I Think We Need A Bigger Tele
08 March 2019
One of the last items on our to do and see list in Tasmania was the Gordon River. From the days of the penal colony in the eighteen hundreds right up until, present day, the Gordon was where the convicts firstly, and later, the boatbuilders of Tassie went to get their Huon pine. Logging Huon was banned in the nineteen thirties and all wood is now claimed from the forest floor, the beach or the river. The Huon pine is somewhat oily and consequently, is perfect for all kinds of boat building, wharf and jetty pilings because it simply doesn't rot and even better, toredo worms, the scourge of all wood immersed in water, find it quite disgusting. And so, we began our trek back in time firstly meandering down the harbour to stop at Sarah Island, the holiday camp for the worst of the worst offenders. And still ideal for today's politicians and reality TV hosts. Over a thousand inmates passed through Hell's Gates to their new home on the island. At first it was all pretty much business as usual. Starvation diets, scurvy, flogging and sixteen hour days, doing nothing particularly constructive, until the arrival of a Scot named Hoy, a master shipwright from Dundee, Scotland. David Hoy, frustrated by the lack of opportunity to build ships in Dundee, Boston and finally Hobart, followed the trail of the pine, all on his lonesome, eventually landing on Sarah Island, a free man and entrepreneur. He obviously had an eye for business, quickly working out that free labour would somewhat enhance his margins. In short time he developed his own ship building business. Floggings all but ceased and spirits rose as the cons learned to build boats, some ninety six during his eleven years on the island and all enjoyed some brisk black market trading as, hard to imagine, boats came and went from Hobart. Hard to imagine as we've been stuck here for a week waiting on a weather window to get south.
From Sarah Island we headed on up the river meandering through the rain forest, temperate I think as opposed to tropical, or Long Johns, jeans and multi layer fleece as opposed to shorts and T-shirt. The river goes on, and on, and on, and on for some twenty odd miles. A waterborne equivalent of jazz music if you like. Or indeed, Brexit. We finally made it to St John Falls, pretty much the terminus where yachts can tie up to one of the two jetties, or raft up if they're occupied, which they were, one by a sixty foot stink boat, the other by a sixty foot ketch. Preferring to be with our "kind", albeit a monohull, we draped the port hull with our ten giant fenders and slowly pulled up a metre from, well, to save them embarrassment, let's call them SV Robinson. The writing was on the wall when, after a wee face had appeared at the window no one appeared on deck. Once we got to within a metre and presumably blocked their daylight, Mrs Robinson appeared on deck and to our complete surprise got hit with, "what are your intentions?".
We thought the fenders were a bit of a give away, but nonetheless Anne said, "we're going to raft up on you". Next up was we should use the sea plane dock, complete with its big red sign that said, "Max 5m". It was essentially "bugger off". and quite unlike most Aussies we've met. With zero interest in rafting beside such company we headed off to anchor, and then, fate played its hand and the VHF sparked into life.
Phil, the owner of the big powerboat, watching what was happening, called and said, "Hey Time Bandit, come and raft on us. And, come for dinner. It's roast lamb". Whoosh. We were over there like a shot.
Now, a high performance cruising cat rafted up with a stink boat, even socially, is not something you see every day. Something akin to whatever it is in the Good Book, about donkeys not lying with sheep. Well, that's definitely not the right text but it certainly was lamb......and roast veg and cheese and home made Naan bread and a couple of bottles of a lovely red.....and my cheapo $9 McGuigan. Phil had just bought a DVD telling the history of the "piners", the loggers and boat builders of the last century on the Gordon which we watched on his giant TV screen. What a great night, great company, great food and all while tucked up in the absolute still, quiet and solitude of this river and all it's history. And, it's been reassuring to know we haven't lost our social mojo but we do now have serious TV envy.
Big thanks to Phil, John and Wally. You saved the day.