Farewell Jacqui

Thursday 7 March 2019

Heritage Landing, Gordon River

After seeing Jaqui off on the early morning “milk-run” bus to Hobart, the remaining four made our way down Macquarie Harbour and then up the Gordon River 5 miles to Heritage Landing, where we stayed the night

It was an early start after a much-deserved sleep, in a mercifully calm anchorage, just off the Strahan township.

Our first task of the day was to run Jacqui ashore to catch the 7:30am bus to Hobart where she would be catching a plane home.  Sadly, Jacqui’s time aboard had come to an end and Chimere’s crew was now going from the Famous Five to the Fabulous Four

For Jacqui, as a friend of Ray and Isabel from Fish Creek, the trip to Melaleuca and the Port Davey region was a return to where she had bushwalked as a girl, or young woman, many, many years ago.  Perhaps I put one too many “manys” in there, but whilst Jacqui is an adventurer she is also a realist and I’m sure she won’t mind.  After all, 35+ years ago is a long time in anyone’s language.

Jacqui about to board the bus for her 7 hour trip from Strahan to Hobart
Isabel and Ray making the most the new-found communications after 7 days in the “wilderness”

Whilst Jacqui was cutting her voyage short, there was a time in the days before joining Chimere on the 23 February, that Jacqui needed to pull out all together.  A change of circumstances then enabled Jacqui to re-join Chimere, (in scenes of jubilation at home, I am told), and so we have all been fortunate to have her aboard. 

Fortunate, because Jacqui showed herself to be cheerful, willing to try anything, stoic in the face of trying conditions, an enthusiastic helper, plus a really great companion – full of stories and life-experiences.  Thank you, Jacqui, for contributing so positively to Chimere’s “Famous Five”.

In booking the bus ride to Hobart, Jacqui’s husband Tim was told that this route – Strahan to Hobart – would be closed down in a couple of days.  It seemed hard to believe, but it was confirmed by the driver who told us that buses would instead only head north to Queenstown and Devonport.  Presumably future trips to Hobart would need to be via Queenstown.  As it was, Jacqui’s ride to Hobart would be taking 7 hours, (from 7:30am to 2:30pm) making it something of a milk-run through all the towns and villages along the way, and NOT on the way, as the case may be.

Speaking of small Tasmanian country towns, anyone who’s seen the ABC TV series “Rosehaven” would identify with Strahan.  I don’t think Rosehaven was filmed here, but it could have been.  This was made evident a few times in our short stay … the first was the bus driver himself.  He was a cheerful, engaging fellow, (as bus drivers often are), and when Jacqui showed him the image of her official ticket on her iPhone, he gave it a look in a vague kind of … I-left-my-glasses-somewhere-else way and said “looks good to me!” 

Around this time school kids were also making their way onto the bus, waving their term passes … “Hey, that kid hasn’t waved his pass?”  I jokingly said to the driver as he loaded a couple of small bags into the hold.  “Oi, haven’t you got a pass?” the bus driver called in an off-handed way.  “Yeh, of course”, called the kid as he climbed the stairs.  “Well don’t forget to bring it next time!” he called back.

We then walked up the steep hill above town to the grocers to buy a few essentials – including bread and ice cream of course.  And while Ray and Isabel cruised the short aisles I listened to the great music – Rod Stewart, Beatles, Elton John – and eventually I called to the lady on the check-out … “I love your music!” 

“Civilisation” … as defined by a supermarket
Friendly checkout “chick”, Di, bagged it all up, then gave us a lift down to the boat in her own car
Here’s a good idea …

“Yeh, that’s my play-list”, she cheerfully responded. 

Then, once everything had been tallied and bagged, the lady said, “You wanna lift down to the waterfront with this lot?  I’ll bring by buzz-box round the front and I can run you down now” 

“Wow, that would be great, thanks so much.  How did you know we were off a boat????”  we said.

Down on the wharf, the TasPorts “Representative”, Shane, was also very helpful.  Having spoken with him as we approached Strahan the day before, he phoned me out of the blue today to see if I needed anything and I mentioned that we’d like to load up with water; our tanks being either empty, or full of the brown (but still very safe and tasty) water from Port Davey.

“No problems”, said Shane, “I’ve got permission from the owner of the blue fishing boat at the wharf for boats to raft-up.  Sing out when you’re ready and I’ll give you a hand”.  When the time came an hour later, there was Shane to give us a hand, even suggesting we could use the fire hose if necessary … “everyone does” he confirmed. 

The Strahan railway, just across town and not far from where we were anchored
One day in Strahan and we already have a favorite coffee spot … a toast to Jacqui

Our tanks full, and the river cruise boats gone, we later moved up and tied to the wharf-proper, making way for another yacht next to the fishing boat, that needed to take our place.  Rather than move us on because … “this is where the River Cruise Boats dock” … all Shane said was … “the big boats won’t be back till around 2:30 this arvo, so you’ll be good till then”

Ray amongst the pots while we were rafted up next to a fishing boat loading up with water
Tied up at the wharf and keen to get everyone in the shot
“The big boat gets back around 2:30, so you’ll be right till then” …

Having been without internet access in the South West, we made good use of the local connection to catch up on 7 days of emails, texts, calls, messages and website uploads and by around 2:15pm we were away down Macquarie Harbour in the direction of the Gordon River. 

The 20-30 knot Nor-wester was still blowing and we made good use of it as we raced down the bay at around 8 knots.  There was a thought to stop briefly at Sarah Island, home of a rather severe penal settlement back in the 1830s, however, after making a brief foray into the lee of the island we decided that the wind was still just too strong.  Coupled with this was the fact that the “INADEQUATELY SURVEYED” note on the chart proved to be very accurate. 

Isabel in command as we head down Macquarie Harbour to the Gordon River
A brief sunny moment

We know this because an area marked as 3-5 metres deep on the chart, actually ended up being around 1.5-1.8 metres deep – confirmed by our depth sounder plus an ever-so-brief bump on the bottom of our keel … something we aim to do as little as possible!!

The wind was howling from the north west … we were very pleased it was going our way!
Once in the river the detail on the chart plotter diminished significantly

Once in the Gordon River, with depths of 20-30 metres, we wound our way upstream around 5 miles to Heritage Landing; where the river cruise ships tie up and disgorge their tourists to walk the circular boardwalk through the overgrown forest. 

The forest really was amazing, coming right down to the river’s edge on both sides and closing-in the further upstream we travelled.  Our real desire was to travel inland around 20 miles, to where the Franklin River flows in, but time and the weather were against us.  We would have to be content with having the Heritage Landing and the connected forest-walk all to ourselves, tied up as we were to the bush wharf, surrounded by the quiet solitude 

The forest came right down to the water’s edge
Nature walk at Heritage Landing – where we tied up for the night, and where the river cruise boats take their passengers
Here we are in the forest !
Not a bad spot to tie up for the night
Just like back in Strahan … just got to leave before the river cruise boats arrive; in the morning

In the night we were boarded, unknowingly, by a small animal.  I realised this when I got up in the night and startled it while I was climbing the stairs. I’d barely got half way out when this little black blur of something raced up next to me making it out the door in just two bounds.  With torch in hand the last I saw of it was dashing under the dinghy on the foredeck. 

It wasn’t just the small animal … probably a possum … that was startled!!   We just hoped the next day that it made its way off the boat the same way it got on BEFORE we came to sail away.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Farewell Jacqui

Rob Latimer


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