Around Hobart, Summer 2008

Our fourth summer and Hobart and once again we felt we were at home, welcomed by our friends Danny and Ron, the bosuns at the RYCT, and by the Blichfeldt cousins and their friends. As in previous years, our friends came from all over Australia to Tasmania to sail with us, so we had plenty of excuses to sail off to our favourite spots down the Channel. We flew down with our first guest in the evening of New Year's Day…

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Down the Channel with Liz Hepburn

Wednesday 2 to Sunday 6 January 2008

The three of us flew in to Hobart on a Jetstar flight that was delayed for two hours leaving Melbourne, so we arrived after midnight on New Year's night. Peter had the foresight to book a taxi, so we were out of the airport and tucked up in Nahani in the RYCT in record time. On Wednesday morning we walked up to Sandy Bay to buy provisions and by lunchtime we were ready to set sail. We tacked into a gentle southerly and made quite good time down to Alexanders for our first night. We were greeted there by seven swans a-swimming (two adults and five nearly grown up cygnets) who came in the hope of a feed. We pointed out they were a few days late as it was the ninth day of Christmas, but they explained that the maids a-milking had been replaced by machines, and that Bruny Island was very short on dancing ladies and leaping lords, let alone pipers and drummers.

On Thursday we went to Dover, motoring in the first part of the channel but sailing in brisk conditions across Isthmus Bay, down past Mount Royal and across to Port Esperance. We visited the wonderful bakery in Dover on Friday morning, then tacked up to Port Cygnet in conditions varying from a boisterous northerly south of Huon Island, no wind in the mouth of the Huon, then a strengthening northerly again heading up to Cygnet. Despite having to tack most of the way, we were in good time to get a taxi up to Hobart to dine with the Blichfeldts and friends - a kind of belated New Year's Eve party. After an enjoyable evening we stayed the night and they drove us back to Cygnet on Saturday morning, where we had coffee in another favourite eatery, the Red Velvet Lounge. Back aboard Nahani we had a frustrating trip back round to Barnes Bay, with variable winds (that is, less than 5kt and always on the nose), so apart from a lovely 6kt sail for about 20 minutes near Huon Island, we kept having to resort to the motor. Just as we approached Barnes we had strong westerly squalls which we rode out heading across to Kettering, then dropped the mainsail and sailed back into Barnes Bay doing 5kt on staysail alone. We were pleased to anchor in the shelter of Alexanders.

There had been strong wind warnings for days, so each day we began with double-reefed main. We were glad of our caution on Saturday when the squalls came up off Kettering, and we persisted with the reefs on Sunday even though we had very gentle conditions in the Channel, just enough wind to sail slowly up to Piersons Point. We expected stronger winds in the Derwent, but when we first got round the corner there was a weakening southeasterly, so after a short period of trying to sail, during which time we shook out one reef and put the preventer on to stop the boom slatting, we started motor-sailing again. Off Kingston, just as Helen was coming up on deck with a large luncheon platter, the wind went to the northwest and started blowing 30-40kt. Somehow Liz hung on to the lunch and kept the platter level while Peter and Helen took the boat head-to-wind, got the preventer off and dropped the mainsail. We then sailed into the gale for the next hour or so under just the staysail with the motor running as well for safety and control, finally rounding the Garrow light and heading into the calmer waters of Sandy Bay. We anchored off Wrest Point, ate a much overdue lunch and had a nap before tackling entry to the RYCT pen, which we managed without incident despite the still quite strong winds, to our great relief. Peter shot off by bus to borrow the amazing Maisie Mazda from the Blichfeldts, we drove to Barilla Bay for a lovely final meal and dropped Liz at the airport, having given her the experience of everything from flat calm to 40kt winds. But she seemed to have enjoyed it all. [Top]

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Down the Channel with Pam and Michael

Thursday 17 January to Monday 21 January 2008

We flew back to Hobart in the evening after eight days in Melbourne, this time with the ship's cat. Pam and Michael had come in on an earlier flight, so we picked them up from the Grand Chancellor as we came through from the airport. By the time we'd arrived at the yacht club, carried our gear to Nahani and shown them round the boat, we were all ready for bed.

