Goodbye to it’s wool shops, thylacine statues, free buses… the lovely Chris from Lady Launceston who let us use the Sea Scout’s pontoon. We moved over the main jetty just to fill up our water and then we were away, heading back down the brown river toward the sea.
We docked at George Town, did yet another shop at the supermarket, and left the following morning – early. Conditions were pretty sucky – it was a pity Ford St Clair wasn’t there to get a dose of what he would call ‘proper sailing’. Small DB spewed twice, I held her hair out of the way, but otherwise both of us lay flat and unhappy. M steered. Small Z watched shows on her iPad. Gah.
Things didn’t settle down until about an hour before we made it into Wineglass Bay. There’s always a hope that you’ll be the only boat there, but of course, there were a couple in there already. Mono’s, which require more depth, so we were able to winkle in close to the shore right in the corner where we’ve anchored several times before.
On other occasions in that location I haven’t been too blown away by my surroundings. This time was different. Maybe it was because of the week spent in urban surrounds… maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen mountains. Whatever it was, Wineglass Bay looked superlatively beautiful – and I finally understood how it came to have some kind of fancy accolade like ‘most beautiful beach in the world’ a few years back.
Despite the beautiful surroundings, the wind kind of detracted from the experience. It was completely epic. To the point where getting off the boat was an exercise in willpower – just because the wind was strong and arctic. We went on a couple of walks and clambers on the rocks, but the rest of the time I stayed on the boat.
It’s not only the constant wind that I find intolerable for it’s sand whipping and cold air, it’s THE NOISE. Argh!!! Living on a boat does not mean that I am accustomed to constant shrieking wind – the past few weeks have been an anomaly – up in NSW it is these same winds that have been contributing to the catastrophic bushfire conditions.
It was tempting to stay longer to try and enjoy the area minus the constant blow, but we needed to use the change in the weather to continue down the east coast. M got us going at about 4am and, like magical magic, the Smalls and I arose after 9am and found that we were about to arrive in Orford!! Hello Orford – ye of the tiny library with no return slot and crazy opening hours… ye of the sandbagged mouth of the Prosser River…
The fucking wind kicked in again, just after our arrival. M had nerded up on where would be the most sheltered spot to anchor, so we were just off the beach, with some shelter from trees, in shallow water on the town side of the river-mouth. It was a good spot. Luckily. Because we had to stay there for about four days as the wind blew on and one and on. That awesome exfoliating feeling of sand getting blown into the zinc cream that is all over your face… Gah.
Due our [failed] real estate aspirations, we have had to forego the west coast of Tasmania. I’m hoping to come back down sometime via the Kent Island Group and then on to King Island and down the west coast instead of up it… but that will have to wait.
Many months ago I booked a ticket to NYC to hang with Small Brother – somehow, my departure date is now just over four weeks away. I leave from Sydney. We mused on me flying to Sydney from Tasmania and M finding someone to crew with him across Bass Strait and a bit up the east coast of Australia, but it all got too tricky…
Instead we intend to head to Flinders Island and grab a weather window (because I’ve decided there WILL be a good one) to head up to Sydney, so M has crew, and I can fly away. Get that – I’m going to FLY SOMEWHERE ON MY OWN. I haven’t visited Small Brother since Small Z was 18 months old. She was still breastfeeding, I was a sleepless wreck, and also trying to orchestrate a good travelling equilibrium between the Mothership and M.
Now I’m heading back, having put in a decade of parenting, and I intend to wander the city and SOAK UP SOME CULTURE. And then I am going to wander in the Catskills and SOAK UP SOME MORE. As you may be able to intuit, I’m becoming a little bit excited about going solo – but I’ve never left the Smalls for more than a few nights, so I’m sure that will be something of a wrench…
The change in our plans has meant that we have been able to bring along our friend Ange (violinist, pianist, artist, jeweller, chook whisperer and florist) and her daughter Belle for a week as we sail between Hobart and Orford. It has been quite wonderful to have them aboard – and confirms my theories about sharing your living space with others – it keeps on your game.
Ange has sailed for many years on huge old wooden boats like the Lady Nelson, this is her first time on a catamaran; she’s hoping to get experience on all kinds of boats because she hopes to have her own vessel at some point. It has been awesome having her and Belle aboard – our Smalls have been vastly better behaved, and Small DB in particular has been blooming, playing bunny-mamas with Belle.
