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Badger

Badger
In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail

Fantail

Fantail
At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
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About Me

02 October, 2008

The trouble with leading a full and exciting life, is that there never seems to be time to sit down and do the things that I ought to – like telling people about what we have been up to. I realise that it's a full 8 months since I wrote and update and am trying to make amends.

Leaving New Zealand and all our friends there was a wrench and I would have liked to stay for Christmas. But if we'd stayed for Christmas, we would then have had to stay for New Year, and then ... So we left.


Our destination was Tasmania, not the easiest of destinations, sailing from New Zealand, because you’re going west against the ‘Roaring Forties’. Admittedly, in this part of the world they don't really 'roar', but they can certainly blow strongly enough to give one pause for thought. Ideally, we should have waited longer, but if we waited until it was truly summer, we would have no time in Tasmania ... So we left.


The plan was to use a high pressure system to 'slingshot us', as Trevor put it, round the top of the next low and accordingly,when we sailed on 13 December, the tag end of a low sent us north out of Tasman Bay, to meet the high-pressure system. This gave us easterly winds and a push on towards Tasmania, just as had been predicted, but after a few days we were beyond the range of weather forecast and had to take the weather as it came. The Tasman Sea is notoriously rough and as it’s 1400 miles from Nelson to Hobart, we were resigned to some unpleasant conditions.


Our fine, fair wind, although occasionally reaching F9, held until 22 December, when it increaed and started to head us. For some time, we lurched along under bare poles, with the occasional heavy wave breaking over us, but when the wind came dead on the nose, we finally hove to, something which Iron Bark does extremely well. After a brief lull, which left us staggering about in a sloppy sea, it returned in the small hours of 23 December and by dawn it was blowing gale force; we lay ahull. On Christmas morning, tired of getting nowhere, Trevor set some sail, but in spite of efforts with various headsails, the noon position put us 36 miles north of the previous day's run, rather than W as we had intended. Some Christmas Day! I have a Thing about celebrating Christmas and unlike Trevor, feel that celebrations should take place on the day intended. This is probably because harsh experience has taught me that all too often a celebration postponed is a celebration cancelled. For all that, I was somewhat lacking in the Christmas spirit, but dear Katie had given me a package to be opened on the 25th, whether we were at sea or in harbour. In it were sweet treats for Trevor, a beautiful pair of earrings for me and a pretty dish from Nanook to Iron Bark, With the ritual glass(es) of sherry to accompany the ceremony of present opening, I was so enthused that I managed to make a festive spread and put up a Christmas tree!



Not surprisingly, we continued to get westerlies over the next four days and made slow progress towards Hobart. One of the advantages of having been sailing for so long, is that you do eventually realise that nothing lasts forever, which makes it a little more easy to be stoical about bad weather, even if it doesn't make it any more enjoyable. We finally sighted Tasman Island on the evening of the 28th December, and a couple of hours later came into its lee, where we lost the wind and ended up in a violent jobble. The currents surged around the headland, mixing with the swell and leftover slop. The mainsail was tthrashing around uselessly, Trevor was shouting at me (I was on watch) for being unable to sail the boat and all was sweetness and light. We were grossly undercanvassed, but a few moments after he'd shaken out the reefs, we were hit by a nasty gust and were then overcanvassed. Oh – the joys of gaff rig. That gust blew us back into the windless jobble, the tide carried us back into the wind and so we spent several hours being flung from one to the other. We couldn't sail and in such a slop, the motor wasn't much help, but finally the tide relented, or the swell eased or the wind shifted, or maybe all three occurred and we worked our way out round the headland.


By first light, however, sixteen days out from Nelson, we were sailing up a tranquil Storm Bay under topsail.




