Thursday, 31 January 2019

Down the Channel and around to Cygnet - Jan 2 to Jan 11, 2019

Southern Belle in Sykes Cove, Barnes Bay with the ever present Mt Wellington in the background ... a crystal clear afternoon in southern Tasmania. 
On a stunning January 2 morning it was time to move out of the marina and do some cruising in the world renown D'Entrecasteaux Channel.  First we had to say goodbye to Jim and Jeannie of  Onora who are headed off to New Zealand as soon as their crew arrive and they get a good weather window.  We hugged and promised to keep in touch and then walked away (which made me sad).  I hope we do see them again someday they were good folks and Jeannie and I shared so many of the same views.  I wish them fair winds and good travels wherever they may wander.

The D'Entrecasteaux Channel .. or simply the Channel .. is a wide body of water separating the Tasmanian mainland from Bruny Island.  It was discovered in April 1792 by the French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteaux who, according to Wikipedia, was ill at the time and the seas were rough.  His navigator made a calculation error and brought the ships up the then unknown channel into calm waters and discovered this very special place.  The Channel, the coast of Tasmania along here and Bruny Island offer all kinds of enjoyment for anyone and everyone.  There are picturesque little towns, boutique winerys, art, sailing, sheltered coves and historic sites.  You don't need a boat to explore but it does add to the experience!

No matter which direction or where you view the Channel the outlook is big, wide and often empty of people or other boats.

The boundless sky adds another element of wonder .. huge and ever changing. 
So, we headed out of our marina berth and down to the Channel.  It was a good day with just the right amount of wind for a fast broad reach downwind at 6 knots.  The boat and Captain George (and even me) were happy.  We managed to sail all the way to our mooring in Sykes Cove with only a few adjustments .. a feat not often accomplished when navigating around headlands, hills and wind shifts.  Sykes Cove is a sheltered anchorage at the bottom of the large and popular Barnes Bay.  The reason this was our first stop?  It's the closest anchorage to the Bruny Island House of Whiskey.

Lovely, calm Sykes Cove.  When we arrived there was only 1 other boat, SV Stray Cats.  By the time we left, became good friends with Debbie and Steve.

To get to the House of Whiskey from the water is a bit of an undertaking.  We called friends that had done it before plus we motored the dingy up and down the shore line looking for the right place to go ashore and climb up to the road.  This was the best place we found.  George dragged the dingy up a muddy, rocky shore; then we climbed up the hill and slithered through a break in the fence and on to the road.  From there it's just a short walk up the hill.
Once in the House of Whiskey there are a multitude of choices!
The House of Whiskey is advertised as having the most extensive representation of purely Tasmanian malt whiskey in one spectacular place.  The room even smells good!  Faced with a choice ranging from their Trappers Hut 15 year old to lesser younger malts it can become almost overwhelming.  They do offer a selection of 4 half dram tasters for $40.  We chose to do that.  Now, George is from Scotland and he knows his malts.  Me, I'm not that crazy about whiskey but I do love a Glenmorangie every now and then.  Sadly, neither of us liked any of the whiskeys in our selection (but that didn't mean anything was left in the glass).  If you're there it's worth a visit, even if just for the experience of the view and the tasting room selection!  Oh, and they have boutique gin too.

The next day the westerly wind was still blowing so we moved over to the mainland side of the Channel to a place called Peppermint Bay.  We jumped at the invitation to join Sans Souci and Supa Trooper - also members of the PISST! group - there for very enjoyable sundowners that evening.  One of the lovely little towns found along this waterway is Woodbridge and it is just up the road from the Peppermint Bay jetty.   Turns out there is a perfect and very popular general store serving good coffee and breakfast there so we all went up the next morning and after a very nice meal walked around the area.

Peppermint Bay.

Woodbridge main street.

