Nights Are Fair Drawin' In
08 April 2018 | Chinaman'S Bay, Maria Island
We went to Maria Island the other day. In the mid 1800's it was of course a kind of early day Butlins where about four hundred convicts appear to have been employed to move stones from one pile to another pile a few hundred metres away and next day they moved them back.
Maria is one of Tasmania's many protected wildlife national parks. We were keen to go as we were promised all kinds of interesting indigenous wildlife and, as the only wildlife we'd seen in the last five months has been doing a fair impression of a furry hearth rug, strewn along the road side, the prospect of wildLIFE as opposed to wildDEAD was quite appealing.
Chinaman's Bay, or, in another example of politically correction gone nuts, now called Shoal Bay. Although, shoal was certainly more accurate than Chinaman. The bay was all of two to three metres for a long way out but, trusting the echo sounder we nosed in fairly close, through out a bunch of chain, launched the dink and headed ashore.
Four soggy sea kayakers greeted us, their tiny one man tents surrounding the fire pit where presumably they planned to keep warm that night. While the days are chust sublime with not a cloud in the sky, blazing sun and air so clear you could put it in a nice wee gin, the flip side is that the nights are getting a bit chilly. While we are still getting into the twenties during the day, overnight, there's a chill and we wake to a fresh eight, maybe nine degrees. That's when the fighting starts. First, like Mongolian goat herders living in a yurt out on the steppe, we have to fight our way out from under two duvets, two fleece blankets and the pillow you've had over your head all night to stop from catching your death. The next fight is who is going to make the five yard dash to switch on the Webasto. The flip side of this scenario is that after lights out, we climb under our pile of bedclothes having forgotten to switch off the heating and wake at one o'clock like we're in a sauna.
Back ashore, we headed over the hill, and far away, to have a look at the convict settlement, or at least, the remains of it. We were a bit disappointed that the only wildlife so far had been the kayakers when, we all but tripped over our first wombat. And then, like waiting hours for a bus then three come at once, a Jumparoo went by. And then another, and another. The place was teeming with mangy marsupials. The wombats didn't really care. They were grazing, as thick as sheep. Meaning lots of them. Not to imply they're stupid. You could get right up close for a selfie and they'd just keep scratching and munching away. Maybe they are stupid.
Wombats are bigger than I expected. When my pal Arthur took his wombat to the Scottish Series many years ago and, for a week took it for walks, into the pubs and even on board for drinks, we never realised they are the size of badgers. But that's another era and another story. (Arthur has since had treatment for his condition and is doing quite well these days).
The Shipping Forecast
04 April 2018 | Canoe Cove, Fortesque Bay, Tas
Down here in Tassie, as the Aussies call it, it's prudent to keep a weather eye open.
Ours had been half shut for the last few days as we had been continuing our exploration and circumnavigation of Tasmania by Mercedes Benz. When you've got 180 horsepower under your right foot and boutique hotels booked ahead, who cares how windy it might get.
And so, back in our reality on board Time Bandit this morning after an early start to return "the motor", we tuned into Tas Maritime for the PM forecast.
"North to north west fifteen to twenty. Swell two metres and sunny."
"Wait a minute" methinks. That would do for us. So, cast off the lines, and whoosh, we slipped from 180 bhp to our modest 62bhp.........because.......not a sign of fifteen to twenty, in fact, hardly a breath and what wind there was was from the south. On the nose. Where else?
It all reminded me of a time in that land far, far away, and indeed, a long, long time ago when we were out on the west coast of Scotland, with m'aunt and m'uncle, doing the Tobermory race. It was early morning and the fleet diligently had its ear to the VHF for the shipping forecast. It wandered around the sea areas finally reaching us and said something like, "Malin Head to Stornoway, southerly force 5 to 6, veering south west later. Rain. Visibility poor."
Like startled rabbits, pretty much the whole fleet stuck their heads outside to see flat calm and blazing sunshine.
At that point, a broad Glaswegian accent comes over the VHF saying, "Ho...Hen. Huv ye no looked oot the windae?
That about sums up weather forecasting and it's amazing how little it's changed in thirty years.
( OK. Maybe longer).
Deep South Tassie -March 2018
25 March 2018
24 March 2018 | Mount Misery (?? - Best not go there)
I'm recovering from a dose of the 'Umbles. I've had it before, a long time ago, and fortunately recovered, but more of that later.
Avid readers or indeed, just casual visitors will possibly know we left Port Davey, once again braving the Southern Ocean (have I mentioned that before?), to make the trip back to east coast Tasmania.
Unlike our 12 hours of motoring to get there, we had a fine breeze, right up the chuff, and scooted around the various headlands making 8-9 knots in 25 - 30ish winds. The pilot book says to give these headlands a "good offing" and that's just dandy if you can be bothered with the palaver of gybing in four metre seas and when it's a bit blowy. Or maybe we were just lazy. Bottom line is we had a nail biting fifty miles, essentially dead downwind, but really, by the lee most of the time, expecting to test our preventers at any minute. On reflection, we were just being lazy but we did get a really good close-up look at the rocks as we scraped around each headland.