Entrants in the Sydney-Hobart race slowly overhauled us, as they sailed up the W side of the bay. The Port Authorities wanted nothing to do with a humble, ocean voyager, but the Bellerive YC kindly offered us a free berth, so that Customs and Quarantine could come and board us. Having informed them of our plans via e-mail before leaving New Zealand, we had no problems, although Quarantine charged us over AU$300 for the privilege of confiscating our remaining fresh food! I was saved the usual runaround that many foreign visitors get, because I am sailing on my wonderful Kiwi passport, which means that I have the right to enter Oz whenever I want and stay for as long as I wish. The reverse, of course, applies to Trevor, which suits us nicely at the moment.

We did some shopping – being now in dire need of fresh stuff, enjoyed wonderful, hot showers, courtesy of the yacht club and moved over to anchor later that afternoon. The following day was a Sunday, so we spent it on board, catching up on sleep and relaxing after the passage. We have more broken nights sailing on Iron Bark, because I can only manage the sails in light conditions, so often tend to be a bit tired when we get to harbour.

The next day being fine and sunny, we took ourselves ashore and went to explore Hobart. It's a perfect little city. Both sides of the long inlet slope up the water, so that nearly all the houses have lovely views. The town itself is small enough that you can easily walk around it and has a proper centre, rather than being sprawled all over the place. There are many fine buildings, built by convict labour, so without any worry about the cost of labour or materials, which make the 'downtown' area attractive. The waterfront is still a working harbour, but many of the old buildings have been repaired and altered to create amenities for tourists and townspeople.














We didn't stay long, however, because the place was seething with boats and onlookers from they Sydney-Hobart race. We wanted to go into Constitution Dock for night and a visit to the market in Salamanca Square, that Katie had told me was a must so we decided to go off and have a bit of cruising and come back in a week or so, having stayed over New Year's Eve to watch two spectacular firework displays, from a prime position in the harbour, aboard Iron Bark.

Tasmania is about twice the size of Wales and has a population of 400,000 – not many people for such a long and indented coastline. The coast also has quite a number of interesting offshore islands, which would be wonderful to explore. There is far too much to see in one season. We had to content ourselves with the southern part. As a cruising ground, it’s hard to beat and has something for all tastes. Hobart, the capital, set against the backdrop of Mt Wellington, spreads itself along both sides of the Derwent Estuary, which opens into Storm Bay. At the SW end of the estuary, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel wends its way 30 miles S, with numerous bays and rivers leading off from it. We spent the next month exploring this area, with occasional trips back to Hobart to top up our stores.

We were still 'enjoying' the spring weather, which meant quite a lot of cold, southerly winds which were enhanced to fresh and occasionally gale force in the afternoons, as a sea breeze built up. But the wind generally fell away at nigh leaving us in beautiful, calm anchorages. In Deep Bay, we met a lovely couple, Douga and Margaret, aboard their fine Herreschoff yacht, 'Gulls Way'. They invited us over for 'tea', which turned out to be an opportunity to sample their home-distilled rum and whisky, which was excellent. Later we visited them at their waterfront home in Barnes Bay, a delightfully simple house, set among the bush.











Our 1970 (corrected to 1984), 1:107,000 chart proved a little inadequate for exploring this area properly, and Douga and Margaret kindly gave us an old copy of a local cruising guide. We were so impressed, that next time we were in Hobart, we bought ourselves a brand new copy for a mere AU$26 - about £12. Cruising Southern Tasmania, is - astonishingly - a Government publication, put together in conjunction with the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania, and saved us from having to buy at least four other charts. This guide proved invaluable in an area that could keep any keen cruising sailor occupied for years.


Tasmania has a reputation for being home to many wooden yachts and a Wooden Boat Festival is held every other year on the Huon River. We sailed up here and saw more than a few fine examples. Many of the beautiful anchorages were made even more delightful by one or two wooden boats moored there. We had sailed to Dover, to do some shopping and as we came back to Iron Bark we saw two lovely yachts sailing towards us. Brolga, a pretty gaff double-ender was built by her owners, Tony and Susan. She is strip-planked on sawn frames – a very unusual form of construction. Saone is an elegant, canoe-sterned yawl of the old school, designed by Philip Rhodes and has been in Tasmania since she was built, in 1936. Jane and Ben keep her to a very hight standard as well as actively sailing her. Previous owners had surveyed the Melaleuca Inlet, in Port Davey, for one of the cruising guides that we were using, so she was locally quite a famous vessel. The yachts' owners were equally charming and invited us over for the evening after they had rafted up, to share their dinner. We really enjoyed their company and were sorry that we never managed to cross tacks again, although we saw both boats in the distance on several occasions.


