Port Davey, March 2009

In 2009 we considered joining the Van Diemen's Land Circumnavigation, but various circumstances made it difficult to commit to the five week period for the trip. Instead we set off in the opposite direction toward the end of March, just after the circumnavigators had returned to the RYCT, to make our second visit to Port Davey, and possibly this time sail on to Macquarie Harbour further up the West coast. Our first visit to Port Davey was a magical 10 days at the end of April 2008. For those who like to maps, follow both journeys on our Port Davey map. The description of our first trip also has some general information about Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour.

Our start date for this trip was constrained by the captain having to attend a meeting in Melbourne on 12 March. On Friday 13 he was unlucky enough to miss his return flight, but got in eventually late Friday. We began provisioning at Salamanca market on Saturday, and spent the following days watching the weather, finishing boatwork, provisioning, washing, socialising and generally preparing for departure. By Wednesday evening the boat was full of everything and the essential jobs were done. We'd even managed to apply enough pressure to have a long overdue job (five weeks) of recovering our cockpit cushions completed, so that we could sit in comfort on the voyage. [Top]

Link to Picasa gallery

Going west

Thursday 19 to Friday 20 March 2009

The forecast for Thursday was for a westerly change late afternoon. Although it was to be weak change, our plan was to try to reach the shelter of Recherche Bay while the wind was still in the north. We began well, out of the pen at 0700, then enjoying the unusual situation of sailing briskly down the top part of the Derwent in a following wind. However the wind dropped after about 20 minutes so we motored from there almost all the way down the Channel with a brief period of sailing in the lower part. We motored again past Partridge Island, and then found ourselves with a south easterly seabreeze that gave us a very pleasant beam reach down past the various shoals and islets north east of Recherche Bay. Of course the forecast westerly came through in force just as we turned west for the entrance, so we had to motor again for the last half an hour to get into Recherche and anchor. We had made good time with the help of the new motor, arriving at 1630, in plenty of time for early tea and an early night, as we planned to leave well before first light the next day.

The westerly change had blown out during the night, and we left at 0400 in a flat calm, which continued more or less all day, with a few brief periods when there was enough breeze to put sail up, only to have to take it down again about 10 minutes later. We enjoyed the spectacular scenery, but otherwise the trip was very boring. The only plus was that as we can now average 6.5 kt under motor we did the trip in record time, 11.5 hours from anchor point to anchor point. [Top]

Link to Picasa gallery

In Port Davey

Saturday 21 to Tuesday 31 March 2009

At the RYCT, we had recently met and befriended David and Sandy from yacht Caspian. Like us, they are Melburnians keeping their floating second home in Hobart. They had left the RYCT for Port Davey a week or so earlier, and we were monitoring the radio skeds hoping to find out their whereabouts, as we owed them dinner. We heard them call in when we were in Recherche, so once inside the Bathurst Channel we headed for Casilda Cove which was their reported position. We found no one, but it is a lovely little anchorage and we hadn't been there before, so we dropped anchor anyway. The mate felt a bit stir-crazy after all the motoring, so inflated Fanno the kayak and went for a paddle round the cove in the late afternoon sun, coming back much refreshed to a hot shower (another benefit of all that motoring) and dinner.

Next morning we took the dinghy ashore and climbed Balmoral Hill. As the Tasmanian Anchorage Guide says, this is the best value for money climb in Port Davey. It isn't too hard, even for non-walkers like us, and from the top you can see all the way from the Breaksea Islands at the entrance along the length of Bathurst Channel to Bathurst Harbour. While enjoying the view we saw a strange object which we eventually identified as the mast of a square-rigged ship coming down Bathurst Channel. We also recognised Caspian below us in Clyte Cove on the other side of the hill. As we struggled with the slippery and treacherous descent through the button grass, we saw her crew return in their dinghy, and then take the boat over to Joe Page Bay on the other side of the Channel. We returned to Nahani and followed them over, arriving to find they had already headed up Spring River in their dinghy. We were still debating how best to put the outboard on to our dinghy in choppy waves with a view to following them when they returned. After joining us for a beer on Nahani, we took both boats back to Clyte Cove, where they reciprocated by asking us to join them for a drink on Caspian. Much, much later we returned to our own boat for tea.

