Tasmania 2007 - 08

This was our first voyage after finishing the conversion project, and also the first major journey since our Tasmania trip in 2003 - 04. Similar to the last time, we broke the journey into 3 stages; firstly Sydney to Hobart accompanying the Hobart Race fleet; then a 3 week trip from Hobart round to Port Davey and finally a cruise up the East Coast of Tasmania and then back to Sydney.

Sydney to Hobart Race

Typical spectator fleet madness at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Roy Cantrell

The last time we followed the race fleet to Hobart we did so in an unofficial capacity. This time round we were one of two 'radio relay vessels' responsible for conducting twice daily position scheds, relaying weather information and being on standby in case of any assistance being required by any of the competitors. Our role was not particularly onerous as we were back-up to the primary radio relay vessel 'JBW' - but it came with two very important benefits. Firstly we were allowed to be in the race exclusion zone in Sydney Harbour at the start and secondly we were allocated a prime mooring position dockside in Hobart at the finish.

The race fleet making its way out of Sydney Harbour Roy Cantrell

Capturing aerial close-ups

Roy Cantrell

My crew for this leg of the trip comprised good friends David and Simon (who had both also been aboard for our first journey to Lord Howe Island), another friend Roy as well as Malcolm and Grant, the two shipwrights who worked on the boat throughout the conversion project. Roy and Grant are both keen and highly competent amateur photographers who's talents are featured in this section.

Hobart Race crew. From l to r: David, Simon, Roy, Me, Malcolm and Grant

Roy Cantrell

The weather on the passage down was typical - a nice 15 - 25 kt Nor'Easter for the first 24hrs followed by a 20 - 25 kt southerly change across Bass Strait and then variable pleasant conditions down the Tasmanian coast. We made stops at Babel Island, Schouten Passage, Triabunna and Port Arthur before arriving at our ringside berth in Hobart on the 31st of December for New Years Eve celebrations.

I will let Roy and Grant's photo's below tell the story!

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Hobart to Port Davey

After recovering from New Years Eve, a change of crew and some reprovisioning we were on our way again to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania. I added quite a bit of background about the area and d'Entrecasteaux Channel in our page Tasmania 2003 - 04 so I wont repeat it here, but please click on the link if you are interested and have not already visited that page.

When we went to the West Coast in 2004 we were alone. This time around we travelled in company with two other boats - JBW and Wyllaway. JBW is a 60' custom timber forward raised pilot house boat powered by two Gardner 6LX engines. She is owned by a Sydney family who have generously lent her to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for the past 10 years to act as Radio Relay Vessel for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.​ On board were JBW's captain, Andrew and his partner Louisa along with mutual friends Mark and Anne (who had accompanied us to the Furneaux Islands in 2004)

Wyllaway pictured in Sydney Harbour

JBW following close astern down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.

The third vessel in our fleet, Wyllaway, is a 61' cold moulded triple diagonal Oregon planked raised pilot house motor yacht, designed and built in 1984 by the legendary Queensland builders Norman R. Wright. Wyllaway is owned by our very good friends John and Clare, who at that time lived in Hobart. I often joke that when John heard I had bought Ada Hardy and learnt of my plans he immediately set out to create a similar program! Whether this is true or not, the timing was such that this was the first major voyage for both of us since completing our respective projects.

Our crew for this leg consisted of my wife Karen, our son Matt (who had sailed down in the race) and our youngest daughter Cath; David (who had been on board since Sydney) and long term family friends, Ian and Sue, with their two children Annabel and Angus.

A full house! From left: David, Cath, Angus, Sue, Ian, Annabel, Karen, Matt and I.

The plan was to travel down the d'Entrecasteaux Channel to Recherche Bay and wait for the first weather opportunity for the exposed leg around to Port Davey. As it turned out the weather window was wide open, with light northerly winds forecast for three or four days - a most unusual situation for southern Tasmania, where the weather usually does not stay constant for three or four hours let alone three or four days! We took advantage of the situation, stayed only one night at Recherche, and the next morning headed around for an unplanned overnight stop at New Harbour, a beautifully isolated and rarely visited bay on the south coast between South East and South West Capes.

The "cruise in company" was a huge success with lots of "social events" shared among the three boats and  some unusually warm and mild weather thrown in as a bonus. Another most memorable aspect was our success at catching crayfish, which can be very temperamental creatures. Sometimes they are "on" and other times they are nary to be had! This year they were "on" and we were armed with six pots (traps) to take full advantage of the situation.