A day or two later, we very nearly lost Lisa. We were sailing along, minding our own business, when a cold front pounced on us without warning. Only minutes before, Trevor had doused the topsail, but the wind was up to F9 before he could get the reefs in. We managed to wind up the jib, but were in among fish farms and rocky shores, so had some very unpleasant moments trying on the one hand to reef the sails, and on the other, to manoeuvre the boat around the various obstacles. Once under bare pole, we set off north to Isthmus Bay, which we knew would provide us with good shelter. We were towing the dinghy and even though we were in sheltered waters, the seas soon got up and Lisa kept surfing down on our stern. A couple of cross seas then swamped her and she swooped down onto the transom, smashing her bow against a roller that is fitted for a stern anchor. She snatched back again and capsized. Her weight was now too much for the painter, which parted. We started the engine and went back for her, but it took 3 or 4 attempts to retrieve her, the engine being barely adequate for working against such wind and seas, let alone for delicate manouevring. If all this wasn't enough, one of the oars had come adrift, too. Somehow we managed to find and retrieve that and then Trevor not only righted the dinghy, but managed to get a line round the forward thwart so that we could tow her again. As she was still inclined to surf, I suggested that we now motor at a little over 5 knots, rather than sail at about 4, so that we could keep ahead of her. This worked, and within half an hour we found a bit of a lee, where we could anchor and bring her on deck. It was the last time we towed Lisa in Tasmania, unless we were in very sheltered waters, but in spite of her battering, the repairs were quick and easy to effect. There is no excuse for this happening: we both know that one should never tow a dinghy, but human nature being what it is, we get idle.


The summer was proving to be hot and dry and there were a number of bush fires around, which I found quite horrifying. Trevor assures me that if the fire isn't too hot, the vegetation soon recovers, but I feel desperately sorry for all the animals that get caught in the fires. It will take a long time for me to look at the scorched and blackened aftermath, with anything like equanimity. As we sailed a little further south, however, the climate changed quite noticeably and was a lot damper.


We headed south out of the Channel, exploring round Southport, where we took a ride on an old narrow-gauge, electric train, restored by enthusiasts and probably barely paying for itself.


















It was driven by a very interesting man, called Steve, who told us that he was building a steel, junk-rigged boat (Tom Colvin Gazelle). We had several stops along the way, where we would all (about a dozen of us) get out and listen, while Steve pointed out various sights and told us about the area.


From there we sailed to Recherche Bay. Here we left Iron Bark safely anchored and took the opportunity of using some fine settled weather to go tramping off along the South Coast Track for 4 days.



The first day was quite a short walk with a camp by a river, an easy introduction that allowed us to get used to the packs.


The second day started off pleasantly enough, but then the going got very boggy, with roots across the path. This went up a series of steep hills and the roots created steps about 2 ft high, which I found very tiring; I envied Trevor his long legs.


The official campsite seemed rather crowded and Trevor suggested pressing on to the next one. I wasn't sure I could make it, but decided to give it a go and fortunately for me, we found a lovely spot on top of a little cliff, overlooking the sea, with a stream running nearby.



The next day, we left our packs in the camp and walked further west along the magnificent coast to a place called 'Surprise Bay', where a beautiful river flows into the sea. We had a fine lunch of damper, chorizo and cheese before going back to our delightful cliff top camp, admiring huge, black cockatoos that often passed us in small, vocal groups.