This set the pattern for our entire time at Port Davey: alternating daily excursions by dinghy and occasional walks with social visits to and from other yachts. We spent our first few days in Bathurst Channel, which we hadn't explored the previous year. We returned to Joe Page Bay and made the dinghy trip into Spring River, admiring the square rigger Westward Bounde anchored there on our return. We took the dinghy all around Clyte Cove and across to the other side to explore Ila Bay. We repaid our dinner debt to Caspian by taking a complete roast lamb and six veg meal across to their vessel in a suitably lined esky because Sandy had had an allergic reaction to the cat after a previous visit to Nahani. We enjoyed another very pleasant evening with them eating the roast followed by Sandy's date loaf for dessert.

Around the middle of our stay we took refuge from four days of gale force winds anchored under Kings Point in Bathurst Harbour, where there is reasonable shelter and very good holding. During the quieter periods we made excursions in the dinghy round the Celery Top islands, up Melaleuca Inlet, and round to Claytons Corner. From Claytons we walked up the track to the hillock overlooking the Melaleuca Inlet entrance, then walked about halfway up the Mount Beattie track through the part that is a bushwalk, stopping before we got to the button grass plains which we find really hard going as the only suitable footwear we have for the very wet and muddy conditions are seaboots, which, with no tread on the soles, are lethally slippery. Peter has also discovered that his boots leak, so he has wet feet by the end of a long walk. When we needed to top up the batteries we made a short trip in Nahani up to Eds Cove, a small bay at the foot of Mt Rugby. It is uncharted, so we had some fun charting the depth for ourselves in the dinghy, establishing that there is a suitable anchoring area near the entrance, toward the north side of the bay.

On the social side, we saw Janet and Geoff Fenton when we went up to Melaleuca, and were invited to see house and garden built by the legendary Deny King, Janet's father. We both read Deny's biography King of the Wilderness while in Port Davey, so it was very special to see what we'd been reading about. Antipodean, a very large power boat, and the yacht Malekula were sheltering at the jetty in Claytons Corner, and we chatted to both crews as we arrived and departed for our walk. Back at Kings Point we'd been joined progressively by Uncle Arthur and Galatea. We first met Uncle Arthur in Coffs Harbour in 2007, so Graham, her skipper seems like an old mate. On this trip he had Al, a fellow sailor from NZ, crewing with him. Graham and Al made several visits for afternoon tea, drinks and a most enjoyable dinner. The cook used beans and lambshanks to make a dish we thought should be christened "Gale Force Hotpot" – the captain thought it might register quite high on the Beaufart scale. We had reciprocal coffee visits with Galatea, where we made new friends of Ernst and Anna Maria, a German couple currently 9 years into their world circumnavigation. They had been round Cape Horn and in the Patagonian Channels, so we had much to learn from them. When the weather improved all three boats took the opportunity to move on. Two powerboats, Emeritus II and Caia, arrived just as we and Galatea were leaving. When we waved to them they called back "Was it something we said?" but we needed a change of scene too much to stay and chat.

Most anchorages yet untried were near the harbour entrance, so we motored the length of the Bathurst Channel, enjoying the views and taking yet more photos. We made a circuit round Wombat Cove, where Uncle Arthur was already anchored, but decided to go to Schooner Cove and be alone for a change, even though we'd been there the previous year. It was a lovely evening so the mate went for a paddle in the kayak and found a very pretty shingle beach, to which the whole crew then went in the dinghy and had a brief stroll ashore. No visit to Port Davey can be complete without a trip up the Davey River to the gorges, so we motored up Payne Bay the next day to do that, only to be complete frustrated because we couldn't get the anchor to hold. We made about 11 attempts over a 3 hour period, with a lunch break in the middle. After about the third attempt Galatea arrived, anchored first go and went up the river after coming over to see if they could help with advice. Even putting down our big fishermans anchor in tandem didn't solve the problem, so we gave it up as a bad job and motored back down into the harbour to anchor in Bramble Cove, an anchorage new to us. We took the dinghy ashore to a wide sandy beach from which you can climb Mt Milner. It is a steep and very slippery track, so we stopped just short of the summit to ensure that exhaustion wouldn't set in on the return journey (going down is harder than going up because of the higher likelihood of slipping as you descend), but not before enjoying spectacular views out over Breaksea and the other islands in the entrance area.

