|Our boats at anchor in Clayton's Corner.|
The trip from Recherche Bay to our first anchorage inside Port Davey's Bathurst Harbour took 10 hours in our boats ... we sailed in company with friends Peter and Debbie on board their yacht 'My Way 2' for the (almost) 2 week adventure. It was very special having friends along to share the experience ... and some of the difficulties as well. We were more than delighted they joined us, the place is so vast and the remoteness so confronting at times, it's best shared.
As we rounded South East Cape first, the scenery opened up into a mystical fairy tale landscape of distant mountains. Probably the most apt description is it looked like Tolkien's Middle Earth. We could imagine lands of Elfs and Orcs and Hobbits locked in mystery behind the distant peaks.
|Sailing up the remote South West coast of Tasmania.|
|Approaching the turn into Port Davey .. you have to navigate around 'The Pyramids' .. large mountainous rocks marking the beginning of the end of the journey.|
Turning to start the run into the large Port Davey area and then the enclosed Bathurst Harbour is deceiving. The marine chart and the boat's GPS plotter clearly indicate an opening behind the island called 'Breaksea' (named because that's just what it does - it stops some of the potential wild seas from entering the natural harbour). BUT as you sail towards the turn it's hard to believe the opening is there ... all you can see, or believe, is that you're driving the boat directly at a cliff wall. Then, just as you think, "hold on, maybe we're in the wrong place", the passage opens up and reveals a wide open sheltered bay at the foot of a mountain called Mt Misery.
|Turning into the south passage towards Bramble Cove at the foot of Mt. Misery.|
That's Mt Misery straight ahead.
Anyway, back to the scenery! Regardless of where we travelled and anchored as we moved down Bathurst Channel there were views of mountains and sea that just made you shout, "Wow!".
|The view from Balmoral Hill and our anchorage at the mouth of Horseshoe Inlet.|
|The anchorage at Clayton's corner. The river leading to Melaleluca is at the top left.|
|At "home" in the Clayton's little house.|
The site is managed by the Tasmanian Maritime Museum and Parks & Wildlife. There is a small dock in front of the home's path where shallow draft boats can moor up and there is a hose for taking on fresh water.
Not ones to leave any experience undone ... over the next few days we explored the upper areas of some of the rivers. These expeditions made me a bit apprehensive because we were absolutely "alone" while there just in our dingys with no phone or radio coverage and away from our big boats.
Following our Davey Gorge adventure on Friday we moved back into the protection of Bathurst Harbour and the usual departure bay of Schooner Cove ... hoping to leave Sunday. The weather was due to turn nasty the next day so we anchored, had dinner and went to bed. There were 3 other yachts in the cove as well. That night the winds and rain came with immense ferocity. The wind blew with a strength that felt like the boat would be pushed off the anchor and blown away. I know I've never felt wind that strong before. The next day we heard on the HF radio that the wind strength was over 61 knots - Force 12 - or, in normal speak, hurricane strength. Shit. And the forecast was not looking good for the next 5 days. At this point I wanted to be in a marina soooo bad.
Sunday, the weather continued to present wind and rain squalls and the weather forecasts over the radio for Monday sounded bad. In a measure of camaraderie that you get from other boats in this situation there was a lot of introductions and discussion over the radios with people in the cove .. everyone calling on friends on the mainland via sat phones to gain the best possible weather information to help us all decide on the best time to make a run for it along the wild west coast. The decision came. We were leaving early on Monday morning. When we woke to a gale forecast for the Southwest coast and I was not happy but we had decided and along with Peter and Debbie and another boat we departed for Recherche Bay. At first the waves were large and rolly because the wind had been up for a few days but unexpectedly it settled down and the weather gods smiled large on us ... we ended up motoring all the way around again in settled conditions! Thank goodness.
On a final note .. I'm so happy we made the effort to get around to this spectacular part of Tasmania. It is something George and I will never forget and I expect Debbie and Peter feel much the same. But it is an area that, while so apparently wild and powerful, is in constant danger. Visitors bring in disease to the plants in the area through root rot carried on the soles of shoes. Boats bring in parasites through bilge water or grey water contamination.
|A dead area up the remote Davey river from root rot. So sad to see.|
The four of us were committed to taking out everything we brought in - even food scraps that may be tossed overboard for fish elsewhere were all bagged and brought back. We washed our shoes after every walk and stayed vigilant on waste water .. and the people we met seemed to be doing the same. But is it enough? At a time when our economy - the world's economy - is so much at the forefront of everything .. our natural wonders get politicised and monetised. Having seen and experienced such a special protected corner of the world I sincerely hope all of us - sailors and non-sailors alike - speak up for conservation.