Christmas 2019 and Pand(ion)imonium

Since we turned right coming out of the Tamar River, instead of left toward King Island the west coast of Tasmania, life has been a combination of mad socialising and real estate limbo. We elected to turn right and be a presence in Franklin to try and help things along. On the way we stopped into Kettering and caught up with a lot of people – particularly we hung out with Gusto – who we met on the last day we were in Hobart at the beginning of 2019.

We barely knew each other, but that was OK. They are our people. They immediately lent us their car and their kid so we could do some shopping and the Smalls could have a break from being on their own. It was awesome. It was Tash who made me juices and chicken soup as I succumbed to some kind of infection and my face started to fall off. I have dot-pointed the whole debacle here.

324/365 • Hey! There’s a bumble in your bouquet! 🐝 💐 …•

Salamanca Market bouquets…

Suffice to say, I was repaired in time for Christmas, which we spent aboard the boat moored at RYCT eating tasty things, having spent two days tearing around the city preparing. I knocked up some last minute Christmas stockings – this is the first Christmas EVER that the Smalls have not had to resort to a pair of my socks.

325/365 • Bit of a scramble to get things sorted - multiple trips to the shops! Finally, for the first time ever, the Smalls don’t need to nick a random pair of my socks - I (hastily) handsewed them a stocking each - pretty sure Santa will be able to jam
327/365 •❤️ ...let me count the ways...❤️•

DB made an awesome punch and fruit salad. There was also spud salad and happy ham.
328/365 • climbing off the sugar high... 🌳 •
Climbing off the sugar high in Sandy Bay on Christmas Day 2019

Boxing Day, our friends formerly of the vessel Pandion, arrived and we had NINE people on the boat for almost two weeks, as we explored around Bruny, ate abalone and oysters and caught one excellent crayfish in M’s new craypot. We all had an awesome time – having boat people aboard is just a breeze. The Pandion children were trained upon arrival to say to me, three times a day, “What can I do to help?” And such is their goodness, they kept it up throughout our time together. They used little water, cleaned up after themselves, swept up without being asked and lost very few clothes pegs. 

Maria Island. Kettering. Hooray!

Maria Island is a crazy place, soaked in history, swarming with wombats and kangaroos. It used to have a cement factory, it used to have a vineyard… Now there are mostly ruins. Because of the whims of the wind we bypassed Darlington – the main harbour where the visitor’s centre and main campground – and continued on into Chinamans Bay.

Shoreline. Maria Island.
Shoreline and runaway float.

It is a very photographical place – the light! The lack of people! The wombats and wallabies! The old bits of china in the areas that used to be inhabited. Soooo many old bricks.

DB, heading down to the trees. Maria Island. Tasmania.
DB and the two trees.

Stayed for two or three nights, moving from one side of the bay to the other, according to the wind – which barely ever backed off. M had a win catching his first ever squid – he caught three!! Cooked them up for lunch on our way to Kettering – 🏆- for people down to powdered milk and carrots, they were extremely splendid.

Across the grasses on my solo walk.
The old cellblocks. Maria Island.
The old cellblock.
308/365 • ...jigging for squid - got three - super inky!! Thanks @leochskratta - Dino taught us well ✔️  •
Jigging for squid.

We left Maria Island at about 4am, disgustingly early (not that I got up for two more hours) and reached the Denison Canal before 8am – thus we had to anchor and wait until there were people around to answer our call requesting that they open the bridge and let us through. It feels like cheating to take such a shortcut – avoiding the Tasman Peninsula – but we have been that way in the past. I always feel a bit fancy – all the traffic stops (and this time all the roadwork had to stop), the bridge swings open and we glide on by…

309/365 • ...and we’re through the Denison Canal about to go past the Dunalley Fish Market. They had to stop the roadworks and all the traffic to open the bridge for us 😆•
Dunalley Fish Markets – on the Denison Canal

A day out in Deloraine

The night we arrived in Launceston I posted to a thread on the Chat 10 Looks 3 FB group and asked if anyone might be able to give me a lift to the last day of the Tasmania Craft Fair in Deloraine the next morning. I had not been able to find any way to get there using public transport. Wonder of wonders, a lovely woman showed up near the boat at 9am and welcomed myself and the Smalls into her car. The upside of social media!

