Sunday, 28 December 2014

Enjoying friends and Loving Hobart

Hobart from the top of Mt Wellington!
The past couple of days have been so much fun.  I'd like to say right now - without exception - I love Hobart!!!  Such a pleasing city.  So much to see and do ... and so good to be here with friends.

First off we celebrated boxing day with our little group of yachts here in the POW Bay marina.   One  of the key members of our group - Sharon - wasn't arriving until Christmas night due to family responsibilities.  Because of that we decided to have our CD celebration dinner on boxing day evening.  It was another special night with friends on boats.

Our group dinner on 'Bogart' .. complete with roast veggies, turkey and gravy.
Excellent!!!  Everyone did their part .. Ian and Sharon on Turkey and plum pudding, me on veggies and salad and Peter and Sue on roast veggies.  Great night and fun with great friends!

The whole gang celebrating Boxing Day in style!

Sharon and Me (with Ian doing the washing routine) ... dancing and singing along to "Happy" as we dry the dishes from the night's dinner.  Doesn't get much better! 

The next day we drove into town and walked around the waterfront.  We had been told the Mawson museum was worth a visit so we spent some time there. What an interesting exhibit and such a worthwhile memorial for so many men that spent hard times - some dying - opening up Antarctica to exploration and communication.  The exhibit is a replica of the hut they built for their base station between 1912 and 1913 to study weather, magnetics and geology.   In the 1950's there was a permanent base established there as a result of the work they started.

The cramped inside of the Mawson Hut replica.  Men lived, ate, slept and worked in this small wooden hut.  A feat of selflessness and endurance!  If you're ever in Hobart you should give this small memorial a look.

That afternoon, with an easing wind and no clouds in the sky we decided to try and reach the summit of Mt Wellington again.  For some reason I thought it would be an easy drive .. and not so steep.  Wrong.  It's a long way up to the top and a lot of the drive is more than steep .. it is precarious!  As we angled our way up and up the road got narrower and the edges dropped away into, well, nothing.  It's not all that bad (apparently) because there are a bloody lot of people doing the drive!   The view from the top is amazing!  Hobart and the waterways around it are laid out to see in, what seems like, tiny detail.  The most startling element of being on the top was the landscape .. it was like being on Mars.  Red rocks dotted the area creating an alien "moonscape".   Quite alluring .. but so high and wild it was - to me - a bit nauseating.  Beautiful - but "get me off this as soon please".   George insisted on driving the car down the mountain - no problem from me!

Some of the "alien" landscape with the breathtaking view behind it.  Quite a place!!!

Today was an even better day!!  The 'Taste of Tasmania' started down around the waterfront.  It is a 3 day celebration of wine and food from this fascinating Island.  We went down for day one and I must say - and George agrees with me - the event is done particularly well.  There is so much to experience and they have many many places where you can take your little tasting plate of food, with wine and beer and sit and enjoy.  Even with a large crowd it was easy to find a place in either the sun, by the pier side or in the shade of a tree to enjoy your foodie find and meet people.  The "Taste" runs for a couple more days and culminates with a New Year's Eve celebration at the water's edge.  We - the 6 of us from Southern Belle, Bogart and Celay - have reserved seats for the NYE experience which we booked months ago.  Looking forward to that!

And then!!! As if the day wasn't as good as it could have been already .... we watched the two lead boats from the Sydney to Hobart race reach the finish line.  We were there when Wild Oats XI won it's record breaking 8th line honours and we also witnessed the American challenger Comanche arrive about 42 minutes later with full spinnaker flying!  Today's sights were on my bucket list .. I always wanted to be here in Hobart when the boats arrived and I accomplished it today!  Yay!! 

Me and George in the crowd waiting for the first yacht to arrive.

Wild Oats XI arriving at the dock in Hobart and in the process of dropping the main ... with all the spectator boats milling around.  Great sight ...huge boat and such a great achievement.

