From nine people aboard, the Smalls and I went and stayed with SWWNBB in an AirBnB in Taroona – a very beautiful suburb, but lacking any shop whatsoever. Woe betide if you run out of milk or tea. They had a little Belling stove and a great vegetable patch!! It was an awesome house and we are very grateful to SWWNBB to letting us stay. Small Z defected after a day or so, but Small DB and I stayed a week. She cooked this amazing dinner for her sister’s birthday – oh, how she longs for an oven!
We op-shopped, visited the Botanical Gardens and took our hosts for birthday breakfast at the wonderful Cat Cafe. Then we op-shopped like demons and got some seriously good reading matter, as well as a suitcase for Small DB for our impending journey to see the Mothership.
During my time as a Taroona dweller I went out on my own (!) at night (!!) to the Brisbane Hotel (an excellent venue) and saw my friends in their production of Rocky the Third– it was great!! (And I’m not just saying that because they are my friends – it’s very funny.)
In my head I had presumed that they would have a million people they needed to catch up with and things to do – but no! They were happy to come for a sail out across Storm Bay with Small Z, M and I. It was so lovely to spend time with them – for years we have only caught up with them at birthday parties or housewarmings, so it was serendipitous opportunity! ❤️
We returned to Bella Luna and the Smalls had a brief respite from socialising as we moved in between our mooring at Sandy Bay, the jetty at Bellerive, and the city.
About four days after returning to the boat, the Smalls and I flew to Melbourne to hang with the Mothership and assist in celebrating her 70th birthday. She had organised for me, my siblings and our offspring to go on a one week cruise on the Queen Elizabeth. WHAT THE? More about that here…
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!
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!!
We encountered almost every form of weather while we were in the Kent Group of islands. After strong icy winds through our first three days on Erith Island conditions calmed down (in comparison) – once ashore and out of the wind, it was t-shirt weather. On Monday 28 October 2019, M, Small DB and I walked across Erith Island from West Cove to Wallabi Cove – a very easy straightforward walk with park-like grasses and only a gentle incline.
Over on the actual beach there were probably more rocks than sand – big, small, smooth, rough – some impossibly rounded, looking as if they’d escaped from a landscaped garden somewhere. Rubbish count? Three Peppa Pig empty helium balloons , a couple of single use water bottles, nylon rope and various plastic bottle caps. Not great, but could’ve been worse.
We clambered around admiring the driftwood and surprising the fat little skinks that had been sunning themselves. After the warmth of the sun on our walk over, it was time to put coats back on because the wind was coming onshore.
Incidentally, we need to find out the name of these bushes – they are the new favourite of Small DB and Bunny. (Yes, environmental bush-crushing vandals both of them.)
M wanted to show us the cliffs. The cliffs. Almost stomach-droppingly high. Almost. Because heights, unlike balloons, are not something that really bother me.
From the top of the cliffs we could see Dover Island, the beginning of the Swashway and down to South West Isle – which looks far bigger than the map seems to indicate.
Small DB had not worn long trousers and struggled walking through the spiky grasses that covered the ground further up the cliffs. We abandoned that idea and wended our way back, with scratched ankles, to where the grasses thinned out. Stopped and snacked. Small DB was fading… we coaxed her and the recalcitrant Bunny back up the hill to flatter ground, where she perked up and found us pathways through the undergrowth.
Back on the beach, with feathers in Small DB’s backpack and stuck in my hair, we went back up to say goodbye to the hut, and write in the visitor’s book. One of my wishes is to return to Erith Island during February one year, have the boat at anchor and spend the majority of my time swimming and reading – with occasional rock scrambles.
I just did something I’ve only previously done on one occasion. The first was in Taree many years ago –> I wore my ugg-boots down the street. In public. The second occasion was this morning – I went down the pier, paid $4 for a shower that was excellent but gives no warning when the water is about run out, so you need to do your soaping straight away – shower was heavenly – I entered it looking like a greasy rat and came out like a white beam of light, or something like that. Stuck my head under the hand dryer in the toilets and I was good to go…
I’d planned to hit the gelato shop at the end of the pier, but it wasn’t open, so I sloped back to the boat for some tea. Jumped aboard, opened the door – all was warm and silent. Everyone remained in bed – no tea, no breakfast, no nothing. I dumped my towel bag and exited, briefly pondering the requirement of normal shoes, but deciding that if one of the Smalls discovered me, I would not be able to escape – and thus, at 8am I was wandering down the main street of Bermagui in my uggies – the ones I’ve had longer than I’ve had Small DB.