Waiting for our ride.
Waiting for our ride and jumping.

We chatted at each other all the way to Deloraine while the Smalls listened to an audiobook in the back seat and oohed and ahhhed at this unfamiliar mode of travel. It turns out she is a church minister, who doesn’t mind being a bit sweary. I could help myself and accidentally said ‘goddamnit’ on several occasions, but she was unfazed. It didn’t take us long to realise that, of course, she knew M from his days in Launceston and the organisation he worked for at that time. (And his band.) I told her that this meant she had to come on to the boat when she dropped us off.

We parted in the carpark of the bowling club and went our separate ways. The Smalls and I found that there were buses running between all of the venues every ten minutes. The organisation was phenomenal. It all worked so well!!

Up the Tamar River

In my head, the journey from George Town to Launceston takes days and days. I am astonished and disbelieving when M tells me we can make it there in one day. What the? Last time it took us a week or two… He tells me that last time we noodled our way upriver like the newbies we were – relishing the ability to stop for a night or two wherever took our fancy. And that’s correct – it was a lovely way to traverse the river – but this time? This time there are Very Strong Winds predicted and wherever we end up is where we’re going to have to stay for at least four days, and so we aim for Launceston.

Beauty Point and tugboat. Not going anywhere. Launceston.
I took the same photo three years ago. Nothing’s changed.

To be honest, it’s a bit of a boring journey – it takes all day, and toward the end M’s patience is thinning. I steer a little bit, but he does the majority. As we get nearer to the city I am (again) struck by deja vu; the wind is already coming up and M goes through a few different scenarios about pulling up to the jetty. I can tell he’s fidgety about how it might go. This is what happened last time.

The guy who owns the pontoons remembered us when we called him and has been very kind – he allows us to stay on the pontoon that’s reserved for the Sea Scouts for $20 a night. There’s no power or water like there is on the other pontoon (which already has an occupant) but we are here – right next to the city! We’re in the confluence of the Tamar and the North Esk Rivers.

296/365 • making dinner looking out at this - the best playground we’ve ever been to and silos that have been turned into a hotel. Last time we were here it was an industrial wasteland over there - someone got something right ✔️ •
View from the kitchen/galley window.

As we pull up (it’s fine) we can see that on the old industrial land opposite has been transformed on a large scale in the three years since we were here. There is a MASSIVE PLAYGROUND. “If you can just adjust all the fenders so they’re the right height,” says M, “I’ll do the rest.”

The Smalls are pleading to get on their scooters, pleading for me to come just a little way with them. Just a little bit further… and then we are going over a footbridge that has mysteriously appeared and we are at the park and the park? It’s AWESOME. Things are high and potentially dangerous. The slides are fast tubes of metal, there are mini trampolines embedded in the ground, a sky-walk, water features and swings over trench…

Bounce! Launceston Riverbend Park

Small Z is rapturous. There are kids everywhere. Small DB is overwhelmed. “I’ll just stay with you,” she says to me. “I’ll look around and decide what I will go on when we come back on a school day and there’s no one else here.” Her sister is already scaling the climbing rope to the sky-walk and halfway down one of the tubular slides. We sweet-talk Small DB (“I’m too shy….”) into walking around a little with us and eventually convince her to go on one of the slides when, for some reason, there happens to be no one on it or nearby… She is reticent, and then elated.

Climbing. Launceston Riverbend Park
DB investigates…

We explore some more. Small Z is adopted by a girl her age named Taylor. Or Taylah. Or Tayla. Who attaches herself to Small Z and they go from climbing frame, to slide, to basket swing… Small DB sticks with me. Eventually Small Z gives me the signal and I saunter up to her and Taylor/Taylah/Tayla and say, “Sorry Zoe, we need to get back to the boat now, it’s getting near dinner time.”

Zoe rolls her eyes convincingly, makes her apologies and we wander off with her hissing, “I couldn’t GET AWAY.”

Halfway across the playground we stop still and die of cute. There is a caramel coloured puppy that looks like a small teddy bear. We drop to our knees and pat it until it can hardly stand upright as I quiz the owner; “What kind of dog is it? Where did you get it? Is it hard to train?”