Port Davey was impressive. After passing the wild cliffs of southern Tassie you weave your way around the rocks to find sheltered bays nestling under high peaks with the Bathurst Channel cutting an eight mile swathe through the mountains, opening out into a giant pool about two miles in diameter. It is very like Scotland, just add rain. But no pubs. Aaargh. But they did have a million dollar, eco-friendly, "long drop". How you can spend a million on a lavvie is beyond me. Or indeed why.
From the big pool, if you're bold or shallow draft, but really, best in someone else's boat, you can pick your way another few miles up the Meleleuca Channel. We did it by dinghy and glad we did as we picked the wrong side of the sticks that serve as navigation markers and stuffed ourselves up on the mud. The channel takes you to the landing strip into which fly the hardy walkers or maybe the lazy walkers, the hardy guys and gals having walked the six days from Recherche Bay.
If you added rain, it could have been Rannoch Moor. We even had snow on the tops and despite the best efforts of the Webasto, it was here I think I got the Southern Tasmanian Umbles.
"STU" can be an early indication of the onset of hypothermia. A fairly serious condition this far from "civilisation". According to the pilot book, the condition is identified by mumbles, grumbles, fumbles and stumbles.
The problem is, Anne says she won't be able to tell whether I've hypothermia or it's just normal.
Fun With Flags
17 March 2018 | Dover, Tasmania
A long, long, time ago, in a land far, far away, back when we were working class, I used to while away my evenings scanning cruisers' blogs, dreaming of the day we could make our escape and cruise the distant oceans. Otherwise known as spending untold and ludicrous amounts of money and fixing your boat in nice places.
The first phase of the dream was that one day, we would join the ARC, The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and over the long winter months I began to form the idea that, if we committed to some super-commuting, we could both work and play.
We'd flash the boat from the Clyde to northern Spain over a very long weekend then fly back for a couple of weeks at work. We'd then fly back out, flash the boat to Lisbon, fly home and work. Then flash the boat out to the Canaries.....fly home and work. A quick four weeks across the Atlantic and Bingo, we'd have done the ARC and hardly been missed at work.
While doing some research to flesh out this plan I stumbled across a blog written about the ARC, written strangely enough by people who not only owned the same type of boat as us, an Island Packet but they lived in our village. So, doing what cruisers do, and what I’ve repeatedly been warned not to do, I made an Internet date to meet in the local pub and it was there we explained our brilliant idea to John and Liz.
They were polite enough to listen attentively but sadly lacked the ability to keep a look of absolute horror from their faces. While again they were polite enough to not actually say, "are you pair completely nuts", after a short discussion it was apparent that maybe the plan needed some work. Long story, short, the passage planning Gods smiled on us, we surrendered our working class status, well, more like took the offer that was on the table and ran like stink, saddled up and headed for the ARC. Now, the point of this nonsense is not that we did the ARC but that during our meeting with John and Liz they highly recommended we join the Ocean Cruising Club.
Now, we'd never heard of the OCC but after a bit of checking, we signed up and have been members of this global "virtual cruising club" for a while now.
And it was this that led to us pulling up to the quay at Dover in deep south Tasmania yesterday to be welcomed with, "You must be Anne and Stuart". Now, you are fairly anonymous cruising around out in the wide open seas on your wee boat, dotting from anchorage to anchorage with pretty much nobody knowing where you are. No one really cares who you are, what you did, what size car you’ve got and so, to be greeted by our first names in this rather out of the way town of seven hundred or so souls, threw me into a panic thinking that Customs and Immigration had finally seen through our plan. But no, it turned out our new best friend, was Jeremy, the Ocean Cruising Club newsletter editor and writer of the Tasmanian Anchorage Guide. Our "bible" of the last few weeks.
One of the many things that keeps us amused out here in cruising land is "Fun With Flags". When we arrive most places, we hoist our string of signal flags, and, like Nelson, we take them down at night and on passage to save a few quid. While we're not quite dressed overall, our string includes the Ocean Cruising Club pennant, our Scottish Saltire (Freeeeee-dom) and the Largs Sailing Club burgee where we did our sailing apprenticeships. It not only makes us look pretty but when spotted by a resident OCC member, it gets us we invited to dinner, hot showers, sailing club parties, local guided tours, car loans (as in, “here, use my car” as opposed to financial assistance), shopping, laundry and pretty much any needs you may have. From Orkney to Tasmania, Norway to Norfolk USA, Ocean Cruising Club members have welcomed, fed, watered and generally looked after us.
So, as we arrived in Dover, flags flying, Jeremy spotted our Flying Fish flag from his front room, looked us up in the members list, jumped on his bike and headed down to scare the living daylights out of me - and then gave us what has become a typical Ocean Cruising Club welcome, dinner, at night out at the yacht club and…………a drive into the hills for a bush walk.
Haven’t these folks read about the snakes?????