We left Hobart on Saturday, March 30th and headed to Lime Bay for a night or two before heading through the Denison Canal. Little bit dicey getting through – we were ready with the fenders!
Highlights of Dunalley? There were few, but they were good. The playground is a winner.
As is the boathouse on the jetty next to the little slipway. We talked to a bloke there who teaches boatbuilding to kids from the local school, in addition to making chairs. M literally squealed when he saw a bespoke electric bicycle that another inhabitant of the boatshed had made – it was beautiful.
There was enough of the afternoon left to explore the beach at the Narrows in the Marion Bay Conservation Area – the beach is sublime, though bereft of sea-glass…
It was about 12 nautical miles to Maria Island the following morning – gosh it’s lovely. It’s hard to believe how industrialised it was a hundred years ago. we walked to the old cellblocks and were practically kicking wombats out of the way…
We saw many wallabies, pademelons and wombats, and found a few pieces of old china thrown away by long ago inhabitants. Ange played some gorgeous piano music…
We spent a fairly hideous night on the mooring getting sloshed around in the waves and wind. There was not a lot of sleep – and therefore we didn’t make it ashore until midday. We were shamed by Gonyonda, who all scaled the resident mountain – a massive effort! We took the easy way out and went for a walk to the Fossil Cliffs and then cut back past an engine room and some smoke stacks.
Orford in the afternoon. A far superior anchorage for the conditions. Everyone got a Much Better Sleep. We wandered around the following day, doing a bit of shopping and lunching with GonYonda in the park while the kids played. M, Ange and I spent the night gossiping and playing around with family trees on ancestry.com
Saturday morning: the last morning I’d get up and see Belle and Small DB sitting together with their buns – Rose and Bunny – on the couch, either plotting mischief or minecrafting. I made pancakes for breakfast and gave Ange her last coffee with cream before we all went ashore and delivered our lovely crew to the bus stop and said our farewells.
Goodbye Ange and Belle! The perfect size family to have aboard – we enjoyed your company so much! Thank you for your hospitality and help and violin awesomeness while we were in Hobart (and while we’ve been at sea).
After Bunny sent Rose a postcard, we grabbed a few more supplies, pulled up the anchor and sailed off for Wineglass Bay…
Our time in Hobart was brief – just a couple of nights. The days were spent (ha!) haemhorraging money – everything in the bank went on food and fuel, a bit of tip-shop frivolity, a bottle of beer and a bottle of wine. The Smalls both went busking and raked in about $60 each – school holiday time seems lucrative!
We spent our last night packing stuff away and having a nibbly odds and ends sort of dinner with Grant (you can see a little film about him online here – it’s from a series that we already enjoy, we just had never seen his one!) from Apache. Our friends, Karyn and Jim, pulled up to the same pontoon to meet some friends – it was good to have a little catch-up.
M had us heading out of there at 6am ? – no time for any early morning goodbyes. We had a long day ahead of us.
In contrast to our trip down the east coast, this time we followed Slippery Gypsy – Ben’s catamaran – through the Denison Canal – it was kind of cool to see all the traffic banked up as the bridge opened to let us pass…
M had hoped to stop for a surf in Marion Bay, but we plugged onward, eventually reaching Orford at about 7pm. It was a relief to drop anchor.
The next few days were full of beautiful sunshine – I had some solitary boat time while M took the Smalls to the mouth of the Prosser River to practice their surfing.
This gave me time to actually edit and fix almost all of the tracks on the map of our travels (which you can find by clicking up the top – or here – on ‘ROUTE’). Yay me! It was a somewhat steep learning curve!
We spent Easter Sunday on Maria Island doing some wombat-spotting and had a bumpy night in Darlington Bay. So bumpy, that we headed back to Orford, on another spectactular morning, to get the hell out of there.
Why were we hanging around Orford, instead of continuing up the coast? Because I had ordered new shoes for Small Z a week or two earlier and was having them sent to Orford Post Office. I had not counted on three things:
The Denison Canal route making our journey so much quicker
Easter, and the public holidays attached to it
The ineptitude of Australia Post
Thus I tweeted Australia Post – begging to have a delivery date. No matter that the shoes had been in Australia for over a week – they were unable to deal with specifics. In the end, it took a shorter time for the shoes to get to Australia from the USA than it did to get them from Victoria to Tasmania. Hopeless doesn’t even cover it.