I was rather dreading the walk back, but the root strewn path proved a lot easier descending, so that it seemed like there was much less going up than going down. Hardly possible when going from sea level to sea level, but other trampers agreed with me! It rained slightly over night, but we were camped on very sandy soil and it wasn't an issue when we came to break camp. After a hard start, the last part of the day was easy walking – just as it should be! We saw an echidna by the side of the trail – in fact he ambled across it right in front of us, completely unperturbed. He was a lovely little beast, chomping up ants with total disregard for his audience.


I was rather dreading the walk back, but the root strewn path proved a lot easier descending, so that it seemed like there was much less going up than going down. Hardly possible when going from sea level to sea level, but other trampers agreed with me! It rained slightly over night, but we were camped on very sandy soil and it wasn't an issue when we came to break camp. After a hard start, the last part of the day was easy walking – just as it should be! We saw an echidna by the side of the trail – in fact he ambled across it right in front of us, completely unperturbed. He was a lovely little beast, chomping up ants with total disregard for his audience.


Back at Recherche Bay, we righted the dinghy and rowed back to Iron Bark, well content with our four days ashore. It's possible to tramp all the way along the S Coast to Port Davey and for a considerable distance around this area. We'd been tempted to do so, but to get there would have taken 4 days, we'd want a day or two there and then it would have been four days back. This would have entailed carrying ten days' food (plus some in case) – a heavy load. Equally off-putting was the necessity of crossing the Ironbound Mountains, which sounded daunting. They are totally exposed and it's necessary to put in a very long day to get from one campsite to another, over steep and rough terrain. Everyone we met had said how arduous it was – and they were only carrying 3 or 4 days' food! Nearly everyone flies in to the little airstrip at Melaleuca Inlet in Port Davey, and walks out from there. We discussed the matter and decided that we would do it our way: having walked one half from east to west, we'd sail around to Melaleuca Inlet and do the other half from west to east – maybe missing out the Ironbound Range!!


This fitted in with our plans very well, because we'd intended to sail round to Port Davey anyway. Our only problem was that it was a long sail back to buy fresh provisions, however, after looking through my veggie and food lockers, I reckoned we had enough 'standards' to keep us going for a few weeks and just about enough tramping food – lightweight and quick to cook – for our planned walks.

We spent the next day in Pig Sties Bay. Our only chart of the area we were planning to sail was a small-scale one: 1:652,500, surveyed in 1912, which included surveys of Capt M Flinders! It showed the major sea mark of Maatsuyker I as ‘reported 2 miles from its charted pos'n’, so we had some doubts as to its accuracy. To have bought a new chart would have meant a couple of days sailing back to Hobart, so we put together a chart of Port Davey from our copy of C-map (alas, no longer functioning), printing out large scale sections on sheets of A4 paper and sellotaping them together. We then printed off some smaller scale chartlets for the approach. This way of using computer charts, suits our mentality much better than relying on the computer to work when you are actually sailing into the harbour! Our distrust of things electronic is not entirely unfounded – my computer packed up on our way back from Port Davey.


In summer it's just possible to sail from Recherche Bay to Port Davey – about 90 miles – in one day, if you average 5 knots. This seemed a big ask for Iron Bark, considering that it would probably be calm at both ends of the day, so we decided to set off after breakfast, sail as far as we got in daylight and plod on overnight, heaving to as necessary. This way we would arrive in the morning and have the whole day to find a good anchorage. However, we got a fine, fair summer easterly and were romping along, so in the end we pulled out the stops and went for it. We had checked our home-made chart carefully and were content that the datum matched the one we were using on our GPS well enough to enter the uninvitingly-named Coffin Bay in poor light, if needs be. The sun set as we approached the offlying islands, and this gave us another chance to check that our real position matched that on the chart. Port Davey may sound like a bustling township, but in fact this body of water, leading a dozen miles deep into the west coast of Tasmania, is in a completely unspoilt, unpopulated World Heritage Area, four days’ gruelling walk from the nearest road. There is no real necessity for the Hydrographer to ensure that the charts for the area are up to date and accurate and that the datum matches WGS 84, but we worked our way in with no problem.


