The lighthouse caretakers on Deal Island, David and Di, haven’t seen a boat in five weeks, then one came past yesterday, and today we turned up. Ford St Clair, Small Z and I walked up the track to their accommodation, spending a comfortable amount of time at the Telstra Chair – placed off the track in precisely the position required to pick up the signal that appears to come through the swashway between Erith and Dover Islands. OK. We binge a bit.
We count wallabies (many) and try to identify the birds we see. Ford St Clair, the naturalist, is a bit of a twitcher. We see a Scarlet Robin…and a few others he will need to remind me of so I can add them here.
The airstrip, last time full of free ranging marsupials, has been fenced off – an electric fence. Presumably the wallabies presented a landing/taking off hazard to aircraft.
Up at the accommodation the grass is lush green. Shoes off. We avoid the Cape Barren Goose poo – there are two parents and two teenage geese roaming around.
We gratefully accept . Di is an artist and has tried to do a painting or sketch a day on thick paper the size of a postcard. Small Z and I ooh and ahh our way through them. Later she gives the Smalls their own postcard sized pieces of card, together with a stamped envelope with their Hobart address. Perfect.
Meanwhile, I have bonded with David, having looked at his ankles and correctly identifying that we both buy our socks from the same stall at Salamanca Market every two or three years. I talk to both of them about their recent stint on Matsuyker Island – something that I’ve been keen to do for a while. It’s super-remote – Maatsuyker Island is the southernmost island of the Australian continental shelf. It’s one of the caretaker positions where children are not allowed.
Later in the day, after we’ve returned to the boat, M and Ford St Clair go diving for abalone where we are anchored in Farm Cove. It has been over 20 years since I had an abalone. IT’S BEEN TOO LONG. Holy crap – they are SO DELICIOUS. GET. ME. MORE.
At some point, in the late afternoon of 30 October 2019, we move around to East Cove. Now this is exciting – we’ve never anchored here before – there’s an old jetty and a pathway up the hill to the lighthouse accommodation and museum. I explore the rocks on the shore of the bay. There are at least 30 wallabies grazing in the sunshine.
Fish in foil – cooked on a barbecue. A grand feast, with some spuds thrown in. We’re out of butter, but there seems to be endless sour cream. We also have salt, and one lemon. There are five of us around the table on the edge of East Cove. Up the hill, two volunteer lighthouse caretakers are snug between their four walls. Seven people on Deal Island and all of us quite pleased with the situation. Dark is falling.
The Cape Barren goose that stood motionless on the end of the jetty musing on god knows what is probably still there, thinking its immutable thoughts, but we can’t see it anymore. The stars are putting on the a show, the moon is a thin curl of peel. Under the conversation of, “Who wants more fish? Are there any spuds left? I can’t see where the salt is…” comes the unwelcome low tones of a diesel engine as the grey shape of a small wooden motor boat noses around the point.
There is a collective grumble at the interruption of our general isolation. Intruders… “But…” says someone, squinting through the darkening dusk, “It looks like a very beautiful boat – a wooden boat show boat…” we watch it trundle in, turn, drop very little anchor chain curiously near to our boat.
We gather up the detritus covering the table – there is much foil and many fishbones. The scooters are left ashore for the night and the five of us squish into the dinghy.
The morning sunshine shows a truly divine old-school wooden motorboat that appears to have had a great deal of money spent on it. It is perfection.
We return from our walk in the late afternoon. M is first down the hill and by the time the Smalls and I make it to the beach he’s chatting with the wooden boat people down near the jetty. We loiter, and I’m too impatient to hang about. I swim back to the boat in my underwear – before I’m halfway there I have to hold my head out of the water, which is so cold that I get a headache each time I submerge.
M comes back with masses of parsley and nasturtiums from David and Di – it’s so hot that everyone but Small DB jumps into the water. It’s perfection. Ford St Clair has, inexplicably, decided to hike to the lighthouse on the the hottest day every – we await his return and/or news of his demise from dehydration and heatstroke.