Of course, they arrived the day after we left – and of course we could have stayed an extra day IF WE HAD KNOWN. Gahhhhhhh. In the middle of the shoe-waiting we visited Triabunna for the night to top up our fuel. Stan, the harbourmaster, was no longer in charge, but we were told we could tie up for the night. Huzzah!
Small Z made us breakfast…
Mr Chattypants was out in force and people gave him a quince, a book of violin sheet music and two amazing apples…as well as a little bag of coffee (an original blend).
Both in Orford and Triabunna the Smalls had the opportunity to bust out their scooters and enjoy themselves. This is Small Z’s ‘Death-Hang’…
We spent our last morning in Orford double-checking on the inadequacy of Australia Post (and my opinion of them has no relation to the Orford Post Office, which was incredibly helpful – they agreed to forward our mail and return our library books – it’s a pity they aren’t running the whole bloody company).
After a consoling wifi session at the cafe, where I downloaded a handful of library books for the weeks ahead – and (at the request of M) an animated knots app – we motored back through clear water spotted with spider crabs, and got going.
M had us underway around 6am – Small DB, becoming more and more of a night owl, slept steadfastly through the throbbing of the motors close to her head. Small Z came and snuggled in with me. There is a rather impressive storm predicted for Friday and we are keen to be tucked away from it – looking at the charts and reading our bible (lent to us by a friendly man called Ross in Gravelly Beach), it seems that Canoe Bay would be perfect.
I had brown rice left over from last night, so fried up small chunks of apple, added in the rice, some milk, heated it all up, threw some rhubarb and yoghurt on top and called it breakfast. The Smalls ate in bed and stayed there – sailing days are their free pass – we don’t care what they do as long as they stay calm, fed and happy. The one rule is that if they start to feel sick, they need to come up on deck and steer.
We sailed along the coast of Tasmania. It really looks as if it was shoved up out of the bottom of the sea by a giant in a temper. I saw cliffs rearing up – straight vertical lines out of the water like a cross-sectioned layer cake in graduating shades of chocolate, coffee and cream.
As we got nearer to our destination, the cliffs remained but their content altered. They were no longer horizontal but vertical – savage and jagged instead of layered gradients. They looked volcanic.
It was strange, sailing along the coastline, feeling quite remote, and having texts from the mothership pop through on my phone asking questions about Christmas cards. When I tried to send a message back, I’d lost coverage. We dipped toward the cliffs as we sailed past Waterfall Bay and looked vainly for the waterfall, but there didn’t seem to be one.
We rounded the corner into Fortescue Bay, at the top of which is Canoe Bay – our destination – around midday. Sixty five nautical miles in six hours – it felt like we had made good time. We motored down, down, down through the bay to an extra little bay that seemed tacked on to the end. It was so remote…and then a motor boat zipped past… and then we looked ashore and saw some people snorkling …and then about 30 hikers galumphed their way past. It was hysterical…
We are in the middle of a national park that is known for its walking tracks, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Canoe Bay is just sublime. I am typing in the cockpit with she shore quite close by on three sides – the fourth side is open toward the bigger bay which in turn leads out to the Tasman Sea.
It’s called a bay – but is the size of a large dam. The shore is lined with a metre wide ribbon of small rocks that give way to bushes and eucalypts behind which, presumably, are the walking tracks. The gum trees streak skyward, sixty or seventy feet – and we are so close that if one fell, the top of it might almost reach us.
With the trees so close to the shore, there are birdcalls aplenty – we had bellbirds calling on arrival – and I’m guessing we may have kookaburras on dusk. Bella Luna is tucked right at the back of the bay behind the wreck of a boat that was put in place during the 1950s to add some protection for sheltering vessels. I’m not sure it’s still performing that duty – it has deteriorated to the point of looking like an elongated, mostly submerged, rusted out combine harvester.
The weather is predicted to turn sometime tomorrow, by which time we need to stow away anything that might blow away – winds are possibly going to be up to 40 knots – bigger than any we have encountered thus far. Conditions are so serene right now that it hardly seems possible.
Small DB and I went for a crystalline early morning walk around Triabunna, her in her PJs and dancing bare feet. It was a Monday morning, November 28th. The further we walked, the more entranced I became. It’s a little tiny town with what seems like one of everything.
