Devonport to Hobart, end 2004

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Devonport to Launceston

28 to 31 October 2004

We took official possession of Nahani at the Mersey Yacht Club on 27 October 2004. We had celebratory drinks with Steve and Chrisy and Jenny from Wings of Fantasy, who came over to witness the ownership transfer paperwork. The next 24 hours were spent unpacking and stowing all our gear, and stocking up with provisions and basic cooking utensils in Devonport. Our plan was to leave at sunset on Thursday 28 October, sail overnight and enter the Tamar at slack water early on Friday.

The prospect of getting Nahani safely out of her mooring was making us both nervous, but as is the way of yacht clubs, there was a nice bloke watching us load up who volunteered to push the bow off at the critical moment, and we were away. More helpful souls shouted remarks about our unstowed buffers, when we were still recovering from the excitement of being out of the mooring and heading down the channel on our own. That much was familiar territory, as we’d been out of the Mersey several times on test sails with Steve and Chrisy, and as the sky darkened we cleared the river and headed out.

We put up both headsails, then put the autopilot on while we put up the main together. In the process we drifted eastwards, but fortunately Peter checked our position and found we were too close to the shore and in danger of running into Egg Island and nearby reefs to the East of the Mersey entrance. We put the motor back on to head more NW.On this our first sail we were naturally keeping extra careful watch, so we saw the large merchant ship bearing down on us from behind. Peter radioed to see which way they were going, we took appropriate action to keep well clear, but as a result sailed round in a circle before getting back on course. Once safely beyond hazard, either moving or stationary, we settled into night sailing with a wonderful full moon and clear sky.

There was enough swell make Helen slightly queasy, but heroically she went below, full of trepidation, to tackle lighting the kerosene stove for the first time. Despite getting only one burner to light successfully she cooked steamed fish and two veg, all in one saucepan stack. After eating she felt better, and warmer, but as the night wore on was not quite warm enough to enjoy the sailing fully. On watch she also found that one sees things that aren’t there – what seemed to be fishing boats were probably distant lights ashore, not requiring the active scrutiny given to them, as they weren’t going anywhere!

Peter took over the watch in the middle of the night and we changed course to head back towards the coast. We changed watch twice more, and by the time Helen woke on Peter's second watch it was light and she was cross about missing the sunrise. In daylight we could see our way past the various hazards outside the mouth of the Tamar. We arrived at 0745, exactly on schedule to come into the channel entrance at slack water, and navigated our way successfully to Beauty Point, where we managed a reasonably uneventful berthing. We breakfasted, showered and had a morning sleep. We were woken by a visit from Ben, the first of the long line of yachties who find Nahani an interesting ship, and want to see more of her. Later we went for a walk in Beauty Point, visiting Seahorse World, which we found fascinating (did you know male seahorses nurture their young in a kind of womb?).

On Saturday we sailed further up the Tamar, with occasional motor assistance. Whirlpool Reach lived up to its name, and we were glad we had the motor running and weren’t trying to get through the Batman Bridge under sail alone. Passing through a yacht race off Deviot was also challenging. Finally we tackled navigation up the very shallow reach to Marion’s Vineyard. As the web site says, “Marion's vineyard is situated on the West Bank of the Tamar estuary at Deviot, off the beaten plonk bonk path along the river just 5km South of the marken refarkable Batman Bridge and a half hour north of Launceston in the exact middle of the Tamar River Valley, 32 kilometers from the mouth and the city”. We hitched Nahani to the piles at the end of the 130m private jetty, and took the dinghy in closer. We walked up to the vineyard and spent an hour or so talking to (or should that be listening to) Mark “Smaky” Semmens and looking around the amazing constructions at the winery. For example, Mark is a Kubrick fan, and has his own replica of the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. He calls it the “Mona Litha”. Finally we did some tasting, and looked at the homemade “Giggleskin” labels.

We were at the vineyard rather longer than planned and the retreating tide had left the dinghy on a 45 degree angle. Not only had Helen made the classic novice’s mistake of not allowing enough slack rope for the tide, but she’d fastened the painter with about 6 knots, none of them known to true sailors, and Peter had to hang at a perilous angle and undo them all before we could return to Nahani. We had to watch our moorings during the night as the tide came in and we rose up the piles again. We went ashore again on Sunday morning with the intention of buying some wine, but couldn’t find Mark. We couldn’t wait as the tide was ebbing and we had to clear the reach before it got too low. As it was, we nudged the bottom once on the way out, and had to reverse and try another course.

