Rounding Tasman Island

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Stinking Bay (Near Port Arthur)

Conditions were brisk, but mercifully from behind for most of the day’s voyage

The day dawned a Wednesday.  The task before us, today and tomorrow, being to cover the 115 miles south around Tasman Island and Cape Raoul and then north-west up Storm Bay to Hobart.  Not actually Hobart itself, but a further 10 miles beyond that, up the Derwent River to the Prince of Wales Bay Marina; where we had booked a berth. So a total of around 125 miles.

The wind was forecast to remain from the north-east for the next couple of days at around 25 knots, which mercifully, was favourable for the different courses we would be travelling, initially south, then north-west. It was certainly better than a howling southerly, south-wester or northerly … to be sure !

Our two day task was to make it from Coles Bay down around Tasman Peninsular (and Tasman Island) and up past Hobart to the Prince of Wales Bay Marina, with an overnight stopover near Port Arthur

Rather than cover the required distance in one, macho, overnight slog, we planned to break it up a bit.  Stopping overnight at a suitable anchorage down south after covering the bulk of the miles on the first day – today.

As a result it would be an early start – up at 5:30, away by 6:00 – and we tentatively planned an overnight stop at Port Arthur, a distance of around 75 miles, which we figured we could cover in around 10-12 hours given the conditions.  We chose Port Arthur, partly for its historic value and partly because there were several anchorages on both sides of the inlet, depending on the wind direction.   

As the morning light slowly began to reveal the day and the kettle on the stove came close to the boil, we sleepily turned on the nav lights, started the motor and set about lifting the anchor … some say “weigh” the anchor, but as I might have already said, we know it’s about 45 kilos, so that wasn’t necessary…

Looking south to the “tall ship” anchorage on Schouten Island we could just make out the nav lights – red, green and white – of another vessel, which we soon confirmed to be the James Craig.  As for the Endeavour, she was no where to be seen, up-anchored in the night presumably, with the shared objective of making it to the Wooden Boat Festival by Friday.  Being so much slower that other boats, we could well understand why the Endeavour might have left before everyone else. 

Morning light shining from the east over the port beam through the Schouten Passage

The anchor stowed, we soon had our sails hoisted and were heading south, inside Schouten Island and on a converging course with the James Craig; who was rightly setting a course further out in deeper water.

The warmth of the morning sun was slow to be felt

“Where do you think she’ll be anchoring tonight?”, we inquired out loud … “and what about the Endeavour?” … With the aid of, or our chart plotter, we might have been able to answer the questions, but for now we were happy to simply speculate. 

Bill looking all the part like an Orthodox priest (without the cross) very much at home in the cockpit
Pancakes anyone …. am I hearing correctly?!
Rosie in command of the galley
“So what do ya call these darl?” … “Their just rissoles” … “Oh, but it what ya do to em”

Clear of Schouten Island, our speed picked up to around 7-8 knots before the following sea, with the wind off our stern quarter.  Pretty soon our path crossed the James Craig’s and it was clear we would soon be leaving her in our wake.

The southern end of Schouten Island starts to fall astern
Bill sporting summer-time wear at sea in Tasmania’s southern waters ?!
Alistair and Linda snoozing in the sheltered cockpit as we sail south

Breakfast complete and our southerly course set, I went back to bed, leaving Alistair and Bill in the cockpit to guard the fort, and ensure things remained in order; all the while the James Craig – a grand sight – fell further and further behind.

The partly dressed James Craig falls behind – arr, a grand sight

After a few hours snoozing, I returned to the cockpit to discover we were well south of Maria Island with our sights set on rounding Tasman Island, which was just visible way to the south.

Before leaving Coles Bay, we were warned by a fellow yachtie on the dock, that if you have 20 knots of wind from the north-east on “this side” of the Tasman Peninsular, then it’ll be 40 knots on the other side; as you make the approach to Storm Bay south of Hobart.    As it turned out, this proved to be pretty accurate !

As we closed the coast again, the dramatic cliffs and rock formations of the Tasman Peninsular and Tasman Island were all that we had imagined – dramatic, stunning and awe inspiring.  We came as close as was prudent, but probably NOT as close as those who do battle each year in the Sydney-Hobart race.

