Melbourne to Hobart, 8-17 December 2006

Bass Strait crossing

Friday 8 to Monday 11 December 2006

We had asked David Mattiske to join us for the trip back to Hobart, and his commitments made the afternoon of Friday 8 December our earliest starting time. As the weather forecast and tides were favourable, we planned to leave as soon as possible, and by 1645 we were casting off, waving farewell to David's wife Renate on the pier. Wind was southerly so we had to beat down the Bay, and we used motor assistance to ensure we made the Heads by slack water. Arrived at the West Channel somewhat early, so we sailed slowly through that, then loitered around Queenscliff waiting for a larger vessel to pass. We observed a a large bright triangle of light on the Queenscliff shore and spent some time with the charts trying to identify it as a navigation light, before we finally realised it was a Christmas tree. Should be a law against misleading seasonal decorations. We followed the outgoing ship through the Heads right on slack water.

The moon rose over Point Nepean as we headed down toward Cape Schanck in seas lumpy enough to make putting up the mainsail a bit of a challenge. But we managed, and sailed off into the night. The wind dropped later, we motored for a couple of hours, then settled into a port tack in a freshening easterly. We had been hoping for the wind to be more NE than SE, but it was not to be, so we headed straight across, rather than for the Northeastern corner of Tasmania. We put in one reef as the wind freshened, speed increasing all the way as we sailed through Saturday day and night.

The cook had made the tactical error of eating spring rolls from the South Melbourne Market for lunch. Despite having enjoyed a healthier meal on the way down the Bay, she was seriously seasick on the crossing - well enough to take her turns at the helm, but unable to keep down even a glass of water. With the cook crook, the boys had to fend for themselves foodwise, but fortunately David had brought wraps left over from the meeting he'd attended on Friday lunchtime, and he and Peter survived on those.

We sighted the Tasmanian coast a couple of hours after sunrise on Sunday morning and continued to sail South towards it. When we finally decided to tack along the coast, the wind died, and we headed along the coast under motor and autohelm. Off Devonport we had serious visibility problems as the smoke from the Victorian fires came over, reducing visibility to about 3 boatlengths. We turned on radar, erected the radar reflector, found the foghorn and radioed Devonport for info on ship movements. But nothing emerged from the murk, which eventually cleared when we got some wind. Unfortunately said wind was still easterly and right on the nose, so we kept motoring along the coast, into the Tamar River and round to Dark Hollow (near Beauty Point). Made it through the shallow entrace to this mooring without incident this time (see Launceston to Hobart voyage). We had a proper dinner (very welcome after all those wraps) and a long sleep. On Monday we hunkered down aboard while gales howled overhead. We heard that there were 4m waves out in the Strait, so we were snug and smug, very pleased to have completed our crossing as planned before the change. [Top]

Tamar to Wineglass Bay/Sleepy Bay

Tuesday 12 to Wednesday 13 December 2006

The gale blew itself out by early evening as predicted. We made a very early start at 0200 on Tuesday 12 December. Leaving in the dark was challenging: we narrowly missed an unlit marker on the way out of Dark Hollow, and there were significant eddies caused by the flood tide. This also slowed our progress, but by dawn we were motoring out past Hebe reef. We had a wonderful day’s running at 6-7kt before a gentle SW, using the MPS and poled out jib. Following us from Dark Hollow was Good Medicine from Geelong. They’d planned to leave a little later than as, and we scanned the sea behind us for a sight of their sail. They came into view as we approached Banks Strait. In a rising wind and lumpier seas we struck the MPS and went through the strait under the headsails, with Good Medicine gaining on us. Once past Swan Island and Salamander Rock we put the MPS back up and drew away again. More glorious sailing in smoother waters until at dusk we struck the MPS again. Our rivals finally overtook us as we turned to windward to put up the mainsail instead.

Sailing on down the East coast we saw the eerie red glow of flames reflecting from the smoke clouds above bushfires at St Helen’s and St Mary’s. A half moon like a luminous orange slice hung above. We used the autopilot with just one person on watch, and were all on deck again to see the sunrise. The N/NE wind strengthened so we left the rig as it was, reaching Wineglass Bay at about 1330, where we lunched and rested. The only other yacht in the bay left as we came in, and by 1700 it was clear why. The NE wind was now funnelling into the bay so strongly that our anchor wouldn’t hold on the sandy bottom, and we were dragging toward the beach. We motored out again, round the corner to a more protected spot in Sleepy Bay. The cook had been having too much fun steering to sleep much in the preceding 36 hours, but after an extended nap she made Sleepy Bay Noodles (instant noodles plus leftovers). Went down well and all crew retired for a proper sleep. [Top]

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Sleepy Bay to Wrest Point

Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 December 2006

South of Wineglass there are a number of harbours, so that we could continue our journey without night sailing. We stopped Thursday night in Spring Bay, where we’d been before, and Friday in Pirates Bay which was new to all the crew.

A change was forecast for Thursday, so we sailed south anticipating worsening weather. The rising northerly blew us down to Schouten Island at 6-7kt under headsails alone. Through Schouten passage into smoother waters sailing more to windward across Coles Bay, still at good speed. The NW wind was bringing smoke down from the fires, and reducing visibility so much that we couldn’t see the land on either side of the bay as we sailed down to Triabunna. To our surprise and pleasure the wind swung back round to the north again, allowing us to round Cape Home and turn into Spring Bay without tacking, then shifted round to the west so that we could turn down into the south side of the bay, ready for the wind shift. We anchored hoping that the couple of showers and calmer periods during the day had allowed the firefighters to get the fires under control before the southerly came through.

On Friday we had our first adverse winds, and had to tack most of the day into a rising swell. The cook had minor mal de mer again, so David made lunch. Progress was slow, only about 3kt CMG (course made good). One compensation for having to tack was sailing very close to the amazing rock formations on the Forestier Peninsula, especially as we cleared Deep Glenn. We motored in to anchor in Pirates Bay, which is home to a number of fishing boats. It is also pictureseque, north-facing and well sheltered from SW winds, so we had a comfortable night.

Saturday dawned calm and clear and we were underway by 0640, breakfasting as we motored around Fossil Rock and headed towards the Lanterns. More spectacular rock formations to admire and photograph: pillars, caves, horizontal strata, something that looked like a cathedral let into the rock. By 0900 we had enough wind to sail, and made good time down to Tasman Island. It was calm enough to go inside the island, and not only did we see the usual seals, but Helen, sitting in the magic seat on craypot watch, caught a glimpse of a whale. As Peter said, “It was just a fluke.”

Between Tasman Island and Cape Raoul the wind was light and westerly, so we motor sailed straight across in warm sunshine until close to Cape Raoul, where we tacked up to the Cape and then back out toward Bruny Island. The wind swung around and strengthened as the seabreeze came up, so we were finally able to cut the motor and run up Storm Bay and the Derwent sailing wing and wing. We reached the RYCT at about 1800, but there was no room to berth at the fuel jetty, so we motored out again and dropped the pick in Sandy Bay near the casino. A large, multi-course celebratory meal followed, as we tried to consume all fruit and vegetables before we officially entered Tasmania.

On Sunday morning we took the dinghy over to the RYCT, organised a berth, then brought Nahani in, making a near perfect entry into the pen. As the pens at the RYCT are very narrow, we were surprised and delighted with ourselves and there were big hugs all round. A satisfactory end to a great sailing trip. [Top]