Port Davey, March 2017

We return to Port Davey, a week or so later in the year than our 2013 visit, but earlier than our trips in 2008 and 2009. As in 2013 we will overlap with the Van Diemans Land Circumnavigation on their way round.

To the SW Coast

Monday 6 to Tuesday 7 March 2017

We make an early start (well, early for us, anyway) and are round at the fuel jetty shortly after 9:00, heading out at 9:40. Our friends David and Sandra in Caspian are an hour or so ahead of us, but we can't sight their vessel in front of us as we motor all the way to Recherche with a fairly gentle but persistent headwind. We keep the revs up and make good time, anchoring alongside Caspian in Recherche at 18:40. Motoring makes you surprisingly hungry, so after eating a couple of large steaks we turn in early ready for an early start the next day.

Alarms go off at 4:30am and we are on deck at 5:00am, anchor up and off by 5:15am, with Caspian following us out. We are cautious in the dark, and they soon overtake us. We try some headsail in the light northeasterly, but it isn't achieving much so we furl it again until we round Southeast Cape. Here the wind strengthens and goes more northerly, so we put the headsail back up on the other side and motor sail at 6-8 knots. We could have put the main up, but we keep expecting the wind to go more easterly as forecast, and we still aren't really well awake, so we miss the chance for a some proper sailing. We have porridge off South Cape at about 8am, and when the wind drops a bit as we approach the Maatsuyker group, we finally get organised and put up the mainsail. From then on we have only 2-4kts of wind, so it serves only to balance the boat, and we furl the headsail again to stop it just flapping idly. We have elevenses after we clear the Maatsuykers, and lunch at Southwest Cape. We motor northwards on a glassy sea with gentle swells. The only excitement is dodging craypots. We strike the first bunch just around the Cape, and think that Caspian was more sensible as they had turned further offshore. Then they called us to say there were more ahead, and this time we find our track is inside dozens and dozens of craypot buoys, in a line stretching from about a mile north of Southwest Cape all the way to the Pyramids. We pass on the warning to Taranui, a NZ yacht which followed us out of Recherche and is now just behind us again. As we head toward Big Caroline rock we're overtaken by Helsal IV, so we enter the Port Davey area in a convoy of three. After passing Breaksea and entering the Bathurst Channel, we diverge into Bramble Cove, where Sandra and David are already comfortably anchored, sitting on deck enjoying the sunshine. After saying hello we decide not to share Bramble Cove with them, but to continue on to Schooner Cove, which has always been our favourite first night stop. There is one other boat there, but plenty of room for us as well, and we are anchored by 5pm. It's hot enough for the mate to have a swim to cool off and get rid of the stiffness from sitting for 12 hours, before we eat Peking duck and rice and fall into bed before it's even dark. [Top]

Schooner Cove, Ila Bay, Melaleuca Creek

Wednesday 8 to Friday 11 March 2017

Link to Picasa gallery

Our first day is spent idling in Schooner Cove. We are still in bed when we are rocked by the wash of an incoming vessel, and look out to see police in a large inflatable approaching the other yacht. We just have time to dress as they head our way, but they don't stop to talk, just give us a thumbs up before going on to a large motor boat that has just anchored near us. We are dismayed to see a jetski on the back, and to see the people aboard taking selfies as they jump into the water from the flying bridge. Not really what you expect in Port Davey. And they are upwind of us, running their engine and sending diesel fumes our way. But the wind changes, they turn off the engine and go off in a dinghy, so peace returns. We erect all our extra solar panels and the engineer is delighted to find that, on this bright sunny day, we are generating almost as much power as the engine. We get the kayak out and inflate it for the first time this year, just as the guy on the other sailing yacht is doing exactly the same thing. Our operation is delayed by a significant problem - one of the valves seems to be missing (we find it after we've fitted the spare). We put the kayak in the water and have lunch. Our neighbour comes over in his kayak after we've eaten and we compare notes. When we inspect ours later in the afternoon it is showing definite signs of leaks - the port side has deflated and there is water inboard. We haul it out, tip it over and leave it for further investigation tomorrow as the weather has turned cloudy with a cool southerly, less conducive to paddling.