The American boat Comanche arriving about 45 minutes after WOXI with spinnaker flying!  What a terrific sight! 

The whole of the Hobart dock area - with the Sydney to Hobart crowds - from the top of the car park we parked our car in.  Spectacular sights and exceptional day!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Enjoying Hobart in our new (?) car!

'Tree Hugging' one of the massive eucalyptus trees on Mt Wellington. 
There is so much to do in and around Hobart.  It's a lovely small city with a mixture of Australian history and the very, and in some cases very quirky, new.  There are natural wonders on land and sea most within a days drive of our little marina.  We've just started to explore the immediate surrounds and find our way around the city waterfront.

We're staying at the Prince of Wales Bay Marina which is a good place for the boat - peaceful and reasonably protected from the weather - but not such a good place for travelling yachties wanting to get around and see the sights.  Why?  Because it's smack in the middle of an industrial area with no public transport and Hobart central about 6 km away.

On Monday George wanted to change the engine oil.  After much research he found that we should be able to buy the brand/weight we needed in a little suburb that should be an OK walk from the marina.  So off we went.  Normally the need to walk places from a marina is a joy ... usually it's an enjoyable 20 minutes into town or to a bus stop.  Not here.  We walked and walked .. through the industrial area, across a main highway, and on through the next suburb.  Unfortunately my foot seemed to happily undertake the first 20 minutes but when it becomes 30, then 40 then 50 minutes it starts to really hurt.  We found the shop George thought he could purchase the right oil at but they didn't have the right stuff  (I did suggest we call first but was told that would not be necessary - Men!).  Of course they suggested we could find what we were looking for at another shop but it was at least another 20-45 minutes walk away.

As we were standing on the pavement "discussing" what to do next George noticed a tiny El-cheapo car yard on the corner.  "Let's have a quick look around", he said.  Actually buying a car had never crossed my mind but George was considering the possibility.  Ian, on 'Bogart', had tried to rent a car and most places were all rented out with the exception of one 'rent a wreck' place where he managed to get a car for 3 weeks.  Since we are planning on being down here until March - and use the POW Bay Marina for a base - we were going to need a car.  My foot said so.

Anyway, after negotiations were held and we - according to George - did the obligatory walk away .. we bought a car.  A 1995 Mitsubishi Magna in great shape and with well over 300,000 km on it!  The price tag was $1,695 and George got it for us for the reasonable sum of $1,500.  Plus, the guy at the yard said he would buy it back from us when we left ... bargain.

Our car.  We now have wheels!
Freedom!!!   A boat for exploring by sea and wheels to explore the land.  Excellent.

Yesterday Bruce was picking up the rental car he had booked to cruise around (smart to book) and he moved to the B & B he would be staying in until he went home to Canberra.  We drove him into town to find his new digs and decided to drive up to the top of Mt. Wellington to check out the view of Hobart from the top. 

Mt Wellington rises up behind Hobart and stands as an impressive stone citadel above the city.  It towers there, above all, and so massive it even affects the weather for those below.

The view of Mt Wellington from our boat in the marina. 
Often clouds obstruct the summit and it snows at the top even in summer.
On our way up to the summit of the mountain we stopped in the little hamlet of Fern Gully to have lunch at the tavern.  The sky was clear when we went in.

Cute and very welcoming tavern halfway up the mountain.
But by the time we came out from lunch the clouds had started to roll in and become quite thick.  It was clear we wouldn't be able to even see the road the rest of the way up the mountain much less the view once we got there.   We noticed across the street from the tavern there was a little park and the beginnings of a walking track .. we decided to have a closer look since we weren't going any further today.  It was a good find.  Up the track were, we both thought, the tallest trees we had ever seen ... their tops were hidden way up in the gathering mist. 

Ancient eucalyptus standing extremely tall on the mountain .. magnificent to see.
As we drove back to the marina the weather continued to close in and by the time we made it back to the boat the heavens were ready to open in an all afternoon grey and blustery downpour.

