Isthmus Adventure

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Prince of Wales Bay Marina

After our trip down memory lane at Dover yesterday it was time to head north, back to Hobart and our berth at the Prince of Wales Bay Marina. 

It’s not that we were running out of fresh tomatoes, or something more important … like beer, but Stage 1 of the Freedom Sail was starting to draw to a close. 

Sunrise over Dover

After their short stay aboard, Matt and Cathy would be flying back to Melbourne on tomorrow’s 6:00am flight and on Saturday Linda and Liz would also me flying in the same direction. 

Murray’s departure in the car, and leisurely drive north to meet the ferry on the 3rd of March, would probably start on Sunday .. around the same time our return voyage starts, via the west coast. The new new crew of … Isabel Whyte, Ray Jones, Jacqui Rock and John Land arrive on Thursday and Saturday. John, my old university flatmate from 1980 and 1981 would be coming in from New Zealand.

It was all happening.  And there were a few preparation-tasks to complete, but for now we were focused on leaving Dover and Port Esperance and getting back to our marina berth before dark.

The wind kept up its vigil from the west all night, blowing down from the hills above town, with the temperature decidedly chilly.  I can only imagine what this place must be like in winter

Another glorious sunrise … this time over Port Esperance as we leave Dover for the journey back to Hobart

Emerging from my cabin with full wet weather gear – trousers, jacket and sea-boot – Murray in particular wondered what might have been in store, but the fact is, I was just really cold!

This chart plotter image shows our anchorage at Port Esperance (over on the left) followed by the track north into Isthmus Bay with all the “green” indicating the extent of the sand flats

Having heard so much about the Tasmanian fires, covering this whole area in smoke just a few weeks ago, we were sensitive to the sight of smoke.  And it was smoke, and lots of it, that we observed across the channel on Bruny Island as we made our way out of the bay.

Liz spies on the fire at Mickey’s Point on Bruny Island complete with three water-bombing choppers
Liz in a quieter moment looking like a character from the Wizard Of Oz.

“That’s a big fire, and I can see flames” observed Liz as she reached for the binoculars.  Then we saw three helicopters glinting in the morning sun dropping water.  “That looks like it’s near Mickey’s Bay, where we stayed two nights ago” I said, and within a few minutes Liz had checked the Fire Authorities website and discovered it was indeed at Mickey’s Point and had been reported at 4:30am that morning. 

Based on recorded wind gusts at nearby Cape Bruny of between 35 and 51 knots around that time, we could imagine that any small spark could gain a foothold very quickly.  Where would a spark come from, we all speculated … not from us, we all agreed!

Matt stands “vertical” to indicate the extent of Chimere’s heel as a wind gust hits … one more way of solving the head room “issue” – for tall folks

Rather than head straight back to Hobart, we calculated that we had just enough time to stop for lunch at the thin Isthmus that separates north and south Bruny and which is barely wide enough in parts for a road. 

Matt adjust the sails wearing the super-warm-donated-onboard-jumper

Matt demonstrating the “issue” tall people can have … Cathy on the other hand is the “Goldilocks height”

This was the third Isthmus we had visited, after Maria Island and Eaglehawk Neck and it was a word we just enjoyed using … “Isthmus” … “Isthmus” … like Christmas, but with an “Isth” …

“It’s Isthmus Time” … Linda would declare … so naturally, with a favourable wind from the west we made our way to a suitable anchorage down into Simpson Bay; an easy distance from the Bruny Island Isthmus

Matt soaks up the morning serenity

“Did you know Bruny Island is the same size as Singapore” … announced Murray, “and Singapore has a population of more than 5 million.  How many people live on Bruny Island?”  Not many, that’s for sure.

After an uneventful sail from Dover, we found an anchorage in about 5 metres of water, on the edge of the sand bank, a long way from shore. 

“Time to explore!!” came the cry as we launched the big dinghy

Liz and Murray were happy to remain aboard and attend to lunch, leaving Linda, Matt, Cathy and me to motor ashore, around and through, the expansive sandy shoal network between us and the shore.

It’s here that I re-learnt the lesson about leaving a dinghy in shallow water, amongst sand banks, on a dropping tide.  The problem being that when you return, the chances are the dinghy will be high and dry with the water a long way away.  It’s not so bad if your dinghy is small and light.  But our big 3.4m long dinghy, with a 25hp motor on the back is anything but small and light. 

The sand flats of Simpsons Bay (south of Isthmus Bay) extend a very, very long way

Fortunately, I realised my mistake just in time, but still, by then we’d walked nearly a kilometre to where we could climb up and over an embankment and road from our sheltered bay,to the ocean bay on the other side of the Isthmus.

“I’ve got to move the dinghy into deeper water.  I’ve just checked and the tide will be going out for another 3 hours and when we get back from our walk it’ll be sitting on sand.  We’ll never get it off.  You go ahead and I’ll catch you up”  

I then set about returning to the dinghy as quick as possible.  I even RAN (or jogged quickly) – something I DON’T do anymore – to get there quicker. 

On reaching the dinghy over drying sand, and after 10 minutes of boiler-busting-exertion, dragging the dinghy, inch by inch by inch, through the shallowest of remaining water, it occurred to me that … “I’m glad I got here when I did.  Another 10 minutes and there would have been no hope … and it would be a long wait for the returning tide”

Once in deep enough water I could then lead the dinghy a further 400 metres out, in shin-deep water to where it was possible to hop inside and start the motor on the high setting.  From here it was a quick zip up the coast to where Matt, Cathy and Linda had clambered up to the road, where I could park the dinghy in water that would not leave her high and dry.

Spying an isthmus lookout in the far distance Matt and Cathy went for a walk and upon their return we made it back to Chimere for a wonderful lunch prepared by Liz and Murray.

Matt and Cathy went for a walk to the Isthmus lookout
The Isthmus separating North and South Bruny Island is just wide enough for a narrow road
Matthew sporting a nautical-summer-beach-wear motif on the ocean side of the Bruny Island Isthmus … otherwise known as Adventure Bay, the famous location where Abel Tasman attempted to anchor in 1642, where Captain Cook did in fact anchor in 1777, followed by William Bligh in 1788 and 1792 – then a short time later … Bruni D’Entrecasteaux (1792 & 1793), Nicolas Baudin (1802), and Matthew Flinders (1798)

Out to sea again, we covered the remaining 25 miles up to the marina in good time … out of the channel and into the Derwent, past Hobart town, under the Tasman Bridge, past the Zinc Works and into our pen once more – a solid 9 out of 10 for our docking procedure.  We were home by 7:00pm, the end of another big day !

Under the bridge once more
The chart plotter shows the regular tracks in and out of the Prince of Wales Bay Marina

Sadly, no sooner had they arrived than Matt and Cathy were preparing to leave … up at 4:00am tomorrow morning for the 6:00am flight to Melbourne.  And big thanks to our own Uber-Murray, king of the land-based team, for once more doing the airport run.

Chimere back in her berth once more, with Mt Wellington in the background
Another rain squall descends from Mt Wellington

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Isthmus Adventure

Rob Latimer

Return to Dover (After 41 years)

Monday 18 February 2019

Port Esperance, Dover

Mickey’s Bay turned out to be a wonderful choice for a still and tranquil night at anchor.

Leaving Mickey’s Bay on Bruny Island – lots of serenity and tranquility

There was absolutely no wind on departure at the relatively late hour of 9:15am.  And a quick look around revealed that most of the other boats had already gone, to who-knows-where.

For us, it WAS to be just a quick jaunt across the Channel to Dover on the mainland, located at the northern end of Port Esperance, which contains three small islands named, quaintly, Hope, Faith and Charity.

For Linda and I this would be a return, after 41 years.  There’s quite a story attached to this.  A story involving the innocence of youth, true love and, you guessed it, a sense of adventure.  But more of that later, right now the plans were about to change.

“We can’t go straight across to Dover”, insisted Linda, our cruise director … “we’ve got to do some sailing first” 

Admittedly, Dover WAS just a few miles across the channel, and there was only so much to explore on foot.

“How about we head down to Southport for lunch, and then come back up to Dover in the afternoon?” I volunteered

With the wind predicted to come in from the West and North West at around 20-30 knots and then 15-25 knots in the evening, both Southport and Dover would provide good shelter.

One extra bonus of Southport, as we discovered, was the Ida Railway.  That’s right a railway, ending at the anchorage of “Deep Hole” at the southern shore of Southport and going for several kilometres through the bush.  This we would have to see.

By 12:00 o’clock we were dropping anchor, lifting the big dinghy over the side and making our way ashore.  In this time the wind went from about 5 knots to 20 knots, but still it was sheltered in our little corner of the Deep Hole.  Our dinghy ride took as around a big sand bar and partly up the Southport Narrows, but pretty quickly we realised, as nice as the bushy surrounds were, there was another couple of miles of this before it opened into an inland lagoon and we’d probably seen enough. 

How good’s this … a railway line next to a beach … just like the island of Sodor! And here’s a point to move this way and back again
All of us waiting for a train that may never come again … Murray, Cathy, Matt, Linda, Liz and Rob
Is it the end of the line for the Ida Bay Railway

Murray, Liz, Linda and Cathy were dropped at the beach to walk back to where Chimere was anchored, leaving Matt and I in the dinghy to return via a deeper route outside the sand bank and nearby Pelican island.

It was around this time – while getting safely out of the dinghy – that the 126-page book called … “Cruising Southern Tasmania” found its way floating to the bottom of the sea, in half a metre of water.  I’d taken the book ashore to assist with locating some of the landmarks, specifically the railway track, and so most of the blame can be sheeted home to me.  It really should have remained on the boat.  But here it was, a sodden wad of paper looking very bedraggled indeed as it was picked up off the sandy sea floor.  