I think I have not yet mentioned that we picked up crew in Sydney. Actually – I’ve missed a few key things. Let me dot point them:
We love Manly. Now we don’t love Manly, because someone there stole Small DB’s scooter that she got for her birthday three weeks before. Very, very unhappy.
We decided it probably wasn’t entirely Manly’s fault, but the Smalls and I roamed the Corso and all the side streets like a hunting mob, ready to take down the scooter-thieving bastard. No dice.
Moved over to Blackwattle Bay – still a zing going under the bridge…
We returned to the Sydney Observatory and had a free tour, which was awesome, except for the precocious six-year-old who kept interrupting and reminding everyone that HE KNEW ALL THE PLANETS and HE WAS THE SMARTEST KID IN HIS CLASS. (If only the huge telescope had been a rocket, I could have put him on it…)
Late on Sunday we were joined by our second new crew member, a friend of Mr St Clair called Jean (although we chose to address her with a variety of names beginning with ’J’ – like Juniper, Jessica, Julie, June, Jasmine, Joanne, Joelisa and Small DB’s favourite – Jeronimo).
While in Blackwattle Bay I flexed my FB Marketplace muscle (best to do it in the country’s most populous city) and bought the Smalls a scooter each – $45 a pop from a dude in the residential high-rise on Cope St in Waterloo. Tick.
Returned to Manly to shop. Still #hatemanly But such great access to Aldi. Sigh.
The crew cooked. It was good.
Sailed to Jervis Bay and anchored in a spot that had remarkable spots ashore to explore. It was so beautiful that I ran away and bathed nude in a rockpool in my very own cove.
The crew are very amenable and enjoy snorkelling (taking the the pressure off moi) and hiking (ditto) and GOING ASHORE AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Basically if M could have conjured them up, he would have. I have thus had more guilt-free solo time on the boat than I have had for a-g-e-s and it is GOOD.
The Smalls and I fainted on learning that 1) there is a breed of dog called a bordoodle, and 2) that Jean has one and would bring it to the boat for a visit, providing that we delivered her there intact. 🍾
After three nights we headed to Bateman’s Bay, land of sunsets, bluebottles and flies. (Didn’t actually go into the town, belatedly realised the bridge opens and we could have gone exploring – next time…)
A 4am start – M and Mr St Clair got us underway. It was a fairly manky sail – messy and rocky – but the plus side? We made it into Bermagui at 2pm. GLORY!!
Hilariously, Jean is a local, and had seen three people she knew before we’d even left the jetty. Actually – we were very lucky to get a spot at the jetty because there are construction works going on and everyone’s been kicked out from the other berths… A guy called Mellow helped us out. Actually, everyone was helpful. We paid for four days and only had to move about for trawlers to come in twice.
After four or five days drying out with every low tide in Wathumba Creek in deference to the crappy weather, I was more than ready to leave. Our batteries were the worst they’ve ever been – they are supposed to always be around 12.40 – and because of minimal sun and our fixed position, I got up in the middle of the night at saw they’d hit 11.05. I had assumed that after that they’d be dead forever (a very expensive assumption) but after we left the creek we cranked the generator and they seemed to come good.
We anchored south of the mouth of Wathumba for the night – a bit of a roll, but enabled us to make some seriously needed water because we were totally out. Turned out that if we hadn’t had a water maker we might have been OK because upon going ashore…
[…the trip involved in getting from Bella Luna to shore included both parents yelling at Smalls, getting to shore, getting the Smalls out on to the sand, realising that we had lost both the paddle board and the kayak in the interim. This meant leaving two dingo-edible people on the beach on their own while M and I fanged back looking for them both. We found them heading north, not too far away, and as an incidental bonus I spied one of Foamy’s oars, that we hadn’t noticed we’d lost. Back on the beach I could have predicted exactly what was transpiring – Small Z trying to stay near her sister, scared that a dingo would jump from a tree and eat them both in one chomp, and Small DB chafing at being ‘looked after’. A secret part of me wished a dingo would appear and look them over. It was that kind of day.]
….we found a little creek and, in an effort to get out of the wind, went exploring. M and Small Z shared the kayak, while Small DB and I had the paddle board. The water was clear, running between muddy banks often full of mangrove roots, resting like sausages. We saw little mango seedlings sprouting roots and bright green leaves under the water, and darting brown fish, startled by our paddles. In some places we had to lie down on the paddle board to make our way under low hanging branches, trying not to break any.
Over on our right as we negotiated a bend, I saw a non-nature thing. Something that was too straight, lying among nature-shaped mangrove shoots. It was a kayak paddle. Huzzah!! Small DB held on to a tree to keep the paddle board in one place and I put one tentative foot on to the muddy bank – it held. I had been waiting to sink shin deep, so this was good news. I picked my way among the mangrove shoots and grabbed the paddle – it was a good one – a light, non-rusting metal pole (probably aluminium) with plastic paddles at each end.