In the morning we found we were in a safe anchorage, tucked out of the rather unpleasant swell that was rolling up the inlet. Trevor found it an uninviting spot, but for some reason it reminded me of the Outer Hebrides and so I liked it. However, even thought there was no wind, we decided to move into Port Davey proper.





















Surrounded by mountains, with inlets, coves and islands providing shelter from any wind, Port Davey is the sort of place that sailors dream of, and when we steamed our way into its entrance, we found ourselves in a superb cruising ground. We sailed into pretty Bramble Cove and rowed ashore to walk to the top of Mt Milner. From here we had splendid views out to sea and over towards Coffin Cove,



















We spent the next two weeks in Port Davey. The weather was generally very good, with only the occasional shower, which we gathered was not the norm for this part of the world. Although sunny, the wind was cold, which made conditions chilly for sailing, but excellent for tramping – at least for me, because I easily get too hot – and most days saw us ashore, enjoying the emptiness and wonderful views. After a few days, we ventured up Melaleuca Inlet, a river that winds deep into the country. At 'the head of navigation' is an old wharf, to which we took a stern line. A short walk away is the little airstrip that brings in the trampers















from Hobart and services the Park itself. Bird watchers have built a hide here, and we made a beeline for it. One of the most endangered parrots in the world – the Orange Breasted Parrot – spends its summers in this area, feeding on the grasses that grow up for a short period after a fire. The grasses soon give way to other plants and so the pattern of burning is crucial for these birds' survival. Personally, I feel that an even larger issue is where they spend the winter – along a stretch of coast in South Australia and Victoria. As in most places, areas of salt marsh have been drained and urbanised and these poor little birds have been pushed to the edge of extinction. However, we were very lucky and saw one or two of them visiting the feeding station next to the hide. There has been a lot of work done to assist these little birds – studying their diet, controlling burning of vegetation in the Port Davey area, even resiting a power station in Victoria, which was going to impinge on their winter feeding grounds. It almost makes one feel hopeful for the future of endangered birds in advanced countries. I say 'almost', because even as I was writing this, I heard on the radio that the almost equally endangered Swift Parrot, is under threat. There are about 1,000 pairs of birds left in the wild. Excited observers noted that a sizable group was settling into an area of woodland in Tasmania, busily enlarging holes, or making new ones in the old eucalypt trees, ready for nesting. Then they found out that the Tasmanian forestry industry is planning to log out this woodland in October, with predictable results to the unfortunate parrots. Bird Life Australia is doing its best, but at present has few hopes of succeeding. The bird is federally acknowledged as endangered, but the Commonwealth of Australia has no way of stopping this logging going ahead, short of stopping grants, etc to Tasmania. However, on the day that we saw our little Orange-breasted Parrot, we also saw the threatened Ground Parrot (although I couldn't photograph it), so I feel very privileged to have had a chance to see some of these lovely birds before they fall over the precipice for ever.
















One of the more unexpected sites at Melaleuca Inlet, was that of a small tin mine – not at all what one would expect in a World Heritage Area. Peter, the owner of the mine, took the trouble to get in his runabout and come down to Iron Bark to invite us to visit them. To describe Peter and Barbara as a remarkable couple, would be a complete understatement.


As a young man, Peter, who is from the Isle of Man, mined coal in Spitzbergen. He met Barbara while he was at university, and after they married, they moved to Zambia where there were plenty of opportunities for miners. (Trevor was born in Northern Rhodesia, as it then was, and he and the Willsons found that they knew one or two people in common: don't tell me that it isn't a small world!!) Barbara taught in the local school and indeed, one of the reasons for their deciding to leave Zambia, was that under the new regime she was being pressurised to alter her assessment of her pupils' achievements to suit the local politics. They thught that Australia should offer interesting opportunities for them and their three children. Peter went fishing in Western Australia and Tasmania for several years, while Barbara taught and looked after the family. Then in the early 70’s, the lease of the tin mine in Port Davey became available (before the area was declared a World Heritage Area) and they’ve been there ever since. They travel to Hobart twice a year in their MFV, to shop and to deliver the tin ingots made in their bush-built smelter. They built their comfortable and attractive house with their own hands, too, bringing everything from windows to cutlery back from Hobart, as and when required. Their vegetables are home grown and they make their own beer, which they shared generously. I suspect that there are few tasks either of them would find daunting – while we were visiting, Barbara was recovering from a broken ankle and complaining about the fact that it made digging over the garden rather difficult! When she retired from teaching, Barbara spent more time helping Peter with the running of the tin mine and although they are both in their 70s, they continue to live and work there for most of the year. When they do eventually give up their lease, it won't be renewed and apart from Park Rangers, this wilderness area will be completely uninhabited.