About 6pm Peter and Sue on Celay finally came around the bend and joined Bogart and Southern Belle here in the marina.  They left Sydney about a week after us and, after a wait for a good sailing weather window, they made great time to Hobart.  Me, George and Ian were there at their berth to welcome them and help with their mooring lines.  That's one of the absolute BEST experiences in this cruising thing!  To arrive tired, with a feeling of happiness & relief at being almost at your destination, and see friends there waiting to help get you that final few feet into the berth and secured.  Once all moored, with hugs and smiles and immediate stories all round the three of us went aboard for drinks and more tales of the crossing.  After showers Peter & Sue came to our boat for a quick dinner before a well earned rest.

Today we did food shopping for Christmas Day and Boxing Day .. although none of us feels particularly in a Chrissy mood.  We then went to a little restaurant deli in North Hobart with Peter, Sue and their son Robert and his girlfriend.  Tonight, for a change, it will be just George and me .. a quick dinner and then off to bed with a good book!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Surprise reunions, Fresh fish, Canals and ... finally, Hobart!

One of the many sea side suburbs of Hobart from the water .. on the way up the Derwent River towards our marina.
When I finished writing my last blog we were on our way to Maria Island to spend the night at Chinaman's Bay.  Maria Island is large and a national park ... people go there on ferries from the little town of Triabunna to camp and mountain bike around the tracks and the few roads/paths. 

The Bay we anchored in is along the eastern side of the island and approaching it for the first time we found it to be a huge curved expanse of white sand.  The bay is shallow but it was possible for us to move close in and around the corner to a place called Encampment Cove.  There were only 3 other boats in the Cove .. and since we're new here we certainly didn't expect to meet up with anyone we knew.  But, as we were coming in and positioning ourselves to drop the anchor, a voice came on the radio calling, "Southern Belle, Southern Belle".  Boy were we surprised.  It turned out to be a friend we met on the Louisiades Rally .. Ken.  He invited us over for a good catch up on his boat.  We had a great time and he put us in touch with another couple from the Rally who live here in Tassie as well.  George and Bruce enjoyed the fishing talk and got some pointers on catching Flathead around the bays here in Tasmania.  Then as we were leaving he went to his freezer and gave us 24 fresh, cleaned Flathead fillets for our dinner.  George was excited!  Flathead is a terrific eating fish .. very mild and flaky.  It was an excellent and completely unexpected evening!

It was getting late when we went back to our boat so we stuck the fish in the freezer and went to bed.  The next day we planned to go through the Dennison Canal.  We needed to get up at just after 0400 to make the tide and to travel the distance from our bay to the Marion Narrows. 

The Narrows start out with a small passage which looks almost creek like and open out into a very shallow Bay .. then you twist and turn through the channel markers before arriving at the canal.  Here's what it looked like in pictures....

Approaching the Marion Narrows .. from the port side it looks like the land comes out well into the opening.

And from the starboard side there is a sand bank.  It was very calm for our entry.
 I wouldn't like to try this with wind driving waves up on the beach!

It takes about half an hour to go through the Narrows and then across Blackman Bay.   When you're at the leads to the canal you call up the bridge keeper on Channel 16 - at this point he can't see you and you can't see the bridge ... and the canal looks like a narrow ditch. 

We still had a bit of current against us as we entered the canal proper.  For deeper keel boats like SB it is good to enter Marion Narrows and then the canal itself 1 hour after Hobart high tide.  We seemed to have plenty of water under the boat
in the shallowest part with almost (three quarters) a metre to spare.

And as we rounded the corner and started our approach to the swinging bridge over the canal the wind stopped and we had a smooth passage.  Again, because the opening is so narrow, I wouldn't like to do this in any wind!