To paraphrase the comments that followed the book-dunking … “oh dear, bother, and blast !!” …  enough said. 

The Ida Railway turned out to be a real surprise and the fact is, for our son Matt, raised on a generous diet of Thomas The Tank Engine, this WAS something of a dream come true.  But who would have thought there’d be a railway meandering through a forest at the remote end of a lonely bay, in kind of a cut-down, poor-man’s version of the Island of Sodor.

The sad news, which we suspected, given the tinge of rust on the top of the tracks and the knee-high bracken, is that the railway is no longer running, even though a quick Google search confidently says that it will be operating in 2019.  A further search revealed that it is now for sale.

So, here’s your opportunity.  If you have ever dreamed of owning and operating a seven-kilometre-long, 2 foot gauge railway so close to the middle of nowhere it’s not funny, then form a queue.  You could become the Fat Controller of the Ida Bay Railway !! To borrow a few lines from some real estate adverts I’ve read in my time … “… first railway-owner’s dream” … “… original condition”  … “opportunity and potential abound”

Back on board for a late lunch, we up-anchored and set a course for Port Esperance and the town of Dover a short distance up the coast. 

Calm and sunny in the morning before it wasn’t in the afternoon.
Ample headroom for Matt if he just spreads his legs …
The famous FOUR … missing 25% of their complement … James
Matt and Cathy out front

Enter at this point Liz … wife of Murray. (And I only mention Murray’s name in passing)  As it turns out Liz has spent most of her working life as a paper conservator, and restorer of old things and archives at the State Library of Victoria, the National Archives of Australia and the Melbourne Museum. 

So it didn’t take Liz long to assume her “work-mode” at the saloon table, delicately placing sheets of paper towel between each of the dripping pages of the book, ensuring they didn’t dry out too fast, or too slow and making especially sure the individual pages didn’t stick to each other – it was like observing a Master at work.  (To complete the story … the good news is that the book, which is a pretty useful resource, still lives and has been restored to near-new condition)

Professional paper conservator, Liz, gets some unexpected work after the local cruising guide took a swim in the water
Linda stays cosy and warm while outside the weather closes in

As we’ve been travelling from place to place, Chimere and particularly her Perkins motor have been performing admirably.  I know it’s a risk saying things like that out loud, but it’s a fact.  One thing that had recently stopped working, however, was the engine rev-counter.  This tells us whether the engine is doing 1200 RPM (revolutions per minute), 1600 RPM, or more.  On its own it’s not really THAT important, because after nearly 13 years I pretty much know the RPM by the sound of the engine.  What IS really important is that the batteries were NOT being charged; as indicated on the battery read-out instrument.  Under “normal” conditions the motor should be putting around 25-30 Amps into the batteries after allowing for the 10 or so Amps we generally suck out of the batteries

This could only mean one thing … the alternator was playing up … actually NOT working to be more precise.  Now, whilst I’m pretty handy with most things, engine and electrical maintenance are NOT my super-powers.   But after turning OFF the motor (I know enough not to work on an operating engine) I lifted the saloon floor panels and as the captain did what was within my power … I directed Matt to inspect the alternator.  I remained close at hand of course in case he was to be electrocuted, or needed assistance/resuscitation.  But pretty quickly he had isolated the problem and had re-clamped a loose wire with the aid of some pliers.  These were replaced with one of his knitting needles (yes, you read correctly, he’s a very multi-skilled lad) after some SPARKS caused him to drop the pliers (very quickly) into the bilge.  Apparently the plastic knitting needles don’t conduct electricity like metal pliers … Matt’s an engineer, so he’s up with these things.

Shall I hold the torch … Matt diagnoses a lose wire, much to the relief of all
I think I’ll use my knitting needle this time …

The engine back in operation again and with lots of Amps now going into the batteries, (and the REV counter working again) we made our final approach to Dover, passing to the east of all three islands … Faith, Hope and Charity.  Then, from a long way out we could see lots of white caps on the water ahead, causing us to shorten sail in anticipation. 

What followed was a “very brisk” ride up Port Esperance to our night’s anchorage, healing over from time to time as the wind gusts descended on us from the surrounding hills above Dover.

The view from the cosy cockpit
Sunny AND brisk
Can’t have a rainbow without the rain
Murray held a good course, while the autohelm became “unreliable”
The final approach to Dover through Port Esperance just seemed to get windier and windier
More rain on the way
Another rainbow – sitting on top of a vessel entering port

The cruising guide (yep, the one Liz was trying hard to resurrect) showed where the preferred anchorages were, with some spots better than others.  We, however, had our sights set on one particular spot, just near town, close to the RSL Club high on the hill.

After much puttering around we finally found a suitable spot to drop the pick, in 12 metres of water, just outside the line of moorings.  The cruising guide, in describing this location said it was “steep to” … the translation being that it’s deeper than you’d generally prefer; which is probably half that at 6 metres, given the choice.  So after finding a reasonably level piece of sea-floor (by means of the depth sounder) we laid out about 50 metres of chain, plus the snubber and set the anchor alarm on the chart plotter as is our custom.

The black line shows our track in finding a suitable anchorage

It was then time to journey ashore in the dinghy, which we had been towing astern since Southport, for our dinner appointment at the local RSL club, referred to variously on a website as … “the social heart of Dover, with a wide range of facilities to welcome locals, tourists and travelers alike.”

https://www.farsouthtasmania.com/food-services/dover-rsl-ex-servicemen-s-club

After making it ashore, our Google Map App suggested it would take 10 minutes to walk to the RSL, round the road to the right then up the hill on the footpath.  But there was a boardwalk to the left, and we could see the club house with satellite dish on the roof on top, just above us.  How hard could it be?  We’d save minutes if we went that way?!   A few minutes later, having walked along the manicured boardwalk, we all crossed the road and looked up … “you can’t be serious??”  said Linda.  I’m not sure what Liz said, I was already bounding up the loose rock and grassy escarpment towards the foundation stumps of the RSL club.  Attempting to forge a path with visible ease in an effort to encourage the others to follow.

I’ve probably said enough at this point, but the good news is that we ALL finally made it up the steep embankment and through the line of bottlebrush bushes next to the bowling green to the front door of the RSL club … probably in no more than 8 minutes?!

It was Matt who suggested we notify Google Maps of this new, alternate route, they could perhaps incorporate it into future updates.

It should be noted that Murray was concerned about the dress-code after making our way up the cliff and through the foliage, but Matt assured him that if they didn’t let us, we’d already had a good night !

Dressed as we were in wet weather gear and life-jackets – sporting a fashion “Rescue Motif” – we looked very much like we’d landed from another planet. It took some time to disrobe in an attempt to look more presentable before going in, with Linda and Liz’s ear rings adding a certain sophistication I thought – real classy.

Heading to shore … Liz, Matt, Linda, Cathy and Murray
Tied up at the Dover launching ramp
The anchorage below the RSL club Dover
You don’t travel light when coming from a boat … especially when the weather is so changeable
Dinner at the Dover RSL, (again after 41 years) Cathy, Murray, Matt, Liz, Linda and Rob

But why the desire to have dinner at the Dover RSL? 

Well it goes back to February 1978, when as an eighteen-year-old lad, having just completed my HSC (Year 12) I was sailing with my father Bill and brother Andrew around Bass Strait and the waters of Tasmania aboard the family’s 29-foot yacht, Arawa

Then to my surprise, about 2 months into the voyage, my girlfriend Linda (now my wife), plus my mum and Andrew’s wife Nila, flew down to join us; each of us taking it in turns to either sail around the D’Entrecasteaux channel or tour inland in a car.  It was a wonderful time, full of great memories, one of which originates right here at Dover, when Linda, my father and I were by chance spending a night aboard the small yacht tied to the Dover jetty after a brisk day’s sail.

I remember saying at the time, something like … “Dad, Linda and I are going for a walk up to town to stretch our legs and see if we can find a public toilet” 

“Why don’t you use the toilet on board”, dad offered helpfully.  “I think Linda would prefer to use one onshore”, I replied … “Okay, I’ll mind the fort”, said dad, or something to that effect.

Stepping up onto the pier, Linda and I walked the short distance to the Caravan Park, and with hopeful expectations were informed that it was only for “guests”.  Not to be deterred we walked on and soon found a small boy who seemed a wealth of knowledge on the towns hotels and clubs and where we might find a toilet we could use.  His last suggestion was the local RSL and because it was the closest we headed off there. 

On arrival, we were approaching the side door, when we were met by an older couple (everyone seemed older when you’re only 18) who, unbeknownst to us, were leaving.  “Do you think we could come inside and use the toilets?” we asked innocently … “SURE, come inside, we’ll show you where they are”, came the reply.  Gee, they seem very friendly and welcoming I thought.  Little did we know.

As for Linda, the lady escorted her to the toilet, all-the-while feeding her marital advice and standing so close inside the toilet that she eventually lost the urge.  Meanwhile I’m “bonding” in friendly banter with the husband over a beer and it’s at this point I began to think … “this guy has had a little too much to drink … in fact I think he might be intoxicated”.  Being the good Methodist lad that I am, I had not experienced many drunk people, but the slurred words, loudness of voice and lack of inhibitions,were clues that even I could discern. 

Linda returned from the toilet making discrete faces to me suggesting we should LEAVE, and SOON, which after 36 years of marriage I can more clearly interpret now.

Then came the cross-examination … “So, where you from?”, said the man … “Oh, we’re off a yacht down at the jetty” I said … the wife then responded … “You run-aways then?  Nowhere to go??  That’s settled, you coming back to our place!!”

