Canoe Bay to Port Arthur. I need port.

From an aesthetic point of view it was completely ridiculous to leave Canoe Bay. The solitude, the scenery, the protection from the weather… M actually confessed to feeling sad because he thought he had peaked too early in our adventure – would their be a better anchorage than this?

However, mundane things such as food, water, fuel and internet, had begun to become more conspicuous as they declined. We had been perfectly sheltered from some horror weather a few days earlier – M had repeated jigged around on deck while looking through the binoculars, exclaiming about the size of the waves out in the Tasman Sea.

I nodded and smiled. It was only as we sailed out into it on Monday morning that I remembered (I am such a goldfish) what being bashed about by the waves is like. And conditions were fairly benign! Not benign enough to stop Small DB from using the bucket, however…

It wasn’t a great sail, but it was a fast sail. The scenery was spectactular…cliffs! More cliffs! Seals! Tour boats! And a somewhat narrow channel between Cape Pillar and Tasman Island to navigate through in slightly crazy winds…

Cape Pillar. Tasmania.

Here’s a promo video from Tasman Island Cruises that shows the scenery much better than I can. We saw a couple of their boats checking out the cliffs and the seal colony…

Tasman Island Cruises from Pennicott Wilderness Journeys on Vimeo.

We reached Port Arthur with some relief, and dropped our anchor in the middle of Mason Cove. Possibly not our most well thought out plan – we were interfering with the turning circle of the ferry… Which didn’t matter much, as it turned out, because the anchor dragged and we had to reset it in a different spot. Three times.

M, therefore, stayed on the boat. He’s been to Port Arthur before. I put the Smalls into Foamy and motored to shore, having no idea if we were supposed to pay for the privilige of wandering around, but figuring if it was a problem, someone would let me know.

As I was yanking the dinghy up on to the sand with my punificently non-existent upper body strength, a man in a red shirt motioned me over.

“I want to ask you a question,” he said.

I had immediate feelings of trepidation. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to bring the boat in, maybe this was all wrong…. What to do? I smiled and nodded.

“Yep. What’s your question?”

“Are you allowed to pull up here?”

“Good question! I have no idea. Are we allowed to pull up here?” [I was convinced he was a Port Arthur security guard.]

“That’s what I’m asking you. Can boats just pull up here?”

“Um…”

“How much draught does your boat have?”

“About 1.5 metres, but I’m not sure that I…”

“…because I’ve got a little motor boat and I wanted to take my wife away for the night and I was wondering if I could pull up in here?”

I sagged with relief. “I’m sure you can – the anchoring here is a bit tricky, but there is a public mooring around the corner…”

He nodded. A man of few words. I realised belatedly he was wearing the uniform of a tour bus driver – he looked like he had historical-tourist-location-fatigue. He retreated to a nearby seat and I readied us for exploring.

Before leaving Bella Luna M had read Small DB the riot act about wearing her shoes. She had been told that there were fancy houses we might walk through and other places that might frown upon a bare-footed vagrant.

“You. Will. Take. Your. Shoes. And. You. Will. Wear. Them.” M hissed at her. “Do. You. Under-STAND?”

She nodded. “OK.”

Something in me knew she was lying. Which is why our first hour exploring Port Arthur consisted of me bleating, “Put on your shoes…PUT ON YOUR SHOES.” And her shrieking with ever increasing volume, “NO. I WANT YOU TO CARRY THEM.”

I refused to carry them. She refused to wear them. Already feeling vaguely vile from the mornings sail, I started to feel as if my brain was leaking from my ears. Poor Small Z was trailing along trying to enjoy herself, which made me even more infuriated with the other one. “YOU PROMISED,” I yelled pathetically, “YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD WEAR YOUR SHOES.”

She stuck her lip out. “I NEVER promised. I DIDN’T. I said ‘OK’. That’s NOT a promise.”

“Oh. My. God. I am going to throw you back into Foamy and take you back to dadda.”

“Nooooo.”

“Wear your shoes.”

“You carry them.”

Daisy in the penitentiary. Port Arthur.

Eventually I got her to put her shoes on. She whinged and cried all the way up the hill to the Commandant’s house. She ran up to me. “I want a huggle. I want a HUGGLE.” And trod all over my feet. I was wearing thongs. By that time my fury and frustration must have been visible to people throughout the area, because a woman with a kind face came up to us.

“Would you like me to sit with her while you take a walk?” (Meaning, would I like a few minutes to grapple with my mental health and get a grip…)

I smiled. Or possibly bared my teeth. “Actually, what I would like to do is throw her into the sea.”

She didn’t flinch. “Yes. I had one of those days yesterday. But today we’re doing OK, so I’m happy to help you out if you would like to leave her with me for ten minutes and have a break?”

I was truly grateful, but I knew Small DB would never have stayed, and I would have felt terrible to leave her. The kind woman had actually unknowingly changed the dynamic for the better. I choked down my frustration and warlike tendencies and picked up Small DB’s goddamn shoes.

“Thank you,” I said to the woman, “I really appreciate it, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Small DB, her footwear wishes fulfilled, came along like a lamb. That lasted for about an hour, at which point I plopped her back in the dinghy and delivered her back to M. With a small sigh of relief, Small Z and I went back and wandered – whinge-free – to our hearts content.

Commandant's House. Port Arthur.

Zoe in the penitentiary. Port Arthur.

There were even gluten free treats at the cafe – it was truly blissful to have a florentine and a cup of tea after being absent from civilisation for a while. Unfortunately they wouldn’t sell me any milk to get back to the boat – and I also learned that the general store had *sob* burnt down two years ago (this was not on our maps) and therefore we would not be able to restock our pantry whatsoever.

However. We have rice. And yoghurt. And a tin of tuna or two. We’ll cope until the end of the week when we hope to get to Hobart. In the meantime, Small Z and I had a lovely time, both in the grounds and in the interactive part of the museum, learning all about convicts and others who had lived on the site so long ago.

Garden. Trentham House. Port Arthur.

We got back to Bella Luna at around 6pm. M was happy to get going, as the anchoring situation remained tenuous. Before we left he took Foamy over to the dock where the tour boats live and filled up our water bottles. We emptied the water from Triabunna out of our drinking water tank – it was intolerable – and filled up with water from Port Arthur – which M was told came from a pond up on the hill. Wherever it came from, it is a vast improvement on what we had…such a shame I have run out of my stolen tea…

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