Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Northern Tasmania

It is nearly two weeks since our arrival at Three Hummock Island on the North West coast of Tasmania. We had a mix of conditions for our crossing of Bass Strait Leaving Port Fairy in calm conditions at 7 am a sea mist came in which by 9:30 am developed into thick fog with visibility down to 100m and no wind. We had the fog for most of our trip along the Great Ocean Road coast – a coast littered with shipwrecks. Thank goodness for our modern navigation aids; GPS chart plotter, radar and AIS. The fog lifted and the wind picked up to a nice 15 knots as we entered Bass Strait so it was up with the sails and off with the motors. We had relatively good sailing conditions until around midnight when the wind and seas increased which made for a lively and uncomfortable run across the rest of the Strait. We motor-sailed down the eastern side of King Island to arrive at Mermaid Bay on the northern shores of Three Hummock Island in a protected anchorage around 4 pm. A 33 hour trip. After a good night’s sleep we headed off for Stanley on the northern coast of Tasmania.

Stanley is an all weather anchorage and would provide us with a safe anchorage to sit out the strong wind warning on its way. As we sailed along the coast in the lee of The Nut, a high volcanic outcrop, the boat harbour appeared and the narrow entrance did not look very promising – we were not sure if we could fit between the channel markers into the harbour. After motoring passed the entrance three times we decided it was wide enough for us and committed to go in. A swell from the north east was breaking at the entrance just to make things a little more interesting as we entered, but thankfully there were about 2 metres to spare each side. (Entrances to harbours, reefs or locks always look smaller the first time you encounter them and the boat looks wider.) Once inside there was room to maneuver and we were able to tie up alongside the main jetty between a large cray fishing boat and a tourist boat.
Bruce and Naomi from Scrimshaw took our lines and helped us to tie us then kindly invited us aboard their yacht for dinner. During dinner another yacht, Finesse II, arrived and rafted off the fishing boat behind us.

Stanley has a 3 metre tide range and it was near low tide when we entered. We had to lengthen our ropes and deploy all the fenders in a horizontal position to protect the boat as it rose and fell with the tide against the wharf. During the first night Cran had to get up a few times to reposition fenders and adjust ropes as the strong winds and tidal surge pushed us hard against the wharf. It rained most of the night and the following day. We enjoyed morning coffee with our fellow sailors before Finesse II departed for Strahan on the west coast and the following morning Scrimshaw followed.

Monday we awoke to bright sunshine and no wind. We spent the day in Stanley firstly walking to the top of The Nut up a very steep pathway where we could view the surrounding countryside and bays looking back to the mainland, as Stanley is at the end of a peninsula.

Ann takes the chairlift back down from the Nut.

After lunch at the Stanley Pub we visited a few art galleries, purchased some local produce – cheese and octopus and had a look around the cottage which was the birthplace of Joseph Lyons, Australian Prime Minister 1932-39.
Tuesday 16 Feb we sailed across to Devonport in clear weather and light winds and were fortunate to obtain a berth at the friendly and welcoming Devonport Sailing Club on the Mersey River. Here we met Peter & Len who are both catamaran owners and were waiting at the dock to help us tie up. They were a great source of local information about sailing and anchorages along the north and east coast of Tasmania. Peter & Len are both going cruising this year. Peter is heading north with his wife on their catamaran Plan Four and Len & his wife are doing a lap of Tassie then across to NZ on their cat Jalen, we wish them well on their adventures. The sailing club is a few hundred metres up river from where the Spirit of Tasmania docks and it was quite a spectacle to see it turning in the river as it departed each evening for Melbourne.

Our next destination was the Tamar River and we sailed across from Devonport then motored up the river. The Tamar River is quite industrial at its entrance with wood chip loading facilities, a coal wharf and power station. As we progressed up stream towards the Batman Bridge we passed many small villages with stone buildings and churches as well as a few modern homes constructed to catch the most of the sun and views along the river. Our destination was Rosevears where we were able to dock at a public pontoon which just happens to right outside the Rosevears Riverside Tavern (c1831) where we enjoyed dinner and a few drinks with the locals.

The following morning we motored to Launceston where we tied up at Home Point pontoon near Tamar River Cruises, in the middle of town. Saturday we enjoyed a beer tasting tour at the James Boag Brewery, a seafood lunch at Hallam’s Waterfront restaurant, a quick look at the British Car Rally in the park then back to the boat to prepare for Sherrie and Bernie to arrive. Bernie was celebrating a significant birthday so we went out for dinner at Mud restaurant on the waterfront. Sunday we walked the Cataract Gorge and after the walk enjoyed a guilt free breakfast at Stillwater (a restaurant in an old water mill on the banks of the river at the entrance to the gorge).

As Sherrie & Bernie still had their hire car we were able to explore some of the surrounding countryside. After a nice drive out to Deloraine and Great Lake we left the sealed roads for a picturesque drive down through a national park along a very narrow gravel road to Liffey Falls walking tracks. The Liffey River valley cascades down the mountains out of the Western Tiers and is filled with myrtle and sassafras trees as well as tall tree ferns, it was a most enjoyable experience especially after spending so much time in the salt water environment.

We departed Launceston Monday and anchored in the Tamar River just west of the Batman Bridge in pouring rain and strong wind squalls and awoke the next morning to bright sunshine and calmer conditions. This set the scene for a good trip up to the mouth of the Tamar River and a great sail east along the coast to St Albans Bay where we anchored for the night. Unfortunately during the night the wind shifted 180 degrees and blew in at 20+ knots with a change in swell direction, none of which was forecast. Needless to say, we all had an uncomfortable night with broken sleep.

Today there are light winds so we are currently motoring east along the north coast towards the North East corner of Tasmania where we plan to overnight before heading down the east coast. Tomorrow we will leave early to catch the tide through Banks Strait to make the most of the current flow. Sherrie & Bernie are flying out of Hobart on the morning of 5 March, hopefully we will have suitable weather to get them there in time otherwise it will be road transport for the last leg.

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