West Arm to Gravelly Beach

Life on a boat creates quite a few inconveniences – when we tie up somewhere and there is Infrastructure – especially Thoughtful Infrastructure – I am immediately enraptured. Hastings, George Town, Gravelly Beach – I instantly want to remain for as long as possible (this, with the exception of Hastings) usually only lasts a day or two) and I bleat to M, “Let’s stay HERE. It’s so pretty! The park! The playground! The cute houses!” He humours me. It’s his job.

Gravelly Beach – we tied up to the wrong pontoon but were unaware of this until M finds out from the chandlery (one of two shops). This place has it going on – particularly if you are a little boating family with Smalls who need a run/scoot/climb/explore. They burst off the boat, flying on their scooters – straight to the skate park.

Yes. We have pulled up at a pontoon where the nearest infrastructure is a skate park and a truly fantastic playground – with free barbecues and all with a view of the boat. The Smalls are in heaven… The only other person there is a woman with her two small boys. She tells us they have been stuck inside their house for a whole week with horrible gastro – this is the first time they’ve been well enough to go out. We slowly back away until we are out of sight and then all (for we have all monkeyed around on the swings and climbing frames) wash our hands, thoroughly…

Spinning at Gravelly Beach

It’s a very very beautiful spot – the houses are generally old school with lots of beautiful gardens overlooking the water. There are fibro shacks and a great general store that has a couple of tables. M, of course, has to get a coffee made by a person using a Coffee Machine. He tries to convince me to have a cup of tea – I decline, for I am a tea-snob who has her favourite tea at home and therefore sees no reason to pay to be underwhelmed by what may turn out to be a Liptons teabag.

I send a postcard to the Mothership (I have stolen this terminology from Shauna and hope she doesn’t mind) because the general store is also a post office. We wander around a bit more – there is a tap nearby where we can top up our water, and rubbish/recycling bins as well. All the conveniences. It is good.

Gravelly Beach, over the skate park with Bella Luna in the distance

George Town to West Arm

It’s Melbourne Cup Day – but we are in Tasmania, and saw no mention of it. I was texted a photo from my Mothership who is throwing a party and had baked a cake in its honour. It looked delicious *whimper*

There have been very strong winds for the last two days and they are supposed to continue for another five, at least. Horrors. We departed George Town, after a last visit to the library, in what felt like a hurricane – it felt dicey, the process of leaving the pontoon, but M remained calm at all times and I pulled ropes onboard like a mad-person. It was not sailing weather.

Motored around to Beauty Point where the Australian Maritime College is, and then backtracked around to West Arm – a kind of dead end turn off on the Tamar River, and managed to find an anchorage out of the horrible wind.

This is the view as we eat dinner - a beautifully sheltered anchorage.
This is the view as we eat dinner – a beautifully sheltered anchorage.

It is LOVELY here – feels like we are on the Murray River – the banks are lined with gumtrees. M and Small DB went ashore and brought back huge oysters – that apparently we are not allowed to eat because of pollution in the river. I am TORTURED by this situation. An oyster as big as my head that I am forbidden to consume. Woe. WOE. I have instructed Small DB to use them as bait to catch me a Large Flathead. I will then reduce my levels of despair.

George Town: Bass, Flinders and a bottle of fizz

We all walk to the petrol station, about a kilometre away around the river and up a bit. M has his beloved haversack (his joy stems from buying it for $27 on eBay from a woman who had bought it new for over $300 and had used it once) into which we can fit a 10L fuel container. He will become the Fuel Mule.

Small DB, who continues to refuse to wear her winter boots (her brand new Keens sandals having conveniently been left on Deal Island, irretrievable), stays out the front of the petrol station with me, playing number games while we wait.

The Fuel Mule comes back ten minutes later, holding a large bottle of soft drink with Small Z skipping beside him. I laser beam him. “What did you buy THAT for?” He becomes hysterical. Small Z is beatific beside him.

“The guy in there, when we went to pay for the fuel, asked Zoe why she wasn’t in school today. She told him she was homeschooled. He asked what her name was, and she looked at him and said: ‘My name is Zoe Adams. And my sister’s name is Odgington Fartworthy, that’s Fartworthy – F-A-R-T. Fartworthy.'” M was cackling. “He didn’t know how to take that. He just looked at her – and I think he thought she was hilarious. He gave her the bottle of soft drink!”

The three of them were joyful and took swigs from the bottle as we walked back into town.