May not be 50, but there are certainly a lot of shades of grey out on the water

The photo below gives some idea of what we saw.

The organ pipe rock formations off the southern tip of Tasman Peninsular. Pretty soon we will be steering to the right and heading up the coast to Port Arthur, with wind “bullets” blasting down from the cliffs at regular intervals and hitting us on the starboard side

Rounding Tasman Island we altered course from roughly south-west to nor-nor-west, with the wind now further on the nose, but not enough to cause a concern.  What was of concern were the boisterous gusts of wind coming down from the high cliffs on our starboard side, clearly visible on the sea as they advanced upon us at regular intervals.

Pretty soon we had instituted a “gust-watch”, so as to pre-warn the helmsman, and everyone else for that matter, that we were about to be healing over a little more than normal.  All the while we raced along at around 8 knots with a double reefed mainsail and small jib; plus a small staysail mostly hoisted for visual effect, given the tall ships in the neighbourhood.  Our three small sails were no match for the 8 or more set by the bigger ships, but it’s the thought that counts !?

Our own “tall ship”, Chimere, dressed with double-reefed main and two head-sails; a small jib and an even smaller staysail

The wind continued to blow hard as we passed the historic settlement of Port Arthur, clearly visible off or port side as a collection of iconic and very old sandstone buildings.  Also visible in the direction of Port Arthur was the tall ship Soren Larson, anchored in a not-so-good spot given the north easterly wind that blew on-shore from across the bay.  We continued another mile or so, as all the while the wooded shorelines began to close in on each side and the wind speed lessened on account of the increasing shelter. 

So it was that we came to anchor in Stinking Bay.   I’d imagine, NOT most people’s first choice, sight unseen, given a list of anchorage names and possible options.  But Stinking Bay it was, and whilst my sense of smell is rather non-existent, Linda, on the other hand, whose many super-powers include the smelling sense of a beagle, thought it did have a slight pong on account of the seaweed; which naturally found it’s way here at the head of the bay 

And who else might be anchored here in the bay … the Bark Endeavour !  Great minds think alike.  And about an hour later who should drop anchor a short distance behind the Endeavour but the James Craig. It was a grand sight to be sure.

Robert and Linda with the anchor down in Stinking Bay, (near Port Arthur) … “can you smell something?” … “it wasn’t me”

Soon after a small wooden sailing boat, all the way from Port Albert in Victoria, turned up and that was it, just us and the tall ships surrounded by forest to the water’s edge on three sides, anchored a short distance off a beautiful sandy beach. 

It was fun to pay a visit to the Endeavour, anchored off our stern … “There’s room in my hammock for the blue-eyed man” … called a woman wearing what looked like a tea cosy …

In the hour or so of remaining light we launched the small dinghy off the stern, and before going ashore we motored off to say hello to the Endeavour.  We were obviously a source of interest, if the heads peering over the handrail was anything to go by as we exchanged greetings and answered each other’s questions. 

“There’s room in my hammock for the blue-eyed man in your dinghy” … called a “mature lady” on the Endeavour wearing a hat that looked like tea cosy.  Quite obviously a “character” … perhaps performing in-character for us, but then perhaps not.  “But the Royal Navy hammocks were only 40 inches wide”, I called back … “Still plenty of room for him”, came the reply, as she pointed down to our bearded Bill in the bow of the dinghy.

Taking our leave, with Bill still firmly secured in our dinghy we explored ashore, before returning to Chimere for dinner and a good night’s sleep.  Around this time, it started pouring with rain, causing us to bring in the washing from the line around the base of the mast and close all the deck hatches.  

Talk about serenity … Stinking Bay
The view from the beach at Stinking Bay, with Chimere in the foreground and the Endeavour and James Craig behind.
Talk about tall ships … we’re much taller …
Another view from the beach at Stinking Bay
The chart plotter says it all … SOREN lARSEN, SV JAMES CRAIG & HMB ENDEAVOUR … with the little black symbol of a boat further up the bay being Chimere

Tomorrow we would finally be making it into Hobart, that was the good news.  The sad news is that we would soon be saying good-bye to Alistair, Rosie and Bill

Smooth seas, fair breeze and rounding Tasman Island

Rob Latimer


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