Loved this!  A free community library.  The rules are, "if you like a book please take it and bring one back if you can". 
I was ready for a big lunch or dinner off the boat and one I didn't have to cook.  The bistro at Woodbridge is supposed to be very good so we called for a reservation but they were booked out.  Disappointed and thinking the westerly winds had died down a bit I suggested we make a run for the Great Bay anchorage and the Get Shucked oyster farm and bar.  We loved Get Shucked in 2015 and it was one of the places we knew we had to visit again this time ... but we have to be able to anchor in Great Bay to get there.  A few words about Great Bay.  It's a massive area, shallow at only 4 or 5 meters all over, full of fish farms and unpleasant in westerly winds.  Not far into the bay after leaving our anchorage the wind picked up to over 25 knots and Great Bay rapidly became not so great or comfortable.  We had to change course and find another sheltered anchorage for the night which turned out to be Aitkins Point in Isthmus Bay.  George enjoyed the sail there heeled over on a fast beam reach.  Me, not so much.  Our new friends from Stray Cats were there already sheltering from the wind and as we anchored they brought over a couple of flathead fish they had just caught so instead of oysters we did get fresh fish for dinner.  That was our first attempt getting to Get Shucked.

Fresh flathead for dinner!  Thank you Steve!
The next morning we were up early and sailed off to our next destination of Port Cygnet and the village of Cygnet.  We managed to sail almost all the way to Huon Island and the start of the Huon River but the wind fizzled out and we motored the rest of the way up the river and into the Port.  Just like the Channel the Huon River is wide and deep at this lower end with many fish farms along the banks and a big farm right down the middle.  Once the farm in the middle is behind you the cruise up the Huon River is peaceful and scenic.  It's not long until the wide opening to Port Cygnet appears off the starboard side and you turn the boat in towards the little port.  At the head of the bay there are quite a lot of boats on moorings with the terrific little Cygnet Sailing Club house sitting on the bank with a well used dingy corral .  We had booked the DSS mooring for 2 days and made our way through the boats to find the mooring.  Just as we found it and were turning off the motor this large dolphin popped up right beside the boat with a loud blow.  Scared me to death!  Then it proceeded to fish for awhile on the surface just off the side of the bow.  Wow!  I mentioned it to cruisers who are here just about every year and they said they had never seen a dolphin in the Port before so I consider us very lucky.

Port Cygnet with rolling hills and some fine houses behind.  The Cygnet Sailing Club house sits right on the water's edge just behind the blue hull boat in the photo.

Looking across the boat down the waterway leading up to the Port.
It's a 25 minute walk from the Port into the town of Cygnet.  I really like the town.  It seems to be - at least to the infrequent visitor like me - a friendly, vibrant and progressive village.  We walked into town for a few groceries and a nice lunch in the Bed & Breakfast hotel.  That evening we had dinner while enjoying the sounds of being at anchor in this lovely place.

The next day, Tuesday, was race day at the Cygnet Sailing Club.  Every Tuesday they have an afternoon race followed by a 'come one come all'  $15 a head BBQ.  We watched the race get underway from our cockpit and then long before it was over took the dingy over for the BBQ.  We met up with Jim and Ann, very accommplished live aboard cruisers off their boat Insatiable II, and they introduced us to some of the locals.  I sort of felt sorry for the people in the race because the dinner kicked off long before the race was over and when they finally arrived there wasn't much food left.  We also met a couple who were passing through on their way around the world from The Netherlands.  She is a member of WWSA (Women Who Sail Australia) too.  Really good people and very interesting to hear their exploits.  She is way way braver than I'll ever be.

Me with Janneke off the yacht Anna Caroline, great to meet and talk to her and her partner.
The rest of the week was one lazy day after the other enjoying walks into town, good coffee and meeting new people.  We were there for the popular Cygnet Folk Festival due to start on the coming Friday and we were looking forward to seeing friends on Sans Souci, Supa Trooper and Stray Cats again.  There was a crowd expected for the weekend so it was nice to shift down for a while and spend some quiet time on the boat.

Main street in Cygnet
Some of the boats in the Cygnet race .. there were all kinds and sizes participating.
Port of Cygnet on a calm clear morning.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Hobart - Christmas Day - NYE 2018

Looking off the side of Southern Belle's marina berth towards the Wrest Point Casino - the first and oldest casino in Australia - and the hills of the Sandy Bay suburb of Hobart.