M, Z and the bottle of fizz

The rest of our time in George Town was spent at the library and also looking, aided by the excellent Ivy, through the Bass & Flinders Centre (a two minute walk from where we were tied up. We had been going to give it a miss because our budget wouldn’t cover it – but on our last day it was apparently the beginning of a week long festival and it was free entry although you had to spend money to go on the Norfolk replica – which the Smalls did).

This is the first time in five years, and the second time in ten years, that we haven’t been at the Maldon Folk Festival this weekend. I wasn’t thrilled with the rearrangements there last year, so wasn’t too forlorn about it, but am glad we are out and about adventuring in new places…

Deal Island to George Town, Tasmania!

We left Garden Cove at 2am – MetEye indicated that we would have a bit of wind to help us on our way. We decided on four hour shifts. I went back to bed at about 2.30am. Woke at 6am. M looking despondent – behind him loomed Murray Pass and Deal Island. We’d barely moved in four hours. There was No Wind.

Becalmed in Bass Strait.

This remained the case until about 11am – when the sun came out and a breeze emerged.

Now this was a novelty. Sailing in sunshine, with the wave action minimal, enabling us to spend a bit of time in the cabin without feeling nauseous. The Smalls went on a screen binge, followed by an audiobook binge. M and I focussed on getting enough rest and keeping us all fed and watered.

We said hello to Bass Pyramid

A large rock. Bass Strait.

M did not snooze as much as I would’ve liked, but we swapped back and forth – I took over at about 10pm and sent him to bed. Oh, what an eventful time I had. I actually sailed in a circle. I use the term ‘sailed’ very loosely, as I never actually moved away from my very small area. Bass Strait – a notorious stretch of water, was a complete millpond.

For a while I was moving a tiny weeny bit and found it easiest to fix upon a star, turn the compass and the iPad off and keep a course without any other light interference. The stars. Not even when camping in god-knows-where have I seen so many stars. Two shooting stars. The difficulty was that at the beginning of my watch I was trying to be uber-vigilant, but kept not being sure about whether lights in the distance were aeroplanes or other vessels. There was also the issue of whether other lights were stars or faraway ships because I couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the horizon began.

I had my watch set to vibrate every ten minutes so I could scan the horizon – and listened to a variety of podcasts. I took vicarious pleasure in listening to a decluttering episode of ‘Slow Your Home’ while motionless in the middle of the ocean in the EXTREMELY slow home, going nowhere, with a minimum of stuff…

Look at the following picture – here I am, marooned in the darkness, sailing in a circle…

I sail in circles. Bass Strait.

Having spent my four hour watch completely becalmed, as soon as I handed over to M at 2.30am (exactly 24 hours since departing) the wind appeared – quite literally – as he put his hand on the wheel. Not impressed. When I got back up at 6am he still had a good speed going and we could see the coast of Tasmania! Woot! Woot!

I took over for a couple of hours and then handed back to M as we neared the Lowe Head Lighthouse. All of a sudden I was so grateful that I had decided we should come to Tasmania rather than going up the east cost of New South Wales. Crossing Bass Strait felt like a Proper Thing to have accomplished.

Low Head Lighthouse, George Town, Tasmania.

Hello Tasmania!! We made it from the mainland!

We arrived in George Town at around 9am – super excited that we had made it. The day was spent both exploring and refilling our empty water and fuel tanks. I had thought that it would be great that we had been at sea for so long – because we had not spent any money – but we chewed easily through the dollars as we hit the supermarket, the hardware shop, the petrol station…

It’s a complete blessing to be tied up at the little pontoon – not the best position as far as protection from the wind and tide, but fantastic for access to everything. The library, a walking track around the coast, Telstra Air, the main street, the laundrette…

Lazing in the laundrette. George Town, Tasmania.

M and I were functioning like zombies – but spent our gifted money from our lovely Hastings friends, who had told us we must purchase a bottle of Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir on arrival to celebrate. As it happened, it was on special, so we used the money to buy two 🙂

Tasmania Devil's Corner Pinot Noir - brought for us by our friends after we sailed Bass Strait.

It was a gorgeous sunny day – 20 degrees – and we tried to take full advantage of it, because the weather was about to turn crud.

