Isthmus Adventure

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Prince of Wales Bay Marina

After our trip down memory lane at Dover yesterday it was time to head north, back to Hobart and our berth at the Prince of Wales Bay Marina. 

It’s not that we were running out of fresh tomatoes, or something more important … like beer, but Stage 1 of the Freedom Sail was starting to draw to a close. 

Sunrise over Dover

After their short stay aboard, Matt and Cathy would be flying back to Melbourne on tomorrow’s 6:00am flight and on Saturday Linda and Liz would also me flying in the same direction. 

Murray’s departure in the car, and leisurely drive north to meet the ferry on the 3rd of March, would probably start on Sunday .. around the same time our return voyage starts, via the west coast. The new new crew of … Isabel Whyte, Ray Jones, Jacqui Rock and John Land arrive on Thursday and Saturday. John, my old university flatmate from 1980 and 1981 would be coming in from New Zealand.

It was all happening.  And there were a few preparation-tasks to complete, but for now we were focused on leaving Dover and Port Esperance and getting back to our marina berth before dark.

The wind kept up its vigil from the west all night, blowing down from the hills above town, with the temperature decidedly chilly.  I can only imagine what this place must be like in winter

Another glorious sunrise … this time over Port Esperance as we leave Dover for the journey back to Hobart

Emerging from my cabin with full wet weather gear – trousers, jacket and sea-boot – Murray in particular wondered what might have been in store, but the fact is, I was just really cold!

This chart plotter image shows our anchorage at Port Esperance (over on the left) followed by the track north into Isthmus Bay with all the “green” indicating the extent of the sand flats

Having heard so much about the Tasmanian fires, covering this whole area in smoke just a few weeks ago, we were sensitive to the sight of smoke.  And it was smoke, and lots of it, that we observed across the channel on Bruny Island as we made our way out of the bay.

Liz spies on the fire at Mickey’s Point on Bruny Island complete with three water-bombing choppers
Liz in a quieter moment looking like a character from the Wizard Of Oz.

“That’s a big fire, and I can see flames” observed Liz as she reached for the binoculars.  Then we saw three helicopters glinting in the morning sun dropping water.  “That looks like it’s near Mickey’s Bay, where we stayed two nights ago” I said, and within a few minutes Liz had checked the Fire Authorities website and discovered it was indeed at Mickey’s Point and had been reported at 4:30am that morning. 

Based on recorded wind gusts at nearby Cape Bruny of between 35 and 51 knots around that time, we could imagine that any small spark could gain a foothold very quickly.  Where would a spark come from, we all speculated … not from us, we all agreed!

Matt stands “vertical” to indicate the extent of Chimere’s heel as a wind gust hits … one more way of solving the head room “issue” – for tall folks

Rather than head straight back to Hobart, we calculated that we had just enough time to stop for lunch at the thin Isthmus that separates north and south Bruny and which is barely wide enough in parts for a road. 

Matt adjust the sails wearing the super-warm-donated-onboard-jumper

Matt demonstrating the “issue” tall people can have … Cathy on the other hand is the “Goldilocks height”

This was the third Isthmus we had visited, after Maria Island and Eaglehawk Neck and it was a word we just enjoyed using … “Isthmus” … “Isthmus” … like Christmas, but with an “Isth” …

“It’s Isthmus Time” … Linda would declare … so naturally, with a favourable wind from the west we made our way to a suitable anchorage down into Simpson Bay; an easy distance from the Bruny Island Isthmus

Matt soaks up the morning serenity

“Did you know Bruny Island is the same size as Singapore” … announced Murray, “and Singapore has a population of more than 5 million.  How many people live on Bruny Island?”  Not many, that’s for sure.

After an uneventful sail from Dover, we found an anchorage in about 5 metres of water, on the edge of the sand bank, a long way from shore. 

“Time to explore!!” came the cry as we launched the big dinghy

Liz and Murray were happy to remain aboard and attend to lunch, leaving Linda, Matt, Cathy and me to motor ashore, around and through, the expansive sandy shoal network between us and the shore.

It’s here that I re-learnt the lesson about leaving a dinghy in shallow water, amongst sand banks, on a dropping tide.  The problem being that when you return, the chances are the dinghy will be high and dry with the water a long way away.  It’s not so bad if your dinghy is small and light.  But our big 3.4m long dinghy, with a 25hp motor on the back is anything but small and light. 

The sand flats of Simpsons Bay (south of Isthmus Bay) extend a very, very long way

Fortunately, I realised my mistake just in time, but still, by then we’d walked nearly a kilometre to where we could climb up and over an embankment and road from our sheltered bay,to the ocean bay on the other side of the Isthmus.

“I’ve got to move the dinghy into deeper water.  I’ve just checked and the tide will be going out for another 3 hours and when we get back from our walk it’ll be sitting on sand.  We’ll never get it off.  You go ahead and I’ll catch you up”  

I then set about returning to the dinghy as quick as possible.  I even RAN (or jogged quickly) – something I DON’T do anymore – to get there quicker. 

On reaching the dinghy over drying sand, and after 10 minutes of boiler-busting-exertion, dragging the dinghy, inch by inch by inch, through the shallowest of remaining water, it occurred to me that … “I’m glad I got here when I did.  Another 10 minutes and there would have been no hope … and it would be a long wait for the returning tide”

Once in deep enough water I could then lead the dinghy a further 400 metres out, in shin-deep water to where it was possible to hop inside and start the motor on the high setting.  From here it was a quick zip up the coast to where Matt, Cathy and Linda had clambered up to the road, where I could park the dinghy in water that would not leave her high and dry.

Spying an isthmus lookout in the far distance Matt and Cathy went for a walk and upon their return we made it back to Chimere for a wonderful lunch prepared by Liz and Murray.

Matt and Cathy went for a walk to the Isthmus lookout
The Isthmus separating North and South Bruny Island is just wide enough for a narrow road
Matthew sporting a nautical-summer-beach-wear motif on the ocean side of the Bruny Island Isthmus … otherwise known as Adventure Bay, the famous location where Abel Tasman attempted to anchor in 1642, where Captain Cook did in fact anchor in 1777, followed by William Bligh in 1788 and 1792 – then a short time later … Bruni D’Entrecasteaux (1792 & 1793), Nicolas Baudin (1802), and Matthew Flinders (1798)

Out to sea again, we covered the remaining 25 miles up to the marina in good time … out of the channel and into the Derwent, past Hobart town, under the Tasman Bridge, past the Zinc Works and into our pen once more – a solid 9 out of 10 for our docking procedure.  We were home by 7:00pm, the end of another big day !

Under the bridge once more
The chart plotter shows the regular tracks in and out of the Prince of Wales Bay Marina

Sadly, no sooner had they arrived than Matt and Cathy were preparing to leave … up at 4:00am tomorrow morning for the 6:00am flight to Melbourne.  And big thanks to our own Uber-Murray, king of the land-based team, for once more doing the airport run.

Chimere back in her berth once more, with Mt Wellington in the background
Another rain squall descends from Mt Wellington

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Isthmus Adventure

Rob Latimer

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