From there we had an easy trip to Hobart .. we motored most of the way into head winds.  One thing we're learning about Tasmania - the wind is off and then on and then crazy!  We were sailing up the Derwent River - the river Hobart is situated on - and out of nowhere over 30 knots came in from over one of the mountains!  We only had the head sail up but the boat leaned over like it had all the sails in position.  And then it was gone.  The wind down here is certainly unpredictable.

Going up the Derwent River we passed sailing ships and the Tasman Bridge....

One of two replica ships we saw on the way into Hobart on the river.

Tasman Bridge

It was so good to finally be in a marina after 2 weeks living on the boat.  Just the security of being tied up to a dock with electricity and water and showers is a luxury. 

Shortly after we arrived Ian from "Bogart" came aboard to welcome us and we decided to cook our 24 fish fillets on his BBQ and have dinner on his boat.  Good night, great food and great company ensued!

So today we enjoyed our first day at our destination port.  The three of us started the day as usual when arriving after a long journey ... by cleaning!  Laundry, scrubbing toilets, cleaning floors, filling water tanks, washing down the boat  .. etc. etc.  It took most of the morning and was finished nearly at noon.  From there we went into Hobart's famous Salamanca area for a look around and lunch.  I can't wait to spend more time there .. the art & craft stores, Tasmanian goodies and shops are waiting for some quality time.  There is so much to see and do in Hobart alone, this is going to be a great vacation ... if the wind can be tamed!

Looking down the "strip" of Salamanca in Hobart.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Good Days, Lovely People and Great Fish & Chips

At anchor in Bryans Corner at the end of the Freycinet Peninsula.
We left Wineglass Bay yesterday morning after a rather rollie night at anchor and a fair infestation of mossies.  Actually I wasn't aware of any rolling because I slept like a log ... but George and Bruce didn't sleep too well due to the constant motion of the boat.  Bruce said he battled mosquitos all night and, again, I didn't hear them buzzing around because I slept so well but I've got the itchy bumps on my head and arms to prove they were there all the same.

The plan was to leave early and sail down through the Schouten Passage before the wind got up to the forecast speed of 20-25 knots.   As we said goodbye to Wineglass Bay the main went up with the 1st reef still securely in place (I think it may stay that way through this whole trip!) plus the full headsail and we moved out into coastal waters at a fast boat speed of  7-8 knots.  Quite speedy for Southern Belle. 

The coastal scenery along the Freycinet is quite dramatic.  The granite cliffs drop vertically down to the ocean and they're coloured in places with pinks and red from the iron ore deposits & lichen.  From the ocean they appear imposing.  No shelter, no forgiveness, no hope if you come to grief before you find solace in on of the few bays available for the traveller.

We were blessed.  We made the trip in good time with a great wind angle and excellent sailing ... right through the Schouten Passage and into the calm, clear waters of Bryans Corner.

The clear waters and white beach at Bryans Corner.
At Bryans Corner we met a family on board the yacht 'First Light'.  In true yachting fashion they were open with local knowledge, help and friendship while we were all anchored there.  Then, about 7:30pm they came along side to tell us we needed to move to the anchorage across the passage because the wind was due to change rapidly.  So, we did the "Schouten Shuffle" which is a local "thing".  When the wind comes up from the wrong quarter everyone just shifts a half an hour to the other side of the passage to the beach on the other side - Moreys Beach or Crocketts Beach,

Crossing the passage in the "Shuffle" ... it is very roomy.... not problem with coming into it or crossing.

We woke to this sight in the Bay on Schouten Island.  Lovely.
 In the morning we said goodbye to our new friends and moved off further south down the Great Oyster Bay. 

Our first stop was White Rock.  This is right smack in the middle of the road between Schouten Island and Maria Island.  We met a lovely couple in Wineglass Bay the first night we were there who - amazingly - were from the 'Alfreds' yacht club on the yacht "Manutai".  Over cups of tea they told us about White Rock and it's seal population who, when you approach in a boat will jump excitedly into the water and bark and squawk as you pass.   So we had to pass as close as possible to this big chunk of rock to see the seal population for ourselves.

