Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tasmania

I did recollect someone saying that it can get a bit blowy in the bass straights as I pulled the third and final reef in to the main. We had left sunny Sydney behind and were heading south to Tasmania. 

With dreams of being reunited with winter jumpers and socks that had languished in the lockers since fiordland, we were keen to investigate this sparsely populated and scenic isle. It was also a choice destination for all of Ravi's grandparents to visit him for the first time; since they too like inclement weather. 


The first was arriving in a few days time and we still had a little way to go!

Watching dolphins on the bowsprit just out of Sydney


In between all the smiles Ravi's getting pretty chatty



Last chance for bucket photos since he doesn't fit anymore... We're gonna be needing a bigger bucket!


We weren't alone in the anchorage at Eden, the jumping off port at the bottom of Austraila. There was to be a wooden boat festival in Hobart the next month so we were joined by pretty wooden boats who would frequently row over having spotted, or so they thought, one of their own. 

We were welcomed despite our plastic hull as one of the bunch and joined in the 'Eden shuffle' moving back and forth across the bay with each wind shift. When the weatherman said there was to be a longer shift to the north everyone was off; keen to get across before the strong westerly hit.



Early morning Eden with the noisy bell birds that sound like rusty wheels

We took our time setting off after a long leisurely breakfast; sailing off our anchor and tacking out into the Tasman sea. Our neighbours had all, in their wisdom, up anchored in the calm around midnight. 

But we hate to motor; the trade off was that we ended up in the blow. I set the tiller to lee and furled the last of the jib. As the westerly screamed over us; rather stronger than was forecast; totally blue sky and a searing sun rounded off our situation nicely.

Its hard to imagine if you've never done it; the calm that comes over a boat when you heave to. The lurching and pounding cease and an altogether calmer motion takes over. You're still heeled over quite steeply but the gentler movement lulls you. If only it weren't for the wind howling in the rigging overhead. We all cuddled up in the bow. Ravi was overjoyed that he had both of us there to entertain him and squealed with delight at the sun glistening through the rainbow spray that swept over the bow hatch.

We arrived in Wineglass bay the next day; the day before Austraila day. Owing to our recent exploits and new found chums in wooden boats we felt we deserved the holiday off. So early in the morning we set off to walk over a mountain and into town to buy some sausages. Arriving back knackered after a tiring and hot hike interspersed by hitching a lift along the road; why don't we ever learn?


Wineglass bay on the Freixnet peninsula is an absolute stunner. We hitched both ways after scaling over to where the road reaches. Everyone was jolly for Australia day. We've found Australians to be an uncommonly positive bunch




From Wineglass we sailed a day and then motored through the night up in to a windless hobart arriving as dawn broke. We'd made it; just. Getting to rendezvous on time is the dread of sailors. This totally mystifies guests who just assume its easy to make a plan and stick to it. The only real solution is to always arrive with weeks in hand so as not to risk wrong weather or breakdowns. Unfortunately this would never work for us; we're both 'last minute' people so when our efforts are combined it tends to result in us being a 'last second' family.

We then had six weeks in the Hobart area whilst first Ruth's mum and then my parents visited with a few days overlap so that they could meet. Their main reason for coming was to see Ravi (and us?) but it was nice to get to know the area and see many of the sights with them.


My parents Chris and Jean, Ravi and Ruth's mum Averil


Averil introducing Ravi to shore bound delights in her air bnb Hobart. She had a week there then another at a beautiful place in cygnet then we went back for the wooden boat festival all of which remains incredibly un documented in photos.


Here's one of my mum getting to know her grandson


Our first ever squid made a beautiful paella! We now have a squid jig but this one snagged on the normal fishing line.




Impetuous in Hobart



Where Mona is a highlight; a very unusual Museum of Old and New Art. This is hacked out of the sandstone and houses all kinds of unusual things. This display emits words in water which plummet to the floor in a second or so and are chosen from Google's most searched terms commenting on our transient attention and media. The next one combines sex acts and botany in tin can form...



Caves near Port Arthur.


Nappies fluttering everywhere we go!



Hobart views from up mount Wellington


Pademelons, platypi and waterfalls at Mount Field national park       

             

    




Ravi likes the spoon I made him for his mini meals...