Back aboard, Small DB became my motor with the new double ended instrument, I steered us around bends and out of the way of lurking submerged blankets. Occasionally the land beyond the banks flattened out and the wind blew over us again, but mostly we were protected – sometimes skimming along, and other times inching. When we had almost caught up to the other two there was a bank covered in long grasses, inside of which was the sound of water – like an enthusiastic spring – gushing out into our creek.
“Oh yes,” I said knowledgeably to Small DB, “That indeed must be one of the sources that feeds this lovely freshwater creek.”
Actually, this was utterly untrue. The creek was indeed freshwater, but when we went to fill our water bottles at the spring – it turned out to be salt. What the? Our travails were abbreviated by a tree that had fallen across the waterway and we decided to take it as a sign to turn back – that and the fact that M’s leg disappeared into the mud when he tried to get out and pull the kayak over it.
Going back, as is always the way, was much quicker. While we’d been exploring, three or four more boats had anchored nearby in that herdlike manner that they do – reminding me of when I used to work in a cafe while I was in high school and there would be no customers for an hour and then they would all come at once. Why they decided to anchor nearby was a mystery, because no one came ashore to explore. Very odd.
The next morning we were on our way to Lady Musgrave Island before 4am. M had told me not to get up: so I didn’t. I know he totally relishes whizzing around on deck being SAILOR MAN and who was I to deprive him of that pleasure? The solo activities of anchor retrieval, mainsail hoisting and jib unfurling…
It’s been a while since we had a crappy sail – that’s the joy of having time up your sleeve and doing day-trips – but today was a marathon. Not enough wind left us struggling to make it to the island on time – on time for what? I hear you ask. On time to thread our way through the narrow and coral laden entrance of the reef. We’ve done it twice before, and it probably could be done at night, but… when your boat is your primary residence, it’s better not to risk it.
The day seemed interminable – put it this way; I was happy when we hit four knots. Things improved now and again, but basically it was a bloody slog, with changeable winds and various sail configurations. My consolation were the dolphins that appeared very late in the day and cloud formations made fancy by the setting sun.
We literally missed making the entrance by about 35 minutes and ended up back tracking half a mile to anchor in 60ft of water – something we haven’t done before. Used ALL THE CHAIN and ALL THE ROPE.
I was prepared for it to be a hideous and rocky night, but it was actually fine – the fact that we were also all buggered probably helped too. Up at 6am to take advantage of the tide, we were the third boat through the entrance, and snared the last mooring. A mooring!! Who knew?! There were so many boats here the last times we visited that we didn’t even get close to the area where the mooring area.
As the day went by, the stupid south-easterly wind that has been buffeting us for a week, continued – messing the surface of the lagoon. Think ruffled aquamarine. More and more boats arrived and the rectangular dive barges – one large and one not so large – ferried tourists ashore.
We headed over as well and the Smalls were on instant cowrie alert – they remembered the rule from last time – five shells each person. Take no coral.
We circumnavigated the island on foot – M had a bit of a chat to some campers who said they’d seen us anchoring last night. If you are boatless but want to spend more time on Lady Musgrave Island than just a few hours, you can camp there if you pre-book. It is proper minimalistic camping – you bring your own water, tent, food – everything – but then you can get on a dive barge with your tent and hang out for however long. If the weather’s good – you’d be sorted. An inflatable kayak would be a massive bonus.
Here’s my rubbish haul from our walk – I have always believed the law that states ‘all lost thongs will be left’ – but I’ve been let down on the last few occasions. On Fraser Island I found a matching pair, and the thong I found before that was a right one.
I did also find a pallet in very good condition but had to regretfully leave it where it had washed up because we have no room for a vertical pallet garden on the boat.
We left Bryan’s Corner for Maria Island at some bizarre hour of the morning – M was convinced that every boat and their dog would be whizzing toward one of the three moorings near the ferry dock. Thus, we arrived at around 7am – I sent M to bed for a nap, and he didn’t wake up until 11am!! Ha!
The Smalls and I quietly made Christmas cards and gave ourselves some screen time – no other boats turned up until our friends on Katsumi appeared late in the afternoon.
We’d forgotten how much we love Maria Island. We love the ruins, the crazy history, the Cape Barren Geese, the pademelons, kangaroos and wallabies, the… W O M B A T S!!!
We didn’t actually see any and Small DB was getting despondent – but we returned to land after a fairly early dinner and, as we had correctly guessed, it wombat party-time….#