It was very hot coming up the last stretch of the river – as we headed south there was no shade in the cockpit and we fried. We’d neglected to bring hats on board, so had to wear towels on our heads to avoid sunstroke – fortunately no one took us for terrorists. As we got to the narrower and more difficult part of the Tamar we were overtaken by a friendly bloke in a lovely dark green cruising yacht, and we could happily follow him down to Launceston. Finally we turned into the Launceston Marina, heading for our first attempt at putting Nahani into a pen. Peter overshot as he headed for the end of the line of pens, and took a small chip off the bow as we hit the jetty. Once the boat had stopped, albeit a little abruptly, the wind started to swing the stern around and to our amazement we effectively reverse parked neatly in the guest mooring. We confidently expected a round of applause from the drinkers lining the pier (it was a lovely day on a holiday weekend, so we had a big audience), but all we got was someone asking us to turn off our wind generator, before we’d even had time to tie up properly. After a drink we walked Nahani round into a pen, and set off to explore Launceston. [Top]

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Launceston to Safety Cove

Sunday 12 to Friday 17 December

Our friend and experienced sailor David Mattiske arrived on an early flight and joined us for Sunday breakfast. He and Peter did some last minute shopping while Helen did some last minute cooking. We then made a beautifully executed exit from the marina and headed up the Tamar, motor sailing with headsails until we reached the Batman bridge, through it under motor, and then up Long Reach under full sail.

We were still sailing as we approached Dark Hollow. Helen was steering and failed to notice the leading lights which guide you between shoals – steering well away from the marked shoal we ran aground on the unmarked one. An amazing effort by David hanging out on the boom stuck out to one side availed us nought. Small children waded out in water now only ankle deep and asked helpfully: “Are you stuck?” We moved cocktail and dinner hour forward, and by the time we’d finished eating the tide had risen and we were able to motor off to anchor in Dark Hollow for the night.

Early start at 0600 Monday, motoring out through the Tamar entrance and heading East. No wind, so we continued motoring. Caught two barracuda around midmorning near Tenth Island, and at midday we were joined by a big pod of dolphins, mothers and babies. At about 1600 the wind came up and we started sailing. The weather became progressively more unpleasant and even David wasn’t that keen on tackling Banks Strait in the dark with cold winds and threat of rain. Peter found Foster Inlet on the chart, we struck the sails as the wind was now on the nose, and punched through lumpy seas for a couple more hours before coming into the calm waters of the inlet, where we spent a comfortable night despite the wind.

The next day we left at 0700 for a fairly uncomfortable trip through Banks Strait and down the coast. We had a headwind most of the way, so had to tack or motor sail all the way. We all suffered somewhat from seasickness – David and Helen christened one of the new acquisitions, a stainless steel bucket. Lunch was not required on the voyage. But our appetites returned once safely anchored in Binalong Bay (just north of St Helens) and we ate well.

Wednesday was a much more pleasant day, with a light NE wind. Peter and Helen managed, after a long period of sorting halyard, sheet and snuffer lines, to fly the MPS – later we had the MPS and main goosewinged. We expected to motor into Wineglass Bay, but by then the wind was more or less due east and we ghosted in on the headsail, to join five fishing boats at anchor there.

A later start on Thursday, so that we could have a couple of hours enjoying Wineglass Bay – Helen even had a bracing swim. At about 1030 we motored out and then had a lovely sail down to Prosser Bay. We had a memorable foraging trip ashore about it in Yarns

David got us up early on Friday, in the hope of getting round the Tasman Peninsula and up to Hobart in a day. We needed to make good speed to do it, so when we encountered unfavourable winds in Mercury Passage, we motored rather than tack. As we cleared Maria Island, we discovered the engine was overheating badly. The ship's engineer went below to investigate. The mate was secretly pleased, as it meant we had to sail rather than motor.

For the next eight or so hours we tacked down the coast while Peter tried to fix the engine. There were several restarts which just produced the same overheating symptoms. Peter phoned Steve, Nahani’s previous owner and on his advice bled the coolant circulation line, which kept him occupied while Helen and David steered, gradually adding sail as the wind abated. Finally Peter thought the motor was OK, but as we were making quite good progress without it, decided not to use it until it was really necessary. The mate steered happily through a sunny late afternoon while the rest of the crew napped. We were off Tasman Island when the wind dropped away. Started the motor…it overheated again. So we sailed agonisingly slowly round Tasman Island as evening drew on. The cook filled in time by preparing a meal. The cat decided it was time to eat too, then realised that the boat was still in motion and threw up on the rug. The engineer, just awake from a well-earned zizz, cleaned up.

He and David then got out the charts and went to work on Plan B, which was to run up into Safety Cove, just inside Port Arthur inlet on the west side. After dark the wind gradually increased until we were suddenly doing 8kt – scary when you’re trying to pick out large headlands in the dark. And it was really dark, no moon. We reduced sail, whereupon the wind went round to the north, and we then had to tack between said looming headlands. The degree of difficulty increased because we couldn’t remember how to illuminate the wind indicator, resulting in a few accidental tacks and backed headsails before we organised one person to steer while another focussed a torch on the indicator. But finally we passed between Budget and West Arthur heads, and could fall off the wind and reach into to Safety Cove. We could just see the glimmer of the sand on the beach as we watched for the depth to decrease and finally dropped anchor at about 0200 Saturday. Much relieved, we celebrated with port and cheese before falling into our bunks.