                                             

With grandparents gone and a high lingering over Tasmania with the promise of good weather, we headed off to the Southern Capes and on to the remote Bathurst harbour. Only accesible by foot, light plane or of course boat, we hoped it would serve us a week or so of isolated beauty before heading north again to meet a friend, warm up and press on towards Asia.


Rounding South West Cape and it was chilly!

It was with quiet alarm that we rounded the last of the offlying islands, after dark, and headed for Bramble cove. The bay seemed to resemble a small town, with many lights illumiating it. 'Ruth, there aren't any villages here are there?' I enquired. 'There's no phone reception and everyone talks as if it were totally deserted'


The bay was full of some 40 + boats. The following morning we recognised that many sported the flag of a rally that had left Hobart after the wooden boat festival; a month earlier, and circled Tasmania. We had arrived on their last night, by mid day there where only a handful left. With the new space and daylight we moved to the north shore and dug out our walking boots, with ideas of taking Ravi up a mountain.





We weren't to be dissapointed. With still settled weather the views from the top of mount misery were spellbinding. Reminding us of why we choose to seek out these remote destinations. Over the coming days we were to enjoy some wonderful walks, making good use of the baby carrier that my parents had found in a garage sale in Port Cygnet. As well as sheltered sailing between secluded anchorages and the odd dip into the cold Southern Ocean seeking out shellfish.






Above Clayton's corner where there is an abandoned but maintained house and nearby a campsite and bird watching hut where we saw one of the most rare birds in the world. Only around 60 in the wild, the vaguely unimpressive orange breasted parrot.


From Spain bay this ocean beach was an easy walk away, famous for its aboriginal midden



Without any interpretation boards it's nice to be left to find your own understanding of what these huge mounds of shells must signify and where they were brought from since the beach was otherwise completely devoid of them. We kept at a respectful distance since there were obviously sizeable bones intermingled with the shells.


When we heard (from fellow cruisers with a HF radio) that there were to be SE winds for the coming few days we realised that our time in this beautiful corner of Tasmania must come to an end. This was too good an opportunity to miss meaning we could sail up the usually rough West coast with fair winds and little swell. 

By the time that the next strong westerlies came we had managed to get ourselves up the west coast and across the north to Flinders island. At times we even had to motor so settled was the weather. We stopped in the town of Stanley near the north west corner; trekked up the steep 'nut' and found the best ice cream in ages; dark chocolate chilli. Here we enjoyed the hospitality of the fishing harbour which was free and had great hot showers. 


We briefly visited the sandy inlet of port sorrel where we got throughly soaked and the wind against tide conditions played havock with anything not strongly enough lashed down.  This gave us a job of patching a batten pocket to do as we positioned ourselves at the top of flinders island, in the bass straights, a perfect jumping off point to return to the mainland. 



Catching up with more washing in Stanley fishing harbour



Heading North back up the mainland we were treated to a stunning dolphin display


It would be wonderful to say that we had a hitchless return to the mainland and back to sydney. Though the weather provided us with swift downwind sailing, we had a roly time with a current against us. On the only occasion we ran the engine it spluttered a new complaint. 


We are now back in Sydney and have had a lovely time with our friend's visit pottering around the harbour by sail and seeing some sights. The faulty engine slightly hampered where we could go; the latest ancillary part at fault is the diesel injection pump that has taken to kindly sharing the precious diesel fuel with the oil sump much to our displeasure. So we're doning our 'working on boats in exotic places' caps whilst allowing ourselves the luxury of a launderette wash every now and again for a few weeks before continuing up the coast.   







Friday, March 10, 2017

A little something from New Caledonia and a big welcome to Sydney!

Catch up time! Sorry we've been so slack. We've been having a lovely time; been sailing far and wide and visited by lots of grandparents. Back in December we sailed from New Caledonia to Australia. We had Christmas at sea and new year's eve in Sydney. Here's what we should have posted on new year's day...

New Caledonia is French. It's not Europe but there's no doubt whilst you're there what country you're in. There might be palm trees and hibiscus flowers but there are also cars driving on the right, baguettes, cheese, wine and a slight undercurrent of cool.



