Hobart to Sydney, May 2007

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Hobart to Maria Island

Friday 11 to Sunday 13 May 2007

We assembled our usual three person crew for the voyage – Peter, Helen and friend David Mattiske. We all flew to Hobart on the preceding Wednesday, and spent Thursday in final preparation and provisioning.

We left late morning on Friday because the forecast was for strong winds abating. They abated rather more quickly than expected, forcing us to motor-sail down the Derwent and across Storm Bay in order to reach Nubeena, on the west side of the Tasman Peninsula, by dusk. It was a strange feeling passing the Iron Pot for what will probably be the last time this year, possibly ever.

We left Nubeena very early Saturday morning and went round the bottom of the peninsula in very benign conditions, motoring almost all the way. It was calm enough to go between Tasman Island and the peninsula, which is always an awe-inspiring experience, looking up to towering cliffs on either side of the narrow channel.

We continued motoring out to sea to clear the cliffs and large numbers of small fishing boats which were taking advantage of the calm conditions, then tacked up the coast and into Fortescue Bay on the east side of the Tasman peninsula. None of the three of us had been before and we were struck with its unspoiled beauty. We enjoyed a quiet night anchored in Canoe Bay, a smaller inlet off the very large main bay.

We had another early start on Sunday morning (with short days, one can’t afford to waste any daylight) and went on with our northward journey sailing hours until the wind died mid-morning. The boredom of motoring on was alleviated by seal sightings: at one stage there were half a dozen playing about in our wake, duck diving and leaping out of the water. We saw a number “hove to”, resting in the water with a steadying flipper aloft, and little heads popped up regularly to inspect as we motored by. The other compensation for the general lack of wind was sunshine and warmth – no need to wear heavy gear.

We arrived in Riedle Bay on the east side of Maria Island at about 1400, and anchored in deep water between the rocky shores of Whaler’s Cove, an inlet in the north corner. With three hours of daylight left, we launched the dinghy and did some exploring first by boat and then on foot after making an elegant landing beside a rock ledge – on shore with dry feet! The whole of Maria Island is a national park, and the area round Whaler’s Cove is only accessible by sea, or by walking along the rocky shore at low tide from further round Riedle Bay, so we enjoyed a bit of a bushwalk and rock scramble in perfect solitude. Back to the mother ship at dusk for another good meal and quiet night. [Top]

Maria Island to Eden

Monday 14 to Thursday 17 May 2007

Our plan had been to sail to Wineglass Bay the next day, wait there for the next southwesterly change to come through, and sail northeast with a following wind. But when we checked the weather, we found that a big high had settled in the Tasman, the low behind it was weakening to nothing, and then there was another big high coming. Our choice was to wait up to a week for favourable winds, or take advantage of very benign conditions for crossing Bass Strait, even though we were likely to motor much of the way. We decided to head straight for Eden.

After a chilly early start from Maria, we had about three hours sailing in a lovely sunny morning, a couple more in the afternoon, then motored on into the night. At midnight, the wind came up, we cut the motor and had a beautiful sailing day on Tuesday, going to windward in a gentle NW wind, one long beat until 2130. We were delighted with Nahani’s performance with the new wheel steering. Once “in the slot” with the apparent wind at 45°, she would follow the wind, staying at 45° for 10-15 minutes at a time, without using the autohelm. Steering was reduced to giving the wheel an occasional nudge when she headed up or went too far off the wind. We were well off-shore and most of the time there was nothing but the wind indicator to watch: no land, no ships, no swell, no waves, no wildlife. The sea was so calm that we had the rare experience of watching an albatross land on the water close to the boat – usually they soar continuously.

As on the previous night, we took 2 hour watches from 2000 to 0800. After a beautiful sunrise, Wednesday was a very dull day, with the sea amazingly calm. Winds "variable" - a weather forecaster's weasel word for "not much and what there is is dead on the nose". The clear sunny skies of Tasmania gave way to heavy grey clouds threatening rain, but minimal actual precipitation. We motored all day on autopilot. It was so calm there were groups of rather grumpy looking albatross sitting on the water. The cook prepared a gourmet meal and did the dusting. David did his washing, hanging it in the shed to dry. We all had hot showers and afternoon naps. Much navigation, planning, and studying of weather forecasts.

Bass Strait is not a place where one wants to stop and wait for wind, but any temptation to do so ended when we found that the weak low was going to re-form into a nasty, intense depression just off Eden late on Friday. So we pushed on under motor into Thursday, with the new day starting rather foggy. We were keeping an active lookout for shipping overnight and in the morning, but although one registered on our radar, we saw nothing (submarine??). It was almost midday before the fog cleared enough for us to have scenery again - Green Cape came into view through the haze.

