Oh Melaleuca!


Friday 1 March 2019

Forest Lagoon (Port Davey)

It was a great feeling to finally have made it to Port Davey. It was now time to explore and after dropping anchor at Forest Lagoon (near Clayton’s Corner) it was a dinghy ride the rest of the way to Melaleuca

Getting away from Spain Bay after a lazy breakfast – and a walk ashore and up the nearby hill for Isabel and Jacqui – not to mention swim – we were soon making our way into South Passage.  To our left lay the Breaksea Islands as we took a hard right into the Bathurst Channel.

There was a brief encounter with several very large bottlenose dolphin before they raced off to play with another passing yacht, leaving us wondering what they had that we didn’t !?

You don’t get to do this very often … tie up to a cliff to obtain water from a waterfall
taking a short ride while we fill the tanks from the waterfall
A view from the waterfall

The sun was warm, the wind was slight and the sea was flat calm.  Despite the tidal flow against us we were making a steady 5-6 knots, just puttering along and we didn’t have long to wait for our first point of interest.  It was the enticingly named Waterfall Bay. 

Really?  A waterfall?  In summer, here in southern Australia?  Surely in name only.  Certainly, the photos in the cruising guide looked intriguing, so we were keen to check it out.

Here was a place where you could parallel park your boat, against a 25-metre cliff, down which a waterfall tumbled and cascaded.  Not only that, someone had built a wharf-style arrangement with fenders and ropes to make the tying up process easier.  Plus, a large collection bucket had been suspended part way up the cliff with a long hose running out of it to fill your tanks, have a shower or simply wash your decks.  

The fenders are already tied to the cliff to make for an easy tie-up
John climbs the waterfall for that full immersive experience
Washing day at the waterfall
Dual tasking … drinking coffee while hosing each other down … right ??!!

This proved to be a fun excursion and after having a good taste of the slightly amber looking fluid, we were quick to poke the hose into our tank inlet.  Given the warmth in the sun, we also enjoyed a very generous cold shower and there was even some overdue washing of clothes undertaken.

There were no other boats looking to take our place and so lunch was declared – a tasty combination of cup-a-soup and home-made (boat-made) bread topped with lashings of jam, peanut butter and honey.

On our way again we were met by a woman in a dinghy out of the blue motoring from her anchored yacht around the point.  As she approached, she called out … “…is this the Chimere that takes doctors around the islands … I knew the previous owner of Chimere?”  Appearing so enthusiastic, we invited her to tie up alongside as we motored along, and pretty soon she was on deck introducing herself as Jo. 

It was a real out-of-the-blue experience and after hearing about the previous owner and how she occasionally sailed with him, and showing her through Chimere, she was soon on her way, back to her yacht, K’Gari … which by now was just off our starboard beam anchored quietly in Schooner Bay.

And I thought we were the only ones here … Coral Discoverer drops anchor in the near Bathurst Channel, Port Davey
Our track from the south, into Spain Bay, then through Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Narrows and into Bathurst Harbour

From the Bathurst Channel we progressed into the Bathurst Narrows, past the occasional yacht at anchor in a side-bay, past the 200-foot-long tour ship Coral Discoverer, the waterway becoming narrower and shallower the further inland we progressed.  By mid afternoon we’d dropped anchor in Forest Lagoon at the start of the, extremely narrow and shallow, Melaleuca Inlet.

Making our way up the Melaleuca Inlet, then into the Melaleuca Creek was high on our list of things to do in this region.  Isabel had read a book years ago about the early pioneers to this region, mining tin and carving an existence from the beautiful yet harsh environment.

The last few miles were naturally covered in the large dinghy, in a three-hour excursion that was truly a highlight of the whole trip.

Despite the remoteness of the place on the map called “Melaleuca” it sports an airstrip, a ranger’s hut, toilets plus a collection of buildings old and new.  In addition, there was an extensive collection of machinery-relics – looking a bit like a scene out of the movie Mad Max  – associated with the early years as a tin mining region.