Thursday is a glorious sunny day. The Caspian crew join us for morning coffee before heading to Bathurst Harbour. We follow them as far as Ila Bay, eating lunch en route (it was a long morning coffee). We anchor there and spend the afternoon swimming and kayaking (the mate) and sailing the dinghy (the captain). Captain is quite pleased with his efforts to sail to windward, and criss-crosses the bay while the mate kayaks to the little cove we discovered on our last trip. She swims back to assist the dinghy sailor bring the craft alongside the mother ship under sail, then they sail together downwind to the cove. Here the dinghy is embayed and has to be towed out by kayak, but once clear is successfully sailed back upwind to Nahani. After a brief excursion to check the dinghy motor, which has been lying in the hull of the dinghy while it was in sailing mode, we enjoy drinks on deck as the sun sets in a beautiful cloudless sky. A perfect day.

We are idling over breakfast and early morning reading when we hear a "Cooee" and find we have visitors, Brian and Hilary from Taranui, the boat that followed us from Recherche on Tuesday. Another enjoyable morning coffee swapping boating stories with them, and once again, by the time our guests leave, it's lunch time (such a hard life). After lunch we head out of Ila Bay and motor through the rest of the Bathurst Channel and round to Kings Point. It is not particularly sheltered there as the wind is coming from the south, but it's gentle and we decide to stay as we are only sharing with a fishing vessel, and we plan to head up to Melaleuca next morning.

And by about 11:30am on Saturday we are off in the dinghy into a 15-20kt southerly, down past the Celery Top Islands, round to Clayton's Corner where we find about 10 of the VDLC vessels, then up the creek to Melaleuca. We visit the new (to us, anyway) Deny King Museum, then take the lovely Needwonnee walk to the lagoon, where we eat our lunch in a sunny, sheltered spot, and admire the view. The southerly is still strong as we head back up the creek and we regret that we haven't brought the sailing rig. The mate jury rigs a square sail using the mast step which is still in place, an oar as a mast, the boathook as a yard, and her shirt as a sail. It adds at least a knot to our speed and we are back at Nahani in less than an hour. By then the wind has whipped up enough chop to make our Kings Point anchorage uncomfortable. While we are debating our options over a reviving coffee, we hear Gitana on the radio, who we know are in Moulters Inlet. Their advice about current depths there persuades us we can chance it, even though our draft is a couple of feet more than theirs. We motor across Bathurst Harbour and creep cautiously into the inlet, in depths of 2-2.5m. Not much, but enough. Once anchored close to Gitana we dinghy across to say hello and take advantage of their satphone to send an email, a facility they'd offered us earlier in the day. They are Queenslanders from Brisbane, enjoying the VDLC experience in their very comfortable and well-equipped powerboat. We're back on our ship in time to admire the sunset and moonrise (full moon) before settling down for dinner. [Top]

Moulters Inlet

Saturday 11 to Wednesday 15 March 2017

Rain overnight and early Sunday morning provides an excuse for a slow start to the day. After a late breakfast we do some boatwork, cleaning and vacuuming. When the weather clears in the afternoon Gitana leaves and we head down the inlet to Moulter's Creek. We row up the creek until our way is blocked by shallows and snags, then row slowly back down again. It is perfectly quiet and peaceful - the warning cries of birds are all we hear. As we are motoring back to Nahani we see another boat coming in and as we half expect, it's Caspian, so we motor past to greet them. They spent the previous night at Clayton's Corner with 20 other boats, so they have joined us in search of solitude and escape from the VDLC fleet. We accept a dinner invitation for the following evening, and go back to our own vessel in time to cook a roast.

Monday begins with thick fog - we can barely see Caspian, let alone any features of the inlet. It lifts mid-morning and becomes quite warm as we first try to fix a leak in the inflatable kayak for the umpteenth time, and then sit on deck working on adjustments to the windsurfer sail we are using to power our dinghy. By the time we've finished and lunched, a 15-20kt southerly has come in, setting up quite a chop, so dinghy sailing is out and we can't test our work. Instead the mate gives the captain an anxiety attack by ignoring the weather conditions and going for a swim, first upwind for safety, then across to Caspian, then back to Nahani just as the captain is contemplating a search and rescue mission. In the evening we brave the wind and chop to dinghy over to Caspian for a delicious roast and a night sitting in their cockpit talking, drinking, looking at stars and a spectacular full moonrise. By the time we are ready to leave, the water is glassy again, and it's the same next morning, so calm that there is a perfect reflection all round the inlet. Later in the morning there is enough breeze for the captain to test out the adjusted sail rig on the dinghy (improved), and for the mate to kayak to the beach, swim back to meet the dinghy and help bring her ashore. After a rest on the beach we return for lunch, the mate by kayak, the captain rowing the dinghy as the wind has dropped to almost nothing. The temperature rises to over 30 degrees for the second successive day (in Port Davey!), and the mate has another swim later in the afternoon to cool off before dinner.