White rock ahead!  This "island" just sits right in the middle of the Great Oyster Bay.

There were seals all over the southern facing shore of the island.

As we passed the seals barked and jumped into the water to chase the boat! 
This picture does not do the experience justice. 
We would not have known about stopping and circling this island had we not met the couple
on "Manutai" at Wineglass Bay!!!
Another bit of "Local Knowledge" that our friends on 'First Light' gave us before we left was .. if we wanted fish and chips we should call into the little fishing town of Triabunna to sample the great food coming out of the small "fish van"!  So that was the next place we sailed for.

George and Bruce stowing the dingy next to the bus for the Maria Island tour.  This little fishing town is also the ferry departure place for the national park island of Maria Island.....our next stop!

The Fish Van in Triabunna.

That little fish van made the best fish and chips I think I have ever had...anywhere!!!!
Fresh, succulent, sweet and tasty .. so good.

After Triabunna were moving to Maria Island for the night.  Tomorrow morning we need to wake up at 5am in order to make the 2 hour journey down to the Dennison Canal for the crossing which will take us closer to Hobart and our destination for the Christmas and New Year week.

I have to say this....the first days we were here it was blowing like hell.  Every day we'd wake up to a strong wind warning.  I was seriously starting to think this 3 month cruise was not for me.  There was no way I could endure 3-4 months of howling winds and high seas.  But today it settled down and it looks like it will be much more settled over the next week.  One thing is for sure, Tasmania is wondrously beautiful.  Full of good people and good food and good everything else it seems ... except weather.  The past 2 days have given me an opportunity to see through the gales and appreciate the wonder.  May it last.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Tasmania - Calm & Wild conditions but we're here!

Spectacular, Awesome, Beautiful Wineglass Bay.
We made it!  There's that sweet little 3 word sentence again that says so much. 

As you will remember, if you've read my blog before, I was very afraid - s**t scared actually - of crossing Bass Strait.  My vision of the crossing was complete with, how did I describe it in my last blog ... mountainous seas and unrelenting wind.  Well, as it turns out, we had no wind throughout the whole crossing of the Strait itself. 

Leaving Eden was a bit eventful with 20+ knot winds and a confused sea which was difficult to settle into, find a good angle and get the sails working well.   Finally after we settled into the trip and got off the coast a bit we had a good run down to the dreaded Bass Strait.  Then the wind just died off to nothing and we started motoring ... and we motored pretty much the whole way across.  I couldn't complain about that!

Sunset across the expanse of Bass Strait .. you can see how smooth the sea is with no wind!

Then in the late afternoon on Monday - with at least another 20 hours ahead of us - we heard the weather forecast for waters off Flinders Island (the first island/land mass you reach as you start to turn and sail down the east coast of Tasmania).  It wasn't good.  Gale force winds were forecast for the coast of 30+ knots and high seas.  This was to come Monday night or Tuesday morning.  When we left Eden we knew there was a front forecast but it wasn't suppose to arrive until Tuesday night by which time we should be at anchor somewhere safe .. obviously it was coming much earlier than expected.  Damn.

I went into internal near panic mode!  I suggested to George and Bruce that we should put 2 or 3 reefs in the main to get ready but, while we were motoring along they didn't see the need or the urgency.  So we continued to motor into the night and then the next morning.  No wind.  George, of course, was happy to point out that I focus on the negative too much! 

About 10am it hit.  First with healthy gusts of 25 knots on top of consistent 20 then it built from there.  At a steady 27+ George and Bruce put another reef in the main and we were running well under just that sail with 2 reefs.  The wind continued to build up to over 30+ knots with gusts well into the 40s.  At this point it was clear to me that George and Bruce were comfortable and Southern Belle was handling the whole thing with no problem.  The best place for me was down below with my book.  Oh, I discovered I can read while underway after I've been on the boat for a few days .. normally I'm too sea sick to try and read but after being in the boat since last Sunday I wasn't affected by the movement.   