09 March 2018
Back oop north when we were on the mainland, all our Australian pals were telling us we just HAD to go to Tasmania. They were even kind enough to give us all the routing advice, notes on sheltered anchorages, links to web PDF's for hill walking and of course tips on weather and how to make the jumps; first, the notorious Bass Strait and next, the jump around to the wilderness marine reserve of Port Davey. So, here we are, out in the wilds of Port Davey and after a few days out in the sunshine, getting nicely tanned and exercised from long "bush walks" and kayaking in glassy calms around the stunningly picturesque bays, the Roaring Forties have started roaring and.................nobody told us how to get back.
09 March 2018
Click, Click. Click Clack.
And then she appeared out the bush. This VISION. All tanned legs and hot pants, carrying a massive backpack. Click, Clack. Click, Clack went her walking poles as she walked towards us along the path. "Hi, aren't you scared of snakes? She asked. Somewhat distracted by the legs I didn't quite grasp the question. "Sorry" I apologised wrestling my gaze to eye level. "what was that?"
"Aren't you scared of snakes?" she kindly repeated. "Bloody terrified" I replied. "Well, I just passed two Tiger snakes in the last ten minutes. Make plenty noise" And just as quickly as she appeared, this vision of a backpack with long bronzed legs passed out of my life without even a backward glance, click, clacking her walking poles together.
We had opted to go for the four hour Bush Walk" across the point from our anchorage in Recherche Bay to South Cape bay, the southernmost point in Tasmania and thus Australia. Right up until "THE VISION" we'd been casually saying. "Bush Walking. That's nuthin'. At home, we'd just call it a walk". But now, all of a sudden, the impact of being out in the Bush, miles away from anything, hit home. Now I don't know anything about Tiger snakes but I'd a feeling the clue was in the name. Not only would a single bite leave you writhing in a long, agonizing, lingering death, but to add insult to death, the Tiger snake would probably haul you up a tree to munch away at your softer parts, enjoying Stuart Tartare for some weeks.
Somewhat disconcerted we continued our walk but as my pathetic whimpering obviously wasn't going to be loud enough, we collected a couple of big sticks and headed off again, beating the ground as we went, trying to sound like a small army on the move but more likely like Blind Pugh looking for a black spot. Unfortunately, from that moment on, every tree root took on the appearance of a snake, every branch had a Hissing Sid looking down for its next meal and, after not very much longer we thought, "Bugger this for a game of soldiers" and headed back to the safety of the beach and the boat where, to ease my conscience, I decided to use my time more gainfully, diving to scrub the hull and replace the anodes. After all, there's only killer whales, sharks and Portugeuse Men-of-War out there.
The anodes of the keel cooler genuinely needed replaced. A job I'd been putting off for some time. We also needed to give the hull a scrub before heading around to the pristine waters of Port Davey Marine Reserve. So, to salve my conscience and my manhood, I donned my SCUBA gear and plunged into the icy waters of what is after all, the Southern Ocean. What a guy! Scared of snakes yes but, layered with 5mm of neoprene I could do anything.
The following morning, in the pitch black and chill of 04:15 we headed out into the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties for the seventy mile trip around the bottom of Tassie. Seventy miles of motoring as it turned out there wasn't a breath. Not a ripple on the water. Twelve hours and many litres of diesel later we dropped the hook in Bramble Cove at the mouth of the Bathurst Channel in Port Davey in blazing sunshine lying under the mountains and cliffs reminiscent of the west coast of Scotland.
Another vision, but I'd swop it for the legs!
NOTE; (Port Davey really is a wilderness area. It's accessible only by boat, light plane or a six day walk so we are pretty well off the beaten track. We are also completely off grid, no cell coverage, no wifi, no nuthin' so no pics. Look back again on Facebook once we get comms in a week or two)
04 March 2018 | Shackleton in Bronze
You're leaving" says the secretary at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania looking at her watch. "You're meant to be away by ten, otherwise I should charge you for another day".
We didn't want to say we were only just out our pit, so instead, coughed up the credit card and shot back to Time Bandit to make a swift exit.
There was an excuse for our lazy morning. One - TOG 12 duvet. Two - a wild night out at the Salamanca ARTS Centre!!!!! Can't get enough of that art. An Irish folk/rock band, fresh from Celtic Connections in Glasgow was playing and we'd tagged along with Jeff and Kathy from Beatrix. Gone half past ten by the time we got back. Wild!!
And so, for the moment, our time in Hobart with its sunshine, museums, jails, trendy cafes, street markets, another jail and pricey restaurants (or are all restaurants pricey these days?) comes to and end. We quite like it here. Scenery, relatively quiet, plenty back-country space and, more sunshine. Just like home in fact. Apart from the sunshine that is. But then, there must be another side we don't know about as an ice breaker just went past.
As regards the whole convict thing, until relatively recent times perhaps the nineties, to admit to having convict blood in one's lineage was something of an embarrassment and family trees were certainly not broadcast if they bore "the stain". Nowadays however Tassie is the place to live and if you've convict blood, even better. A prosperous economy, sunshine, clean, fresh air and reasonable cost of living who wouldn't want to live here.
They've just had their state elections and I think I read that one party was advocating that as life was so good in Tasmania criminals should be deported to England.