Peter and Barbara knew the area well, of course and we made use of their knowledge to plan our next tramp, which we started the following day. At first the walking was fantastically easy, as we followed a long boardwalk across the boggy ground. However, as we turned off the main track, the going got worse and at one stage we were floundering round, lost in a bog, trying desperately not to fill our boots with water. We arrived at our planned campsite at lunch time, so decided to press on to the next one. The walking was a bit harder, but once there, Trevor soon found a nice spot to camp. As we were deciding where to pitch the tent, a spotted quoll, about the size of a large cat, wandered past quite unconcerned. Almost extinct on the mainland due to introduced predators (including dingoes) they are apparently not uncommon in Tasmania.


The next day was a lot shorter, but the track was overgrown and in need of maintenance. Trevor and I did a lot of 'gardening' as we walked. If everyone did a little, it would be more pleasant for all the trampers using the track. They didn't seem to be as carefully cared for as those in NZ. We pitched our tent right by the track, but as there was no-one about, we had no problems with lack of privacy! Our plan for the next day involved crossing over a mountain, so we went to investigate the route. We couldn't find the track with any degree of certainty and it looked as though it might involve a lot of bushwhacking, which I don't enjoy, so we decided to backtrack for half a day and then follow the main S Coast Track down to Cox's Bight.


I got up at 0630, so that we could have an early start. It started raining about half an hour after we got going and there were leeches everywhere. I find these animals quite revolting, especially when they are hanging on to my legs, sucking blood! We were a bit late donning our waterproofs and had no gaiters, so were pretty thoroughly soaked below the knees. We were meant to be doing this for fun, so decided we'd head back to the boat. After we passed two elderly brothers happily setting up their tent in the mud, we had another think, but on odds decided that we would have other chances to tramp without everything being wet and muddy. It was a long day, but we got back on board about 1930, just as it was going dark. A stiff whisky warmed us up and I felt very satisfied with the distance that we'd covered – about 25 km and not all of it easy. It

took ages for me to get the leeches out of our kit the next day!!


We spent a few more days around Port Davey, exploring the anchorages and tramping ashore. We climbed Mt Rugby, one of the highest points in the area to enjoy the truly splendid views.
















We were now well into summer and saw several other boats – all Australian. Tasmania is definitely on the ‘road less travelled’, as far as long-distance voyagers are concerned.


There was still plenty for us to see and it was a long time since I'd bought any food, so we headed back to the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and civlisation. On the way back, my trusty Toshiba laptop packed in. We went up the river to Huonville, where we were lucky enough to find Logyx, where Anne and Rex diagnosed, helped, sympathised and suggested. The end result was the need to buy a new computer (sigh), but how many times do you come back from that sort of day with an invitation to go and have dinner at the expert's home? Reprovisioned and with the laundry washed and dried, we headed back down the Huon River and spent a very pleasant evening with Anne and her husband, David, at their waterside home. Apparently they'd had platypuses at the end of their garden until a new neighbour with 2 aggressive dogs moved in, cleared the bush and frightened them away. One thing with a boat – if you don't like the neighbours, you can always move! Then we went to places we hadn't yet been, looking at old convict ruins, seeing Tasmanian Devils and enjoying interesting anchorages and pleasant summer sailing.

