The morning noises outside the boat remind me of the soundtrack from every film I've seen set at the seaside.  The soft whistling of the wind in the rigging, the large pacific gull's calls and the bump bump of the boat on the jetty combine to create a nostalgic chorus at sunrise.

The sun comes up early here because we're so far south.  It shines through the hatches over our v-berth just after 5 am and the light doesn't fade until well after 9 pm.   At first I couldn't get used to the almost 15 hours of daylight but I'm loving it now. 

The last blog ended with our arrival in Hobart on December 20.  Following the celebration of getting here the next few days were filled with cleaning, provisioning, exploring and spending time with friends.  We also had to go into town and find George a new phone, a task that turned out to be far more complicated than initially thought.   My husband prides himself on being one of the 11% of Australians without a 'smart phone'.  Of course he's happy to make frequent 'smart' requests of me using my phone.  Turns out there isn't much demand for dumb phones in Hobart and we had to ask the phone shop to order one.  Additionally, because his old phone had well and truly kicked the bucket, we couldn't get any of his contact numbers transferred.  What a hassle!  I must commend the nice people in the very busy phone shop for their patience with and assistance to a couple of clueless people two days before Christmas.

Our marina, the Derwent Sailing Squadron, is in walking distance of the famous Battery Point area of Hobart.  We walking around that beautiful area quite a bit.   Always in the background is Mount Wellington rising above all of Hobart.

Battery Point has beautiful homes from the 1800's and wherever you turn there are reminders of the unique beauty of the part of Hobart.

The weekend markets offer great people watching along with delicious produce - the strawberrys have been exceptional! - and good street food.  This picture of the Farm Gate market, my favourite, which is held on every Sunday morning.

Then came Christmas Day.

Before I go into what a fun, funny, fantastic day that turned out to be I first should introduce PISST!, the Personal Invitational Sailing Squadron Tasmania!  A collection of 7 or so boats and crew that made the sail down from the mainland either in company at some point or already known before arrival.  The acronym vividly describes the end result from the group's main activity which is socialising over an alcoholic beverage or two or three. 

The PISST! group decided since we're all here away from family and friends to have our Christmas Lunch together.  Everyone made food to share and, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, there would be Kris Kringle gifts under $10 to exchange during the festivities.  Well, the day turned out to be a real hoot.  The food was fabulous.  There was everything from prawns, to traditional turkey and dressing, to American sweet potato casserole and corn pudding plus several deserts!  Again, in keeping with tradition everyone departed late in the afternoon completely stuffed with food and happy with good friendship and drink.

The two highlights of the day - other than the food - were the gift giving and a perfect recital/performance of the American poem classic "Casey At The Bat".

Kris Kringle was different and better than anything I've experienced before.  Instead of the usual Santa handouts each person got to choose their present from a table heaped with wrapped boxes and odd shaped packages.  To determine the picking order each of us had to select a playing card with the highest card holder going last.  Initially that seemed odd until we learned the kicker ... you didn't necessarily get to keep the first present you selected, even if you really liked it.  If the next person picked a present they didn't particularly fancy they could take a pre-selected gift from someone who went before ... then the person now without a gift had to choose from the table again.  It was a great way to do it ... it kept everyone involved and laughing through the whole exchange.  I think everyone  pretty much got something they wanted or could use with the possible exception of Brian from Zofia who ended up with a pair of white knickers with a rather large candy cane protruding from the front.

The PISST! group with our Kris Kringle gifts ... Brian is modelling the candy cane.
 Then, after dinner and before dessert, Jim off the American boat Onora did a perfect recital of "Casey At The Bat" supported by Brian's interpretive performance.  I've heard and seen the poem many times during my American days, I loved the Disney cartoon when I was a kid, but I have to say their performance was the best yet!

Jim sharing the tragic tale of Casey at the Bat with Brian showing us how it's done.