Deal Island: caretakers and lighthouse

After the world’s windiest night we went back ashore to investigate and see if we could convince the Smalls to walk the 2.5km to the caretaker’s cottage. Although the lighthouse was decommissioned about 25 years ago, people volunteer to stay in the lighthouse accommodation for three month stints, during which time they keep an eye on things, liaise with visitors…

There is an old airstrip on the island that is now home to many many wallabies, who share it with Cape Barren geese. Small DB was a reluctant walker. Eventually we reached a wooden bench with a little desk bit attached – it MUST have been placed there for people like us – seekers of mobile phone signal. There we sat, snacking on nuts, catching up on the weather forecast, and in my case, instagram. The Smalls flopped on the ground.

Sign to the airstrip. Deal Island, Kent Island Group, Bass Strait.

It was only a little further on that, serendipitously, we saw the caretaker’s cottage – this rejuvenated the Smalls, who ran toward it. We were greeted by a person in a baseball cap – who turned out to be be the very affable Roger. Half an hour later we were sitting at his kitchen table as his wife, Skye, pulled freshly baked bread (BREAD! Gluten filled BREAD! M was in heaven…) from the oven and the Smalls played with their twin daughters in the other room.

This is the view from the kitchen window….

View from the caretaker's cottage kitchen window. Deal Island, Kent Island Group, Bass Strait.

We drank tea and coffee, ate marshmallows and found our common links. Skye was gobsmacked to find that in his former life, M had been in Hurdy Gurdy – that seminal Melbourne guitar pop band. “You’ll have to give me a minute,” she gasped. “I’m having a moment.” I was hysterical. “I need to take a selfie with him to send to my friend,” she said. “We used to see Hurdy Gurdy play at Tas Uni.”

M, boatbuilder and embattled dadda, looked gratified. That pretty much cemented the friendship – as did the fact that Roger is a double of our friend Ian. The caretaker’s cottage is old-school – with a bakelite telephone on the wall and a rack of keys on wooden tags. The view from the kitchen is enough to make you weep – if it was mine, I would rip out the bench, put in a window seat, and cook on the floor.

The very continuing existence of caretakers in the cottage is a beautiful anomaly in a world that often seems largely devoted to money and productivity. Check out ‘Friends of Deal Island‘ – it’s worth a read. The caretakers are funded by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife – who deserve a HUZZAH!

Keys at the caretaker's cottage.

We all walked down to Little Squally Cove. A trickle of creek ran down the hillside and into the cove, which is covered in large rocks and lots of driftwood. All the Smalls began making hidey holes in different nooks and crannies, while Skye and I immersed ourselves in conversation.

The path to Little Squally Cove
[on the walk to Little Squally Cove…]

Back up at the cottage we looked through the museum that is on the same site – formerly accommodation for workers. The walls are thick. The attic upstairs is being restored by volunteers and there are layers of wallpaper – some of which are pages from magazines dated 1907. There was more information about lighthouse keepers, Stephen Murray-Smith and the Erith Mob. A photograph of the shack on Erith Island showed it as it had been around 20 or 30 years ago – a little more kempt and the bush that surrounds it less wild.

M was getting anxious about checking on Bella Luna – I was mentally preparing myself for the 2.5km walk back with a tired Small DB – when Roger offered to give us a lift in their little 4WD ute. All the Smalls and I climbed into the tray on the back, the blokes were in the cabin, we said farewell to the lovely Skye and took off to see the lighthouse and then return to Garden Cove.

Four small girls and me in the back of the ute. Coming back from Deal Island Lighthouse

Lighthouse views and ruins. Deal Island, Kent Island Group.

It’s a strange feeling when something that has been so carefully tended over so many years ceases to function. There were big chunks of glass from the light over the ground – the result of a bushfire a long while back. Visitors are not allowed to go into the lighthouse anymore, but Roger opened the door and we were able to see how thick the walls are – at least a foot. More information about the lighthouse here.

Deal Island Lighthouse.

Lighthouse view. Deal Island, Kent Island Group, Bass Strait.

Being driven back to Garden Cove was a dream… All the Smalls played on the sand until we said our goodbyes and motored back to Bella Luna in Foamy. M and I examined the weather information we had obtained from the Telstra Seat of Mobile Coverage…and decided to set sail at 2am, destination; George Town.

It was sad leaving the Kent Group of islands – we could have stayed and explored for at least a month or two, but our supplies are low. We were lucky to be given some silverbeet and parsley from the caretaker’s garden – green things!! Huzzah! But we are about to run out of milk – most importantly, M has run out of coffee…