The man continued … “Yeh, we got a farm, I work at the mill, but we got country cooking, chooks, bacon, eggs, that’s settled, you coming back to our place.”  “You can have your own room” … said the woman.,

Looking back now, I can’t recall exactly what this chap looked like, but I know he was big and his wife was small.  He also kept ordering a lot of beers and on one occasion, and I swear this is true, he was talking to me while simultaneously pouring beer down the lapel of his jacket – I kid you not. 

I then discovered that RSL clubs have a ceremony each night in remembrance of fallen soldiers … “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning etc” … well I remember at some stage things went quiet and I was directed to stand along with everyone else and it was after this that the big man had to finally go to the toilet.  Linda and the woman also went again around this time, leaving me alone. 

“Have you been signed in?” asked a nice man, whom I later learned was the club president.  “What does that mean?” I asked innocently.  “Here, I’ll just write your names in the book, it’s just something we need to do for visitors … where you from”.   I calmly explained … “Linda and I are staying on a yacht down at the wharf and we seem to be stuck in here and can’t get away”

The man returned from the toilet at this time and seeing that I was being signed in by someone else … when clearly we were HIS guests … he exclaimed for everyone to hear – no inhibitions !! – “I COULD HAVE DONE THAT !!  I COULD HAVE SIGNED YOU IN !!”

Seeing that it wasn’t going to get any better for me and Linda, and probably knowing this couple more than most, the president, who I learned tonight by the photos on the wall of the RSL club was a certain Mr Swan, (the elder) said to Linda and I as he bustled us to the front door just next to the sign-in book… (which is still there in the same place) “Okay, it’s time to go, I’ll give you a lift in my car”

It was at this point things began to go even crazier … thinking we were being evicted and after deciding in their OWN minds that we were going back to THEIR place to enjoy good ol’ fashioned country hospitality … the couple went berserk, with the main focus on the woman who started yelling “NO NO NO NO !!!” at the top of her voice. 

Once out on the front steps … the same front steps Linda and I stood on tonight … the lady grabbed our wrists with each hand and squeezed as tight as she could, all the while yelling repeatedly “NO NO NO NO”

As I stood on the steps of the Dover RSL club tonight the memory came flooding back in all clarity, of prising each of the lady’s fingers from my wrist and the white marks it left from her grip.  Then we were bundled into Mr Swan’s Holden car while the couple cursed and swore their way to their car vowing never to return and that they would stay in Cygnet in future their local club … they weren’t even from Dover! Given their state of inebriation, I’m amazed now that they could find their car, let alone drive it.

I remember the President apologising and being so helpful as we stepped back down onto our boat – by now it was dark … “You’ve been a long time” said dad … he probably then said something like … “I’ve made dinner, it’s a nice curry … Maharajah’s Choice “

I remember at the time falling asleep soon after, Linda, however, woke at every noise on the wharf above, thinking it was the couple returning to take us away…

So, THAT’S why we just had to return to Dover, specifically the Dover RSL. 

As for tonight’s dinner, it was a magnificent meal, and it was a real thrill to return and relive some very strong memories from the legendary past !

The front steps are just as we remember them
The woman squeezed our wrists and yelled … “NO NO NO NO” … and would NOT let go. As far as she was concerned we were “runaways” and going back to her place … no question
We were innocent and concerned at the time but now we can laugh about the unique experience
A 17 year old Linda (Phillips), 41 years ago, aboard the Latimer’s 29 foot family yacht Arawa sailing with (boyfriend) Rob (that’s me) and dad (Bill) near Port Esperance and the town of Dover, Feb 1978 – the small islands of Faith and Charity in the background
Isn’t that a cute hermit crab ? Found and photographed at Dover 1978

Returning to Chimere, like most people rarely return home from a night out, we motored back in the dinghy in the near-dark to one of Linda’s lovely dessert creations …ice cream, chocolate brownies and peaches, a saving of $7:50/head!

Back to our dinghy for the return to Chimere
We made it back to Chimere before it got seriously dark

Meanwhile, on board Chimere, the wind just kept howling – all night – and while checking the anchor throughout the night I also checked the Met’s Wind Observations at nearby Cape Bruny, which showed gusts of up to 51 knots on several occasions in the early morning.  I could well believe it. 

Still, for us, the sea was calm, the anchor was well dug in and it was snug and warm inside, even though the wind howled outside.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Return to Dover (After 41 years)

Rob Latimer

The Kettering Incident

Sunday 17 February 2019

Mickey’s Bay, Bruny Island

Apparently there’s a new Australian Foxtel TV drama show in the “thriller” genre set in the town of Kettering.  It’s actually called “The Kettering Incident”

I haven’t seen the show, but Murray and Liz have, and from their descriptions it would seem to have no resemblance whatsoever to the other recent Tasmanian show, that appears on the ABC called Rosehaven

Anyway, the mere mention of the word “Kettering” has Liz and Murray developing nervous ticks, as they together relive terrifying moments of suspense and terror.

So here we are Sunday morning, a beautiful, still, sunny Sunday morning, motoring Chimere into … you guessed it, Kettering (cue dramatic sci-fi music here) and Murray and Liz are jokingly convinced that our predicament has something to do with … “the disappearance of Chloe” … or “another one of Anna’s blackouts” …

https://www.foxshowcase.com.au/shows/the-kettering-incident/

Sunrise, sunset … one’s in the east and the other’s in the west … they all seem to blur into one
Mickey’s Bay turned out to be as popular as Docklands …
The catering department certainly pulled their weight …

The truth was much more mundane.  As mentioned yesterday, we twisted the heavy metal hatch cover to our anchor well and our Tassie friend Dick, introduced in yesterday’s Ship’s Log, had offered to meet us at the Kettering Public Wharf around 9:00am.

Not only did Dick offer mechanical assistance, but because he would be travelling along the route to be taken by new crew member Cathy (and Matt’s girlfriend) as she travelled from the Hobart airport to Kettering, he also offered to act as a free “Uber driver” the last 15-20 minutes of the way.

Cathy’s epic 18 hour journey from Mallacoota in East Gippsland to the Kettering Public Wharf ended with smiles all-round
Dick was soon aboard and recommending a solution to the bent steel hatch cover

As for Cathy’s journey to get here … well, yesterday (Saturday) she was working a full-day (as a school nurse) till around 3:00pm at a remote school campus near Mallacoota. (East Gippsland)  Around 3:30pm she started a 7 hour drive to an AirB&B location in Gladstone Park, then drove to the Melbourne airport around 5:00am (this morning)  to catch the 6:30am flight to Hobart.  From here it was a 45 minute Uber-car to the North West Bay Golf Club, where 2 minutes after being dropped off on the side of the road, she was picked up by Dick and Carolyn and Dick’s (95 year old) father Hans for the 20 minute drive to the Kettering Public Wharf.  Her arrival at the wharf then coincided, within 2-3 minutes, of Chimere tying up along side and making her lines safe.  An exercise in precision planning!

It was great to catch up with Dick and Carolyn again and to be able to host them aboard Chimere for morning tea after their hospitality 11 years ago at Flinders Island aboard their vessel.  It was also good to talk with Dick’s 95-year-old father Han’s who, incidentally, still owns a 38-foot Huon Pine built ocean-going yacht which he regular sails by himself around local waters.  As a guide to Han’s mental agility and ability, I showed him a book about a particular Bass Strait ship wreck and he was so keen to get a copy, with a few minutes he’d established, by means of his SmartPhone, where he could buy a copy, or even a softcopy he could download.

A couple of stilson wrenches and she was soon back in shape
Matt, Cathy, Liz Hans (Dick’s 95 yo father) Carolyn, Rob & Dick – hatch cover all better again
Matt, Rob, Dick, Hans Carolyn and Linda, with Carolyn sporting her complementary copies of Bass Strait Fury 1&2
Dick and Rob share the same hair stylist

Hans and Dick were a wealth of stories, of growing up in Croydon and Mooroolbark (Melbourne – about 10 minutes from where Linda and I currently live) of renovating an old Couta Boat in the 1960s and 70s, and going on sailing adventures around the Wilsons Prom and the Bass Strait islands.

Dick and Carolyn’s boat, also called Carolyn, has its own spot at the end of a pier at Kettering

As for the bent hatch lid, Dick felt a couple of big stilson wrenches would do the trick, using their long handles to bend the stainless-steel frame back into shape.  It worked a treat !!  And we soon had it all reassembled and working perfectly. 

As a parting gift we gave Dick and Carolyn DVD copies of our “home produced”, but still semi-professional,  films Bass Strait Fury 1 & 2.  The main attraction being that both Dick and Carolyn, and their boat, played a cameo role in Bass Strait Fury 2, way back in 2008.

With social activities, and the fixing of the hatch lid complete, we were soon untying the lines and heading out once more.  With nothing more mysterious in Kettering than perhaps … “where did the muesli get put…”  Murray and Liz could breath a sigh or relief … or could they …?!   I’m keen to watch the Kettering Incident TV drama now.

The wind and sea remained idyllic as we made our way further down the D’Entrecasteaux channel.  Bruny Island off the port beam and the mainland off our Starboard.  Conditions were SO perfect in fact that we hoisted THE BIG ONE … that is, the Genoa, or really big jib, that resides wound-up on the most forward stay.  It’s a light weight fabric, that extends way back past the mast when unfurled, and so we can only really use it when the wind is under 15 knots and there’s little chance of big gusts.  We even got to pull out the smaller jib, called the Staysail, PLUS an un-reefed mainsail. 

The BIG ONE hoisted in the light breeze, plus the Staysail and an un-reefed mainsail
Gentle breeze and flat seas heading south down the
D’Entrecasteaux channel
Cathy and Matt finally get a chance to relax together after their respective jounrnies down from Melbourne
Always a good time for a wee snooze …

Aye, it were a grand sight, I wish yee could ‘a seen it !!