Wednesday starts with more glorious sunshine. Our multiple solar panels have generated enough power to keep both fridges running with only a couple of very brief runs of the generator, one to provide some hot water for the captain, who is not joining the mate in her daily swim. We receive a call from Masterpiece, our neighbours in the RYCT marina, who are part of the VDLC but have been away from the rest of the fleet in Ed's Cove overnight. They come into Moulters around 11 and Alan and his crew Ron, Ralph and Bruce join us for a long morning coffee. They come bearing gifts, the results of successful fishing between Strahan and Port Davey. After swapping talk about boats, sailing, anchoring, engines and similar topics of vital interest to boaties, they depart, we lunch, and then head back toward the Bathurst Channel, as the forecast is for strong winds overnight. We head for Casilda Cove, but are put off by the chart showing that to reach the sheltered part of the inlet we have to pass through a 1.6m shallow, difficult when you have a 2m keel. We head back east and eventually come to rest beside Caspian under Eve Point. David and Sandra join us to demolish the fresh caught cray from Masterpiece with champagne and some cheese and red to follow. When they leave the night is still balmy and starry, although the forecast wind has come in from the north. By the time we finish the washing up it's blowing quite hard, but it's still warm and the moon still looks full when it rises behind hazy cloud in the east. [Top]

Eve Point, Joe Page Bay, Spring River, Parker Bay, Bramble Cove

Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 March 2017

The forecast change due Thursday comes in overnight, waking us around 5:00am with strong squalls from the west and southwest that heel the boat over and make everything flap madly. The mate realises that there are bathers and towels still pegged to the lifelines, hung out after she had a cooling swim after anchoring the previous evening. She retrieves them and checks that nothing else is about to blow away, returning just before the rain starts. Wind squalls and rain continue until daylight, making sleep difficult, so we use the weather as an excuse to doze and read in the morning before a late breakfast. West Coast weather continues for the rest of the day, wind, rain, and then more wind. It's too gusty to want to risk leaving the boat, but later in the day it eases gradually, and the forecast return to 30kt winds in the evening doesn't happen, so we have an undisturbed night.

Back to perfect weather on Friday morning, and the three boats that have been sitting under Eve Point take off in varying directions. As usual, we are the last to go. We head to Joe Page Bay, as the mate can no longer remember going up Spring River in 2009, and thinks we haven't explored this bit of Port Davey. When we anchor and head up the river in the dinghy, she does remember, but it's a lovely trip and we're happy to go again. We motor through the lagoons, then row up the river, observing a request from Parks not to use motorised boats in this area. We row for about an hour, then pull into the bank to eat lunch. After about another half an hour's rowing, we meet the skipper of Nyandra, which was anchored with us at Eve Point. He is coming back down the river in his kayak. We stop and exchange stories of surviving the overnight wind squalls, and of our journeys to Port Davey. He is planning to return to the east coast on Sunday, as are we. We row on, explore a tributary of the main river, then turn back and row downriver. Once back at the lagoons we start motoring again, and towards the seaward end of the second lagoon we see four people in a large inflatable, paddling rather slowly. We judge, correctly, that they are not doing it for fun, so when we reach them we offer a tow. They explain that their electric outboard battery has run flat. We organise a tow rope and take them gently past the last lagoon marker, then down to the river mouth and across to their boat. It turns out that the two couples are from the two beautiful wooden ketches we've been admiring as we passed them in the Bathurst Channel, Laurabada and Windward Star. We're invited aboard the former for drinks by Ivan and Anne and so have the pleasure of seeing the inside of this beautiful yacht. After a pleasant time drinking G&Ts, eating cheese and talking about boats (what else?), we take John and Christine across to Windward Star, and then head back to our own boat as the sun is setting. As soon as we have ourselves and our gear back on board we haul up the dinghy, start the engine and head round to anchor in Parker Bay for the night.