The most frightening thing, to me, were the waves.  You hear the term "confused seas" a lot when people describe Tasmania and we were introduced first hand to just what that means.  The wind was coming from the NE and then the NW creating very large cross waves that didn't have much regular timing about them.  Anyway, to make a long story short ... (I could go on and on about how the roaring of the wind and the size of the waves were absolutely frightening, but I won't) .. Southern Belle, George and Bruce handled the whole situation very well.  There was one gust of 50 something knots that caused SB to jibe unexpectedly but on the whole everyone handled the situation well.  I even remained reasonably calm while jammed cross ways in the v-berth just holding on.  Watching George steer and the waves approaching the back of the boat was just that bit too much for me!

Bruce happily riding the waves and George steering the boat through the crests and troughs.  Amazingly the autopilot handled the steering very well but when we had to turn and run, then cross the waves to pull into our anchorage George had to take the wheel.  You can see I'm happily inside the boat not watching! 

After 50 hours at sea we pulled into Sleepy Bay on the east coast of Tasmania.  The wind and waves permeated the bay right up to the very end but it did get calmer as we approached the bay's end.  It was heaven to be almost still again.  The anchor went down, caught well, and we were here!  Finally.

As you move in from the Tasman Sea towards Sleepy Bay you see this fantastic rock - Mount Dove.  Unfortunately this photo from the boat doesn't do it any justice.  The sides are steep with very little vegetation .. it is a weather stripped monolith of granite with that drops sharply into the sea.  Fantastic.  

It was a joy to stop moving!  We had our celebratory beers and potato chips, showers, naps and a quick dinner.  Then all of us hit our bunks for a wonderful, and oh-so-welcome full night's sleep.

Today the weather was much calmer and George and Bruce wanted to move the short distance to Wineglass Bay - which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  Me, I was happy to have a day off and not move anywhere.   But I was overruled and we moved.  I'm so glad we did.  This place is truly breathtaking.  We anchored and walked the full distance around the beach ... it was a relief to walk and stretch our legs.

Me and George with the expanse of Wineglass Bay behind us.

Southern Belle at anchor ... she's completely dwarfed by the mountains and Bay. 

Bruce at the top of the bay.

The rocks and trees at the northern end of the beach.  There were several groups of people that had walked through the Freycinet park and down to the beach.

I suppose the moral to this part of my story - our adventure - is things are never as bad as you think they will be ... and if they are then, well, you just deal with it and it's over eventually and everything works out well.  I hope/plan/wish to remember that throughout the rest of this southern ocean adventure.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Eden - Tears and Killer Whales

Snug Cove today - looking beautiful, bright and sunny. 
What you can't see is the wind blowing, this time it's changed direction from South to North.

Looking down main street in Eden, New South Wales.   
Eden is a lovely little town on the far south coast of New South Wales.  There is a good deal of history here and an excellent Killer Whale museum with an unbelievable story behind its creation - which I'll get to in just a minute.  First a quick word on tears.

Fear is a funny thing.  It can permeate every thought or, in my case yesterday, fear built up into something that suddenly became overwhelming.  Hence the tears.

I think it started when our RPAYC fellow Tassie cruisers on the boat 'Bogart' - who were anchored next to us - woke us at 7 am as they headed out to cross Bass Strait.  They did two circles of Southern Belle with all of us shouting our greetings into the stiff southerly wind - "Goodbye", "Have a Great Trip", "See You Soon", "Be Careful".  Then they turned, hoisted the mainsail and were away out of the harbour. 