We had breakfast on deck before the girls made a shore trip to Lipscombe Larder for provisions, while the boys replaced a reefing line. Then we were ready to go on what was Pam and Michael's first ever sailing trip. They must have the weather gods on their side, as we had fair winds for the next four days. We were sailing to windward as we headed down the Derwent on Friday making good speed in a brisk southeasterly. In the Channel the wind was abeam at first, then behind us as it went more to the northeast. It took us down the Channel in record time and we were anchored in Apollo Bay by about 1530. We inflated the kayak and paddled and rowed ashore in it and the dinghy, where we sat at the barbecue and enjoyed the scenery. But Bruny Island is so dry that lighting a fire seemed inappropriate, so we returned to Nahani for an evening meal on deck. We noticed a border collie on a neighbouring boat and realised it must be Family, a boat whose owners (and dogs) we'd met a couple of years ago in the same spot. A quick reference to an old log book meant we could hail them by name and we remade their acquaintance.

On Saturday we had the wind behind us again as we headed further down the Channel. We ate lunch when becalmed briefly in Isthmus Bay, then went on in strengthening winds round the corner, past Huon Island into the Huon River, then up toward Port Cygnet, where finally we were sailing into the wind, but we still needed only two tacks to get up to our usual anchoring point near the Yacht Club. We took the dinghy ashore under motor and walked into Cygnet township. We discovered that our favourite Red Velvet Lounge now does dinner on Fridays, so we had a very good meal there before walking back to the Yacht Club and returning to Nahani.

There were "gale warnings for adjacent waters" on Sunday, so we set off fairly early, motoring down Cygnet estuary into a strong headwind. By Huon Island the wind was on the beam and we sailed in seas choppy enough to make Pam queasy. Once round the corner into the Channel we had the wind behind us again, and a much easier motion. We were pleased to make quick progress as the southerly wind was chilly and it started to rain. We reached Barnes Bay about 1500 and anchored in Alexanders, well sheltered from the SW wind. It was cold enough for soup to be welcome - we started with packet soup for instant warming, then made a big pot of vegetable soup as our main meal for the day. After granny naps all round, Peter showed Pam and Michael some of our photos from past voyages, to give them an idea of the Tasmanian scenery further south. The cook/helmswoman slept on, but woke eventually to make mushrooms on toast for supper.

More wind warnings on Monday, so we delayed our start in the hope that the winds would ease. We did the tour of all the bays which form Barnes Bay before heading out and turning towards Hobart. We had a perfect run up the Channel with the wind behind us again, but struck some big swells as we rounded Pierson's Point. Pam found standing up and looking over the doghouse roof was a good preventive for seasickness, but we minimised the uncomfortable motions by heading first at right angles to the swell across to the eastern shore of the Derwent, then running with it upriver. It was still blowing hard when we reached the RYCT, and we were pleased to make a reasonably good entry into the pen. Once safely tied up we headed off to enjoy a final meal at Fish, a favourite restaurant in North Hobart.

We took Pam and Michael to the airport on Tuesday morning, and by mid-afternoon they were home at Killawarra (near Wangaratta). The weather gods had smiled on them there as well, as they found 72mm of rain had fallen while they were away sailing. [Top]

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Recherche and return with Pam Ditton

