Our plans, happily, are both minimal and flexible. Which is why we are not too bothered that we’re not halfway up the west coast of Tasmania by now. We were initially delayed a little bit by the floors taking longer than projected, but then the bushfires happened… Franklin, our destination of choice, was on high alert; people were being evacuated. So we waited, gagging on the smoke and hoping for rain – spending too much money at the Mermaid Cafe – meeting new people and their dogs.
One of those people, a former professor of mathematics and sailor, lent me his little car one day – it was HEAVENLY. I took myself to Margate and bought necessities, and then to the tip-shop, which slotted into my TOP 3 EVER TIP SHOPS, and bought non-necessities (scooter parts, a pair of boots, books, clothes for Smalls and M)… It was excellent. We invited the professor for dinner and he talked to Small Z about nuclear power…
Another excellent new acquaintance is the multi-talented Ange, who brought her daughter and her violin (known as Walter) over for a jam with the Smalls. She does a lot of sailing and we’re hoping to entice her out with us sometime… The days ticked on. A worry that had been sitting in our heads was the state of the hulls – they had spawned their own eco-systems right on the bottom of each one where there is no anti-foul (scraped our way by the habit of pulling up on the sand).
When sailing at speed, we no longer slice through the water, we slosh. Slowed down by the Axminster beneath the water – the hulls needed to be cleaned before we venture around the west coast. M dived down to check the situation and came up pale and sorrowful.
“Covered. In. Barnacles.” he reported, wetly, removing his snorkel.
We began contemplating pulling the boat out on the slipway at Margate and doing the whole thing – pressure washing, sanding, new antifoul – all money we didn’t want to part with.
Thankfully, the marina at Margate is not only under construction, but it’s run by people who have difficulties with decision-making and communication. As a result of both those issues, we couldn’t pull out there, and instead headed to Missionary Bay over on Bruny Island. There, M and I dived on the hulls and scraped off all the barnacles. The water was a most un-Tasmanian 20 degrees – even the Smalls jumped in just for fun!
Once we started our barnacle attack, we realised that it wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d thought. Knocked over the job in about two hours, and felt very jubilant about the money we had saved. I think there will continue to be no antifoul on the bottom of the hulls and we will just try and scrape it back more often.
A day or two after that… HOLY GRAIL! It rained!!! Not a massive downpour, but it definitely tamped down the bushfire situation and brought relief to a great many people. And it meant we could finally head up the Huon River to Franklin – the place we loved so much last time we were here.
I’d forgotten how big the skies are here, and how clear the light is. We very happily reacquainted ourselves with the friends we made in 2017 and said hello to Grant – who followed us up the Huon last time and decided that he preferred it to city life.
Being in Franklin was fairly revelatory – nowhere else we have been has left us with such a warm glow. We picked feral blackberries, plums, apples and were invited to pick mulberries and cherry tomatoes from people’s gardens. The mulberries were bigger.
We helped out Pam at Back Room Books and looked after the shop for an hour here and there…. heavenly….
I was able to spend time nerding on computers with my friend Juleen, who wrestled our [extremely] old laptop into submission, installing Linux and Minecraft on it…and also donated us more yarn than we could fit on the boat because she has stash-guilt.
M spent several days restoring Foamy to his former glory – many people, I know, will not believe that Foamy has been resurrected (or was worth resurrecting) but we are attached to our too-heavy, but unsinkable dinghy.
We spent a night or two in Huonville, tied up down near the bridge…
It was during this time that our Franklin-Love went into overflow and we made an offer on a block of land.
We made an offer on a block of land. I know. WHAT THE?! In retrospect, it was like an episode of Seachange – the show where the town mayor is also the town real estate agent. Our first offer was rejected. In the meantime I dug around on FB and discovered that the agent selling the block was the son-in-law of the owners. We made another offer, upped it a bit, and they accepted!! Much love and champagne abounded between M, Grant (our friend and pontoon neighbour)…
At that time we knew the block, which was right next to the river, had a flood overlay, a coastal inundation overlay, a heritage overlay…but we were optimistic. We’d have no money left to do anything crazy – just a self-built tiny home. We were given seven days due diligence – which means seven days free and clear to discover anything weird or wrong and enables you to back out of the deal without incurring any costs.
It had been gently suggested that bypassing the due diligence might help our offer to be accepted. Oh. My. God. I can’t even imagine what would have transpired if we had done that. Meanwhile, we wandered back and forth past ‘our’ little block on the main road of Franklin, meeting locals who told us more about it. We even met a man who had grown up in a house that used to be on it…
On the second last ‘due diligence’ day it flitted through my mind that I should call the council and confirm that we could build on the property. I had read nothing to say we couldn’t, merely that the overlays might make it tricky. I put the planner on speakerphone so M could listen. We were told quite emphatically that no, we could not put a residential dwelling on that property. Our response was so incredulous that she put us on hold to double-check; and returned to confirm that it was impossible because of the flood/coastal inundation stuff.
I hung up the phone, called the real estate agent and conveyancer and pulled out of the deal. Cue: despairing Smalls who had imagined a little tiny house life with a chicken or two, in amongst sailing journeys. Basically, a place of our own to return to. M and I were more relieved that we had dodged putting all the money we have into land that we could have done nothing with… Nevertheless, we all felt fairly bereft – and pissed off at the agents and the owner, whom we presumed had known this all along. Although it didn’t really make sense, as we knew the owner had submitted residential building plans of his own…
After we had slumped our way around town, receiving comfort and chocolate from our friends, we got back to Bella Luna – I had just started dinner and there was a ‘helloooo?’ from the pontoon. It was the owner. He was not an evil plotting mayor from SeaChange – he was astounded at what the council planner had told us, and completely understood why we had had to pull out. He assured us he would be pursuing the council to discover what the hell was going on.
The following morning, I pondered whether to poke the bear. We were free and clear and had no need to have any further involvement, but I couldn’t help wondering whether, if I called the council and spoke to a different planner, they might tell me something different. I called. I spoke to a different planner. I didn’t explain what had happened, but merely identified the block of land and asked whether a residence could be built upon it.
“Yes,” he said. “The overlays might make it more difficult than a regular block, but it should be fine.”
I breathed in. “Can you tell me why the person I spoke to yesterday told me that no residential dwelling could be built on it? I have pulled out of the contract on the basis of the information she gave me. WHAT THE WHAT??!” To his credit, there was a pause… Then he took me through the various issues related to the block, none of which indicated why…
Anyway, very long story short – we were given an apology by the real estate agent, and the council, and decided that serendipity had offered us a reprieve from dire council related complications. Bullet dodged.
/…to be continued…