For some reason that started a cascade of thoughts in my head.  Thoughts about wanting to see our friends again, thoughts about us doing the same thing and thoughts about mountainous seas and unrelenting winds.  I couldn't shake it but kept all those "horror" thoughts to myself all day.  Then about 4:30 the dam burst.  George asked me what was wrong and I just exploded.  I had a very good cry complete with sobbing.  For me it was cathartic.  For George it was awful.  Poor thing.  At one stage I was going home on the next bus.  But conversations with George and friends plus a few glasses of soothing wine and I went to bed feeling better.  Today, with swollen eyes and looking like a wreck, I'm better.  My courage, what there is of it, has returned and in spite of the fear I'm going to do it anyway.  Tomorrow we head out to cross Bass Strait.  I sincerely hope it isn't half as bad as I've imagined it to be.

The Eden Killer Whale Museum.
We spent a couple of hours in The Killer Whale Museum today and it is well worth a visit.  The story behind its development is an amazing tale of animals and man working together for the benefit of each other.  I have to tell you about it!  None of these animals were trained .. they just worked out a way to partner with men on shore to get the food they wanted.

During the last of the 1800's and early 1900's there was a shore based whaling operation here in Eden.  This particular operation was unique because the whalers and the killer whales worked together to kill other whales.  Pods of killer whales returned each year to work with the shore based men.  One of them in particular was called "Old Tom" and he was the most enthusiastic leader of a pod. 

The killer whales would herd whales into Twofold Bay and then they would alert the whalemen of their prey's arrival by tail flopping to encourage them to launch their whale boats.  Sometimes "Old Tom" would get impatient with the men in the boats and actually grab a rope and tow them out to the poor whale victims.  After the whale was harpooned, some of the killers would expedite its death by rolling over its blowhole to stop it breathing, and others would swim below it to prevent it sounding!

When the whale was dead the men would put floats on the carcass and then leave it so the killer whales could take their reward.  They would only eat the animal's tongue and lips.  Then the whalers would come back and collect what was left for meat, oil, etc.

Sadly one day a fisherman found the body of "Old Tom" floating in the bay.  They kept his skeleton and mounted it.  Then in 1939 the museum was built around Tom's remains, his story and the story of the whaling history of Eden.  Amazingly you can see Tom's teeth that were worn down from towing out the whaling boats!

I'm an animal lover and this story really got me.  One day the human species will wake up to the fact - I hope soon - that we're all in this together and the sooner we move toward respecting our environment and the creatures we share our planet with the better for all!!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Safe in Eden

Looking out the entrance to the very open bay at Eden - called Twofold Bay.
We made it. 

I've used that short sweet sentence many times when talking about our sailing escapades.  Why?  Because those three words encapsulate, to me anyway, just how I feel when we finally arrive at a place, put the anchor down, stop moving and relax. 

The past 3 days feel like an eternity .. a marathon of endurance ... a long exercise in self control and wilful positive thinking!  Think I'm exaggerating?  Well maybe I am - to a certain extent.  But right now, only a short time after dropping the pick (anchor) I'm still feeling the effects of 3 days sailing down the coast.

Let me give you a quick critique of the trip so far.....

First off we were really tired when we left Sydney at 7:30pm last Sunday night.  I don't know if you can get around feeling like that on the first day out because there's so much to do to get away from the day to day.  The trip to Jervis was 16/17 hours.  It was hard.  The rocking motion on a boat is soporific at the best of times but when you're dead tired it's bloody hard to stay awake, reasonably alert and be a supportive & functioning crew throughout the night.

The necessary wind ... it is never what you want it to be or expect it to be unfortunately.  For the trip down to Jervis Bay we expected mainly light winds but at least wind.  None came .. until just past the half way point it came in abundance and unexpected and unannounced.  We were hit with 35 knots (a lot) out of the blue.  No warning.  This wind "front" persisted with gust after gust growing to a max at one point of 44 knots.  Then, as quickly as it arrived it was gone diminishing to 10-12 knots.  Sailing - panic stations one minute and boredom the next!

