A hilltop experience

Monday 4 March 2019

Schooner Cove (Port Davey)

Up and away by 9:00am … which is pretty good by current standards ! 

And there on the horizon what do we see … but a TALL ship, anchored way down at the southern end of Bathurst Harbour, behind Celery Top Islands.

“Got any egg cups?” , asks egg-boiler-expert-John … no problems … I’ll make my own …

A quick glance at the chart plotter reveals her to be Windward Bound,
https://www.windewardbound.com.au/ which we’d seen close-up in Hobart during the Wooden Boat festival … is it nearly a month ago ?!

There’s something very special about seeing these ships out in their natural habitat and so we couldn’t resist the temptation of doing a drive-by, a gawk and a wave; since it was already on our course, although I’m sure we would have deviated if she wasn’t.

We were saying good-bye to Bathurst Harbour and as we headed into the Bathurst Narrows, past where we’d anchored two nights before, we couldn’t help but noticing that there were still about ten or more vessels at anchor. 

Windward Bound at anchor in Bathurst Harbour
The sea and sky keep drawing out attention
Can you have too much serenity ?

Could it be they were all friends, maybe waiting for the right wind, sheltering from the strong nor westerlies (and passing showers) or possibly part of the Van Diemen’s Land Circumnavigation rally? 
https://www.ryct.org.au/cruising/vdl-circumnavigation/vdlcruises2019/

We never really found out.  Fact is, with most vessels in the area snug at anchor, we pretty much had the place to ourselves

There were so many anchorages in the cruising guide, you’d need to be here a few weeks to check them all out, but we were keen to check out as many as possible for future reference.  There was … (tiny) Iola Bay,  Ila Bay, Frog Hollow, Parker Bay, Joe Page Bay and around lunch time we stopped in a very small indentation just before Casilda Cove, within Horseshoe Inlet. 

The wind by now had really picked up from the north west and whilst our little cubby hole was just wide enough for us to anchor, if the wind should deviate too much there was little room for us to swing from side to side.  A change of wind wasn’t expected but to be sure we extended a line from the stern to a large tree on the shore to keep Chimere in place for the short time we would be there.

The fab-four make an assault on Balmoral Hill – mountain really
Getting higher
On top of Balmoral Hill looking down on Chimere at anchor below on the edge of Horseshoe Inlet
Like a miniature bonsai-world – so remote and amazing. There’s Chimere anchored down below, with a stern line to the shore for added security
The passing showers and constant gale-force winds kept us on our toes. Here’s John trying to take a photo

It was now time to do some exploring ashore, and with Ray agreeing to stay aboard as “caretaker”, (his dodgy knee kind of sealing his fate) and with a new squall just taking effect, John, Isabel, Jacqui and I headed off in the dinghy, out of our small cove and around Danger Bluff, a couple of hundred metres further up Horseshoe Inlet, to a small beach and the start of a bush track.  The track would take us to the top of the nearby “mountain” … very modestly called Balmoral Hill in the cruising guide.  Admittedly Balmoral was a small peak, nothing like Mount Rugby which dominates the region at over 2,200 feet, but it was our opportunity to gain some elevated perspective on the region in what was described in the cruising guide as being … “the best value for effort” 

Selfie from the top with Chimere down below – with Ray aboard as caretaker

Whilst we were blasted by the wind and drizzle, and the undergrowth was a bit scrubby and scratchy … for sailors … it turned out to be a stunning highlight of the day.  As the photos show, the views … even through the cloud and mist … were amazing.

Ray described the country as “Bonsai”, but on a grand scale.  The trees DO seem small, a form of miniature, no doubt a product of the cold weather, howling winds and hungry soils, but the remoteness just goes on and on, with ridgeline after ridgeline extending to the horizon in jagged saw-tooth formation.

Back on board it was time for a late lunch and away up the Bathurst Channel just another 2 miles to our chosen spot for the night … Schooner Cove.  It was now around 4:00pm, we had the place all to ourselves, and in disbelief we watched as the sky revealed some blue patches, the sun began to shine and many of the surrounding peaks looked down with a kind of washed starkness.

There was just enough time to do a quick circuit of the bay, to look at the small streams that flow into the bay, and visit the cave a short distance away that contained an aboriginal midden and ochre deposits

At anchor for the night, Schooner Cove, before 4 other boats suddenly turned up at dusk
A quick explore ashore at Schooner Cove
The cave at Schooner Cove showed signs of early aboriginal occupation

Then, just when you thought this truly was an isolated part of God’s creation, four other boats turn up in quick succession to anchor a short distance off our stern.

The HF radio again delivered a weather report tonight, confirming our decision to leave Port Davey tomorrow, heading north to Macquarie Harbour.  Our plan is to make good use of the predicted southwester.

Isabel and Jacqui impressed again tonight in the dinner department in what they referred to as a “scratch” meal … it even included the flathead caught by Ray and I the other night … but we weren’t so sure about that.  On the food front … it was revealed tonight that the beer and ice-cream are running out so it’s a good thing we’ll be in Strahan (Macquarie Harbour) in less than two days’ time.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a hilltop experience

Rob Latimer

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