I can feel my BoatCat midlife crisis rearing it’s evil furry head. First the Tathra bordoodle, and now this. We coo over the puppy, which I think is six months old and will not grow much bigger, until it becomes a bit ridiculous.

We walk past Taylor/Taylah/Tayla and say to her, “How CUTE is that dog!!?”
“Yeah, it’s cute. I had a dog once, but it ran away.”
We make appropriate noises, and Small DB says, “I’d like a cockatiel.”
Taylor/Taylah/Tayla nods, looking mournful.
“Yeah. I had a bird once. But it died.”

We say goodbye again.

M comes to find us, looking somewhat forlorn having been abandoned at the dock. We wander back toward the boat and stop for a celebratory drink – they have my favourite cider:

The best cider. Cheers, Launceston!
Thank you Willie Smith.

We drink to sailing journeys and exploring Launceston.

A post-icecream consult. DB and M. Launceston.
DB & M

The Mothership. The big city.

The rest of the time Small DB and I spent in Melbourne was staying at the home of the Mothership and T. It felt crazy that we hadn’t been in their house for THREE YEARS! What the? Small DB was very happy to be there – remembered all the things she liked to do – dress up in Nana’s scarves, play hide and seek, bake cakes and have afternoon tea like a fancy lady…

Afternoon tea. Pinky up!
Pinky up!

The Mothership and T were thrilled to spend time with her. And took the opportunity to turn her into a Croquet Queen.

Mothership and DB. Croquet skillz.
The Mothership in motion.

I took off to see L in her new house, which is such a relief, because now I can imagine her surroundings (which are somewhat more elevated because her new house is, well… a new house). It was so lovely to have cups of tea, make sandwiches, walk down and ponder shades of hair dye on Centre Road. D even offered to let me tool around in his Defender (!?!) – something that I had to ruefully forgo.

It’s such an odd thing – when you don’t see your friends on their home ground for a zillion years, they’re kind of stuck in amber from the last time you saw them. In my head, their kids don’t grow, their cars don’t change – things don’t evolve BECAUSE I’M NOT THERE.

Ugh. But of course they do. New houses, different jobs, kids going into secondary schools… It’s not that I want a more NORMAL life, but the fact is I WANT THE CAKE. And I want to EAT THE CAKE. And while I was on my short undercover visit to Melbourne, I felt like I had achieved a mini-version of that — the cupcake version – I got to live in a floating cubby, but also zip into the lives of friends who know me well enough to welcome me with Melbourne Breakfast Tea and Nature’s Cuppa English Breakfast. I was able to visit the Mothership and T and catch up with SWWNBB and Small A.

Half Moon Bay, Black Rock.
Half Moon Bay, Black Rock.

I spent a day on my own, tooling around the city. Heavenly. I organised membership at the City Library and at the Victorian State Library with the intention of giving the Smalls more scope to borrow books online. Tick. I wandered around the Flinders Lane/Degraves St area – where I used to love to hang when I was 16 or so (I have lost considerable time trying to remember the name of the awesome secondhand bookshop that used to be there)…

Missing Persons. Nicholas Building.

I fondled stationery, patted scarves in the Block Arcade, walked to Carlton and spent a large chunk of time in Readings (where I should have bought a 2020 diary but didn’t – they are one of the few places that sell Cavelli diaries… like this.
Castelli Matra Ivory Medium Weekly Diary 2020 (turquoise) – Paper Parrot

255/365 • ...a happy place... • 📚

Heading back to Flinders St Station from Carlton, I caught a tram and jumped off at Collins St. I had made a promise to myself that if the scarf shop in the Block Arcade was still open by the time I got there, I would buy myself a present from their 50% off sale. It was closed. But just as I reached it, a woman came from the opposite direction and unlocked the door. They were closed, but she took pity on me, and I swanned back to Sandringham wrapped in my divine charcoal cashmere extravagance. Yay me. Although the bus to Black Rock was a whole other story…

The wind is only PART of the weather forecast

M was very keen to head to Lady Musgrave. There will be no ‘but’ in this sentence – suffice to say, when he checks out what the weather is going to be doing, he looks at the wind and the swell, not the sun and predicted precipitation.