We were less happy next morning. We were safe where we were, but how were we to get to Hobart, and more importantly, berth the boat, without a motor? How could we get it fixed in Safety Cove, a long way from anywhere by road and with only a few farms visible? How could we get David to Hobart to catch his plane back to Melbourne? For the answers, read one of our favourite yarns, Directions to Dog Bark Lane.


Safety Cove to Hobart

Monday 20 to Tuesday 21 December

We and the engine were now in shape to continue our voyage, but the weather forecast was unpromising: strong wind warnings every day for the next four days. And we had broken the cruising yachties rule – we had a deadline to get back to Melbourne for Christmas. The only bright spot in the weather forecast was for winds to ease on Monday afternoon, before going back to 25+kt. We planned to leave about the middle of the day, expecting to reach Hobart in the long summer twilight.

We weighed anchor about 1300 and motored back past Budget and West Arthur Heads, looking much less threatening in daylight. Once in open waters we found ourselves heading straight into a strong SW, with short period seas of around 2-3 metres. The mate found steering challenging at first, but soon got into the rhythm of taking Nahani over the crests as they rose up in front of her. We were motor-sailing, using the staysail to give the ship some stability, so we had to tack a bit rather than steering straight into the wind. We also rapidly realised that to make any kind of comfortable progress, we had to have a reasonable amount of speed, so the engine was being well and truly tested. We hoped fervently that the repairs were sound.

Wave formations in the area between Port Arthur and Cape Raoul are irregular, as the waves echo back of the huge cliffs, and there was one ugly moment when a wave running somewhat crosswise jerked the tiller, landing the helmswoman on the cockpit sole. At about this point we decided that the cockpit was no place for the ship’s cat, who’d been trying to join us on deck, and shut him below. Then there was the moment when, after going over the second of a particularly big set, Nahani plunged her bow into the third wave, and white water covered the doghouse windows for a few moments. Helmswoman surprised and pleased to find her reaction was elation, rather than fear. Next we realised that we hadn’t put a stopper knot in the staysail sheets, and the windward sheet had pulled through the leads and wound itself into macramé around the tight sheet. We looked at it in dismay as the waves rose over the bows and crashed past the tangle. “Do you want to go for’ard and fix that?” “No. Do you?” “No.” “OK, let’s leave it”. And we did, ploughing on SSW, until we could change tack to clear Cape Raoul.

The helmswoman had been consoling herself in the more difficult moments with the knowledge that it would all get easier as the trip went on. The winds would abate as forecast, and once round Cape Raoul the wind would be abeam, rather than on the nose, and we’d be able to put the main up and sail. All of which occurred, but what she didn’t realise until we were in Storm Bay was that steering with big seas coming abeam has its own problems. Steer across the wave at the wrong angle and half of it lands in the cockpit. Her steering skill was further challenged because the captain decided that it was now calm enough to go forward and fix the staysail sheet. It took him about 20 minutes to untangle dozens of twists in the rope. The mate did her best not to ship waves over the bow as he lay flat on the deck working, but every now and then one washed right over him. To her surprise he returned to the cabin saying that although he wouldn’t have done it for money, he actually found it quite exhilarating, that wouldn’t-be-dead-for-quids feeling.

We thought we might head across Storm Bay to shelter in Bull Bay on North Bruny, but wind and waves were abating and as a further sign that the trip was improving, we were joined by a pod of dolphins, shooting through the waves as they rose up on our beam. We enjoyed watching them surf for a while, and then sailed on past Bruny, gradually taking out reefs in the main. By the time we entered the Derwent we had both headsails and full main up, and the wind had dropped so much we had to motor sail toward the Garrow light and round into Sandy Bay in the dusk, where we dropped anchor, released the cat and enjoyed a meal, watching the lights of Hobart at last.

Peter was amazed to find you can just slip in and anchor so close to the centre of Hobart, waking to the sound of commuter traffic in Sandy Bay Road and the sight of early morning joggers, pram-pushers and dog-walkers. After breakfast we headed around the Casino to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT) and went alongside the fuel jetty to pick up diesel and organise a berth. After two failed attempts to get the boat into the berth allocated, we went for a sail up the Derwent and under the bridge to recover our equilibrium. When the wind seemed to have eased, we returned for another attempt, failed again and returned to the fuel jetty. Here some kindly souls helped us to turn the boat around, and coming toward the pen from the other direction we finally berthed successfully. [Top]