After a time, the engine was turned off and with no time constraints we coasted along at 4-5 knots, simply soaking up the warm sunny morning and the glorious coastlines both sides of us.   Linda made two wonderful loaves of bread and again made good use of the green and colourful objects in the fridge by making vegetable soup.  This formed the basis of a late lunch, and trust me, there is almost nothing so much worth eating out on the high seas as home made bread, coated with lashings of butter, dipped into hand-crafted vegetable soup topped with grated cheese.

Eventually, the wind died some more and our patience at speeds of 2-3 knots drew thin and so we turned the motor back on so as to make our anchorage for the night in good time.

Linda and Matt chill out in the dinghy on the foredeck
Approaching Mickey’s Bay on Bruny Island
The genoa is our Goldilock sail … the wind has to be just right, or there can be tears before bedtime…

Drawing on his local knowledge, Dick suggested we might consider anchoring for the night at “Mickey’s Bay” towards the bottom of Bruny Island.  So that’s where we set our sights, past the many, many, many fish farms that are scattered up and down the coastline in these parts.  Next time you buy Atlantic Salmon in the supermarket, think of Bruny Island and south west Tasmania !

On approach to Mickey’s Bay we could see another vessel, about the same size as us, also heading in a similar general direction.  Could they be thinking of also anchoring in Mickey’s Bay?  Not that it was a “race”, as such, but a slight tap to the throttle would ensure we’d get their first. 

We’d already noticed several masts in the distance – yachts anchored maybe 3-5 miles away at the bottom of Great Taylors Bay, and speculated how they might go when the wind shifted more to the West and North-West later in the evening.

In the end we didn’t have long to wait, within a couple of hours all the yachts from the other anchorage joined us and by nightfall there were six more yachts sharing the seclusion and serenity with us.

The still conditions and some spare time in the afternoon gave us a chance to address an issue that had become apparent that morning.  The 12 volt water pump.  This is pretty important, because it lifts fresh water from one of our three tanks to the galley sink, as well as the washbasins in the two toilets (or heads), along with the wash-down hose on the port side near the boarding steps.  I’d always marveled at this pump.  Of all the things we’ve replaced, fixed and renovated aboard Chimere since we bought her in 2006, this pump just kept keeping on.  It seemed bulletproof, unbreakable.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have a spare pump in a box under the floor; but that was purchased many years ago. 

They put those pumps in the darnedest places…

But as luck would have it, I purchased another water pump at the Wooden Boat Festival Trade Stand just 8 days ago, and so with the ol’faithful pump now quite obviously leaking from its metal housing and near to death, Matt (our on board engineer) was able to install it as a changeover.  I still have my original spare motor in stores.  On pulling the old pump out we noticed that it was installed in November 1999 – it had truly lived a long, productive and useful life !

With dinner attended to, and a medicinal drop of Captain Morgan’s Rum imbibed, it was lights out all round soon after.

Matt provides after dinner entertainment on the ships guitar
Linda’s signature dish … Chicken Thai green curry … very tasty
For medicinal purposes you understand … and only to be sociable
End of the day

Smooth seas, fair breeze and The Kettering Incident

Rob Latimer

Back to Bruny

Simmonds Bay, Bruny Island

Saturday 16 February 2019

Saturday dawned warm – almost hot – with Linda, Matt, Murray and Liz heading off to the local supermarket to buy a few provisions for the days ahead.

We said our good-byes to Mark and Denise and after a simple lunch we started heading down the river around 1:00pm on our way south to Bruny Island and the D’Entrecasteaux channel; living proof that the English can indeed give French names to places of note.

Saying good-bye to Mark and Denise (right)
Linda is reunited with one of her “chickens” … Matt, who flew into Hobart from Melbourne late on Friday night

We passed close-by Hobart to give Matt a good look and pretty soon we were motoring into a south east breeze as we worked our way further down the Derwent.

The south east breeze strengthened progressively the further south we sailed and being a Saturday, there were boats everywhere – most engaged in some serious races off on our port side.  As the wind increased so did the seas; steep, lumpy and very uncomfortable 

By now our speed had dropped from 6 knots, down to around 3 knots, and it was soon after that it became  clear we needed to hoist a few sails and engage in some serious tacking in order to work our way off the advancing coastline and into the shelter of the D’Entrecasteaux channel.

The wind on the nose got stronger, the seas built and pretty soon we were forced to tack into a lumpy, uncomfortable sea as we made our way south to Bruny Island

There is a saying that … “gentlemen don’t tack” … which is a reference to NOT pushing mindlessly into sea and waves, but patiently waiting at anchor, or in port, (probably wearing your woollen slippers) until the time is right and the conditions are going your way.

We’d warned Matt that the sailing down here was a bit in the chilly side … so he dressed accordingly

The simple fact is, we avoid beating to windward because it’s not our boat’s best point of sail and it generally makes for unhappy passengers

Having had so much wind-up-our-tail, comfortable sailing, this lumpy stuff came as a bit of a surprise to Murray and Liz, with Murray describing it as a bit like the 4wd version of sailing.

As the photo of our chart plotter shows, our journey down the coast wasn’t a straight line, rather, it was a bit of a zig zag with the entrance of the D’Entrecasteaux channel being a welcome relief.

Note the zig zag course down the River Derwent in order to make it into the D’Entrcasteaux Channel
Bruny Island to the right and the Tasmanian mainland to the left … and our “bread crumb” tracks back and forward
We removed the anchor well hatch for repair after it was damaged … probably during the mooring procedure of the day before

In tidying up the foredeck and packing things away, we discovered that the hatch-cover for the anchor well was twisted.  Which seemed unbelievable, given it was made of solid steel and seemed as strong as a lamp post.  In trying to establish how it might have happened, all we could think was that a mooring line might have got caught around it as we struggled the wind during the berthing procedure the day before.  A situation that became progressively worse (as described in yesterday’s Ships Log)  because the very first line that was attached to the pontoon was NOT securely attached in a timely manner.  But I’m NOT going there anymore?!  

Linda delivers up a Orange Jaffa Ripple cake … despite the poor sea conditions

The fact was, we needed to straighten the steel hatch cover as soon as possible.  It’s around this time that I remembered meeting Dick and Carolyn again after 11 years at the Wooden Boat Festival, aboard their converted fishing boat, also called Carolyn.  We’d met Dick and Carolyn briefly in a Flinders Island anchorage in 2011 when they invited me and my crew out to their boat for afternoon tea.  When we met again this time around on the Hobart dock, Dick mentioned in passing that he and Carolyn kept their boat at Kettering and also lived down that way – AND … if we needed any help with anything, then I should give him a call. 

Now where did I put Dick’s phone number.?!

Approaching Barnes Bay

“Yeh, that’s no problems!” replied Dick to my request for assistance, continuing …  “There’s a public wharf at Kettering you can tie up at and I could drop down there in the morning with some tools”

What a lifesaver !

“Where are you staying tonight?” inquired Dick. “We haven’t decided” came my response … to which Dick imparted a wealth of local knowledge, suggesting that Barnes Bay on Bruny Island would be best.  We could nick over to Kettering in the morning, a distance of only a few miles, so as to be there at the appointed time of 9:00am

Linda braces herself as we tack south

In the course of the conversation I mentioned that Matt’s girlfriend Cathy was flying into Hobart from Melbourne early the next morning and we were arranging the simplest, most efficient public transport from the airport to where we would be … Kettering as we had just decided.   “Maybe I could give her a lift down … she could catch the bus to Hobart and I could pick her up there” volunteered Dick.  “How far is Hobart from your place?” I asked  … “About 25 minutes” said Dick.

No, I couldn’t ask Dick to do that.  But what if Cathy caught An Uber-taxi from the airport, to the North West Bay Gold Club, which was on the same road Dick would be travelling, and Dick could drive her the rest of the way to Kettering?!  Done !  It was agreed and decided.

So the plans for the next day were starting to develop.  All we had to do was anchor for the night at Barnes Bay and get across to the public wharf for 9:00am the next morning; simples!

Our track shows a hasty retreat from the southern corner of Simmonds Bay after spying another 8 boats already there. We chose an equally quiet spot for the night just a bit further north

In the end Barnes Bay, or more specifically The Duckpond, at the southern end of Simmonds Bay turned out to be a very popular anchorage, and with around 8 boats already snuggly ensconced there we thought better of making in 9.  Instead, we anchored in the northern part of Simmonds Bay in an equally delightful spot.

The “Chimere” … a cocktail containing “Navy Strength” gin, raspberry cordial … plus something bubbly … tonic water I think
Murray with his locally produced (who wouldn’t want to support local industry) gin and Captain Morgan rum … they went straight into the first aid kit … to be sure

As with most days out here on the water … sleep came easily

Smooth seas, fair breeze and back to Bruny

Rob Latimer

Looking Under the Bonnet…
Each of the cabins aboard Chimere is unique in its own particular way ! You might be interested to see what each one looks like … please forgive the untidiness … they are really just for sleeping and instead of wardrobes we have floor-drobes …

Chimere layout
“Captains Cabin” … and it’s not all my junk !
Honeymoon suite … Murray’s spot … after all he’s a tall lad
Up and down bunks … that Mark is a tidy fellow
Workshop bunk … not always in use … can’t find the bunk? It’s under the tarp
Forward V-berth cabin … Liz’s nest
Oh, and we have two toilets … the one on the starboard side is electric and we also have a hot shower
Three flush options … 1/. Flush 2/. Add Water 3/. Dry Bowl … although I think the images on the buttons could have been better thought out. Few people immediately understand what each button really means ??!!