Our tour of Tasmania took us all round the country, through little towns such as Ross,with its magnificent bridge and 'Saxon' church




















past beautiful lakes and wonderful scenery. We had hoped to do some serious tramping around Cradle Mountain – our walking guidebook was enthusiastic and there were a number of different routes to choose from. As we drove along the winding road towards the Visitors' Centre I was full of happy anticipation. Imagine our horror when we arrived and found the place was seething with tourists, with a huge tarmac car park filled to capacity and several helicopters taking off and landing, to carry those tourists who were too fat and lazy to walk and see the beauties of the landscape. This wasn't for us and we turned round and beat a hasty retreat. Unfortunately, our little car couldn't cope with the roads to some of the more interesting places. We did manage one or two more lovely shorter walks however.




















Near the end of our tour, we were lucky to spend an hour or so watching three platypus near Mt Field National Park. And when we set up camp, we frequently had visitors from dainty pademelons to thievish possums! But the only wild wombats we saw were dead, by the side of the road. This implies there are plenty about – we were just out of luck.


















We drove back to Hobart and took Iron Bark into Constitution Dock, passing through a bridge that stopped the traffic to open and allow us in. This safe and convenient berth, with water and electricity to hand, hot showers and laundrette cost us the princely sum of £8 a day or £41 per week. Pretty impressive, when you think we were in the heart of the State capital. Here we finally caught up with Pat and Dick Morris, on Irene.


















When we were in Nelson, Katie and Maurice had told us to look out for them, but we had never managed to cross tacks until now. They are a great couple, and Irene, a 45ft gaff ketch is a magnificent vessel. Dick built her in the 70s and 80s, battling on through fire, eviction and divorce to complete her. She is a wonderful credit to his many skills and we were both more than a little impressed by the fact that Dick will quite happily sail her on his own. He and Pat left England 10 years ago, and have roamed far and wide in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, even going up to Hawaii on one diversion!


From Constitution dock, we could explore the shops and museums down town, admire the city’s handsome buildings, loiter in the bustling harbour and look at the many different boats there, or visit the famous Saturday market in Salamanca Square, where you can buy fruit, vegetables, preserves, craft work and many other things or listen to music from a variety of






















performers. Getting to and from the boat at low water could be interesting and emboldened by my recent tramping adventures, I got over confident. Wanting to go ashore, I pulled on the dock line and then quickly climbed onto Iron Bark's rail to jump ashore. Not quickly enough and even as I pushed off I knew I wasn't going to make it. I slipped and fell on Iron Bark's stainless steel pinrail, then I smashed my ankle against her rubbing strake and fell against the concrete sill of the dock from where I slid under the water. Trevor saw what was happening and got the boarding ladder out, but couldn't secure it properly because of the mooring line around the cleat. I managed to haul myself back on board, but could feel that I was in a state of shock. By the time I was down below, I was also in a great deal of pain, so shivering and snivelling undressed and crawled into bed, while Trevor plied me with hot tea and painkillers. I'm not sure exactly what I did to myself, but my ankle was sore for three months and even now, six months later, my thigh often feels bruised. I must be getting old!


For most of the time we were in Tasmania, our interest centred around the sailing, scenery and wildlife of this fascinating island. However, we continually came across reminders of Tasmania's history of early white settlement: the Convict era. Historically, the period was more than interesting, but I have to confess to feeling a rather ghoulish interest in the life and times of the unfortunates who were transported to Van Dieman's Land, as it was then known. (The name was changed to Tasmania as an early example of PR, due to the unfortunate associations with the original name). Hobart, had many buildings form the Convict Era, but there were far more traces of this time around the Tasman Peninsula at the SE corner of Tasmania. We sailed up a narrow inlet and anchored off Eaglehawk Neck which is so narrow as almost to isolate the Peninsula. Convicts were prevented from escaping from Port Arthur by a line of savage dogs, chained to posts spaced at close intervals across the Neck. The wild Tasman Sea was an effective deterrent to the east and to the west, several rafts floated, each also tenanted by a dog. From here it was only a few miles by road to Port Artur, but we preferred to approach it in the same way as the transportees – by sea.


