2002 Jan 16: Cruising the east coast of Tasmania and three national parks

Adagio was flying. Her speed gave us the sensation of her having lifted off of the waterπs surface, resisting gravity and friction, propelled by her great white wings over the blue-green waters and across the steady northeasterly winds. The cumulus clouds and waves whizzed past. The huge boulders and glacially scarred cliffs of the coastline heaved slowly up and down as the motion of the boat animated the scenery framed by our windows. The wind increased to 28 knots, and our steady average of 12 knots of boat speed climbed to a 13 knot average. We were all smiles.

Two weeks before departing Hobart for a cruise of the east coast of Tasmania, we had purchased tickets to a James Morrison jazz concert, and now we needed to end our island hopping and get back to claim our space on the lawn at Morilla Estate winery. The weathermen had forecast northeasterly winds and our course would be SSE from Wineglass bay on the Freycinet Peninsula to Chinamanπs Bay on Maria Island, then south to round Tasman Island at the southeastern tip of Tasmania, westerly around Cape Raoul and then northwesterly across the open waters of Storm Bay, before sliding north up the River Derwent to Hobart.

In November and December, Adagio had taken us cruising in the sheltered waters of the DÏ€Entrecasteaux Channel and Huon River south of Hobart, to blow away the cobwebs and restore our sea legs. After numerous upgrades and maintenance tasks, improvements and safety checks, we were keen to cruise the sheer rock cliffs and sugar white beaches of Eastern Tasmania.

We departed Hobart on a Thursday afternoon in mid-January and made our way in light winds down the River Derwent and across the upper reaches of Storm Bay to anchor in Wedge Bay at the small fishing village of Nubeena on the west coast of the Tasman Peninsula. We checked in with Tasmar Radio after listening to their evening weather report.

Up early on Friday morning, we motored around the southern coast of the Tasman Pensinula, coming in close enough to Cape Raoul, Tasman Island, Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy for photographs of the amazing dolorite rock formations on this coast of the Tasman National Park. These rocks were formed when intruded into sedimentary layers deep underground at about the time Gondwanaland was splitting apart. The slow rate of cooling of the molten rock formed them into vertical columns which after millions of years of erosion and thousands of years of battering by the waves of the Southern Ocean, have created vertical cliff faces hundreds of feet tall and immense clusters of stone needles poised on the extreme seaward points of land. Any rocky shore is a peril to a ship, but these shores are exquisitely beautiful in their danger.

South of Port Arthur, between Cape Raoul and Tasman Island, a pod of bottlenose dolphins cavorted beneath Adagioπs bows, and told us of their pleasure in friendly squeeks, airborne out-of-water experiences and occasional eye contact as they propelled their silver forms parallel to our sleek hulls.

Lovely Fortescue Bay provided a good nightπs rest before we set out again on Saturday morning for Maria Island. The winds were still light, so we motored again, passing Waterfall Bay, Tasman Arch, Pirates Bay, Eaglehawk Neck, High Yellow Bluff, Humper Bluff and Cape Peron, arriving at Chinamans Bay early enough to anchor close in to shore in crystal clear 2 metres of water over white sand. By sunset a cluster of other boats had anchored around us, some of whom were friends from Hobart. The bay was created thousands of years ago when sand filled the gap between two islands, forming a sand spit that separates Chinamans Bay from Riedle Bay. Kookaburras laughed at us under the crescent moon as they glided from tree to tree, in this our second national park of Maria Island.

At sunrise several wallabys were gracefully loping along the hikersπs footpath, stopping to graze along the shoreline not far from the crumbling remains of a convict settlement from the 1800s. A white-bellied sea eagle soared above the waterπs edge.

A lively breeze developed on Sunday morning, so rather than go ashore for some exploring, we decided to set sail for a circumnavigation of Maria Island – we were curious to see the rock formations of the east coast of the island. Such a passage is bound to bring a variety of sea, current and wind conditions. Fair northeasterly winds in the teens carried us up through Mercury Passage, past the scallop leases, and around Ile du Nord north of Cape Boullanger (the French arrived here early enough to give names to a few of the geographic locations). In the lee of Mt Maria (2328 feet) and the two peaks of Bishop & Clerk (2067 feet), we found flukey winds and flat seas. As we rounded Mistaken Cape and headed southwest again, our sails filled, and we sailed past the white crescent that is Reidle Bay. Staying clear of the towering cliffs of this coast, we left Boy in the Boat rock well clear as we rounded the southern tip of Maria Island and sailed past Green Bluff back into Chinamans Bay. Southeasterlies were forecast, so we anchored in the southeastern curve of the bay called the Deep Hole, in water so clear that we could see our anchor buried in the white sand.