The next few days were a bit quiet, we needed a rest.  Then on the morning of the 28th we woke to the news that the maxi yachts leading the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race were headed up the Derwent River for the finish line.  Our marina berth was perfectly placed to watch the the finish for the 3 leading 100 ft+ maxis.  We had our breakfast fruit bowls, toast and tea sitting on top of the dodger  watching the spectator fleet race alongside Wild Oats XI as she headed for the finish.  Then all the little boats turned around and sped off back down the river to escort Blackjack and Comanche to the finish as they battled each other for the #2 slot. 

Sitting up top waiting for the racers.

Wild Oats XI racing to the finish line of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
After that exciting start to the day we decided to take the local Metro bus to the Cascade Brewery for their tour.   Cascade Pale Ale is the oldest continually brewed beer in Australia.  The Cascade Brewery was started by Peter Degraves in 1831 following a stint in jail here in Hobart.  I love that Australia and specifically Tasmania has such an interesting gene pool of enterprising rogues.  Supposedly he had a sawmill plant on the site from 1824 but after jail he decided to do something good and brew beer.  We were told in the tour that the water in Hobart town at the time was awful due to the tanneries and factories up stream of the river so it was literally "drink beer or die".  Anyway, not sure about that, I haven't read that little fact anywhere else but the tour was interesting and the samples afterwards were very generous.

The iconic building housing the brewery.
We wrapped up the last days of the year visiting the Taste of Tasmania which goes over 4 days highlighting the boutique food, wine, gin and beer created all over Tassie.  It take over a whole wharf down in the Salamanca area of Hobart near Constitution dock.  The Taste has booths and trailers set up selling some of the treats of the area. 

One of the areas to sample anything from scallops to sausages to wine to boutique gin.  Great place to enjoy a sample plate and talk to people who've come there from all over the world. 

One of my favourite pictures.  That's not an ice cream trolly ... No, it's a GIN trolly!
And then the PISST! group celebrated NYE on the 64ft yacht Onora.   Thanks to Jim and Jeanie for hosting us all!  It was a terrific and fun evening.  We all made food to share and rang in the New Year in true yachtie style.  George and I even made it to the midnight fireworks over Hobart!  (Something we never manage to do at home, we always go to bed long before they light up the sky!)   I, unfortunately, don't have  any photos from the night ... way too busy having fun.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

From Triabunna to Hobart

Our stay in Triabunna turned out to be a few days longer than expected due to a number of reasons primarily relating to weather and tides at the Marion Narrows/Denison Canal.   I'll also be the first to admit I became quite comfortable there in the all weather safety of the marina.

After a week George was suffering badly from itchy feet and wanting to get moving when our good friends on SV Zofia arrived with the early afternoon tide Monday, December 17.  Through them we met David and Judi and absolutely had to stay for a very enjoyable BBQ at David's house that night.  We had planned to move on the next day but David explained that Tuesday night was the final evening for the Tribunna Community Film Event and it would be a special night we should not miss.  It took some convincing for George to agree to stay another night but finally he did.

These not-for-profit film nights had been running as a night to get together, share a few drinks and a good film but to also raise money for some of the town's projects.  All up over the years they've raised over $80,000 dollars for the community.   Unfortunately due to "council issues", which were never really explained, the event had to stop and we were lucky to be there for the final evening.  We saw "Mama Mia Here We Go Again" ... and Santa made an appearance at the end to hand out door and raffle prizes.  As it turned out even George - who normally would rather stab himself in the eye than watch a musical - had a good time!

David, Judi, George, Eva and Brian before the film commenced.
Santa and the master of ceremony calling the winning numbers after the film.
The next morning there was no further reason to delay, it was time to move on to Hobart.  As always happens with me after a while in a marina, I had a case of Marina Departure Dread.  Not sure if that's what you'd call it but there is a certain complacency that gets into the psyche after a while safe in a marina pen.  It's the little fear that the weather, the boat, the sea state .. anything ... might be really bad 'out there'.  It's that little fear that says, "things are fine here, why leave now?".  Of course one has to move on but I seem to always have that tussle with the 'Dread'.

Anyway, Dread or no Dread we left Triabunna at 8am with plenty of water under the keel headed to Chinamans Bay at Maria Island to wait for the right time to sail down to the Marion Narrows .. right time meaning just the last hour or so of the incoming tide.  Eva and Brian on Zofia weren't far behind.

