Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble we are sailing in a witches caldron. Fika is sailing off Cape Raoul and the seas are confused and reverberating off the large, extraordinary dolorite cliffs. It is drizzling and cool but Port Arthur is in sight (metaphorically speaking at this point).
Fika rides atop of the caldron and we enter the fjord like channel, the final spectacular stretch into Port Arthur where we anchor and immediately go ashore to explore the ruins of the Port Arthur Historic Site. Great minds think alike! Valeria, Lisa and I choose to forego the mortar and bricks. Instead, we are way laid by the ‘help yourself’ apples and the most plump mulberry tree one can imagine. With makeshift bags (beanies) bulging with produce, stained fingers (Exhibit A) we make our way back to Fika. To think that the inmates of this penal colony were locked up for less!!
We settle in for a cosy evening and early night. We will be leaving at the crack of dawn!
The Weather Gods have proved a little challenging for our sail to Wineglass Bay but thank goodness, I have had a revelation late one evening and have adopted a cunning plan. We will take our two days of Southerlies to Wineglass Bay as quickly as possible and then ride the brisk Northerlies back to Hobart with some leisurely stops, delightful anchorages and wombats along the way.
There are four of us aboard: myself, Valeria, Deb and Lisa. We are up at 0500. It is drizzly, cool and dark and memories of the witches caldron seas remain clear in our minds. This is Valeria’s introduction to sailing and she has woken positive and bubbly: ready for action. She is not phased by sailing the wild seas of Tasmania.
We weigh anchor and sail past Tasman Island as the sun rises. It is a little wild and I reassure everyone that it will soon settle once we are clear of Tasman and we are able to bear away and head north. We are all in awe at the beauty of this piece of Tasmania. It is breathtaking, wild. I feel so alive.
Once clear and on course for Wineglass Bay, we are running before the wind. We pole out the headsail and set a preventer on the reefed main. The clouds have cleared, the seas settled into a gentle swell and we sail with gay abandon towards Wineglass until ‘donk’ we hit a sunfish! Just a gentle ‘donk’ but enough to startle all of us including the dizzy sunfish who is wobbling its fin behind us.
We anchor in the late afternoon choosing to enjoy the view from the cockpit with a glass of wine and nibbles. Tomorrow we will go ashore.
We wake to a stowaway in the galley: a tiny seabird has flown in during the night. She is exhausted and scared. After breakfast, we will take her ashore. Valeria swims and runs whilst we three others amble along the beach mesmerised by the colours, hilltops, granite, pristine beach and clear waves rolling ashore.
The North Easterly breeze tells us it is time to depart and we make our way past Lemon and Half Lemon Rock, through Schouten Passage and anchor in the clear waters of Bryan’s Corner. A gentle sail accompanied by playful dolphins. Bryan’s is on the southern, Cole Bay side of Wineglass Bay and shares a similar beauty. There is no need to race ashore as the cockpit provides uninterrupted views under the protection of the dodger with endless nibbles.
Following our morning walk along the beach, we weigh anchor bound for Maria Island which is approximately 35nm away. The forecast is for 25 knot Northerlies and we will break the sail up with a practice Crew Overboard drill. There is no beating about the bush! I have complete faith in Lisa, Deb and Valeria that we will perform this drill with safety. It is certainly a good preventative strategy for ensuring one is always clipped on. It is always a huge learning, practicing these drills in such trying conditions. We successfully rescue ‘Brad’ the fender. I am so proud of everyone aboard for doing this calmly, safely and with skill and determination. I feel safe in their hands.
Bruce, the anchor does not like seagrass and we struggle to hold in Shoal Bay at Maria Island. It is a night of anchor watches with each of us sitting two hour watches. The anchor alarm is set and I have taken a bearing to a headland. This is evident on the instruments/chart plotter. If this changes, we are dragging. It is a dark and windy night. There are no grumbles (only from me!) from the crew who revel in the challenges of cruising life. Each of us savour the solitude of the night watch with a book and tea. A Rocnor anchor is on its way!
The following day is a dedicated rest day. Except for the crazy crew who are enthusiastic to hike to the town of Darlington. Whilst I stay on board to maintain anchor watch, Deb, Valeria and Lisa fill a pack with items Bear Grylls would be envious of. It is wet in the dinghy as it is windy and choppy in Shoal Bay. Everyone is delivered ashore for a day of adventures. Some hours later, three weary, exhausted crew return wishing for a hot bath rather than a wet dinghy ride back to Fika.
One cannot go to Maria Island and not see a wombat. In fact, it was a condition of Lisa booking this trip. I cannot renege on my promise for Lisa to see ‘flocks of wombats’. At dusk, we brave the wind and chop once again to go ashore. We are welcomed by lots of hairy wombats. Pure delight.
From Maria Island we sail south towards Port Arthur. I am grateful and excited that the conditions settle and we are able to sail between Cape Pillar on the ‘mainland’ and Tasman Island. This is a narrow passage of 0.2 nm with a seal colony on the Tasman Island side, graceful, dancing kelp and sheer cliffs on both sides. Words cannot describe the beauty of this area. Once through, we are all silenced by these surreal surrounds. With a cup of pumpkin soup, we sail gently in the calm along the cliffs. No one speaks. We all sit along the side deck in awe. It is a magical moment.
We anchor once again at Port Arthur. Our entry into the fjord like channel is smooth and calm. We go ashore and try to sneakily collect more apples but the site is closing for the day and we are shooed away. Like four naughty school children we sneak back towards the orchard but the worker spots us. We giggle as we are scolded and whine across the colony that we are heading back to our dinghy.
Our final day is a day of NO ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENTS. Lisa is navigating us the 40nm back to Hobart using a paper chart, a plotter, dividers and a compass only. Visibility is reduced with rain but she is able to take a fix between breaks in the cloud and mist. Navigating this way ensures we are all so much more in tune with our surroundings. The depth contours, distances, magnetic variation. Between homemade sausage roll crumbs and the Iron Pot, we make it back into Sandy Bay where we glide into our marina berth with all lasso’s attaching to the appropriate cleats. A perfect finale.
We have covered 300nm in seven days and I have the best job on earth. I have observed the pure delight of Lisa seeing dolphins, albatross, wombats, seals and desperately following the honk of a fairy penguin with the hope of spotting these little kritters. I know that Lisa will sail her own yacht to these waters when time allows her. It is a pleasure to watch her grow in confidence. I have observed Valeria rise to the sailing adventure and revel in every aspect of the cruising life with boundless enthusiasm, curiosity and ability. ‘Yachthub’ is a girls new best friend. I have observed Deb quietly grow as an accomplished sailor and fervently be a welcome and valuable crew member aboard Fika. Thank you for being part of the Fika crew.