A rare day at Melaleuca – warm and still
The board walks help preserve the environment
John, Jacqui, Rob, Isabel and Ray next to the air strip at
Melaleuca

The quiet vastness of the surroundings gave new meaning to the word serenity, but it was the presence of the extremely endangered, migratory, Orange Bellied Parrots that was a real thrill.  As we sat next to a volunteer observer in his shelter busily recording each foraging bird by “name” (via a coded band on its leg) through a spyglass he commented … “those 7 birds on that feeder-shelf represent 8% of the known wild population in the world” 

Even if it was 1% of the wild population, it meant that this small greenish bird, that flies from here to Victoria and back each year, is extremely rare.  The volunteer continued … “There is a breeding program and these ones are the babies.  Their parents will fly north and eventually these ones will follow.  It’s amazing that even the birds bred in Victoria and released into the wild here, manage to find their way back to Victoria.  Just seems to be built into them”

The extremely rare and endangered Orange Bellied Parrot, which migrates to and from the mainland (almost said Australia) – they say there are less than 100 or so birds living in the wild
Looking like a scene from Max Max the movie … John’s creative DIY New Zealand mind is trying to figure out how he could get it running again using only 8-gauge wire … he might need another hour or so with this one
It was a tough and rugged life … they even had their own smelter to refine the tin into ingots

The air was still, the sky was clear and the warmth seemed to seduce the senses as we wandered around the boardwalks – built just above the scrubby ground cover – soaking in the surroundings. 

Isabel, Ray and Jacqui eventually returned from their more extensive stroll, taking in the Needwonee Aboriginal discovery trail, and the old walkers hut which Jacqui used way back in 1980 while walking the South Coast Track … surely as a little girl?!  Jacqui reported that it still smelt and felt the same, as the fond memories all came back to her. 

The reflective experience was stunning
It was hard to put the camera away
Back at anchor and it was still … “still-as bro”

I should mention that we also visited the Deny King museum, which was of particular interest to Isabel who had read and researched the man and the region more than any of us

Hard to know where the real world started and finished
We had Forest Bay to ourselves … apart from all the other yachts … that’s K’Gari to the left

Eventually, as afternoon showed the first signs of becoming evening, we clambered down into the dinghy for the 30-minute chug back to Chimere.

It was here that the stillness, seen in the amazingly clear reflections of the inlet, really came into its own.   It seemed for a while there we were traveling in two worlds, one the reflected image of the sky, hills and trees in the water before us and the other that represented the real world, rising from an indistinct line in the middle-distance to the sky above.  The photos hopefully do it more justice than my words.

Back aboard, the evening routines began – dinner of tacos, an early nap, some book reading, photographing the sunset and advancing night, plus discussions about possible plans and possibilities for tomorrow.

Maintaining sufficient charge in our bank of batteries is a constant consideration and whilst the motor and wind generator help top it up, our constant drain of around 10 Amps needs us to run the generator for a few extra hours – which we’ll need to do tomorrow.

Having entered the bay close past the stern of three other boats in order to remain in the deeper part of this lagoon, the numbers on our depth sounder got below 2 metres for a time, which is always a source of concern.  Admittedly it was low tide, but no one likes to run aground and particularly when others are watching !  As surely they are when the delicate task of anchoring is taking place anywhere close by, with accompanying thoughts such as …  “they’d better not anchor too close to us” … “do they know it’s shallow over there?” … “are they going to turn up into the wind?” … “have they considered the expected change of wind?” … “they’d better take into account the swing if they put out too much chain” … you get the idea

In the end the depth went from 1.8 metres to 4 metres and with a sign of relief we rounded up and dropped the anchor along with 20-30 metres of chain. 

For now … to quote our on-board kiwi lad John … “it’s as calm-as bro…” 

Time for sleep

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Oh Melaleuca!

Rob Latimer

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