A little supermarket, petrol station, a butcher, a chemist, real estate agent and op-shop. Op-shop. Small DB and I went over and pressed our faces to the window. It looked like a good one. I was all ready to lament – everybody knows op-shops are always closed on Mondays…
Not in Triabunna!! When we came back, a few hours later, both Smalls ended up walking out in entirely new ensembles than those they had worn on entering. I had done a quick and stealthy declutter of the boat and handed over a very full bag of stuff that was no longer required.
We did a supermarket shop and were able to take the trolley to the boat, unload, and then return it. Bacon, silverside and some roo sausages were purchased at the butcher. We paid Stan, the harbourmaster, our $30. Our lunch, after our shop, felt wholly decadent.
Triabunna is set up to be a fantastic place for caravanners – the vacant block opposite the pub and next door to the butchers was studded with motorhomes – the visitor’s centre was welcoming (and had hot showers – although they were about a dollar a minute – I warmed up pots of water and Small Z and I showered aboard the boat – her first shower since leaving Victoria…) and there were BBQ facilities, a coffee van… and helpful street signs….
We sailed over to Orford in the afternoon and, for the first time ever, tied on to a public mooring. A little tricky. We went for a walk the following morning – Orford was like a ghost town along the beachfront – presumably many of the houses are holiday-houses. But the playground….! In addition to the normal climbing frame, swings and slides, there was a section with streets, round-a-bouts and working traffic lights! The Smalls, who had brought their scooters, were in heaven….
Small Z was thrilled to discover our secret intention behind going to Orford – it has a library! A tiny library, but still… We lugged ipads and the laptop there, only to find that there was no library wifi – but we were able to borrow books, which was excellent….
The next day we returned to the library via a little stall with an honesty box out the front of their house – there were raspberries, broadbeans, spuds, eggs and an enormous bunch of rhubarb. GLORY! We scooted down to the shop to get change of a twenty dollar note – but when we got back, the eggs and rhubarb were gone. So disappointed! So disappointed in fact, that I knocked on the door to see if they might have any secret rhubarb hanging about, but they didn’t. Woe. WOE.
On the way back down the main road we passed the little primary school. Small Z told me later that the kids yelled out at her and Small DB.
“HELLO SILLY SCOOTER GIRLS!!”
“What did you do?” I asked her. “Did you scream, “HOW’S LIFE INSIDE THE MACHINE?” or “WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING WITHIN A SYSTEM CREATED IN RESPONSE TO THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND NOW PERPETUATED BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO REMAIN STATIC THAN INNOVATE TO REFLECT CURRENT SOCIETY AND SCIENCE?””
“No,” she said. “I just stuck out my tongue and kept scooting…”
We consoled ourselves at the cafe, where there WAS wifi, although it plodded along. It seemed that everyone who did populate Orford had lunch there on Tuesdays – we got a few glances with our bags of shopping, iPads and laptop, all gathered around a cappuchino and two fuzzy milks.
The cafe looks out on to a lagoon kind of thing, where the Prosser River meets the sea. The entrance to the river has silted up and getting access in a boat is tricky. I had a brief dream of nursing Bella Luna over the bar and sitting at anchor in the middle of the lagoon siphoning the plodding wifi and watching the world go by.
M (I suspect testing his solo sailing capabilities should I be swept overboard and gone) awoke at about 5am on 1 December 2016 – the first day of summer – released us from the mooring and sailed us over to Chinaman’s Bay on Maria Island. We arrived around 9am. The day was gloomy. M was exasperated with our inactivity, but the Smalls and I wanted to stay aboard – to abstain from exploring for the day. I delivered M to the beach so he could go on a lonely bloke-walk to look at convict ruins and wombats and the Smalls and I spent the day being leisurely. It was lovely.
On the second day of summer, we moved Bella Luna around the bay to the isthmus – there was a helpful gap in between the trees that seemed to indicate the narrowest point. M, somewhat overly-optimistically, brought the surfboards and we walked the 200 metres or so from our bay over to the surf beach.
The Smalls immediately wanted to surf, and both M and I made parental errors – whacking them on a board each and helping them catch waves (lying down on the boards). Both of them fell off, were dunked, and cried. M happily caught some waves and emerged from the water like a happy shaggy dog.