Matt Flies In

Friday 15 February 2019

Price of Wales Bay Marina

Having escaped the confines of the marina, it was now time to return; to the marina.  Partly to bid farewell to Mark, our trusty companion and crew for the past few days, and partly to welcome our son Matthew, who would be flying in from Melbourne for a few days late this evening.

The wind had died off overnight and for Liz and I, who happened to be out and about early enough, it was a lovely sunrise over the nearby sandy isthmus off our stern.  The others aboard would have to view it on photo-replay, as shown below.

Morning light at Eaglehawk Bay, looking east

Morning light at Eaglehawk Bay, looking west
Looking back down the Eaglehawk Bay channel

The chart plotter had laid an in-bound track on the screen, known as “bread crumbs”, so it was a simple case of following them out … as closely as possible.  Having already gone through the uncertainty of whether there would be adequate depth in the Eaglehawk Neck channel on the way in, this was a great source of relief.

One thing we had NOT fully appreciated, however, when the cruising guide said  …“good holding ground”, was that the seabed was black mud.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the mud came up with the anchor chain and from there would have made its way into the anchor well if we hadn’t washed it off link by link with a hose at the bow roller as it came aboard.  This task fell to Liz, whose aim with the hose to cleanse the chain was worthy of high praise.

The lifting of the 30-odd metres of chain naturally took a little longer than normal, but we were soon on our way, gliding along at 6 knots over the glistening water.

Once again, the relative comfort of our day’s travels was dictated by the direction and strength of the wind.  And fortunately, whilst it wasn’t always going our way, when it wasn’t the seas were mercifully slight, which meant we could make good progress against the elements with the motor alone. 

Past the Iron Pot lighthouse again, our approach to Hobart was marked by the vision of a massive new structure on the horizon; in the vicinity of the docks.  A structure the size of a block of flats which turned out to be the 950 foot long, Queen Elizabeth ship.  Plus another cruise liner parked nearby – enormous but not as massive as the QE2.

The Iron Pot again … this time taken from the starboard side of our boat as we return to the marina UP the Derwent River
The very photogenic Iron Pot Lighthouse

Under the bridge again, we witnessed for ourselves the stopping of the cars on the high deck above as another big ship made its way up river to the zinc works, after first sounding its horn for upwards of 30 seconds or more.

Approaching the Tasman Bridge once more
QE2
The Queen Elizabeth dominated the Hobart skyline for a day
Murray at the helm practicing his “pirate”
“Look mum, one hand…” Mark in control
Mark wos here …

The wind by now had picked up significantly and as we made our way into Prince of Wales Bay and approached the marina, our main thought was whether another boat had berthed next to our designated spot.  Not that this would be a concern for the skilled and experienced crew of Chimere, it’s just that the direction of the wind was now AWAY from the marina finger and NOT onto the dock. 

Preparing the fenders and lines on approach to the marina berth in Prince of Wales Bay

To the uninitiated this may not be such a big thing, but the fact is, once a boat is driven into a marina berth, no matter how straight and professionally, if it is not quickly and efficiently secured to the dockside by the mooring lines (not ropes) then the wind will quickly take over.  And if the wind is blowing ONTO the wharf – no problems.  If, on the other hand, it’s blowing away from the wharf, as it was on this day, then the boat will quickly “drift” away – into vacant space, or onto the next-door boat if one happens to be innocently parked there.

In summary, it was fortunate, that no boat was parked next to us.  Not that we did anything basically wrong.  In fact as a bonus, there were two people standing on the dock ready to take our lines and quickly attach them to the cleats on the pontoon, the second they were handed to them. 

And it’s probably at this point that things started to fall apart. 

At the helm, all I can remember is seeing a man on the dock (who turned out to be an experienced deck-hand off another boat nearby) take our mooring line as we entered the berth and immediately attaching it to pontoon.  No problems there.  The trouble is, he did it WITHOUT taking in any slack, leaving around 3-4 metres of loose line for Chimere to then simply “drift” away once I’d finished putting us into reverse in order to bring us to a complete stop.  He then walked away to helpfully receive our bow line further up the wharf. 

By now, however, we’d drifted away from our marina spot and it took great effort to draw in the taut line that was just a few seconds before quite slack.  It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the assistance. And it wouldn’t have troubled me if the person offering assistance was someone with no knowledge of boats.  But there you go.  Things happen.  And again, it’s fortunate there was no boat to our immediate left.

Finally secured in our berth again we tidied up before then going out to dinner over at the Motor Yacht Club again at Lindisfarne, with Peter and Gigi Wright, plus Mark Stephenson and his wife Denise who had driven down from Devonport to pick up Mark and who would also be staying the night aboard.

Finally found some FREE WiFi !!

In summary, the dinner (and dessert) at the Motor Yacht Club was magnificent and Murray did a wonderful job of driving us safety back to our marina home.

Then while most of us collapsed asleep after an active few days afloat, Uber-Murray drove out to the airport around 11:00pm to pick up Matt who would be flying in from Melbourne

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Matt Flies In

Rob Latimer

Journey to the Dog Line

Thursday 14 February 2019

Eaglehawk Bay

In preparation for our big day of exploring ashore … or at least the morning … we emptied the “junk” that’s stored in the big dinghy and launched her over the side. 

This would have the dual benefit of ensuring more room and comfort (and less chance of getting wet) for the five of us as we trip to and from the shore, AND give me the chance to test the dinghy to ensure it was working satisfactorily. 

The big dinghy is usually a good place to store some “valuables”
Launching the big dinghy
The morning light made for stunning contrasts of dark and light

Not that there was likely to be a problem, after every part of it – including the motor, rubber floats and aluminium base – were recently given comprehensive services.  But for anyone familiar with Murphy’s Law, trust me, Murphy seems to have a bunk aboard Chimere … that’s why we tend to have so many spare parts and back-up systems … “just in case”.  TWO dinghies for example.

Chimere at anchor off Turners Point, Norfolk Bay

The morning was as still as the evening, with the wind still blowing at around 20 knots, offshore from the west.

We were ashore by 9:45am, and after securing the dinghy to a small public jetty and stacking our lifejackets inside, we set off in search of the Convict Coal Mine and the settlement ruins

Norfolk Bay
All aboard the dinghy and heading to shore for some exploring

There were a few houses clustered on the point, most appearing to be holiday homes, (with million dollar views if located anywhere else) with few signs of life.  The locals we did meet were friendly, with their small dogs raising the usual barking alarm.  But the sight of us five strangers could hardly have been a source of concern dressed as we were in a maritime motif; a mix of spray jackets, shorts and boatie shoes.

“It’s a long walk”, declared a woman behind a picket fence sporting additional blocks of wood and stone here and there, no doubt designed to keep her barking dog from straying.   The dog was a small, yappy thing, with a grey uneven coat.  In making conversation Murray came out with something like … “Your dog’s had a serious hair cut” … “Yes, it’s a bit uneven, the little fella won’t keep still.  I haven’t had a chance to finish the job”  

In the end it was only about a kilometre down the road, with serious tourist signs, information boards and clearly defined paths – apparently it was a “World Heritage Site”

“World Heritage” … apparently.
The dinghy safely tied and anchored at the public jetty

Whilst the bush has done a good job of reclaiming the site, most damage seems to have been done around 100 years ago when the long-abandoned buildings – some of which were substantial in their day – were ransacked and pillaged to build alternative structures elsewhere in the region.  Who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab some free bricks, timber and building material?!

Clearly the appreciation of the site’s historically significant qualities is only a relatively recent phenomenon. 

As the photos show, this was a serious settlement – built to last in quarried sandstone and locally fired bricks – complete with gaol cells, bakehouse, military barracks, engineer’s accommodation, church, train track and coal loading facility.  In the timeline of Australia’s European settlement, this was all being built around 1838, just two years after Melbourne was established and only 50 years after the First Fleet had made its way into Sydney Cove

Location, location, location …
Nice to be free to come and go from the solitary confinement cells…
No chance to appreciate the stunning views ?!
They knew how to build …
More of the cell block
Talk about ya fix-er-uppers … the temptation to cart away free bricks 100 years ago was obviously too great for the locals … particularly from a convict past most at the time were happy to put behind them
“You looking at me?” … local wallabies or pademelons

Whilst the coal mined at the site was of a poor quality it was nonetheless transported for use in Hobart with  the convicts coming from nearby Port Arthur.  As the information signs highlighted, being sent to Port Arthur as a convict was bad enough, but to then be sent to “the coalmine” on the Tasman Peninsular was even worse. 

The gang … Murray, Rob, Mark, Linda and Liz, with the convict settlement ruins behind

One hapless convict, with a brief, but extremely useful, knowledge of mining back in the “home country” couldn’t escape being retained at the mine, despite committing a constant string of crimes that might have had a less “experienced” man hung. 

We returned by the coastal route
The geology looked like paved landscaping
“This way”
“No, this way”
The wind died off in the shadow of the land
Rob and Mark and more of the coastal rocks … or to quote Murray … “sedimentary my dear Watson”

After soaking up the history we were back on board for lunch around 1:00pm, after which we sailed east across Norfolk Bay, with the wind still blowing handily from the west.  Murray maintain a very able hand at the wheel, with our destination and intended anchorage for the night, being Eaglehawk Bay.

Murray holds a straight course

This spot has always held a fascination for me, and a quick look at the map will show why.  Because it is at this point that the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas are separated by a narrow, 100 metre wide, sandy strip of land called Eaglehawk Neck. 

