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.


  1. Good to hear it all came good, except for all that motoring. Summer weather can be anything, the bureau doesn't take any chances and gives us the worse scenario. Happened to us same story. Scary forecast, lost all wind. But then we've been blasted too. Hey, there's a great walk to the top of the Hazards, those peaks to your north. Walk to the end of the beach and find the trail leading over the saddle, from there another trail leads up. Great photo opportunity. Congratulation you have crossed Bass Strait and are now in Tasmania. :>)

  2. Well done to all. We were thinking of you when we heard the forecast. Glad to hear that SB (and crew) handled the conditions so well. Do what Capt Jack suggests and climb the hill to the north. You will be rewarded with the class photo of Wineglass Bay. We camped there one night and had a fight with a possum over a fish. Imagine me on the inside of the tent holding the head and the possum on the outside of the tent pulling on the tail!! Again, well done.