Friday 1 to Thursday 7 February 2008

After a week divided between boat chores and multiple social events associated with a visit to Tasmania by various members of Helen's family, our next guest Pam Ditton arrived aboard. She'd spent her first night in Hobart with her friends Mike and Sally, and they came to lunch on the boat when they deposited Pam at the RYCT. That evening we took Pam to Helen's Blichfeldt cousins for the usual wonderful meal and interesting dinner companions, plus a spot of singing. Despite all this socialising, we were ready for a reasonably early start on Friday morning, and we set out from the RYCT at about 0930. As many of our guests are sailing novices, we usually make a short hop to Barnes Bay on the first day, but Pam is an experienced sailor who has crewed all over the world and has just become the proud owner of a trailer sailer, so we decided to be more adventurous and make for Mickeys Bay at the southern end of South Bruny. We had good sailing conditions in the Derwent, crossing Isthmus Bay and approaching Mickeys, but needed some motor assistance in the narrower parts of the Channel. We used one of the becalmed periods to lunch en route, and the cook put chicken kievs in the oven as we approached Mickeys so that we could dine as soon as we had the anchor down.

The weather pattern continued with calm, almost windless nights and early mornings, so we had no incentive to make early starts. On Saturday we motored from Mickeys across to the tip of Partridge Island, then motored south, first following the Labillardiere peninsula down to Cape Bruny, then heading SW to Recherche. By the time we changed direction we had plenty of wind and were doing 5-7kt under sail all the way round South Rock and into Recherche Bay. We anchored near the mouth of Cockle Creek. On Sunday morning we took the dinghy ashore for a walk around Cockle Creek, and then toured around Recherche Bay under motor before heading out and back toward the Channel. This time we decided to go inside the reefs that lie outside Recherche Bay; a decision we regretted as the area was heavy with kelp. Pam was on "kelp help" up forard, signalling to the helmswoman when particularly large amounts hove into view. Eventually we had enough wind to sail so with some relief we cut the motor and sailed north, first with a following breeze, then sailing to windward up to Port Esperance, into the harbour, around Hope Island and up to the mooring area at Dover.

We walked into Dover on another calm, warm morning, where we enjoyed the delicious pastries at the Dover bakery, bought warm freshly baked bread and scallop pies to take back to the boat. Motored out in a gentle easterly which was more NE out in the Channel and we had a brisk sail up to Port Cygnet with Pam steering - as usual one tack required to get up to the Port Cygnet Yacht Club. We were hoping the northerly winds would last long enough to blow us back down the next morning, but the southerly change came through overnight, so once again there was no incentive to leave early. We rowed ashore, took a leisurely walk into town, enjoyed cake and coffee at the Red Velvet Lounge, took a taxi back to the Yacht Club to avoid overworking Pam's ankles and rowed back to the boat. We had strong wind warnings in the afternoon and had good sailing once we'd motored down Cygnet Estuary head to wind. Although we'd left Cygnet quite late we were anchored in Apollo Bay in time for dinner. We had to forgo some of our usual pleasures there - it was cold and threatening rain so the barbecue wasn't attractive, and we'd seen a sign in Cygnet warning us against eating wild shellfish because of toxic algal blooms, so no oyster-gathering either.

Wednesday began misty and still, becoming warm and sunny as the fog lifted. We motored round to Alexanders where Pam and Helen deemed it warm enough for a few laps of the boat. Helen did some hull-cleaning while in the water, and she and Peter practised man overboard retrieval with a newly acquired retriever float. After a barbecue lunch aboard and granny naps all round we took the dinghy for a trip down into Sykes Bay and back, then Pam came back aboard while Peter and Helen took Sake ashore for a walk. Ate our evening meal on deck enjoying a pleasant evening.

Gale warnings the next day made us cautious about the return trip to Hobart. We set off mid-morning but found ourselves in winds over 30kt gusting up to 35kt in the Channel, so turned back and anchored in Sykes for coffee and cake. Strong winds continued and we had our lunch before deciding that conditions had improved enough to make a second start. This time the winds were less than 30kt and we ran up the Channel under goosewinged headsails (staysail and reefed jib), then sailed up the Derwent under similar rig but on a reach. We had to dodge dozens of yachts racing past the RYCT and the DSS, but the wind dropped to a manageable 8kt as we approached the club and we were able to put the boat into the pen without drama after making record time from Barnes to the club. It was a happy ending to a very successful trip. [Top]