The chart plotter tells it all … Hobart in the top left and our anchorage down the narrow Eaglehawk Bay over on the right – separating the Forestier Peninsular to the north, from the Tasman Peninsular to the south

If you look closely you might see the “1m” depth mark along the Eaglehaw Bay “channel” Eaglehawk Bay separates the Forestier Peninsular to the north, from the Tasman Peninsular to the south

In times past, to the south lay the convict settlement of Port Arthur and to the north lay freedom and the road to Hobart.  So it was that this narrow piece of ground became the home of “The Dog Line” … to prevent convicts from escaping.  The history of the infamous dog-line is worth a look, but these were no show puppies … these were seriously dangerous, ferocious canines with names like … Caeser, Pompey, Ajax, Achilles, Ugly, Mug, Jowler, Tear’em and Muzzle’em …  

Linda and I venture ashore at Eaglehawk Bay to do some exploring

Our journey across Norfolk Bay and down the long narrow Eaglehawk Bay was uneventful, however, there were a few considerations that might have been deterrents.  These included the westerly wind that was blowing up the channel, along with the possible shallow depth in one spot as indicated on the chart plotter.  Just like a land-based topographical map, sea charts show depth contours, with corresponding depths. So the chart plotter shows when you are passing the 10 metre line, or the 5 or 2 metre line … and a glance at Chimere’s depth sounder will confirm this is the case.   By way of background, we need around 1.8-2.0 metres of water to remain “safe” … that is, NOT running aground.  In reality we tend to stay in water that’s 4 metres and above, just to be sure.  That’s why the depth message of 1 metre on the chart towards the end of channel was naturally so disconcerting.  

This seemed strange because none of our cruising guides mentioned “shallow water” as a problem in this location.  In the end we decided to “go for it”, based on the rationale that we were entering on a rising tide, the sea floor was mud and that all depths shown on charts are measured at the very lowest of known historical tides … and this was NOT one of those.  So we were sure we’d be OK … at least as sure as Murphy’s Law would allow. 

This didn’t mean we weren’t just a bit anxious as we approached the designated shallow spot.  Six metres, five metres, four point five … three point five … three metres … and at this point I was wondering … do we reduce speed in order to have a better chance of backing off if we touch bottom … or do we UP the revs and go faster in order to plough our way through the small shallow spot and out into deeper water on the other side.

We kept Murray at the helm, so as to have someone to blame if we ran aground, but in the end the depth remained above 2.5 metres the whole way through.  Good news!   And in answer to the question of whether we slowed down or sped up … I’ll have to leave that one hanging.

Once anchored successfully, the second time (due to falling back the first time into water that was just too shallow for comfort) I went ashore with Linda to do some exploring … including the fascinating and thoughtfully restored Officers Quarters building, again dating from the 1830s

The blackberries next to the Officers Quarters were just too tasty to resist. I snuck out while Linda slowly ready all the information panels inside.
Nice puppy …
The view of Chimere with the Eaglehawk Bay behind

The wind kept up most of the night, but the water remained flat making for another very still night. 

I tried fishing again, but after catching so many small flathead (or the same one over and over again) I gave it up for another day and place.

Our plans tomorrow were to be away around 7:30am on our return to the marina where we’d be spending another night – saying good-bye to Mark, but saying hello to Matt Latimer who’d be flying in late in the evening from Melbourne.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Journey to the Dog Line

Rob Latimer

Out to Sea Again

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Turners Point, Norfolk Bay

It was now time to begin exploring the sheltered waters that surround Hobart

Refreshed from our previous day’s rest, we made our exit from the marina at the appointed time of 9:30am.  After untying the lines, it was then a case of backing out carefully, then slowly motoring clear of the bay and into the Derwent River.

The Tasman Bridge was clearly visible off the bow in the distance, with the Incat boat-building sheds, then the zinc-works complex, close-by on the starboard beam.

Heading out of Prince of Wales Bay past the zinc works
The “zinc works”
“Now, where we we going again …” Murray strikes “the” pose
Mark knows the ropes while Murray is yet to learn them …
“That way!!”, Liz takes up navigating

The wind was still pretty constant from the north west, but nothing like the day before.  Due to the short distance to our re-fuelling stop at the Motor Yacht Club, we held off hoisting any sails, preferring to simply use the motor.

Close to the Lindisfarne Bay entrance we received a phone call from Peter Wright, who was standing on the club’s fuel dock, to inform us that the two spots at the fuel dock were already taken and suggesting we “hover” for 30 minutes or so until they were all done.

We were in no hurry – this was to be a relaxing jaunt after all – so we hoisted the jib and pottered across to Cornelian Bay to look at the moored yachts and the “beach sheds” that line the water’s edge.

Back at the fuel dock it seemed it was rush-hour, because a couple more boats came in after the first two, making for a more protracted “hover”.  Finally, Peter suggested we enter the bay and marina precinct so as to be ready to come in as soon as a space became available.   This worked a treat, assisted by a yacht that agreed to let us go before them; the very same boat, as it turned out, that we shared an anchorage with a week earlier in Stinking Bay near Port Arthur.  That said, I don’t think they were aware that we’d been waiting , and effectively in the queue, for over an hour at that point.

Fueling up is a bit more complicated than simply pulling up to the pump! Mark records, by means of his iPhone, the amount of fuel added to each of the 5 tanks
It’s important for ALL the diesel to go into the tank!!
“I wouldn’t bring a hose full of diesel into MY lounge room?!” … Murray helps in filling the “Saloon Starboard Tank” … 174 litres here, a 174 litres there … 300 litres in the front tanks …
… and just 80 litres to top up the “Day Tank”… which feeds the main engine and generator

I should mention that whilst we were having afternoon tea with Peter and Gigi yesterday, we were taken down to the nearby Motor Yacht Club and Peter kindly showed us through the beautifully maintained and restored classic motor launch, ML Egeria, known as the “Governor’s Launch”.  This is another one of the “maritime” groups Peter volunteers at, with this beautiful 1940s Huon Pine and Teak vessel being available for all sorts of private and public functions.  As the website says, the ML Egeria is “… a unique part of the River Derwent heritage …”

https://www.motoryachtclub.org/functions-dining/ml-egeria

Gigi, Linda, Liz, Murray, Mark and Rob are shown aboard the ML Egeria, which is based at the Motor Yacht Club of Tasmania

Same as before, but with Peter on the left and Linda taking the photo this time.
Remember this young couple? This photo was hanging inside the ML Egeria as examples of the esteemed passengers transported in times past.

In the end, all went to plan and we loaded up with about 730 litres, which is roughly half our capacity, with an 8 cent/litre discount on account of Peter’s club membership.

After filling the tanks we made our way down past the Hobart-city, making sure to cruise in close-by to get a good view of the tall ships still at the dock and see more of the downtown area

Under the Tasman Bridge and on our way
The Endeavour still remained in the dock, but was ready to head home to Sydney once more
Mark’s steady hand at the helm
Well set sails … with a smooth sea and fair breeze (from behind)
Murray puts his back (and arms) into it

Being sheltered, the wind was variable and instead of coming from the north-west it was now coming from the south-west, the picturesque folding blue hills and the 1,200 metre Mount Wellington, framing the backdrop to an otherwise watery scene.

Leaving the Derwent and rounding the Iron Pot lighthouse, we made our way east across the top of Storm Bay, keeping Betsey Island to our port and the tip of the Tasman Peninsular and Frederick Henry Bay on the bow.

The Iron Pot marks the beginning of the Derwent River
Thought we’d use the zoom on the camera rather than sailing closer than was prudent?!
Picturesque in all directions – the combination of sea, sky and land

The wind was now a constant 20-25 knots from the west to north west – from behind – which made for a comfortable ride.

It was mostly sunny, with occasional rain squalls visible on the horizon, the colours of land, sea and sky making for a memorable picture in all directions.

Lunch was finally prepared and consisted of ham and salad sandwiches – the big decision being, do we have a late lunch, or do we wait until dinner, given we’d be dropping anchor in just a few hours.  In the end, hunger got the better of us and we ate ravenously

Linda dressed for a Tasmanian summer at sea …
Good sailing over flat seas
Linda and Murray between first and second afternoon teas…

As the afternoon wore on, the final decision was made about the night’s anchorage.  Having made good time, we decided to travel slightly further down the coast from Plunkett Point, closer to Turner’s Point.  The wind was still strong at around 20-25 knots, but offshore, and with very flat seas it might have been breezy on deck, but down below it was still as a billiard table.   

Anchorage for the night, Turners Point in Norfolk Bay
THANK YOU DENISE … for the lovely pre-prepared spag bol (Mark, Murray, Rob and Liz’s thumb)

Having heard so much about the fishing in these parts, we were eager to test it out.  And so after having purchased some hooks and plastic baits at Big W yesterday I set about dropping a line in the water.  I waited and waited, but nothing.  “If I was a fish, I wouldn’t be tempted by bits of plastic shaped like worms and sardines, even if I was starving” … I observed.  “Do we have any ham in the fridge, or meat of any kind.  Real food?”   I called down to the galley.

“Fish don’t eat ham!” came the natural response.  “Yeh, but their going to eat ham before they eat plastic!”

Here fishy, fishy, fishy …
Getting darker and how do you stop baby fish biting the hooks?

So it was that I won the bet.  Fish DO indeed eat ham.  And once I’d caught my first fish, which took about as long as it took for the (stainless steel bolt) sinker to hit the 4 metre bottom, I discovered they eat each other too.  In the end, I caught three legal-sized flathead, with the other fifteen or more baby flathead thrown back.  I even caught two sharks (or maybe it was the same one twice) … which sounds impressive until you see the picture.  They were as cute as a shark can get.  All of 12 inches long, but eagre to use their mouths on anything that came close.  To quote Murray, who’d borrowed the line from the film Finding Nemo … “I never knew my father …” 

A flathead big enough to keep!
Is that the cutest shark you ever did see. Plankton look out !!
“I never knew my father” … despite his size this shark knew what it’s mouth was for and wasn’t afraid to use it.