On Monday we set sail for Schouten Island and our third national park, Freycinet National Park comprised of Schouten Island and the Freycinet Peninsula. Halfway between Maria Island and Ile de Phoques (Island of Seals), we were joined by a dozen or so common dolphins. Smaller than the bottlenose, these dolphins seemed feistier, as they competed for the best position, bumping and shoving each other. They stayed with us for almost an hour and we loved every minute of it. With Steve in one bow pulpit and Dorothy in the other, there was no competition for the best viewing position, and the photographer on one bow had great views of the person on the other.

We set our anchor in Cooks Corner, at the base of Mt. Freycinet, on the west coast of the Freycinet Peninsula for a good nightπs rest.

The Hazards are four mountains rising steeply above Coles bay on the western side of the Freycinet Peninsula and above Wineglass Bay on the eastern side. We sailed into Coles Bay in time for lunch at the Freycinet Lodge, and to make dinner reservations. We had assumed that the restaurants in Hobart would serve all of the types of seafood available from this coast, so were surprised to find at the Freycinet Lodge a new kind of beautiful little scallop from nearby Triabunna. Delicate, tender and locally grown, we ≥tucked into them≤, and asked the waitress to have the kitchen wash the pretty shells for us to take with us.

The lodge is nestled among gigantic orange lichen-covered granite boulders that bulge up from the waters of the bay and melt into the forest that climbs up the slope of Mt. Dove. We had tied our dinghy alongside the wharf that is built out from the decks of the lodge over the mass of granite. The red granite of The Hazards was formed as the core of ancient ≥alpine≤ mountains which have been eroded and polished smooth by glaciers. In the town of Coles Bay, we purchased some packages of lettuce, a newspaper and some milk for Steveπs morning coffee. We were unable to receive Tasmar Radio from Coles Bay. The color of the Hazards changed from gunmetal silver to golden bronze at sunset.

On Tuesday morning, the weather was still settled so we wasted no time setting off for world famous Wineglass Bay. Winds were very light, so we powered through the Schouten Passage, past Point Geographe (named after one of the early French sailing ships which explored this coast), Slaugherhouse Bay, Gates Bluff, Half Lemon Rock, Lemon Rock and Cape Forestier, and entered Wineglass Bay. Well protected from all but strong northeasterly winds, this crescent of white quartz sand reflects in its multicolored blue waters the peaks of Mt. Mayson, Mt. Amos, Mt. Dove and Mt. Parsons of The Hazards.

Ten other boats were anchored in the bight in the southwestern corner of Wineglass Bay, so we dropped our wonderful S.P.A.D.E. anchor off the beach to the north of the other boats, but still within the protection of the bluffs to the south and southeast. The weathermen had forecast cloudy weather for the next day, so we had only today to make the hike up to the viewing platform in the saddle between Mt. Mayson and Mt. Amos for photos of Adagio at anchor in Wineglass Bay. Allegro zipped us to the beach where we used our endless rode technique to pull Allegro away from the shore after we had disembarked in the shelter of the southwestern bight. Clad in jelly sandals from New Caledonia, our ankles and feet were caressed by each sea swell as we walked the full length of Wineglass beach to the start of the walking track in the northwest corner of the bay. Translucent rollers sparkled clear as glass before spreading like snow on the gradually sloping sand, pinwheeling around the point of land into the inner reaches of the anchorage. After forty-five minutes of steep climbing through a dry eucalyptus forest we reached a boardwalk lookout and spent an hour enjoying the view of Adagio at anchor in the emerald jewel set in a white crescent. Steve asked another hiker to take our photo holding two copies of Latitude 38, with deep-blue Wineglass Bay in the background. It was difficult to imagine the bay wine-red with whale blood as it was during the years when whaling along this coast was a major industry.

As we were returning to the beach, we met a small Rufus Wallaby grazing alongside the trail. He hopped a short distance into the forest as we approached, seeming little concerned about our presence. Once again following the full length of the white scalloped beach, photographing the glistening sheets of water reaching up then sliding away, the changing blues of the water reflecting the changing depths of the bay, we did not want to leave this beauty.

Having noticed a Crealock 34 sailboat named ≥Windchime≤, hailing from Olympia, Washington anchored nearby, we met the owners, Lynn and Jim as they brought their dinghy ashore. We invited them to visit us aboard Adagio the next morning so we could share with them information we have gathered about Hobart. Lynn and Jim had just sailed down from Eden, on the ≥big island≤ (Australia), sometimes referred to as the ≥North Island≤ by those Tasmanians who do not wish to pander to the egos of Sydneysiders and Melbournians.