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Up on the slip at RYCT

Thursday 28 February to Thursday 6 March 2008

We arrived Thursday 28 February, put the boat on the slip on Friday afternoon, and spent the next five days doing the standard slipping tasks: scrubbing the bottom, patching the antifouling, antifouling the prop and replacing the anode, cleaning and polishing the hull and doing minor paint repairs to fix assorted berthing scratches. We were making an adjustment to the new stub tiller we installed as part of the autohelm last year, so we had the challenge of taking the rudder off and putting it on again, but managed it without drama. The trickiest bit was lowering the dinghy to ground level to get it out of the way, then raising it again before we went back in the water. But it is amazing what two people can achieve with the help of block and tackle and winch power. The stub tiller was modified so that the pin which holds the rudder in place also goes through the stub tiller, and getting the alignment right so that the newly made pin went through everything took about half an hour of patient wiggling and shoving, but we succeeded eventually. We had good weather for slipping: a few showers late one afternoon, but otherwise the weather was fine and mostly cool enough to work outside all day without getting too exhausted. We both felt much fitter after uncounted trips up and down the ladder to the deck of the boat, and climbing on and off trestles to do the cleaning and painting. The rest of the slipyard missed the cat, who entertained everyone last year by climbing the long aluminium ladder to the deck unaided. But this year he stayed home to be spoilt by neighbour Rosemary.

We timed all our activities pretty well, and returned from a last minute trip to the chandlery where our life raft is being serviced just as Danny and Ron were preparing to put Nahani back into the water. We watched her slide back into the water, went aboard and took her back round to her berth. Since we last came in, they had re-engineered the berth, removing a pile separating us from the other half of the berth. In the past our concern when the wind was blowing us away from the finger was to avoid the bow blowing off toward the other boat in the double pen. Without the pile, it was possible for the stern to blow off, which is what happened and during some rapid fending off, Nahani bumped into the jetty and took some of the new paint off her bow again. Bother! But it was bound to happen sooner or later. Once safely tied up we had a very busy evening getting the boat shipshape again (amazing how many tools, brushes, bits of sandpaper, cleaning gear, paint tins and containers of this and that you can spread round the boat when you're on the slip), so that we were ready to fly back to Melbourne next morning. [Top]

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Round South Bruny and back up the Channel

Saturday 22 to Saturday 29 March 2008

Carroll and Don Hopping joined us for a week's sailing on Saturday 22 March. The captain, mate and ship's cat had already been in residence for a week, doing some post-slipping maintenance and enjoying live-aboard life in Sandy Bay. Our guests arrived early Saturday morning, so we went to Salamanca to look at the market, have breakfast and shop for vegetables. We completed provisioning and preparation tasks in time to get away mid-afternoon.

From Saturday until the following Tuesday, we had four days of almost perfect weather: warm, sunny and calm, the only drawback being a lack of any decent sailing breeze. From the RYCT we motored and sailed down to Barnes Bay, spending Saturday night in Shelter Cove, a new anchorage for us. It was very pleasant in a mild northerly, with only two other boats interrupting our views. On Sunday we went on down the Channel, past Partridge Island, down the Labillardiere peninsula, round Cape Bruny and on to Cloudy Bay. We tucked in behind the reef to be out of the swell and went ashore for a long walk on the beach, admiring a splendid sunset as we came back. We regretted that we hadn't brought cameras, until the dinghy got swamped as we launched it off the beach to head back to Nahani and we all got rather wet. Nothing that a hot shower before dinner couldn't fix.

