Port Davey 2019

For the first time we stop in New Harbour, both on the way to Port Davey and on the way back. In Port Davey we have about 36 hours of very strong winds, which we ride out at anchor in Kings Point, enjoyable days the rest of the time, but a challenging trip when we leave in big seas.

Getting There

Sunday 17 March to Tuesday 19 March 2019

We are back in the water after slipping on Thursday, two and a half days of provisioning and preparation, and we are ready to go on Sunday. The forecast looks perfect for the trip round to Port Davey - lots of easterly and northeasterly winds. As usual, they lie. We make a reasonably early start at about 8:20am and motor for 9 hours. In the Derwent and the Channel there is no wind, from Partridge Island to Recherche there is a slowly increasing southerly. Motoring all day is exhausting, so after dinner we turn in early in preparation for an early start on Monday. Up at dawn, out of Recherche at sunrise. Enough wind to flirt with sails, which give us some increase in speed but not enough to do without the motor. Because the conditions are so benign and we are tired of the sound of the engine, we decide for the first time in all our trips to Port Davey to break our journey on the way round, so shortly before 3pm we drop the anchor in New Harbour, and eat a late lunch. As we are coming in we are overtaken by the Police boat, who anchor in the middle of the bay. We find a spot in the shallows in the north-east corner. After a post-prandial rest, we take the dinghy ashore for a lovely walk on the long sandy beach, crossing two creeks en route. By the time we've gone the length of the beach and returned to the dinghy, a gaff-rigged traditional wooden fishing boat DJV has come in and anchored in our vicinity, a little closer to the beach. We stop to greet them as we return to Nahani and they offer us abalone. So we offer them a drink aboard in return. We just have time to tidy up a bit before Anders and Andrew arrive, with not only abalone but also home-made mead - Anders is a bee-keeper. We can only provide nibbles to go with the mead, the chat, and the instructions on dealing with abalone. Anders shucks and cleans two for us as we watch and learn what to do to prepare and cook them. When the crew of DJV depart we grill chops, leaving the abalone for another day.

Another early night, but not such an early morning start as we spend some time hunting for engine oil which we eventually conclude is in the on-shore shed back in Hobart. We weigh anchor and motor out of New Harbour about 9am, under high cloud and with no wind, again. So we motor to South-East Cape, going closer than we usually dare, and then up the west coast. The views, as always, are astounding, and we see dolphin and seals, and all kinds of bird-life including albatross a-plenty. It is so calm that we see a number sitting on the water, where they look no bigger than Pacific gulls. Then they unfold enormous wings, flap themselves off the water and immediately start soaring and lifting over the waves. A sight one never tires of. No craypots seen all the way to the Pyramids and we motor on past them, turning in toward Port Davey inside Big Caroline Rock. As we pass the entrance to Spain Bay, we remember the Brownscombes telling us how much they enjoyed Hannant Inlet, just beyond. The books advise that it is a lunchtime anchorage only, but it is definitely lunchtime so we head in and anchor. The inlet has a narrow rocky islet across the mouth, just inside. The channel to the north is just deep enough to go inside the head of the inlet and anchor safely. After lunch and another post-prandial rest, we launch the dinghy and motor round the islet to explore the rest of the inlet. Which is huge - a couple of nautical miles long. We go about half way down in the dinghy before stopping for a walk on a small gravelly beach with a creek. Beyond that point the inlet is very shallow and is a nesting ground for black swans, so we feel we've gone far enough. The southerly breeze that we motored into going down the inlet has dropped and we return to Nahani in a flat calm by about 5pm. Time to up anchor and head into Port Davey proper. It takes another hour or more to travel up past Breaksea Island, into the Bathurst Channel, follow this around to the Narrows and then turn up and anchor in Ila Bay, in the shelter of Mount Rugby. We celebrate our arrival with a g&t, and then attack the abalone with sharp knife and a mallet wrapped in gladwrap as a tenderiser. We have never cooked abalone before, so we are just hoping we are following Anders' directions properly. The test offerings are delicious, so we cook the rest in time to eat them on deck watching a glorious sunset. It's a hard life. [Top]

Being There

Wednesday 20 March to Monday 1 April 2019

Wednesday and Thursday are grey days with high cloud but no sun. After three days of motoring, we decide to stay put in Ila Bay, going for an excursion by dinghy to look at the launching places for the boats provided by Parks for walkers to cross the Narrows, and into our favourite tiny cove on the east side of Ila Bay. By Thursday we are ready to venture further down the Bathurst Channel to the Harbour, where we have a good sail (at last) across to the east side. We dinghy ashore and walk the beach, a mixture of small rocks and the islands of green moss that line the waterways here. At the water's edge the rock gives way to fine tannin-coloured sand. The combination is spare and beautiful, sometimes reminiscent of a Japanese garden. After a long walk and investigation of a quite large creek, we haul the dinghy across several sandbars that the tide has now exposed, return to Nahani and sail back across Bathurst Harbour in an even stronger southerly, then motor into the Channel and take refuge in Iola bay, shaped like a keyhole with room for just one boat in comfort.