Whilst there, we really went crazy with the Vin, du pan, et du fromage. Paté de Champagne has never tasted so good, we even tried a paté du cheval!

Checking in was blissfully free and just entailed trailing around a few offices. They even let us check in and check out at the same time since we'd arrived Thursday and planned to press on on Sunday.

Nouméa harbour is busy and anchoring is only permitted in small well marked areas. Sadly these areas are chock full of Moorings so anchoring on the edge or picking up a mooring are your only options. We picked one up just outside the marina expecting to have to move on later so were pleased when a Frenchman rowed over and said we were welcome to borrow it for a few days, the owner was inside the marina for cyclone season.

We'd only planned on a weekend but we ended up staying a week as our visa for Australia had the complication of requiring medical examinations and chest x rays. We weren't seeing new Caledonia at its best since we only stayed in the capital where officials, phones and Internet are, but it appeared to be a troubled place. There was a palpable animosity between the mix of cultures there. Shiny buildings and fast cars with some of the people left behind and despondent. Alcohol can only be bought at some times on some days such are the problems.



Having said this, people were nice to us and we'd like to visit again to learn more, but next time sail around the island. However we were deep into cyclone season by now so on the 22nd December visas in hand we headed out again.

Christmas at sea was a blissfully low key affair. We had a good meal, a nice bottle of wine and watched a film. The sea was kind to us that day of a generally quick and pleasant passage. We'd worried that the trade winds are lessening at this time of year but we had no such trouble.


Ravi with our Christmas roast. He had his first scrap of food on the day but it was lychee, not roast.

Having a chat about the weather...




Eight days at sea unusually for us clock watching all the way. And we made it! We had good wind until about 30 miles out of Sydney when it died, then so did Pip. Bloody engines! So we flopped about in view of our goal for a whole day and finally picked up the quarantine buoy as light faded on the 30th Dec.

We'd been reticent about visiting Australia; until it became the obvious thing to do given the changing season; because of stories about difficult check ins. Particularly those concerning their caution over wood dwelling insects. We had visions of being impounded, fined, our woodwork being carved up and our mast being carted off by over zealous bio security officers. Perhaps it was the season or that Sydney does not see many international yacht first check ins but the guys we had couldn't have been more delightful or reasonable. Once they heard that we only spend time at anchor and wouldn't be doing any modifications whilst in Oz, their concerns were allayed and we sailed through our inspections.



Then we had to sail off their dock! It was new year's eve morning and the wind had been picking up such that one of the officers had started to go green! It was hooning into the small bay with much gusto so an elaborate plan with dinghy and long ropes was implemented. We span round within a whisker of a beautiful moored wooden ketch, quickly getting in all the lines before tacking out amongst all the moored boats. It would have been a tricky manoeuvre with the engine but without it was nail biting stuff.

Ravi is used to having us both right there to attend to his every whim but at this time he had to be left to cry lonely bolstered up in the bow safely out of the way. He only cried less than 5 minutes before giving up and going to sleep.

We sailed out into the main harbour and found ourselves a good spot and waited.




We weren't disappointed. What a welcome!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Blue water baby...



Finally Ravi's passport arrived on Friday. We'd applied for it when he was 5 days old at the end of September, now he's a chunky 2 ½ months. Much to every Fijians surprise a Fijian passport was never an option since neither of us have citizenship. Apart from being a little pedantic about the background of a photo which is supposed to show authorities what Ravi looks like up until he is five years old, the delays were numerous but mostly not to do with the UK passport authority. Once a countersigned photo and covering letters for all our irregularities were received, the passport was sent on the 21st November. It then proceeded to take 17 days to get here. That was on DHL expedited documents service which estimates 4-5 working days. Customs was the main problem in the UK, apparently they always sit on passports for a bit before worrying about looking at them and sending them on. At every stage it seemed to need chasing.

Anyhow back to Friday. We picked up the passport from the lovely marina ladies and then were sung out by an ad-hoc gang singing the Fijian farewell song ‘Ni Sa Lei...’ as we rowed back to Impetuous anchored outside. A sail north up to the port had us checking out just in time on a Friday afternoon... Or so we thought. 