The Denison Canal is a short cut to Hobart.  It means not sailing further south and around the bottom of Tasman Island.  To get to the canal you have to go through the obstacle of the Marion Narrows which is the entrance to the very shallow Blackman Bay.  The depth goes from just over a meter deep to as much as 6 meters deep as you enter over a sand bar and snake around the Bay entrance.  We have a 2 meter draft and we believed we needed every inch of the incoming tide.  Plus, the guide books say it's dangerous to go over the bar in strong N-NE wind.  The forecast for the afternoon was a lovely 10-15 knots of wind from the NE but nice and mild.  A gentle afternoon sail which would get us at the bar approx 45 min from the high tide.  Well, that didn't happen.

Southern Belle and Zofia upped anchors together at 14.30 ready for our lovely no hassle sail down to the Narrows and a planned dinner in the pub at Dunalley overnight before going through the canal early the next morning.  Unfortunately the wind picked up to 20 knots, gusting much more, and we got to the bar an hour and a half before high tide with building waves. The boat was rolling and pitching and I was worrying (as usual).  I looked at George and asked, "what are we going to do?", thinking we'd maybe have to tack back for half an hour.  He calmly looked a me, shrugged his shoulders and said (without a hint of alarm), "we're going in".   And we did.  My hands were shaking as I ticked off the passing channel markers as we motored through the surf and into the shallow channel.  Of course we made it in fine.  So did Zofia.  But it would have been better if we had the nice calm winds expected.

That wasn't the end of it.  We still had to travel through the shallow channel to Dunally.  By the time we got there it was gusting 30 knots.  Quite unpleasant.  We didn't get to the pub and it blew and rained all night.

Forlornly looking over at the village of Dunally with a perfectly good pub we were missing.
The next morning the wind had eased but the forecast for the waters to Hobart was awful.  The sky hung heavy overhead grey with fog and drizzle.  We had a booking at 8.00 for the bridge over the canal but wondered if it wouldn't be better to either stay in Dunally for another night or go through to and anchor in a bay on the other side to wait for a better weather window.  After discussions with Zofia the decision was left open .. we would go through at the booked time and see what the weather looked like at the other side.

Zofia passing through the canal bridge with Southern Bell close behind.
Traversing the canal was straight forward.  We had planned the tide time for slack water but the current was still against us at 3 knots meaning the engine had to fight it the whole way.

Once on the other side the wind was starting to build and the cloud had descended down close to the water making the bay ahead look ominous.  We met a boat at the head of the Frederick Henry Bay sailing along slowly.  It turned out to be Zofia's friend, and ours now too,  Chris on SV Bilbungra.  He's local and well versed in the changing weather here. Following some texts Eva said Chris thought the wind wouldn't be a strong as forecast and we should go on to Hobart.  With that the 3 boats set course down Frederick Henry Bay toward Storm Bay, the Iron Pot and Hobart.  The wind was right on our bow and building as the 3 of us took on a different sailing mode.  Bilbungra tacked across the wind and waves with all sails up, Zofia tried sailing and tacking but ended up motor sailing.  Southern Belle, with George saying "stuff this", motored hard into the waves cutting a rhumb line straight down to the Iron Pot turn and the Derwent River.   I was very happy as we turned in behind the lee and calm of Betsey Island after only an hour of wave bashing!  Rounding the Iron Pot - which is a light house - we had 25 knots plus behind us so the headsail unfurled and pushed us along at over 7 knots toward Hobart.  Finally.

Our berth in the Derwent Sailing Squadron was waiting for us and easy to get into on our own.  We quickly secured the boat and walked over to the Royal Tasmanian Yacht Club where Zofia was headed for their berth to lend a hand.  Good thing we did.  There was another boat in their assigned berth.  Following more than a few phone calls, moving a dingy that had been tied across another berth and lots of maneuvering Zofia down a long jetty and reversing along a walkway they were secure in their berth.  Time to celebrate arrival.

And after a long journey the moon welcomed us to a beautiful Hobart.