Young Angus on the lookout leaving New Harbour

Crayfish Abounds

Our haul of crayfish was so bountiful that one evening we arranged a 'progressive dinner' where each yacht served a different preparation of four large crays and we travelled between the boats for each course!

The fleet at anchor in Wombat Cove in preparation for a 'progressive' crayfish dinner.

Collecting wild flowers

Dramatic afternoon lighting on Mount Rugby in Bathurst Harbour

After 10 wonderful days in Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour it was time to head back to Hobart. On the return trip I learned a powerful lesson about becoming complacent and being unprepared for Tasmanias highly changeable conditions. We decided to visit Great Taylors Bay, an anchorage at the southern end of Bruny Island which is well protected from most wind directions except from the north where it is exposed to a 10 mile fetch to the Tasmanian mainland coast.

A south west change at up to 30kts was forecast to come through later that afternoon which would then slowly swing round to the south and then south east, making the bay a suitably sheltered anchorage for the night. We arrived late morning, in a flat calm with temperatures well above 30 degC. Once anchored we immediately launched the tender, set out the swim ladder and inflated all available toys.

At about 3pm, with all our toys in the water, the sun awnings out, deck chairs and tables set on the foredeck with the remains of a leisurely lunch, a gentle breeze came in from the north west and within minutes built to over 20 kts. There had been no warning of this change. The forecast was for a SW change at least 4 hrs later and there had been no sign of clouds or anything else to indicate what was about to unfold. We were on a lee shore and the wind was increasing alarmingly.

A rush to furl the awnings as the breeze sets in

We scrambled to get the toys and swim ladder on board, furl the awnings and clear the foredeck. There was no time to get the 4m aluminium tender on board because by this stage it was blowing 30kts or more. So we raised the anchor and started to head slowly into the gale, away from the lee shore and out of the bay. Within minutes the wind increased to more than 40kts with gusts over 50kts and the sea had gone from flat calm to a nasty 6' sea. This was nothing of concern to Ada Hardy, but certainly not ideal for towing a tender with a 50hp outboard on the back! Fortunately I had time to attach my long 1" diameter towing line, as the tender's own light weight painter would not have lasted 5 minutes. Even though I was travelling at less than 3 kts and trying to avoid taking the seas head on, the tender was shipping an enormous amount of water and its small bilge pump was loosing the battle trying to keep up. I could see the tender slowly filling with water but there was nothing we could do other than to seek shelter in the lee of the mainland, 9 miles distant. At 3kts this was 3 hrs away!! 

To make matters worse, Great Taylor Bay is littered with fish farms, which whilst buoyed, are mostly uncharted. The buoys marking the extent of the farms had been visible enough in calm conditions coming in earlier but had now become almost impossible to pick up until we were almost upon them. We gingerly zig-zagged our way up the bay, picking our way through the farms, with the tender by this stage being kept afloat only by it's built-in internal styrofoam buoyancy. Fortunately the outboard motor was just above being submerged. After a couple of hours, as we closed in on the mainland, the sea conditions started to subside and

Heading out of Great Taylor Bay, Bruny Island. Blowing 30kts at this stage but moments later increasing to over 40kts with gusts up to 50kts.

we were able to turn to starboard and head into the shelter of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Shortly after the wind cut out almost a suddenly as it had started and we nosed into a nearby anchorage to lick our wounds.

Bruny Island ablaze

After pumping out the tender, I found to my great relief the start batteries had survived being submerged and the outboard started immediately. My joy only lasted until moments later when I discovered, that I had not properly dogged the watertight main deck locker, and it was totally flooded. The deck locker is approximately 3m square by 1.5m deep and is packed full of every conceivable bit of kit you could imagine. Boxes full of spare parts, awnings, fishing gear, deck chairs, a parachute anchor - the list goes on and on - all of it absolutely saturated in salt water.

I cleared a patch big enough so that I could bail most of the water out of the locker. I then shut the lid, dogged it tight and poured myself a stiff drink! I'd had enough for one day. The disaster in the deck locker could wait until we got to Hobart the next day. It was only then that I noticed that the land around us was ablaze with bush fires, probably whipped up by the hot dry winds that had blown through earlier.

We arrived in Hobart the next day, and it was only that evening, seated comfortably in a local restaurant, recounting the events of the day before that I learned from the "galley crew" that all the kitchen knives, mounted on a magnetic strip on the bulkhead, had come unstuck and flown across the galley as we pitched and bounced our way up Great Taylor Bay! Never before and never in the 10 years since has this (flying knives!) happened again.