As the old barques approached the entrance to Port Arthur, they rounded the bold and forbidding cliffs at the S end of Tasman Island. The high dolomite cliffs of Cape Raoul that reared up on the port bow were an ever grimmer sight and must have raised forebodings in the hardiest person. We saw them in sunshine with no more than a fine sailing breeze and found them impressive: imagine what they must have looked like under driving rain with the wind-fretted waves breaking against them!








Under a sunny sky, Port Arthur seems inviting, its old brick walls mellowed by the years and glowing against the blue sky. Gentle, tree-covered hills rise up around the basin that forms the natural harbour and an elegant pleasure garden, graced by a fountain, rises from the shore to attractive houses on the side of the hill. But even those who were privileged to enjoy these beauties rarely saw them as we did: this part of Tasmania has a dismal climate, with many days of overcast and rain, with gales that last for days at a time. The convicts were forced to line up for inspection every morning, regardless of the weather, scantily clad in a shirt and trousers, often barefoot. They were then set to their tasks with no chance of getting warm or dry and their days were spent hewing timber, digging coal, making bricks, shaping stone. The lucky ones worked as cobblers, cooks, clerks or bakers and at least worked under cover. Although in later years the home farm and kitchen gardens produced plenty of good food, in early days both overseers and convicts starved, as those responsible for their welfare ignored their pleas or were simply unable to assist them. A good commander made all the difference to the lives of the convicts, most of whom were unfortunate rather than evil. On the mainland, transportees who were released from gaol but still serving time in Australia, could find work or start some sort of business, but in Van Dieman's land, opportunities then, as now, were few and in sheer desperation, many convicts committed a further crime and ended up back inside.


The ruins have been turned into a vast museum and work is continuing on the whole settlement. The prison itself is in a poor state – bush fires came through twice not long after its


abandonment, consuming all the timbers in the construction – but there is sufficient left to give a very clear impression of what conditions where like. The cells were tiny – about 10 ft long, 4 ft wide and 6 ft wide – and although plastered and whitewashed, must have been hellishly cold and damp in the winter. Although at its best the food was wholesome and quite varied, those doing hard physical work in the winter must have been short of calories. Fresh food generally went to the many civilians and I suspect that not many convicts enjoyed the product of their gardening. It was both beautiful and implacable.


Two days later, a gale swept in from the west – the pretty scene turned dank and miserable under grey skies. A local fisherman recommended we pick up a mate's mooring in a more sheltered spot, a suggestion we gratefully followed. But Iron Bark still heeled to the gusts sweeping down the hillside, blurred by torrents of rain. This was the real Port Arthur.

This was the first bad weather for about a month – the brief Tasmanian summer was coming to an end. My leg was still to painful for us to consider any more tramping: events were hinting that it was time to move on. The gale passed, the sky cleared and on 4 April, we sailed away from Port Arthur. Rounding the end of Tasman I, Iron Bark set her bows to the north.




4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Annie! Sounds like a fascinating cruising ground indeed.

All the best,
Patric

Mark said...

Hi Annie,

I'm reading and loving Voyaning on a Small Income and am completely smitten by it. A friend who lives in BVI suggested it and I'm very grateful. I'm at the point in life where there's more behind me than in front, it seems, and I'm always thinking about setting off. Thing is, I don't sail but I'm hoping to learn. In the mean time, I was wondering where in the world you are these days and whether I might interview you and/or Trvor for a magzaine article. It would be such a pleasure to meet you both.

I've written previously about bicycle nomads in Texas (I traveled with some down into Mexico) for Orion Magazine and have written for the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere.

Hope you're well and I Look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Mark Svenvold
mjsvenvold@aol.com

Matt said...

Hi Annie-

Great reading. I have your book, Voyaging on a Small Income. I can't find it at the moment, but am looking for the book you recommended about cooking with beans. Do you have that title on the top of your head?

Thanks and safe travels!

Matt

Leon Tittle said...

Hi Annie
Hope alls well, been almost a year since your last post
Leon