We were able to rest and recuperate overnight in JB to get ready for the big trip of 24 hours to Eden.  I must say doing that kind of passage when refreshed is heaven!  We left JB early and were out in the ocean on the way south by 10:15.  Again the wind was not as expected.  We had absolutely no wind which meant we had to motor through the day and most of the night.  But that was OK because we were rested and relaxed.  Then, as usual, in the early morning as George and I were resigned to no wind ... with George sound asleep in the cockpit as I kept watch ... the wind gauge started to come alive ... and alive .... and alive.  From 3 knots to 25 knots in 2 minutes at 2am in the morning ... of course.  That was a wild ride but unlike the previous day it didn't diminish.  It kept going .. also gifting us with a white out of heavy rain and building large seas.

It was with this complete white out, rain and large rolling surf that we entered Eden's Twofold Bay for the first time ever in our Southern Belle.  I was steering the boat and navigating using the chart plotter while George sorted the carnage of sheets (ropes) and gear in the cockpit from our late night wild ride.  It was scary but as I said in the beginning, We Made It.

Now we're here, safe in Eden, with many other yachties on their way to the summer cruising grounds of beautiful Tasmania.

Waiting for a weather window in Snug Cove, Eden.

After the ups and downs of the past 3 days I've been thinking about quitting this part of this adventure.  I have seriously considered leaving George and our friend Bruce, who is helping us sail down to Hobart, and going home.  It would be so easy to let them sail Southern Belle down and join them once they've done the work using the good ship Qantas to get myself there.  As much as this appeals to me I can't do it. It wouldn't be fair to them and it wouldn't be fair to me.  I knew this was going to be one of the toughest thing I have EVER done.  But just like the Louisiades Rally in 2013 I know this journey will provide good times and great adventure I will take happily through the rest of my days.  So exhaustion and wind be good to us ... we'll leave at the first good weather window.  Can't wait to sail into Wineglass Bay!!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Ready for Tassie!!!

Miss Southern Belle looking resplendent after her "bottom" clean.  Such a pretty boat!
It seems like we've been, George mostly, talking about sailing SOUTHERN BELLE to Tasmania for a long long time.  The subject has been bantered around for what seems like decades - and the proposal is always met with a bit of a grimace from me when mentioned.  Why the grimace?  Because I can say without exaggeration, "I have NEVER wanted to sail into the 'roaring forties', I've never even dreamed I would be foolish enough to try".

Never say never.

Tomorrow we leave the beautiful confines of Pittwater and Broken Bay - the most perfect of cruising grounds - for the southern ocean and the beautiful, and often stormy, island of Tasmania.  Somebody ... something, help me.  I won't bore you with the shit going on inside my head since the date of early December was set except to tell you my mind swings wildly between, "It will be fine, we'll have a great time" ... to, "What do you think you're doing!!! You aren't a southern ocean sailor, hell you're not much of a sailor full stop!!!"

What's the old saying?  "Feel the fear and do it anyway"  O.K.

In spite of the talk and planning the run up to departure has been full on.  Here, in pictures, some of the prep.

The dirty, smelly job of cleaning our Belle's bottom.  This is necessary if you want the boat to travel at maximum speed!

At the stove cooking multiple soups and casseroles to freeze so we can have something quick to eat after long hours at sea.

The kitchen counter laden with all the necessities of cooking multiple meals.
Wrapping wine bottles individually in bubble wrap for storage in the hold of the boat.  We famously carried over 100 bottles to the Louisiades, which turned out not to be overkill.  So for this trip we only wrapped and stored 65.  Not overkill at all!  I may be able to force myself to sail in far away southern oceans but I most certainly can not abide the thought of doing without wine!
Now, here we are.  Tomorrow afternoon, probably about 5-ish George will drive the boat out of the RPAYC marina and head out to sea for Jervis Bay, 84 nautical miles south of Sydney.  Another adventure I've dreaded but now that it's here I'd like to get moving.  However there is one little love that will be as hard as ever to leave behind ... My Molly.  Goodness I love that dog.  Steph is staying with her again and I know they love each other, but I'll miss my girl so very much.