In the end I gave up on fishing because I got sick of throwing the little ones back, but we’d definitely cracked the fishing thing … all you had to do was attach a hook to a line with something tasty on the end, then throw it in the water… simples.

Dinner was kindly provided by Mark’s wife Denise, who sent an extremely tasty, pre-prepared spag-bol.  And I think there was still some of Linda’s banana cake – made earlier in the day using one-and-half near-death, black-skinned bananas.

Late at night, although I think it was more like 2 in the morning, Linda – who sleeps on her “princess bed” in the cockpit was woken by a flapping tarpaulin on the aft-deck as a result of the wind getting up. Rather than wake everyone, and I’m paraphrasing her words and actions the next day, she …”bravely fought the fabric down, corner by corner, securing it with lines and lashings inch by inch, while still the forces of nature did their best to resist.  And I was dressed only in my nightie, and did it singlehanded with my bare hands …”  I think that pretty much sums it up, but as a bonus, the moon had set and Linda got to see the amazing phosphorescence on the surface of the sea all around as the ripples glowed and sparkled.

So ended another eventful day.  Tomorrow we would be going ashore to discover the historic convict coal mine … the first in Tasmania … and look for ourselves at the World Heritage Listed, sandstone and brick penal settlement buildings from the 1830s.  Or at least what was left of them

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Out to Sea Again

Rob Latimer

A Day of Rest

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Prince of Wales Bay Marina (Hobart)

It WAS to be the start of a four-day jaunt down the Derwent and east towards the Tasman Peninsular and Norfolk Bay.  A chance to visit some secluded anchorages and explore more of this beautiful part of the world.  Mark Stephenson would be joining us and we were looking forward to spending some time away from the marina.

We also planned to fuel-up with diesel.  Partly to prepare for the return leg starting on the 24 February and partly to know exactly how much fuel we had actually used on the way down from Westernport.  We’d filled the five diesel tanks prior to departing on the 28th of January and so all we had to do now was re-fill them to know where we stood.

This photo should have appeared yesterday, you can tell by the sunny sky, but they are a couple of pirates I met returning from the Wooden Boat Festival – on our marina row. Fortunately they already had their own boat!
The view out the back porch … very cold and rainy
A good day to be inside
A new boat came in after the two earlier ones had gone

As it turned out, the weather had other ideas. In the end I suppose we COULD have gone, but this IS a “Freedom Sail”, NOT a torture-test, and so I declared a “Lay Day”. 

Since our marina didn’t sell fuel, we planned to pick it up across the river, just 10 minutes away, at the Motor Yacht Club of Tasmania. 

Our friend, Peter Wright is a member there, and on a good day we could have just pulled into their fuel dock, top up the tanks and then be on our way.  But this was NOT a good day.  Even in the sheltered confines of their marina, the wind gusts could be an “issue”, making it difficult to manoeuvre which could potentially lead to damage; to be avoided at all costs.

Our appointment with the fuel dock would have to wait and so we tentatively put it off till the next day.  We also notified Mark Stephenson, who was able to take a more leisurely time with his wife Denise, as they drove down from Devonport.

Liz catching up on some reading in the saloon
Murray retreats to his cabin
Time to bake a cake in the galley
Always something to fix, repair or install. In this case Rob re-fits one of the water tanks

Aboard Chimere, it was like we had all retreated back into our “burrows”.  Some slept, some read, some cooked and there were always things to fix and maintain.  Outside the wind and the rain were persistent companions, and I think it was Murray in the afternoon who announced after looking up a Weather website, “… it’s currently 9 degrees, but feels like 4 degrees … snow above 800 metres” … and we could believe it, all the while reminding ourselves that this was actually summer !

Murray fills the galley

Mark joined us later in the day, with Linda, Liz and Murray driving to the shops for vittles and provisions … actually it was just some groceries, but this IS a boat and so we buy vittles and provisions, not groceries.

The day was broken up nicely with a drive across the Tasman Bridge for afternoon tea at Peter and Gigi Wright’s home in Lindisfarne, just a short walk from the Motor Yacht club.   This was a welcome break and also gave me the chance to check out the lay of the land, so to speak, at the fuel dock, where we hoped to visit the next day.

The view of the Tasman Bridge from the Motor Yacht Club at Lindisfarne … note the gusts on the water and the “white water” further out. Bringing 30 ton Chimere into here is like driving a Kenworth truck to the local supermarket. Always the potential for it to end badly
Linda tries out Peter Wright’s human-powered scooter. Peter often uses this to return from a day’s volunteering at the Maritime Museum; a “scoot” of 45 minutes
Preparing to drive across the Tasman Bridge. The traffic is stopped when a big ship passes underneath

As for the next day … the weather looked like it was starting to lift, with a much kinder forecast on the way.

In the end, the collective view on the Tuesday lay day … it was a “good call” and everyone made good use of their time ! 

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a day of rest

Rob Latimer

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Saturday 9 February 2019
Sunday 10 February 2019
Monday 11 February 2019

Prince of Wales Marina (Hobart)

Having fallen so far behind with this Ship’s Log, on account of filling each day with a variety of exciting activities – none of which included sitting down and writing – I feel it’s necessary to “consolidate” three days of the Wooden Boat Festival into one.

James Craig and the Soren Larsen – our anchor mates from a few days earlier off Port Arthur – dominate the Hobart docks
Linda before going aboard the Endeavour with Murray and Liz
Murray checks out the start-of-art cooking arrangements aboard the Endeavour
Liz, Murray and Linda take a moment to smile for the camera
Yep, that’s what it is, as they say, “our aim is to keep this ship clean, your aim will help too”
Linda aboard the Endeavour … she’s a grand sight … and so is the Endeavour … Arrrr
Liz and Murray get the tour aboard the Endeavour … Chimere’s headroom is NOT so low now, is it?!

These three days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday – essentially saw us enjoying the many activities, displays and events of the festival, spread across the downtown, harbourside area of Hobart.

For many people, and I must admit this included my own dear Linda, the thought of spending several days at a wooden boat festival, didn’t fill them with a sense of anticipation and excitement.  The response being … “what do you do? look at wooden boats all day?”

A highlight of the Wooden Boat Festival is the “Quick ‘n’ Dirty” boat race – the kids make their boat on day one, paint it on day two, then race it on day three.

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival comes around every two years, and Hobart is the ideal location, given its maritime past … and present.  Everything at the festival is free and there was such a variety of things to see and do … well worth checking out if you are looking for something to do in two years’ time …

www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com

The rules of the Quick ‘n’ Dirty boat race on Constitution Dock are pretty simple … make it around the two buoys and back to the start first.
No doubt inspired by the regular Sydney to Hobart campaigner “Wild Oats”, the winner of the
Quick ‘n’ Dirty race was named “Rolled Oats” and carried an anti-plastic message – it was consequently held together with wire, not plastic cable ties.

In summing it up, Linda commented on the “vibe” and the colour, plus the overall feeling of the event that she warmed to.  The kind weather and the big crowds, plus the opportunity to take in the amazing Salamanca Market on the Saturday, all just added to the experience.  Maybe it was the demographic the event attracted, (there were a lot of white beards, bald heads and salty complexions) but everyone seemed so friendly, approachable and accommodating and in terms of litter and rubbish, I don’t recall seeing any.  

We of course saw the tall ships – lots and lots of them – tied up dockside and it was nice to reflect that we had seen at least five of them out on the open ocean actually doing what they were built to do – being useful !

Linda, Murray and Liz went aboard the Endeavour for a tour (along with a steady stream of others) and after nearly crawling around below decks, Murray had a greater appreciation for the generous headroom aboard Chimere, even though his earlier scares from banging his head had not yet healed.  The good thing is that he’s not hitting his head so often now, so even old dogs (and new sea-dogs) can be taught new tricks …  in terms of knowing when to instinctively crouch and stoop.

Saturday saw us say good-bye to Bill, (with Uber-Murray kindly running him out to the airport after lunch) who had actually lived and worked in Hobart for some time many years ago; actually, inside the state parliament house as a responsible public servant.  In fact, while we were driving around the countryside on Friday, or visiting the Mona art centre, Bill was catching up with a couple of work colleagues from 40+ years ago. Now no longer junior clerks, but senior managers either retired or close to it.

Bill before the mast

So, what can we say about Bill … ever dependable Bill.  (Who only joined the voyage because he is a friend and neighbour of Alistair, who, as mentioned yesterday only heard about the trip himself because his sister Isobel mentioned it to him)  Well amongst Bill’s super-powers must be numbered … an ability and willingness to fix stuff, dependability, blue eyes and attractiveness as a hammock companion (aboard the Endeavour), stick flaking (of anchor chain), eating, fog watch, turtle sand-crawling, voice impersonations thoughtfulness and storytelling.  It was really sad to say good-bye to Bill, but who knows when our paths will cross again.

The counter-weight bridge opens to let boats in and out of Constitution Dock, right in the middle of the city
It was a very festive atmosphere
Can’t have a wooden Boat Festival without a steam engine display

The boat festival included a trade pavilion, and in addition there is a ships chandlery right in the middle of town.  I told you Hobart was an amazing place.  In the Melbourne context it would be like having a Ship’s Chandlery opposite Flinders Street Station, or in Sydney at Circular Quay.  Anyway, this meant I could buy a couple of small pumps, a new Australian flag, plus some Harken sail-track bits – all in need aboard Chimere at the moment.  

On Saturday we also farewelled my brother Andrew, who was heading back to his home in Sydney.  Andrew had been very generous in driving us around from place to place, which really made our stay so much more effective.