We had determined to make another attempt on the Davey River before leaving, but just as we'd weighed anchor in Bramble Cove mid-morning, the Fentons arrived by tinny with Sue and Jack, friends from Koonya, and Janet's niece Kylie, whom we'd met at Melaleuca. So it was all aboard and seven for morning tea and a chat, so nice to see them and show them the boat. When they left to say hello to Galatea, also in Bramble Cove, and to have a walk ashore before Sue and Jack had to catch the plane back, we set off up Payne Bay again. Galatea had given us the coordinates of their anchor point, but after three goes we still hadn't got firm holding. We decided to have one last try, following the instructions in the Guide as closely as possible and this time... the anchor skipped a couple of times but then it held. At last! By now it was 1450 and we didn't have a huge amount of daylight left, so we jumped into the dinghy and made full speed past the rocks, up the last part of the bay and into the river entrance, with no trouble crossing the bar at all. We went briskly round the bends and through the first broad reaches, and then made a navigational error and headed up a side branch instead of the main river, realising our error when we struck a snag at speed when the creek abruptly narrowed. Curses! even more time lost. Retracing our route wasn't too painful as the creek was actually prettier than the main river, and then it was onward to the gorges. We were able to enjoy them more than last year, as there was less turbulent water to manage. We got close enough to the second gorge this time to at least see into it, but couldn't get across the rapids just before it – too shallow for the motor, too fast moving to row against, and too deep to risk getting out of the dinghy for portage. And we didn't really have time. So we let the dinghy drift back through the first gorge, marvelling at the rock formations and trying to capture them with the camera, then headed rapidly back downriver. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset en route, crossed bay and bar and dodged the rocks at dusk, and had to do our final preparation of packing up kayak, spare anchor and dinghy ready for the return trip to Hobart in the dark. We decided the anchor was holding well enough to stay put overnight and leave from Payne Bay early in the morning, as we had done the previous year. [Top]

Link to Picasa gallery

Back to Hobart

Wednesday 1 to Friday 3 April 2008

We arose at 0550, weighed anchor at 0650 and motored down Payne Bay watching a glorious sunrise. It was a perfect morning to see the whole panorama of hills and islands around the Port Davey entrance, with Mt Berry and Mt Milner in the foreground, Mt Rugby in the rear. As we cleared Whaler's Point we saw a succession of other boats passing Big Caroline ahead of us who'd also decided that the weather was suitable for the return voyage: Antipodean, Emeritus II and Caia. We put sail up, but there was virtually no wind and we resigned ourselves to motoring to South West Cape, with slight assistance from a westerly seabreeze. Round the corner there was even less wind, and we motored over glassy seas past the Maatsuyker Group, keeping a close watch for craypots, as we'd heard Emeritus II warning Caia of a string of pots near the Flat Witch island. They had been taken up by the time we passed the area, but we had to dodge another set about half way between Maatsuyker and South Cape, when the captain was having an afternoon snooze, and things were so calm that the mate was reading while on watch, and only just saw them in time. The forecast strong northeaster finally manifested itself as an easterly, getting progressively stronger as we passed South Cape. Once it reached about 15kt we decided to tack rather than just motor into it head-on, so from there we motor-sailed, tacking round South East Cape and up the coast in 20-25kt, finally dropping sail to motor into Coalbins Bay at Recherche, where we were welcomed by Emeritus II and Caia, already anchored there. We were anchored by 1915, just in time to report in on the evening sked.

Strong northeasterly winds were forecast for Thursday, so we waited a day in Recherche, then set out at 0800 on Friday for Hobart. We began motoring in a flat calm and continued in light and variable winds up to South Bruny, and up the Channel as far as Mt Royal with rain and little wind. The forecast southerly change came in then, and we sailed with a strong following wind almost all the way back to the yacht club. We dropped the main before the wind change, and were glad we had because we had 30-40kt for a while, and were doing 6kt with just the staysail up. But most of the time we had jib and staysail up in winds around 20kt, making pleasant and steady progress, enjoying a motor free afternoon. We were back in the pen by 1715, looking in wonderment at lots of houses, cars, buses, people! We completed our return to civilisation with phone calls to friends and family, hot showers and a cook's night off meal at Don Camillo in Sandy Bay. [Top]