a choice.
Actually the weather has been better that was forecasted. for the past couple of days the computer model GRIB forecasts have been much more accurate than the human mediated forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology. I think the BOM forecasts tend to go for the worst case scenario so they forecasters dont get in touble whereas the computer models dont care.
today we did get off our butts and took the dingy ashore to get nice free hot showers at the head in the car park near the visitor center. Then Shawn hiked up the hill to the grocery store to get us a few more items for the week or so we plan to spend in the wilderness of Macquarie harbour before we return to Strahan to provision for our trip to the real wilderness of Port Davey that is about 100 miiles to the south.
Port Davey is so isolated that the only two ways to get there are on a boat or by hiking 10-12 days overland through the Tasmanian rain forest with all its critters that can cause you an agonizing death.
We will wait until the tourist boats leave the dock in the morning and then duck over there to fill the water tank before taking off down the harbor.
02/29/2012, Strahan, Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania
Today was laundry day here in Tasmania, the place that some mainland Aussies jokingly refer to as " the home of the six-fingered handshake," but I must report that I found no evidence of genetic abnormalities in the local populace. Much like us Yanks, Aussies love to tell jokes about Aussies from other states.
While at the laundromat, I met a retired American couple who were spending a few weeks touring Australia. They also happened to be the former owners of a Tayana 37 named Soul Survivor. Like John, they had ordered a new boat from Tayana through Neil Weinberg of Pacific Yacht Imports, so naturally they had many stories to share that highlighted Neil's dishonesty and lack of professionalism.
I am embarrassed to admit that I did not get the names of the American couple, but they were extremely generous. They gave me a ride to the supermarket, and when I was done with the laundry they drove me back to the waterfront near our boat.
After dropping off the laundry at the boat, John and I headed in to explore Strahan. Our first stop was the Visitors Center where there is an exhibit called West Coast Reflections that came highly recommended by Dave and Marcie on Nine of Cups. The admission fee was only $2, and it was well worth it, as we learned a great deal about the long history of Western Tasmania. A few interesting facts from the exhibit:
Recent archaeological evidence suggests that aborigines have been living in western Tasmania for 35,000 years, which contradicts the first European settlers' depictions of western Tasmania as an uninhabited wilderness.
The conditions at the penal colony at Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour were so bad that convicts were known to murder other convicts just so they could enjoy a boat ride back to the gallows in Hobart.
Punishment at Sarah Island was notoriously harsh. The cat-o-nine tails used to flog the prisoners at Sarah Island was heavier and larger than the standard cat-o-nine tails. The flogger, often another convict, was made to wait a minute or two between lashes to increase the physical and psychological pain inflicted on the convict being punished. Flogged prisoners were made to return immediately to their labors and usually would not receive any treatment for their wounds for several hours. It was common for flogged prisoners to be flogged again the following day when their work productivity decreased because of their injuries.
In its later years, the Sarah Island penal colony became the shipbuilding capital of Australia, due in large part to the Huon pine (also called Macquarie Pine) found in western Tasmania.
Huon pines are some of the slowest-growing and longest-living trees on earth. They can grow to an age of 3,000 years. Because they contain an oil that retards fungi growth, Huon pines were considered an ideal shipbuilding material.
Australia's modern environmentalist movement began in response to the Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania's plan to dam Lake Pedder in southwestern Tasmania. Despite nationwide protests , the dam was constructed and Lake Pedder was flooded. During the fight to save Lake Pedder, the United Tasmania Group was formed, which is widely recognized as the world's first "green" party. The leaders of the United Tasmania Group went on to form the Tasmania Greens, and, at the national level, the Australian Greens. Bob Brown, a former physician and the current leader of the Australian Greens, was one of the founding members of United Tasmania Group and has been serving in the Australian parliament since 1996.
With our minds saturated from the West Coast reflections exhibit, John and I decided to wander around the town. The town is not very big, so we were soon back at the supermarket where we found cheap chicken wings ($2/kilo). Then, it was on to the bottle shop to buy some of John's favorite Aussie beer, the Tasmania-brewed James Boag.
For once, John got to enjoy a dinner that covered all of his three major food groups--buffalo wings, coleslaw and cold beer.