Rest and Recovery

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Risby Cove, Strahan

In a way, yesterday merged into today, with our departure from Port Davey yesterday afternoon and our arrival at Macquarie Harbour and the town of Strahan this morning, being just one continuous “event”.  An event we had to simply endure in order to catch a wind going our way and, in some way, meet our sailing itinerary.

The approach to Macquarie Harbour was made around Cape Sorell, then into a shallow channel known as Hell’s Gate – so named by the convicts who were transported there – and Sarah Island – in the 19th century. After a night at sea it was a welcome sight despite the passing rain squalls
As we veered starboard to line up the channel, the swell was taken on the beam, passing underneath us and creating a painful roll aboard
Despite the conditions it was such a special moment, observing and actually feeling the elements which had no regard for presence whatsoever.
Then the sun broke through !!

There is no doubt that the greeting of the dawn at sea is a wonderful thing.  I think all sailors would agree with that.  Particularly when the night is full of rocky seas, rain, howling wind from the wrong direction and cold.  Not a winter sort of cold, on the zero to five-degree range.  But still a summer sort of cold at 9 degrees but accompanied by a wind that makes it feel like four degrees.  It seems strange that this should be happening just a short distance from land where bushfires are the current concerns.

Once in the channel we even encountered some blue sky

After our initially slow start, in the end our arrival at Macquarie Harbour, and the narrow entrance known as “Hells Gate”, took the expected time of around 16 hours.  Leaving Bond Bay in Port Davey around 4:00pm yesterday and arriving at Hell’s Gate around 8:00am this morning; a distance of around 90 miles at an average of approximately 5.5 knots … approx. 10kph.  Not a fast time, but any faster and it would have been dark when we arrived at the entrance and we certainly didn’t want that.

Once through Hell’s Gate, which seemed little more than 50 metres wide at its narrowest,  it was a case of following the navigational leads, markers, buoys and channels for another 1-2 hours, north into Macquarie Habour to the town of Strahan.

The actual entrance, named Hell’s Gate, really only had room for one vessel to traverse at a time
Bonnet Island at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour
With wind from the south west the entrance was sheltered, in a northwester the cruising guide says … “it would be most unwise to be in the vicinity”

Making contact with the TasPorts helpful “Representative”, Shane, I was informed that with 30 or more boats in town for the Van Diemans land Circumnavigation rally, there were no spots against the wharf to tie up, or even raft up, and also no moorings.  So, we anchored in Risby Cove, a short distance off town, as originally planned.

John sporting the new look in courageous, independent cruising helmsmen
More rain to clean the deck !

There was a great deal of relief in finally dropping the anchor and turning off the engine, as we soaked in the scene before us – the township of Strahan, the hills behind, dozens of other anchored vessels, the wharf, the fish-farm infrastructure and the tourist railway station a short distance across the cove.

After a week without modern communications … other than an HF radio to receive automated weather forecasts, it was a strange sensation to again be receiving and sending texts, emails and messages … just like before.  And it didn’t take us long to realise that the world had continued on without us 

Despite our sleepiness, we soon had the dinghy in the water and were exploring ashore, the south westerly wind having also brought rain and cold temperatures, which had us rugged up like … sailors.  With so many boats in the bay, we certainly weren’t the only ones walking around wearing lifekackets drifting to and fro, as we slowly tamed our legs to walk in straight lines on straight pavements.

I think a “real” coffee was first on the list of things to do ashore, followed by a look at the waterfront timber mill and shop.  Not to mention the Parks office in order to get a National Parks pass because we intended to travel up the Gordon River which is a World Heritage Area.  The helpful lady on the desk not so subtly asked me if I, or anyone on our boat had a Seniors Card … because it would be cheaper … in fact FREE.  Apparently one person’s admission covered the whole boat, and if that person was a “Senior” (ie over 60) (Thank you Ray for being senior enough) then it was NO COST … at a considerable saving.

When a workshop wall becomes a work of art – Strahan waterside timber mill and shop
Main street, Strahan

As we wandered around town Isabel made contact with a friend of a friend who was connected with a theatre company in town that had been performing a production called “The Ship That Never Was” since 1985.  Isabel knows this person through her Fish Creek connections, and it turns out that the lady’s father originally wrote the play back in the early 1980s.  The long and short of it was that we had five free tickets set aside at the door !   The content of the play is well worth researching and proves the notion that truth really is stranger than fiction.

John samples the local delicacy … scallop pies
The local dinghy park shows there were a lot of boats in the harbour
The Ship That Never Was … an absolute MUST See for anyone in the area … in fact it’s worth going there just for the performance. It’s based on a true story of convicts from the nearby Sarah Island who stole a ship, sailed to South America, were caught and lived to tell the tale – in the 1830s !
Two actors with heaps of ability – lots of audience participation and rugs to keep everyone warm

John and I tried one of the famous scallop pies for lunch and before everyone collapsed with exhaustion, we made it back to Chimere for a sleep before coming back to town for the performance of the play at 5:30, dinner at the pub at 7:00pm, then once again back to Chimere for sleep – and this was supposed to be a day of Rest & Recovery?!

Jacqui would be leaving us tomorrow morning; catching the 7:30am bus to Hobart (via every other town in Tasmania it seemed because the trip would be taking her 7 hours !) and from there back to Melbourne, so it would be an early start

For now it’s time to sleep and recharge our batteries

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Rest & Recovery

Rob Latimer


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