Rob and Murray check out some more boats

While in Hobart we had the opportunity to also catch up with another Vanuatu sailing volunteer (from 2017), Peter Wright, and his wife Gigi.  Peter and Gigi have just moved to Hobart, from Melbourne, and we got to know each other after Peter responded to a request I made in the Cruising Helmsman magazine in early 2017 for sailing volunteers to help with the work of Medical Sailing Ministries (MSM) (www.msm.org.au) in Vanuatu

Rob chats with Peter Wright aboard the May Queen. One of Peter’s volunteering gigs

Peter is involved with a range of water-based activities, including as a volunteer at the Maritime Museum and the wooden ship called the May Queen.  It was great to catch up again and even for us all to to go out to dinner together on Monday night.

Walking along the wharf there was also the chance-meeting with the converted fishing vessel called Carolyn.  I recognised the boat immediately because back in 2007 we shared an anchorage at Lady Baron on Flinders Island and the owners Dick and Carolyn invited me, and my two boys, Matt and James, plus friend Jeremy Duke aboard for afternoon tea.  At the time, coming off our small 32 feet yacht Tee Pee, and onto their 50+ feet vessel, seemed an enormous leap.

Rob meets Dick after 12 years. The last time was when they shared an anchorage on Flinders Island in 2007

Another chance meeting occurred at the Prince of Wales Marina when we stumbled across the former head of the Yarra Valley Grammar Music Department, Alison French and her husband Graeme.  When our two boys attended the school they were heavily involved with the Music School, with Linda being head of the parent based support group “Yarra Music” for ten years, so naturally we got to know Alison very well.  As it turned out Alison and Graeme had walked down the wrong pontoon in making their way back to Alison’s brothers large motor cruiser; down from Queensland for a month or two.

A chance meeting saw us catch up briefly with former Head of Yarra Valley Grammar Music, Alison French and her husband Graeme.

Fireworks lit up the sky on the Sunday, and then on the Monday it was the official Hobart Regatta Day – a public holiday since around 1838 as it turns out, which is a long time ago, at least by Australian terms it is.

As Monday came to an end, we all prepared to depart the marina, at least for three days, so as to take in some of the nearby anchorages and sailing grounds, specifically on the Tasman Peninsular.

So cute … mummy duck and her babies, in the marina

We had invited (MSM volunteer) Mark Stephenson to come along and so he would be joining us tomorrow – Tuesday – after being driven down from his home in Devonport by his ever-supportive wife Denise.

I should mention that Monday also saw the two large, and very expensive, motor boats on our port side leave.  Which in a way was a relief, given we were intending to leave tomorrow and the more space the better. 

Our neighbour heading out to sea
Our other neighbour also heading out to sea. Both vessels are owned by the one guy, with five full-time paid crew apparently. They take their boating, and fishing, very seriously

Around this time the wind started to pick up, the rain came and went and the temperature dropped significantly.  The absence of the two boats next to us also meant that our wind break was no longer there, meaning we healed over as each gust came through, sometimes as much as if we were out on the high seas.  They were very strong gusts!

Rob prepares another Ships Log … he’s not hired for his typing skills

Smooth seas, fair breeze and The Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Rob Latimer

First day in Hobart

Friday 8 February 2019

Prince of Wales Bay Marina (Hobart)

We woke to the sights and sounds of Hobart.  Well, at least the Prince of Wales Bay Marina part of Hobart, perched as it is on the edge of the Derwent River, ten miles out of town, next to the aluminium ship builder Incat with Mt Wellington in clear view.

Our immediate neighbour … the luxury 60 foot (very expensive) game boat “Maitai” … the sort of thing you don’t want to accidentally “bump” with a steel boat … not the small space between us !

We were surrounded by boats, as you’d expect, so a marina is a bit like the caravan park of the sea.  Some caravans fully appointed with all facilities aboard, others not so.  Meaning it’s a bit of a walk to the “facilities” ashore when is comes time for a shower, the toilet, or to do some washing.

With my brother Andrew ready, willing and available with a car – and keen to show us the property he purchased some years ago in the Huon Valley, plus the places of significance in the Tasmanian-based parts of his life – Linda and I, plus Alistair, did some sightseeing.    Alistair was particularly keen to get some Huon pine to make custom tools for his pottery work.

Alistair was like a kid in a candy store picking out which piece of Huon pine to buy
Each piece was unique in its own way
No piece of wood was wasted with prices ranging from $1 to $100s
My brother Andrew was on the wharf to meet us and kindly assisted with transport here, there and everywhere

In our travels, we also met Mark and Denise Stephenson at their Lymington home.  Mark was a Vanuatu volunteer from 2017 and someone I’d met coincidentally at the Mersey YC when we stopped in there in 2014; where he was the Commodore at the time

Rosie on the other hand spent a portion of the day with Murray and Liz travelling to the Mona art centre.

A selection of Mona Art installations …

Later in the afternoon, we all met up at the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart-central to walk around, gawk at the boats and again soak up the vibe of this well-attended festival.

It was around this time that we said our sad good-byes to Rosie and Alistair, with Murray kindly driving them out to the airport for their evening flight back to Melbourne … so as to resume their normal lives.

A childrens’ crossing fluro man …

In parting, what can we say about Rosie and Alistair.  The dynamic brother and sister team, each special and valuable team members in their own way.  Of course, Rosie was primarily in charge of the catering and “team-care” departments whose super-powers included – cooking and baking, smiling, drawing, dolphin-whispering, cleaning, overcoming seasickness, standing on the foredeck in all weather, indomitability and enjoying rough weather

In Alistair we possessed a dependable-crew member whose super-powers included – holding a straight course, optimism, shell-finding, long distance boat spotting, wind gust alarming, reliability and endurance.

Back in town and standing in front of our sailing companions – the Bark Endeavour and the James Craig – Bill, Rob, Rosie and Alistair – plus some choice pieces of Huon Pine

It was a great joy to sail with both Alistair and Rosie.  And to think that they only heard about the Freedom Sail a couple of weeks before we set out – from their sister Isobel, who will be joining us on the return leg up the west coast from 23 February – was in itself an amazing blessing for me.

A very tall naval officer at the Wooden Boat Festival entertaining the crowds

As things worked out, an old school friend of Andrew’s, Phil Jones and his partner Corryn, very kindly invited us to their home in the heart of Hobart (Salamanca Place) … well at least Phil did, I suspect Corryn found out about it some time later.

It was a wonderful evening, meeting their other friends and in such beautiful surroundings – and a very generous gesture, given that whilst they knew Andrew … me, Linda, Bill, Murray and Liz, were totally unknown “randoms”   

Back at Chimere in her snug berth at the Prince of Wales Bay Marina, Mt Wellington in the background

Late that night, Andrew kindly returned us out to Chimere (before then driving back to Hobart where he was staying) and with our ground crew Murray and Liz, we all quickly retreated to our respective cabins and fell asleep

Smooth seas, fair breeze and first day in Hobart

Rob Latimer

POSTCARD FROM ALISTAIR

(Now safety home in Warburton, VIC, crew member Alistair reflects on his time aboard.)

An adventure at sea

My first experiences with boats began with building a mirror dingy with my father as a child. I learnt to sail in a sabot on an inland lake in Victoria and progressed to the mirror. Then for quite a few years in the summer I attended Cooinda, a summer camp in the Gippsland lakes where I did a lot of small boat sailing and even graduated to teaching the sailing at the camp.

For a while my brother and I had an A class Catamaran which was quite a different sailing experience, and my last boat was a mirror 14 which required a trapeze and required a lot of diligence.

However, while this all left me with quite a good basic understanding of sailing principles, it was soon evident when I crewed on the Chimere, that I still had a steep learning curve, and an ocean going yacht requires some different skills. For starters I never got any seasickness in small dingy sailing, but then I had never been confronted with deep sea swell and the need to constantly adjust your balance. My first day at sea left me with a very empty stomach, though thankfully that was largely the end of it, though there were times when I was very grateful to take the odd seasickness tablet that did wonders for motion sickness.

Now this was also in the middle of the summer and while I made sure I took a jumper and woolen hat, I soon found out that the weather at sea can be quite bracing and at times my fingers were quite numb with the cold after standing at the helm for some hours holding a course. It was always reassuring that Rob was there to take over when seas were really rough or visibility down to zero.

Sleeping on a top bunk that hardly had more room than a coffin was also a new experience, though I adjusted to rolling in and out after many days at sea and slept well.

Moving round below deck when at sea can be tricky when the swell is up and you cannot see the waves coming. You quickly learn to hang on tight and be ready for unseen movement. It is always a relief to get back on deck and see the horizon and wedge oneself in where an unsuspecting wave cannot knock you off balance. I only flew across the deck once and landed painfully on my tail which certainly increased my care in hanging on tight.

There were many great delights while on the water. The many dolphins that came to play. Having rest days near beautiful islands where we could have been the only people around but for the odd sail or two. Seeing the tall ships in their natural element and leaving them in our wake. At times it felt like stepping back in time realizing that what we saw hadn’t change much from when the first white men in ships passed that way, and reading up on past shipwrecks when we visited Preservation Island and walking in the footsteps of those sailors who spent months on the Island waiting for rescue, not knowing of the hardships of those sent off to get to Port Jackson.

In all it can only be described as a lifetime experience I would not have wanted to miss. By the time we reached Hobart the boat felt like home and we all knew much of it very well, even to the extent of climbing up half the mast to get better phone reception at times.

I can see there is still a great deal to learn and experience, especially in the area of navigation and finding suitable anchorage, but we had a seasoned sea dog on board to guide us as we went and were all suitably grateful for that.

My sister Rosie was an invaluable crewmember too, sometimes strapped into the galley preparing good food. We all survived in considerable comfort!

Alistair

Feb 2019