Our second day at Lady Musgrave Island was enveloped by steady rain. It stopped at about 9am and we were cautiously optimistic. M was the most optimistic – and it was this admirable character attribute that enabled him to exist through the following two hours without losing his mind.

He’d spoken to campers the day before who had, he said, given him All The Necessary Information. The Gold. He was shown where the best snorkelling was – out past the breakers opposite the campsite. He was practically guaranteed a manta ray and seven turtles.

I will gloss over the time it takes to get ready for such and expedition and the wetness of everything. We took off in Foamy to head out of the cay and around the outside where we planned to anchor and snorkel off Foamy. However, we had too much gear/weight in Foamy to get much speed happening, and the length of time a slowish putt-putt ride would take was not equal to the amount of petrol we had left in the tank. We turned back. Went via Bella Luna to get shoes for walking on coral remnants (the whole beach) and Small Z started to cry.

She has developed a cone snail phobia. I had thought that getting her to educate herself about them (knowledge is power etc) would slay her fear with the bullet of logic. I had thought wrong. I hate that. If we had gone around the outside of the reef and snorkelled off Foamy she would not have had to negotiate walking from the beach and out past the breakers, dodging potentially lethal cone snails all the while.

M made a lateral suggestion that we would bring the kayak and she could kayak from the beach to the snorkelling spot, thus evading certain death on the way. We tied the kayak on the back of Foamy, dried our tears and tried again. Because there is nowhere to pull Foamy up on shore that was near the snorkel spot, we left him anchored in the universal ‘going ashore’ spot used by everyone, and then M (carrying a sack of snorkelling stuff that weighed about as much as an extra child) and the Smalls trudged around a quarter of the island.

I took the kayak and this included the other bag of snorkelling stuff (including weight belts) and an anchor. I swear to god, next time I catch up with someone I know they are not going to recognise me because of the awesome ripped quality of my previously non-existent shoulders. I had to paddle into shore halfway there, get rid of my luggage so M could carry the kayak across a rocky outcrop, and then reload it and continue on.

I will gloss over the dicking around on the sand, the Smalls not knowing which mask and snorkels belonged to them and merely say that M and Small Z went in the kayak, while Small DB and I decided to take on the waves and began walking the 100m or so out backwards in our flippers.

This snorkelling bullshit – it’s always so fucking fraught. It was difficult, so we started to swim, but had to stop each time a wave hit us and filled Small DB’s snorkel. My full face mask had, within a minute of submersion, become the kind of foggy outlook that leads to aeroplanes being grounded. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Once we made it out to where the others were we all snorkelled along together. M with the kayak strapped to his ankle. Yeah, it was pretty. Like a goldfish, I experienced a little shock of surprise each time I sluiced a bit of seawater down the inside of my mask and was granted a few seconds of technicolour before the fog rolled in again. The Smalls also had fogged masks – Small Z’s was so tight that her brain began to leak out of her ears. At one point Small DB and I started getting rolled around by waves – we’d mistakenly swum into the breakers.

I spent most of this time visualising the soup I was going to make when I got back to the boat, and how I would tamp down my acute loathing of snorkelling until such time as we were all engaged in a convivial family game of cards, when I would state very simply and without rancour, that I would not be going snorkelling again. Ever. Just so M would know that my decision was not a knee jerk reaction to being buffeted around by breaking waves over crappy coral and under grey skies with a mask that looks like the inside of a bathroom after a hot shower and no extractor fan.

Eventually we made it to shore. Small DB and M derived great pleasure from being pushed along by the waves. Small Z jumped back in the kayak and began paddling, while I, like a human remora, clung to the back of her vessel, flapping my flippers in a hopeful manner, my thoughts now swinging between soup and a cup of tea.

Once we got ashore, of course, it was the same as our arrival but in reverse and with the helpful addition of pounding rain. I did not paddle back to Foamy, but instead set my sights on Bella Luna, preferring hard work over the logistical kaleidoscope of getting everyone and everything back into the dinghy.

[M will want me to add that the following day he took both Smalls for a astoundingly amazing snorkel in a different spot and they saw turtles, a cod bigger than Small DB and giant clams. Did I go? I did not.]

221/365 • Z on one of the several dead trees becoming driftwood on Lady Musgrave Island •