After a windy night there is a lovely sunrise, promising a better day. We motor to Joe Page bay, do some overdue maintenance on the dinghy outboard, put the sailing rig on the dinghy, and head up Spring River. We motor through the lagoons, then try sailing up the creek. With no rudder mounted we find ourselves zigzagging from bank to bank, even though we are going downwind. After several accidental arrivals on the bank, we make a more deliberate halt and enjoy lunch in silence and sunshine. On the return journey we amuse ourselves by trying to steer with paddles and oars while tacking downriver into the wind. The mate also rows as well as steers with the oars, so it is a variant on motor-sailing. By the time we are close to the point where one is supposed to stop using a motor, the exercise has stopped being fun, so we fire up the outboard again. We leave the sail up in hope of using it across the lagoons or at the top of Joe Page bay, but all it does is get in the way, and cause us to clip one of the markers in the lagoon. Once back on Nahani we de-rig the dinghy, but leave the sail and boom on deck for next time. We are disappointed to find that the kayak, inflated that morning, is soft on the port side again. We had found someone to weld the end of the inner plastic bladder in a final attempt to deal with a leak that we've had for years, but although it has stayed inflated for longer, there is clearly still an issue. We resolve that it is time to replace the inflatable with a rigid kayak. In the last hours of a lovely sunny day, we motor back through the Narrows and anchor in Clytie Cove for the night. The sky is clear and we can enjoy the stars for the first time together with a nearly full moon that makes for a very bright night sky.

A sunny Saturday morning has us breakfasting on deck, but just as we finish it starts to rain, and goes on all morning. It eases just as the cook makes scrambled eggs for lunch, but by the time they are eaten, it starts again and continues into the afternoon. Eventually we head off in the rain to motor round to Clayton's Corner, the first time we have taken Nahani in there. We find a safe and sheltered spot just off the point. It is still grey on Sunday morning, but very calm, so we take the dinghy up the creek to Melaleuca. We pay our usual visit to the Deny King museum, talk to the OBP watchers, then head past the walkers' huts to the Needwonnee Walk, which we do in reverse, down through the forest behind the huts to the lagoon, then alongside the lagoon, stopping to eat lunch on the way, before returning along the creek to the landing stage. The forecast is for a cold front and strong winds "in the afternoon" and so we are back on board the mother ship by 1:30pm. As we return the sun comes out and we enjoy a couple of sunny, calm hours before the wind starts to rise. We leave Claytons Corner, motor up Bathurst Harbour as far as Ed's Cove to get a bit of charge in the battery and warm up the hot water, then motor south again to King's Point, where we anchor and prepare the boat for about 36 hours of fierce weather. The forecast is for "damaging winds" up to 45kt, rain, thunderstorms and hail. The evening is fine and the wind drops again - is it the calm before the storm? We wait to see.

The wind begins at midnight, followed by a first class thunderstorm at 1am, and it blows all night with occasional rain, hail and more thunder and lightning. As it continues through Tuesday, we find the boat getting slowly closer to Odalisque, which is on a permanent mooring in Kings Cove, but with no one aboard. We aren't sure whether the anchor is dragging slowly through the mud, or the chain is just stretching out, but by 5pm we are too close to be comfortable overnight, so we struggle in wind and rain to raise the anchor. We move downwind of Odalisque before re-anchoring. There is a bit more fetch in our new position, but even if we move, no harm can come to us. Tuesday night is worse than Monday, with stronger wind gusts leaning the boat over from time to time, and lots of noise: wind screeching in the rigging, flapping ropes and halyards. We get very little sleep overnight and when daylight comes and it eases a little, we catch up on missed sleep during the morning. By afternoon we decide that we can safely move, so we head into the Channel and anchor in Frogs Hollow, where it is calm enough for the mate to cook Anzac biscuits and for the crew to watch a movie after dinner.