The next day (Monday) was wonderful. We motored further east round South Bruny to Cape Tasman, where we went back and forth past the seal colonies on the Friars, listening to the seals barking and watching them flop into the water from their sunbaking spots on the cliffs. The sea was so calm we could get close enough not only to see them, but to smell them! Then we headed back west toward Southport, experiencing our best ever dolphin display en route. We saw a number of shapes speeding towards us from a distance, leaping clear of the swell in twos or threes. At first we weren't sure whether they were seals or dolphins, but as they closed in we saw the fins on the curved backs and knew it was the latter. There were at least ten, maybe twelve of them cavorting around the boat, doing all kinds of formation swimming. After about 20 minutes, all but two went off, but the two remaining kept us entertained for another half an hour or so, criss-crossing under the bow. They seemed to doing the dolphin version of playing chicken, spearing in from opposite sides of the prow so that they met right under the nose, doing a sharp turn at the last minute as they crossed over. On one occasion there was a clearly discernible brown cloud in the water as they crossed: one had clearly frightened the shit out of the other. Later the whole pod returned again for another display of dolphin formation swimming skills. Carroll managed to capture a bit of it on video, to our delight. Finally they left us and we crossed the bottom of the Channel and went into Southport. We had some trouble anchoring as the holding is bad near the jetty, and eventually went over the other side of the bay, tucked behind a little island just in case the continuing light northerly increased (which it didn't).

On Tuesday morning we took the dinghy exploring into and through Major Honners Bay, then up to Hastings. We stopped at an oyster farm opposite Hastings, but unfortunately they weren't selling. We came downriver from Hastings, then up the Lune River and back, stopping for a brief walk ashore where there had been an old rail track. Although the Lune is only a small river, the deep lagoons behind the bar at the mouth are very beautiful and it was so calm that we hardly shipped any water, even with four in the dinghy. We returned to the mother ship about lunchtime, having disturbed a medium sized stingray in the shallows both coming and going.

From Southport we motor-sailed north to Port Esperance, where we anchored briefly in hope of getting some goodies from the Gingerbread House bakery cafe in Dover, but sadly they were closed. So it was onward again, back past the north side of Faith, Hope and Charity Islands, up the coast and into the Huon River, as the forecast was for a wet, cold and windy Wednesday, and we wanted to be safe in Port Cygnet. We had a few short periods under sail, but mostly we motored. We dropped the anchor into the Cygnet mud, near the yacht club, just after sunset. On Wednesday we waited out a day of horrid weather - so wet and windy that we didn't even feel like taking the dinghy ashore. We were idle most of the day, reading and chatting, then making a big pot of lamb shanks to warm us up for dinner.

Despite the threat of more rain the next morning, we went ashore and walked into Cygnet, getting rather wet when the threat turned into a reality. We dried out by the fire in the Red Velvet Lounge, having late morning coffee which turned into early lunch. Suitably refreshed we explored Cygnet a little, bought some more food and returned to Nahani in time to set off for Apollo Bay. Again we alternated proper sailing, up to 6-7kt, with having to motor in order to do more than 1-2kt. We reached Apollo at dusk, and decided it was too late to go ashore for a barbecue, so ate aboard instead. On Friday, our last morning, the weather was calm and sunny again. We delayed our departure in the hope of catching a sea breeze to take us up the Derwent in the afternoon, but it was dead calm as we passed Point Pierson, so we took advantage of the conditions to motor over to the Iron Pot for a close look, and did another detour at Taroona to give Carroll and Don a look at the shot tower and Acton House up on the hill. We were back making a near perfect entry into the berth (easy when there's no wind) at about 1700. We cleaned up, had a celebratory glass of champagne, then went to Fish for dinner via Battery Point, so that the visitors could experience the charm of Arthur's Circus and surrounding streets. Next morning we were up before sunrise to take the Hoppings to the airport for their return flight to Melbourne.

Captain, mate and ship's cat stayed on until the following Tuesday. Inspired by having cleaned all the interior paintwork with Carroll and Don's help while we were waiting for the rain to clear in Cygnet, we did some overdue cleaning inside cupboards and under floorboards, and tackled the messy job of changing oil, oil filter and fuel filter in the engine, in addition to the usual jobs of washing down hull and topsides, and generally leaving the boat shipshape. We interrupted our boatwork on the last evening when invited for a drink aboard Nimbus II next door, a splendid NZ-built aluminium 50-footer, visiting Tasmania from the Gold Coast. [Top]