In the morning we're hailed by Stephen from Nyandra, passing in his kayak, and when we come on deck to talk to him, we see that the police's inflatable is on the beach at the head of the bay, and its crew are just returning from walking up to Critchley Parker's grave. So we have a chat to them as well, and find that they have come round in Vigilant, the classic wooden police launch still in regular use. We then invite Stephen aboard for a cuppa and another long chat about sailing, boats, and life in general. After lunch we head ashore and walk up to the grave (only the second time we've set foot ashore), and on return to the dinghy we set off across Bathurst Channel and explore Casilda Cove. Using our portable depth sounder we work out that it would be possible to get Nahani in safely. Next time. As we head back we see that Caspian has anchored beside us, and when we're in hailing distance, we're invited aboard for a farewell drink. By the time we get back aboard our boat, it's nearing sunset and we work quickly to ready the boat for our trip back to the east coast while there's still light, raising the dinghy, deflating the kayak, packing away the dinghy sailing rig, storing the boarding ladder, and so on. Once we're shipshape, we raise the anchor and motor round to Bramble Cove, anchoring at dusk. Then it's time for dinner and an early night. [Top]

Returning to Hobart

Sunday 19 to Tuesday 21 March 2017

Up at 6am, leave at 6:30am in bright moonlight and day dawning in the east. By the time we reach Big Caroline after an hour's motoring, the sun is lighting the upper part of this huge rock. We set the jib, but the gentle following wind isn't enough to give us the 5+kt speed we need to reach Recherche in daylight, so it's motorsailing down to Southwest Cape. You might think that once round the corner we'd be on a beam reach, but in fact we still have a gentle tail wind, so we just continue motorsailing. As we approach the Maatsuykers, the wind goes more northerly, so we raise the main, but it promptly goes back to the west, so we gain nothing. Passing through the Maatsuykers the wind suddenly strengthens to around 25kt, gusting over 30kt, so we turn up to windward briefly to put another reef in the main. Once clear of the islands, the wind drops back to where it was, around 10kt on the tail, and the double reefed main isn't doing much for us, so we drop it again and go back to using just the headsail, much more comfortable. Mate (who wanted the main up) has to admit to the captain (who didn't) that it would have been better if we hadn't bothered. So we motorsail all the rest of the way to Recherche, only cutting the motor when we're dodging craypot buoys. We have a very close shave approaching the Big Witch, just as the captain gets the binoculars to start watching for them. Near South Cape we are radioed by a fishing vessel to warn us of the cray gear there, and there's lots of it. Then there's a bit more just around Southeast Cape, to make sure we are still paying attention. We reach Recherche as scheduled at about 6:30pm, having had the motor on almost all the way, and anchor just inside the bay.

We wake to rain, which gives us an excuse for a lateish start. We motor into a headwind out toward Sterile Island, then have a brief period of real sailing, without the motor, inside Acteon Islands. Beyond that the swell is large and the wind is less, so it's back to motorsailing, all the way to Partridge Island. Here we're out of the swell, and the wind, so we motor to the Quarries, and anchor there. The cool weather continues on Tuesday morning with very low cloud. At about 10:30am we set out and the rain sets in. Apart from a short period around Gordon, when we put up the headsail and get a bit of wind assistance, it's motoring in rain almost all the way. Visibility is poor, and we have to use the radar to avoid hazards like other yachts, fishing vessels, and tugs towing fish farms. A couple of times we're startled by vessels emerging from the fog undetected, but mostly the radar and AIS keep us out of danger. It's so calm that the cook prepares bacon and eggs and coffee for lunch as we travel. In the Derwent Estuary it's clearer and not raining, but with more swell and still no wind. We use the autopilot and tidy the boat as we motor upriver, so by the time we make a neat entry into our berth around 4:30pm, there isn't much to do except have a celebratory cup of tea, then call up friends and family to tell them we're back. We eat the last of the provisions laid in for the voyage, watch some television (a novelty after two weeks away) and we're ready for an early night. [Top]