The haze came down again after we'd passed Ben Boyd's tower and were approaching Twofold Bay. We motored on avoiding shoals, rocks and the odd craypot. We entered the bay at about 1330, heading first for Snug Harbour. We were going to anchor but couldn't find holding, so headed across to East Boyd, anchoring behind the naval jetty. Weather still grey and misty, and overnight we had a thunderstorm and some rain, so it was nice to be safely anchored. [Top]

In Eden

Friday 18 to Saturday 19 May 2007

Friday was a quiet day. David attended a Board Meeting by phone, and Peter and Helen wrote a seminar outline. The wind gradually increased, peaking at 35kt overnight. We heard it reached 50kt around the oil rigs in Bass Strait, so our timing for the crossing had been good.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, with all the fog, smoke, clouds and rain blown away. Helen went ashore in her inflatable kayak to have a walk and investigate the plight of a beached runabout which had been the subject of much attention by a group of people during the morning. It had dragged anchor during the night, wind and waves beaching it and burying the leg of a very old and heavy outboard in the sand, rendering it immoveable.

In the afternoon we crossed to Eden, rafting up to Slainte Vars, a big steel boat we'd last seen in Wineglass Bay en route to Hobart in Dec 2006. We strolled up the hill and did some shopping. Not a lot happening in Eden on a Saturday afternoon. On the way back we stopped to say hello at the Crown and Anchor B&B, where we'd been given excellent advice about heads (get a Lavac) and autohelms (get an industrial strength one) before we'd bought Nahani. We were now able to say that we'd followed the advice. Sailed back to East Boyd to enjoy fish fresh from the Eden co-op. [Top]

Eden to Sydney

Sunday 20 to Tuesday 22 May 2007

We began the next leg on Sunday, another clear, chilly morning. We made an abortive attempt to get some more fuel in Eden (the iceman cometh not to the iceworks as promised to sell us diesel), so we headed out with the skipper a bit anxious about fuel. He need not have worried - we had only a few brief periods of motoring: first to get away from the coast and find the wind, then for a couple of hours in late morning, and finally to clear Montague Island, where we found ourselves slopping around in the channel between the island and mainland. The rest of the time we tacked into a NE wind, first toward the coast where we enjoyed a close view of headlands and long sandy beaches. The coast looked green and pleasant, much less rugged than Tasmania. Towards evening we were tacking out to sea, and it was lumpy enough to resort to noodles in a cup and muesli bars rather than trying to cook. A smaller yacht on a parallel track headed into Bermagui, but we decided not to stop. Later we spoke by radio and they told us that Bermagui was hosting a fishing contest and was absolutely full, so it was a good decision. The fishing contest also explained why dozens of power boats had roared across our bows at dusk, heading in to harbour.

Sailing conditions continued to improve through most of Monday. For the first time on the trip we had more than enough wind. We averaged about 5kt VMG to waypoint, mostly on port tack. By early morning we were off Ulladulla. Progress slowed off Sussex Inlet when we were headed by the wind and were travelling rather more east than we wanted, but it gradually became more favourable and we were able to get back on course heading North. We progressively reduced sail as the wind rose to 18kt, then to 20-25kt. By the time it was edging up to 30kt we had just the staysail up but were still doing about 6kt (We'd got up to 8-9kt before each sail reduction.) The forecast was for the wind to go on increasing, and we decided to go into Port Hacking for a brief rest, then continue on and go through the Sydney Heads in daylight. We anchored at about 0130 Tuesday morning, and we all slept.

We set alarms for 0530, but it was still blowing hard, so we delayed until it calmed down at sunrise, weighing anchor about 0730. We sailed past Botany Bay, then hugged the coast with the wind rising again, looking at Sydney's famous beaches - Maroubra, Coogee, Bondi and finally approaching the big rocky pile of South Head. By the time we got to the Harbour entrance it was blowing 32kt, due west. We didn't fancy trying to tack through the Heads and across the track of the Manly Ferry, so dropped all sail and motored in, up through Middle Harbour to the Spit Bridge in time for the 1130 opening. We had our first experience of trying to manoeuvre in the narrow channel while waiting for the bridge opening, and were unpleasantly surprised when a huge Captain Cook cruiser slid under the closed bridge and headed straight for us. But we took appropriate evasive action, negotiated the narrow bridge opening successfully, and then motored quietly on through Middle Harbour to Cammeray Marina. We were directed to a berth which we could head straight into, so we made a reasonably elegant entry. Tied up with a sense of triumph and opened the champagne, which went down well with a big bacon and egg breakfast. [Top]