The anchorage in Wineglass Bay is a bit rolly in the swells, but Adagio felt little of the motion in comparison to the monohull boats. Awakened near midnight by sounds of loud bumps on our hull, we hurried into the cockpit to find that a small orange sailboat that had anchored too close to our stern was now banging against it. Steve turned on our foredeck floodlights and spreader lights as well as our cockpit lights, while Dorothy shoved the bow of the little boat away. Fortunately the two owners of the little boat arrived in their dinghy and obliged our requests to re-set their anchor in a safer location.

After a few pleasant hours getting to know Jim and Lynn on Wednesday morning, we decided to take advantage of the northeasterly winds forecast for the next two days to make our way back to Hobart and our music concert. It seemed too short a visit to Wineglass Bay, but we look forward to revisiting this special place on our way back north to Sydney in March. We also wanted to be back in Hobart before a forecast trough crossed the island on the weekend, bringing southerly winds in its aftermath.

Raising the anchor and hoisting full sail, we departed Wineglass Bay, poking our bows out into the 17 knot northeasterly winds which would carry us down the coast. Our route took us along the eastern shore of the Freycinet Peninsula and mountainous Schouten Island, and once again past Ile de Phoques where fur seals languished on the rocks. We sailed past Darlington on the NW corner of Maria Island, where the ruins of a penal colony have been restored, and the magnificent Painted Cliffs — swirls and concentric circle patterns formed in sandstone by water seeping through the rock. We rounded Point Lesueur and into Chinamans Bay for our evening anchorage. The solitude of this 5 km long bay is wonderfully calming and protective from whatever the weather offshore might bring. Many sailors wait here for a weather window before setting off for points north or south along this coast.

Friday morning we departed Chinamans Bay with the goal of arriving in Hobart by sunset. Adagio was prepared. We were prepared, and looked forward to some good sailing. The northeasterly winds carried us on a port reach all along the coast, as if rewinding the stunning videos we had made during our trip north just a few days before. A northeasterly swell of one meter rose towards two meters as we approached the southeast tip of the Tasman Peninsula. The winds had increased from the teens into the twenties, and Adagio was enjoying herself.

As we approached the gybe point south of Tasman Island, we prepared the huge mainsail for a gentle swing from the starboard side of the boat to the port side, and Steve artfully controlled the traveler for a soft change onto the starboard gybe, on a carefully-chosen wave. We kept our course well south of the cliffs and capes to avoid the possibility of williwaws coming down off Arthurs Peak and Mt Raoul. As we entered Storm Bay, the swell went down, blocked by the Tasman Peninsula. Adagio lifted her petticoats and picked up speed.

We had been looking forward to these perfect sailing conditions ever since our arrival in Tasmania — 26-28 knots of steady winds carrying us on a broad reach across low seas. As we stayed to the NE side of Storm Bay, Adagio accelerated to 11, 12, 13 knots of boat speed. The water hissed as it sped under her hulls, and gurgled around her keels. Waves erupted into geysers up through our forward trampolines and washed across our front windows like the rollers melting onto foam on the beach of Wineglass Bay. Meanwhile, Steve and I went about our tasks of navigation, standing lookout, meal preparation and occasional naps, snug and safe aboard our magical ship, with occasional whoops and laughter as we shared in AdagioÏ€s fun. All of our dry work towels were used to stem the salty water that leaked through the edge of our port escape hatch. But other than a few telltale drips which were remedied by tightening the screw on a hatch handle, all was dry inside, while the waves occasionally washed over the coachroof, giving Adagio the firehose test.

We approached the entrance to the River Derwent, between the Iron Pot on the southern tip of South Arm and Cape de la Sortie on the northern tip of North Bruny Island, happy for the low lying land to starboard allowing the wind to propel us unhindered. Our computer screen on which our electronic charting was displayed began to flicker on and off, so we took careful bearings and began a dead reckoning plot on our paper charts which we always have spread out on our dining table. We were in familiar waters with numerous landmarks within view. Our radar showed us the distant shores.

Up the eastern side of the river we fled, white foam spuming from our sterns. As soon as we came within cellphone range of Hobart we phoned our favorite restaurants for dinner reservations, knowing that our fast progress would get us home in good time. We also phoned friends in Blackmanπs Bay and Sandy Bay as we sailed past. We enjoyed sharing our fun with them as they watched us from the windows of their homes ashore.

This passage brought us the same immense satisfaction as a fine ocean passage. We trust Adagio. We trust each other. And we feel a great sense of achievement that our years of planning and preparations, practice and study are bringing us the sailing that we love. We also have a list of items to which we must attend before we will feel prepared to tackle a sail up the west coast of Tasmania, notorious for its treacherous waters and dangerous weather. Stay tuned.

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