Wednesday is sunny, and calm enough for us to make a trip in the dinghy, sounding depths in Frogs Hollow for future reference, and exploring a couple of coves on the north side of the Bathurst Channel before spending another night in the shelter of Eve Point. On Thursday we head back into Bathurst Harbour with a plan to anchor in the NW corner and explore the river there, but we find the bay too shallow, and the wind too strong for a longish dinghy ride, so we turn and sail back down the Harbour and round to our previous spot in Clayton's Corner. We pass Shebeen en route, who call us up and invite us for a cup of tea, but we are keen to anchor so we are non-committal. Roo Bin Esque then comes on the radio and invites all of us to join them and the crew of Vamonos for a fireside meal in the house at Clayton's Corner. So for the next two nights, we enjoy eating and drinking with Oliver and Natalie, Helene and Graeme, Don and Susie - a very interesting bunch. In between on Friday we take the dinghy for an exploratory trip around the Celery Top islands, and the mate does some rowing to get some exercise.

Saturday is wash day as we are running out of clean knickers, and we get the washing nearly dry before rain sets in again. Later in the afternoon we move to Clytie Cove to get some charge into the batteries and warmth into the water. Sunday is the coldest yet, and wet, so we do chores aboard. There are occasional bursts of sunshine, but none that last long enough to tempt us to launch the dinghy. On Monday it's still raining, but we are up and have the boat almost shipshape when we get a call from Roo Bin Esque to say they have just anchored near us in Clytie and can they come over to return The Rainbow and the Rose which we lent them when we were all in Clayton's. We have a very pleasant coffee and chat with them, and then spend some time trying to get the washdown pump to work as we weigh anchor. Once we're moving we debate whether to move to Schooner or Bramble Cove with the intention of setting off for Recherche Bay at dawn the next day or to head out now and break the return journey in New Habour again. Finally we decide to put out to sea and return if the forecast large swells are too much for us. [Top]

Return trip

Monday 1 April to Thursday 4 April 2019

The swell doesn't seem too bad as we head out past the Breaksea Island, so we think we are going to be OK. We debate whether to follow our incoming track which goes inside the islets and rocks, or whether to go to the north of them. Because we have been warned that Nares Rock is not accurately charted we decide to stick to the inside route. As we are going through one of the narrower gaps between rocks with the swell coming in against it, we wonder about the wisdom of that decision. We continue to have second thoughts about the whole enterprise when we get further out to sea - the swells we are heading into are large, and when we finally reach the point where we are past the Pyramids and can turn down toward South West Cape, things get even more challenging because the swells are now coming from abeam, and the boat rolls quite alarmingly from time to time. The mate is steering and trying to keep the boat on as even a keel as possible, while the captain is below picking up an assortment of things that have fallen off shelves. The wind at least is favourable, and we have the staysail up and partial jib, but the main is not an option because the boom would be uncontrollable in the swells. So we are motor-sailing to give us enough power to get through the swells. South West Cape presents another challenge as some of the swells are breaking there, and it is much lumpier, but once round it the swell is coming from behind us, life gets much easier and we get some more benefit from the sails. Our spirits are also lifted when a pod of dolphin join us and stay with us for about half an hour. We reach New Harbour well before dark, and although there is a bit of swell effect in the harbour, we have a comfortable night there.

We leave New Harbour at 8:40am and find ourselves in much more comfortable conditions. The swell is smaller and more regular, and the wind is abeam. We motor sail past the Maatsuyker group with both headsails up, averaging 6.5kt. The dolphins appear again, this time with an entourage of shearwaters, chasing fish. We see them three times, but they are too busy chasing food to play around the boat they way they did the previous day. As we approach South Cape the wind dies, and we eventually we strike all the sails and motor the rest of the way past South and South East Cape and toward Whale Head. The sun is out and conditions are now quite benign, so we decide to bypass Recherche Bay and go on to Southport. We are safely anchored there by about 6pm, and there is time for the mate to row the dinghy ashore for a walk on the beach before g&ts on deck, then a dinner of roast duck and apple tart washed down with champagne to celebrate our return to civilisation.

The strong NW wind comes in overnight as forecast, and we are up on deck in the middle of the night tying down the staysail which we negligently left on deck. The cold fronts come through in the morning, bringing rain and strong gusty Sw wind. Things start to calm down in the middle of the day, and shortly after 2pm we decide that the worst is over and we can head north. There is still a fair SW swell, but it's behind us as is the wind, so we motorsail with both headsails up, out of Southport, up past Partridge Island and across the southern part of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. At first the wind swings from W to SW, but as we approach the Mount Royal corner it settles in strength and direction and we are able, at last, to cut the motor and sail. From there we are on a dead run and sail wing and wing until we are approaching Green Island, where we jibe the staysail and sail on a broad reach the rest of the way to Barnes Bay, where we anchor in Alexanders at about 7pm, after a lovely day's sailing. We make an early start on Thursday, motor up the Channel and river in a light northerly breeze and we're safely back in the berth by lunchtime.[Top]