We’d visited the port twice in the previous two days checking details would be ok for our imminent departure and enquiring about overtime fees in case we had to leave at the weekend. At neither of these visits had Peni the customs officer felt the urge to inform us that we had to add Ravi to our crew officially with immigration. Their office is in town and only open during office hours. We'd already been to see them that week to ask for a few days visa extension since we were now over the 6 months readily allowed, but no one at that time had mentioned the need for this extra form either. 

We quickly realised that we needed to stop arguing in frustration and find a taxi and get there, before the office closed in 15 minutes. We ooched and owed along the hot tarmac without shoes and flagged down the first taxi we saw. ‘Please straight to the immigration office and with the meter on please', there was no time for bargaining prices. For once no queue in immigration meant the simple and pathetically short form was filled and stamped in moments. Back at the port Peni was true to his word and waiting for us just past 4pm, his knocking off time, he didn't have the gall to charge us overtime and by half past we were free to leave. 

Smug in the knowledge that all the port officials were heading to a party so there was therefore not going to be anyone around to notice us taking a bit of time. We went into town to spend our last few Fijian dollars and back to get both dinghy's stowed away.

As dusk fell on Lautoka we pulled up the anchor and main sail waving ‘see you sometime' to friends on ‘Eos' and ‘au revoir' to this Western section of Fiji we have gotten to know quite well.

It was a gentle drift out towards the pass and a gentle drift once outside too. Still in the wind shadow of Viti Levu for many hours to come. A few squalls later then finally the SE trades graced us with their presence mid Saturday morning. Since then it has been a surprisingly rambunctious sail to New Caledonia. The forecast seemed to say 15-20 knots on the beam, ideal. However we've had the staysail stowed and the jib and main both double reefed getting sloshed by short steep waves until the last day when we've slowed ourselves to a gentle 6 knots with only double reefed jib. 




It took us just under 5 days to do just under 700 miles. Once inside the reef here in New Caledonia the sail round the island was a treat, 8 knots downwind sailing with just the jib and no more waves, Ravi enjoyed this all from his car seat. Until then we'd had to cower inside for fear of a frequent drenching from waves.

Like us all, Ravi has some places on Impetuous he loves to inhabit when on passage. Sprawled out on the leeward bunk, like everybody else is high up on the list. Fortunately he isn't too big so as not to share it. However, sharing a Lee bunk with a small baby isn't as regenerative as not sharing it; oweing to what we call the squish factor.





On passage we still sleep in the bow more often than not. Indeed with a fan on either side it's quite a pleasant place to read a book. So despite all the sloshing of the boisterous sail Ravi spent a fair amount of time in the bow. With the simple addition of his dancing birdies mobile he can spend hours orchestrating them as they sway to the rock of the boat and he rolls from pillow to pillow.

We've jammed in a spare wind vane to the side of the pilot berth, covered with a sarong and padded by a blanket it makes a great leeboard. A neat addition to what has become his bunk; with his mobile frame at one end over his quilt and an enormous pile of nappies at the other. But on passage it wasn't where he wanted to be. As the occasional wave slammed in to the hull side cascading itself across the boat Ravi would be awoken; startled, from his slumber. We call it starfish baby. Arms and legs spring out as does a certain aura of panic. Ravi didn't spend much time in his bunk.

Perhaps his favourite place is his car seat that we've bungied on to the boat. From there he can truly embrace the wonder of sailing. Smiles always abound when he is placed in it, A happiness we're keen to foster. It won't be much longer before his wriggling turns to crawling and the car seat has buckles that still work, despite the salty years of service it provided for our friends on Eos II. We haven’t told him this yet.

All in all Ravi has taken the whole experience in his stride; noticing only that whilst at sea there's always someone awake to give his head a stroke should he open his eyes when a noise disturbs him. Also at sea his dangling toys never stop dancing!




So we’re now in new Caledonia enjoying all the culinary delights a French country has to offer. The plan is to feast on baguettes, pate', cheese and wine for a few days before heading off to Australia. It will be Ravi's second blue water passage; they say that we can only dream of experiences we have already enjoyed, we often see Ravi dreaming of drinking as he sleeps. But now when he closes his eyes he has one more experience to dream of. Dreaming of blue water sailing.