Thursday 7 February 2019
Prince of Wales Bay Marina (Hobart)
Many months of planning and ten days of sailing, had got us to this point. The day we would finally sail into Hobart.
It was 41 years, almost to the day, that I had last sailed into Hobart. Back in 1978 it was as an 18-year-old, bullet proof lad, aboard the family yacht, a Compass 29, with my brother Andrew and father Bill. At that time it was my father’s retirement that marked the voyage, which was to see us on the water for 3 months, learning as we go, and finally putting the theory of cruising into practice. This time it was my OWN retirement last July, that was the reason for this voyage … hence the name “Freedom Sail”
The earlier trip, in 1978, was to be a formative time, wedged as it was between the end of my high school and the start of university. The lessons learnt at that time and the survival of several “near-death experiences” in Bass Strait, were memories and experiences that would last a lifetime.
Rain on the deck and the cabin hatches, for most of the night, was a comfortable backdrop to a good night’s sleep, with our plan to once again be away by 6:00am
As the day’s light returned, mist and passing drizzle hung on the water, with the view over the stern being something from a different time.
As the photo shows, we now had three tall ships anchored just off our stern. The Endeavour and James Craig from the night before PLUS the Soren Larson, closer to our stern, who had thought better of their earlier anchorage and re-located the short distance to Stinking Bay.
As we prepared to up-anchor, Soren Larson, (having already stowed her pick), bore away to starboard showing us a peaceful broadside as she circled out of the bay ahead of us. Once more it was a grand sight as she disappeared south into the grey mist.
Our outward track took us past the Endeavour and the James Craig and it was here that we turned up into the wind to hoist the (double reefed) mainsail, before setting our course south and rolling out the jib; at least part of the jib.
The wind remained from the north east, pushing us down the bay towards Cape Raoul which we rounded in no time. Once more it was very “brisk” sailing, snug and sheltered inside our enclosed cockpit, but full of wind gusts and a pretty constant 25-30 knots as we then made our way up the aptly named Storm Bay; the entrance to Hobart.
We soon over-ran the Soren Larson, leaving her to our port side at a distance of around half a mile, as we both charged up Storm Bay. With around 10 miles to Hobart we then spied another tall ship in the distance, off our starboard bow, which the chart plotter confirmed to be the South Australian vessel, One & All. She was going our way, heading north, but after a while she did a 180 degree turn and started heading our way, at a great rate of knots, literally.
We quickly surmised that she was taking day trippers out for a spin, heading there and back in full sail – she made a splendid sight. As our paths crossed, at a distance of around 1-2 miles I again hoisted our small staysail as a sign of respect and for visual effect. We may only have three sails to hoist, but going from two sails to three sails is, after all, a 50% increase!
Then, all of a sudden, as Storm Bay morphed into the Derwent River, the wind died right off and the sun came out, which soon had us peeling off our rain jackets and jumpers. Around this time we pulled in the two headsails, turned on the motor and set a course for Hobart, the bridge and our marina destination beyond.
“This is where the Sydney Hobart Race is often won or lost”, said Bill, continuing, “A yacht might charge around Tasman Island, Cape Raoul and into Storm Bay, only to hit a brick wall with no wind in the Derwent”
Any resemblance we might have to a racing yacht is purely coincidental but the dramatic change in wind conditions was clearly in evidence. Unlike a racing yacht, however, we could simply turn our motor on when things went quiet in the wind department.
Our course took us close-by the Hobart wharf, and it was clear things were starting to ramp up for the next four days of Wooden Boat Festival – expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors to the town. Which isn’t bad given the city itself has a population of little more than that.
Heading up under the Tasman Bridge, the wind suddenly picked up to something short of a gale on the nose, as we were passed by a large ship with a tug boat escort.
For those old enough to remember, this was the bridge hit by the 7,000-ton bulk carrier, the SS Lake Illawarra, on the 5 January 1975 (just a few days after Cyclone Tracy had destroyed Darwin). The accident brought down two support pylons and 120 metres of the four-lane bridge-deck, killing 12 people; five from driving off the gap opened up by the fallen spans and seven on the ship after it sank with the force of the fallen bridge debris. Consequently, all big ships now travelling under the bridge receive a tug escort, AND all traffic travelling over the bridge is stopped for the duration
Not only were Liz and Murray at the Prince of Wales Bay Marina to meet us, but with a similar passion for all things boating, my brother Andrew was also in town for the Wooden Boat Festival and had taken time out to meet us at the dock, kindly sending me a plan of the marina berthing layout beforehand and suggestions for the approach to our berth.
After phoning ahead, the marina manager, David, was also on the dock to meet us and to grab our lines. And despite the cross-wind, the tight, narrow berth and the presence of a multi-million-dollar motor yacht as our immediate neighbour, we made a near-perfect landing, first time; much to the relief of all. I sensed the relief was particularly felt by one of the five paid crew on the next-door boats, whom I saw out of the corner of my eye running around with a very large fender, looking well-prepared to throw himself between the two boats as a last resort, if I strayed too far off my approach centre-line.
After an hour or so of tidying up, including the formalities at the marina office, we made our way into the city and Constitution Dock to soak up the atmosphere, gawk at the boats and generally wander around. The weather now turning surprisingly balmy with a gentle breeze from the north.
Dinner of fish and chips was had at the iconic Mures Restaurant, on the waterfront and with the kind assistance of Andrew and his hire car – plus Murray and Liz as our land-based team – we returned “home” to Chimere after what can only be described as a BIG DAY.
Sleep came very easily as we reflected on a mission accomplished – SO FAR !
Smooth seas, fair breeze and Tall Ships in the Mist