Hobart to Melbourne, 2006

The plan was to sail Nahani to Sydney, but the weather gods had other ideas.

Link to Picasa album

Lindisfarne to Wineglass Bay

Friday 17 to Wednesday 22 March 2006

Gale warnings for “adjoining waters” suggested that Storm Bay might be bouncy. But our five person crew was experienced, and we wanted to get to Port Arthur by Friday evening, so we decided to go anyway. In addition to the captain, mate, and ship’s cat, we had David Mattiske, his wife Renate, and our colleague Stewart Niemann, veteran of about 8 Sydney-Hobart races. However, even the most experienced sailors can get seasick, especially on the first day out. After motor-sailing down the Derwent we encountered lumpier seas as we headed into Storm Bay. One minute Stewart was happily steering, the next he was sick. As we proceeded down Storm Bay, he got worse and collapsed below. The rest of us survived, just. After rounding Cape Raoul the waves were behind us and the motion a bit easier, and easier again once in the protected waters of Port Arthur.

Stewart improved enough to toy with some food once we were anchored, but wasn’t really comfortable until we went ashore and walked round to the historic Port Arthur penal settlement. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Choir, plus other choirs, were performing Beethoven’s 9th and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in the floodlit ruins. Friday was the dress rehearsal, and we had tickets because Helen’s cousin Claire was singing. As we approached we could hear the choral part of the 1812 floating through the bush – eerily beautiful. Watching the rehearsal was fascinating, both visually and aurally as the techies were working to connect up things as the rehearsal proceeded. At the beginning, only the strings were amplified, and the other instruments were added progressively. Lighting also came and went on the surrounding walls. Not till the very end did they connect the heating, so the performers were as cold as we were in the audience. They were all rugged up in parkas, scarves and beanies – some of the string players could hardly find room to get their instruments under their chins. We heard most of the 1812 and the fourth movement of the Beethoven, and they played the most famous bars of the “Ode to Joy” as a final sound test, so we went back to the boat on a high.

Despite a night’s recovery, Stewart couldn’t face sailing again on Saturday, so we dropped him in Port Arthur and he headed for Hobart and home. This was a wise decision, as a windless morning forced us to motor through large swells to get to Tasman Island. With the swell abeam the boat rolled a lot and Helen was queasy, almost unable to risk looking up at the magnificent views of Cape Pillar and Cathedral Rock as we motored through the channel between Tasman Island and the peninsula. Once round on the East coast we made good time with wind and swell behind us, up through Mercury Passage to Spring Bay. The cat, who had spent all the first day and morning of the second hunkered down in the hot water heater cupboard, was finally persuaded to come up on deck and take some air in much more pleasant sailing conditions.

The wind increased as we headed further north on Sunday, and we were romping along at 6kt. Some disagreement occurred between captain and crew about whether we needed to reef. David was really enjoying sailing the boat hard, but as we headed round Schouten Island the conservatives progressively prevailed and we put in first one, then two reefs. One gust as we passed the mouth of Schouten passage forced even David to let Nahani round up, which helped us convince him of the need for sail reduction. We continued to make rapid progress and were anchored in Wineglass Bay by mid-afternoon.

After three days of strong SW winds, the wind went round to the NE, so we spent three glorious warm sunny days waiting for the wind to go back to the south. We swam, kayaked, climbed up to the lookout and walked to Hazards Beach on the Coles Bay side of the Freycinet peninsula. It was idyllic, especially as we were the only boat in the bay for two nights. The only drawback was that there was no sign of a good SW change to take us further north. But by Wednesday we’d decided to move on anyway, and so prepared for an early start on Thursday morning. [Top]

Link to Picasa album

Wineglass Bay to Lady Barron, Flinders Island

Thursday 23 to Sunday 26 March 2006

We were delayed by a minor crisis: a severely constipated cat. Some inventive use of a squeeze bottle full of olive oil solved the problem, and we were away at 0700, motoring in a confused swell. We had two visits from dolphins to alleviate the boredom of motoring, and by 1100 we had enough SE wind to sail. As the forecast was for a brief period of SE wind, then returning to NE, we decided to go through Banks Strait and stop in Flinders Island. We expected to reach Franklin Sound on Friday morning, but made such good time up the coast past St Helen’s and the Eddystone light that we entered Banks Strait at 2200. The wind was dead astern going through, so we motor-sailed with just a staysail. As always Banks Strait was lumpy and uncomfortable, but we hurtled through with wind and tide behind us. Peter and David decided that once through the Strait, we would anchor in a little bay on the south side of Clarke Island until early morning, then go on to Flinders Island in daylight. Sounds good? But we were Bewildered in Banks Strait, another favourite yarn which will tell you what we actually did for the rest of the night.

By the time the sun came up, we were already back underway to Franklin Sound. Traversing the sound requires one to pick up a number of sets of leads, some of which we had enormous trouble locating. The mate turned out to be best at the job, but even she couldn’t find one set. But by about 1300 we were picking up a mooring at Lady Barron. David and Peter went on a reconnaissance in the dinghy while Helen and Renate dealt with a large pile of washing up. We were all pleased to have a relaxed meal, showers and an early night.

We enjoyed two days on Flinders Island. On the first day we cleaned up, went ashore for a meal and washing, and organised a car rental. On the second we drove round the Island, revelling in the scenery, but finding Flinders Island on Sunday almost devoid of life. Almost everything was closed, and there were For Sale signs everywhere. The one establishment we found open had frozen food which David correctly described as non-habit forming. In the evenings we studied weather forecasts, still hoping for a southerly change to take us across Bass Strait. With only another weak change in the offing, and locals telling us that the weather was unpredictable because of cyclones in Queensland, we decided to change our plans and head for Melbourne rather than Sydney. [Top]

Link to Picasa album

Lady Barron to St Kilda

Monday 27 to Wednesday 29 March 2006

So on Monday morning, we reversed the long process of following the leads through Franklin Sound, finally clearing the Furneaux Group about midday. It was wet, and after about 1500 the wind dropped and we had to motor sail for the rest of the afternoon and through the night. By 0700 the next morning, the wind had increased and we could cut the motor and put up more sail. We averaged over 7kt but could not quite reach Port Phillip Heads at the right tide. Instead we decided to stop in Westernport for a meal and a sleep, leaving again in time to reach the Heads at 0900. The wind had gone round to the NE by the time we reached Seal Rocks and was blowing quite hard – we decided Cat Bay would provide the most convenient shelter. We had some trouble getting holding, and later David found his ancient Sailing Directions book had “Never anchor here” in Cat Bay. But we did, and didn’t drag, and slept well until about 0300 when we got ready, weighed anchor and exited Westernport as planned at 0400. We enjoyed a beam reach along the coast, watching the sunrise, went through the Rip in a flat calm, and finally had to motor up Port Phillip Bay as the northeasterly dropped away to a mere breeze. David had organised us a pen at the RMYS at St Kilda, and we berthed there without incident. The Mattiskes walked home, but we stayed aboard one more night, with Barb joining us for a meal. The next day we loaded all our dirty washing and the cat on to David’s wheelbarrow and David ferried us home. The cat had visible sealegs (seapaws?) as he rolled down the hall, on dry land for the first time for a fortnight, but he recovered rapidly, climbing his favourite tree and checking out the roof. [Top]