Retracing our steps to Louisa Bay

Wednesday 27 February 2019


Louisa Bay (West)

After a brief respite from the weather, it was back around the southern coast of Tasmania in the direction of Louisa Bay, on our way to Port Davey

After two nights in The Pigsties, that quirkily named corner of Recherche Bay, we made our way out through the narrow entrance – Shag Rock on our starboard side and Maid of Erin Reef on the port – and into the southern section of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.  It was 7:00am and the sun was touching the higher peaks inland, with a promise of a fine day ahead

The Pigsties – we were becoming spoilt on a diet of very still anchorages
The morning glow in the east

We took special note of the weather forecast, particularly from the Bureau of Met. site because we figured this would be our last access to the internet for sometime.  Not even 3G and 1-bar … as primitive as can be.  We listened to the TasMaritime weather and information schedule, and were even able to radio in our location and likely plans for the next day. 

Whilst boaties are encouraged to make regular reports of their intentions to Tas Maritime and/or other coastal radio stations, and I can certainly see the sense in it from a safety perspective –  this can sometimes be problematic.  Particularly when it sets up an expectation and obligation that can’t be met, when plans change, or communications are not possible. 

The sun breaking through
Out to sea and De Witt Isnad near Matsayker Is – the best place to anchor in a serious south westerly, but in 24 metres of water

Once upon a time, ALL you had was VHF and HF radio for communication, and everyone knew there would likely be difficulty keeping in touch from time to time.  Now of course there’s mobile phones, email, texts, Facebook, Messenger … you name it … and any delay of more than a few hours in responding seems grounds for calling in the Navy.  I was in a strange position yesterday of having no VHF radio transmission out of The Pigsties, so I sent an email to TasMarttime to report my position.  It seemed kind of weird.

Our track today was taking us back round Whale Head, South East Cape, South Cape and onto De Witt Island, where we had been exploring on Monday.  The wind had now moderated significantly, but the swell and lumpy sea from two days of strong south westerlies remained, making progress a little more uncomfortable than we’d experienced to date.

With the aid of the good ol’ Perkins motor, plus it must be said, the clean propeller and hull, we still made good progress and by 1:30pm we were dropping anchor behind Louisa Island, after doing a close drive-by at nearby De Witt Island.   The cruising guide describes the De Witt island anchorage as the “best place on the coast to weather a south west gale” … and I was keen to see how it looked in the current 2-3 metres of swell; just for future reference.  Who would have known … the guide was right !  The only problem was the 24 metres of water, requiring around 80-100 metres of chain to be deployed.  But that would be a small price to pay for a steady anchorage in a gale. We sailed on. 

Rounding South East Cape
Behind Louisa Island and the land bridge to the mainland at low tide would be a good place to film the “parting of the Red Sea” scene in a remake of The 10 Commandments

Back at Louisa Bay (East) we had lunch of soup and sandwiches, got the big dinghy over the side and after packing an “expedition bag” with all of the essential items … handheld VHF radios, water, flares, torch, knife, Tee Vee chocolate biscuits and salt & vinegar potato chips.

John and I dressed for the possibility of a swim and “crayfish search” … but somehow we never got around to it.  Inside Louisa Island, which extends to form a long sandy spit to the mainland at low tide, it was just a magical cove, full of strangely shaped driftwood, rocky caves and evidence of penguins and mutton birds who would be returning after dark.

The cruising guide did however, describe this bay as “affected by swell” and whilst it was very calm, the swell did in fact extend around the rocky point having the predictable impact on comfort aboard – after all, we’d become pretty fussy about stillness at anchor after Mickey’s Bay and Recherche Bay.

With plenty of sunlight left in the day we decided to up-anchor and head across to the anchorage on western side of the bay, where we thought the swell might have less of an effect.

Once re-anchored we explored ashore once more and rated it one of the most pristine and delightful beaches we’d seen in a very long time; complete with wallaby tracks and birds of every description

In the end we all agreed that the anchorage was less impacted by the swell, but as the wind died and its steadying impact faded, the small swell that remained seem to bat above its average whenever we drifted beam on.

Isabel and Jacqui treated us to another amazing feast – chicken, noodles, gravy, cabbage, kumara and some more green things !  Then for afters we had cantelope, grated Rum & Rason chocolate and ice-cream.  I couldn’t believe it, we had another tub of ice-cream in the freezer.  And due to it having been in the freezer longer it was even more ice than cream after several days.

Ray starred in the fishing department, catching a two-foot-long shark, which I’m sure will make it onto the menu, maybe tonight?!  Then a bit later in the evening Ray caught a rather large stingray, although to be sure … it caught us because there was no way we were going to be able to land it.

Ray comes good with dinner

By 10:00pm we were all drifting off to our bunks, with the promise of some more exploring tomorrow

Smooth seas, fair breeze and retracing our steps to Louisa Bay

Rob Latimer

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