We did some calming shell collecting…and the afternoon culminated in the Smalls prancing in the waves as the tide went out and conditions became a bit more gentle. We sailed back to our favoured spot in Chinamans Bay, pleasantly exhausted.
After another super-early solo start on M’s part, we anchored at Darlington – the kind of ‘capital’ or main port – on Maria Island. It was so odd to sail into the bay and see the remains of SO much infrastructure – huge cylindrical towers belonging to an unfortunate attempt at exporting cement in around the 1920s.
There were also ruins of a grand hotel, houses, a kiln… A few of the buildings had been resuscitated/preserved – the visitor’s centre, the coffee palace and the accommodation area…
We did a circuit walk to Fossil Beach, where we spent an hour or so looking through the millions of rocks with fossilised shells in them.
We made our way back to the boat for lunch and ventured out again in the late afternoon for further investigations. The weather forecast only allowed us to have the one day and a night in Darlington, so we tried to take advantage of the time we had there.
I was so glad we went back ashore – we saw WOMBATS!! Trundles of WOMBATS and most capital-lettery of all WOMBAT BABIES. There were also, not quite as cute, Cape Barren Geese wandering about everywhere, but it was the wombats that thrilled us. They wandered everywhere, both around the accommodation area and near the shore.
Maria Island is more like a big park than a tangle of bush – the land has been used in the past for sheep grazing, but now its large expanses of grass are munched by kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. We walked up to explore an abandoned hut and investigated the lean-to which still had newspapers from around 1930 or so stuck to the walls and ceiling…
We beachcombed our way back to Bella Luna – a beautiful sunshiney evening. We were all exhausted, and our plans to return and look at the old coffee palace at 8.30am the following morning were abandoned – we sailed back to Chinamans Bay at about 9am in order to be sheltered from the predicted wind.
We don’t have a wind meter, but it blew h-a-r-d through the night. M had put out a second anchor so we didn’t have to worry about dragging. The morning dawned super-sunshiney and we fanged our way across Mercury Passage – initially intending to go back to Orford – but deciding halfway to make contact with Stan – the harbourmaster at Triabunna – to see if we could pull in for the afternoon free of charge in order to do some shopping.
It was a little dicey heading up the channel to Triabunna – we pulled the sails down and motored, but even so, one of our centreboards hit the bottom – eeep! I was so glad it wasn’t me at the helm… We re-explored Triabunna – bought M some shorts at the op-shop, filled up our water tanks and had a nap…
For some reason, there are no spots to tie up in Triabunna that don’t cost money. In almost all of the other little towns we have visited so far, there are pontoons where you can stay for a few hours, or overnight if you arrive in the evening. The Spring Bay Boat Club didn’t want to know us – so, in order to avoid paying Stan another $30, we set sail for one of the public moorings at Orford.
Oh joy! Just before we left I checked my email and had a VERY welcome message about something that had been worrying M and I for a week. This was followed by a shout up on deck. “DOLPHINS!”
Oh my goodness. Our best dolphin experience yet! A whole pod of them danced around the front of the boat as we sailed toward Orford, chasing each other, splashing us as we jumped up and down shrieking and swimming on their back with their white bellies glowing…
They even stuck around when we had to start the motors, and didn’t leave until we neared our mooring.
“Bye bye dolphins,” sang Small Z, as they arced away, glazed in the afternoon light. “Thank you for your performance. Thank you for visiting us!”
Orford was much better the second time around – – purely because of the weather. In one short week it has become summer. I am hot at night under my woollen doona, and even as I type this at 7.30pm, I’m sitting in the last of the sun wearing a t-shirt.
M went ashore this morning at 9am to get to the stall outside the house where we missed out a week ago. Glory!! He got bunches of rhubarb and three dozen eggs 🙂
In the meantime, Small DB had woken up determined to pursue her dream of becoming a chef and had started making pikelets. Only we have no buckwheat flour left – so there wasn’t a whole lot of nutrition in her pikelets and with jam on top, by the time I got them into Foamy to take them ashore to meet M at the library, we were all hopped up on sugar and a little bit crazed.
It took us an a-g-e to get to the library – and it seemed particularly appropriate that I’m currently reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed – the majority of the book she is wearing a backpack that is way too heavy. Mine was full of library books, water bottles, M’s forgotten coffee and my lifejacket *groan* I think