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Saturday, July 31, 2010

ETA at Royals, Sandy Bay - approx 3:00pm (if not a fraction sooner!)

Hobart, here we come!

By the time we anchored last night at Chinaman's Bay, Maria Island, we had about 2 hours to get some sleep before we had to be up and making our way to the entrance of the Narrows in order to get the rising tide. At least it was a still, calm, relaxing 2 hours.

7am we were off, excited at the thought of getting home but a bit nervous about the possibility of running aground! To give you some idea of the depths and widths, at one stage we had pelicans standing on a sandbar to our right and an oyster farm on our left, neither of which require deep water...


Oyster farm

Stu took the helm and Barney and I kept a keen watch for the channel markers. You may remember that our cockpit depth sounder stopped working when it filled with water at Fanning Island, so part of my job was to dash downstairs and call out the depth readings from the chart table depth sounder then rush back up to help keep watch. Luck was on our side and the markers were accurate so we had no problems. 

Entrance to the Narrows

Ariel coming through
(note the stylish lump of seaweed attached to the anchor at the bow!)

Coming through we were reminded of what a beautiful place Tassie is! We've seen some great places but Tasmania can really hold its own on the world stage whan it comes to scenic locations. Even the Dunalley marina looked lovely!

Once through the Narrows we headed for Denison Canal. This was also quite narrow and with a strong tide running against us is was quite an effort to keep the boat on course and in the centre of the canal. We could see the bottom on both sides of the boat and had no desires to touch - particularly because we would have had an audience of people on the bank as well as the traffic that had to stop so the canal bridge could be opened to let us through.

Ariel in the canal

Ariel coming through the open canal bridge

As tradition (and courtesy) dictate, we dropped our offering of a few cans of beer and a few dollars in to the bridge operator's bucket...

 I'm guessing this guy doesn't pay for too many of his own drinks!

Through the canal and there it was - Mt Wellington, that mountain that looms over Hobart and can be seen from pretty much anywhere. Once we saw that we knew we were nearly home - a real mix of emotions knowing that the journey is nearly over but knowing that home and friends (and Squirrel!) are so close!.

Right now we have just passed Clifton Beach and are motoring on our way to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (Marieville Esplanade, Sandy Bay). At this stage we're hoping to get in at around 5:00pm (but could be 4; could be 6...will keep you all posted) - I can't wait!

Bass Strait

Bass Strait - pffttt...piece of cake - I don't know what people complain about!

We had a dream run from Eden - the wind swung North East so was pushing us along nicely and the swell was relatively small. We were cruising along at about 6 to 7 knots and had no problems. That said, once we were close to Tassie and could hear the weather reports on the VHF it was confirmed (as we had suspected) that if we had left even a day later we probably would have gone through some pretty rough weather. Thank goodness we decided not to stay a night in Eden! As they say, timing is everything!

To add to the enjoyment of the passage, we had another person for conversation and got double the amount of sleep we would normally get overnight. It's amazing how refreshing four hours of sleep feels when you're used to only getting two - bliss!

Finally, there it was - Tasmania!

This thin little line of land caused a lot of excitement!

At this stage we were undecided as to whether we would go through the Narrows and the Denison Canal or go around the bottom of Tassie. The Narrows can be a navigational nightmare as they are very shallow in places and the sand moves so there's no guarantee that the marked path is deep enough. Going around the bottom would of course eliminate that problem, but it would add about 50 miles to the trip and could be rough. Needless to say I voted for the Narrows! In the end we decided on the Narrows and the Canal, and headed for Maria Island, on the East coast, where we would anchor for a few hours until high tide before we tackled the passage.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Port Stephens to Eden

We are about 5 miles from Eden, after a trip from Port Stephens that was very different to the conditions we had coming from Coffs Harbour. Rather than bashing in to strong headwinds and big swell, we had very little wind and relatively flat water. Again we had to motor the whole way due to the lack of wind but with the better conditions we were able to travel at a decent speed and have made good time.

We received a call from a friend (Andrew Balmforth, aka Barney) while we were in Coffs, wanting to know if he could join us on the trip from Sydney to Hobart. We like the idea of an extra pair of hands to cross Bass Strait, plus an extra person to do dreaded night watches therefore giving us more sleep, and he is very keen. I hope he knows what he’s getting himself in to! Of course, we didn’t end up stopping at Sydney so he has made a mammoth trip to get to Eden - flying to Sydney, train to Canberra and bus to Eden. As I said, he’s pretty keen! He’s already been a huge help, ringing us to say that he’s arranged somewhere for us to tie up at Eden wharf and arranging a fuel truck.

Barney came prepared!

At this stage we’re planning on getting in, refueling and restocking, having a decent feed and a shower and heading off again. The weather is pretty good at the moment and we don’t want to waste it. In my opinion, the sooner we cross Bass Strait the better! Knowing that it is one of the worse stretches of water in the world, and we’re crossing it in winter, has me expecting a pretty revolting trip but it can’t be bad all of the time so I’ve got a faint glimmer of hope that we’ll get lucky and have a great crossing.

Less than 400 miles to Hobart…

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Detour to Port Stephens

Battling South in 30 knot (plus gusts of up to 50) southerly winds with a huge swell is not easy and not at all nice... Unfortunately it seems that no remedies are helping with the sea sickness these days either, so that definitely detracts from any enjoyment I may have of the sailing! We had no chance to even get the sails up and so we were motoring all the way. 240 miles to Sydney should have taken about 2 days but the headwind meant that we were only travelling at about 2 knots. On Wednesday night we started to run low on diesel - which we realised when the engine spluttered and died (the fuel gague doesn't work...). We spent the next half hour putting more diesel in to the tank (filling the tank in that weather meant that we wore most of it...) and trying to start the engine which would start then stop again after a few seconds as the tank and lines had run completely dry. Eventually we got the fuel flowing properly and the engine started again. A quick fuel vs. miles calculation and we decided to make a slight detour to Port Stephens for sanity and refuelling.

Port Stephens is a nice little town - and we finally got the pub meal that we've been craving for so long! We've also been enjoying a warm boat for once now that we have attached an extension cord to the shore power allowing us to run a fan heater. What luxury!

Pelican Parade
Nelson Bay Marina

We're heading off again today (Sunday 25/7) as the winds finally look to be more favourable over the next few days. We probably won't stop in Sydney now (unfortunately...) but will go straight through to Eden where we'll wait until we get reasonable conditions to cross Bass Strait. The trip to Eden should hopefully only take about 3 days, so all going well we will arrive late Wednesday or early Thursday, but as we've shown many times on ths trip there are a lot of variables and so we will have to take what we can get!
Next stop (hopefully!!) - Eden!