Down on the Farm

Long ago Max was in Australia on a “Work & Travel” visa and “Red’s farm was his home base and the place he learned to be a farmer. Catherine‘s brother “James” is also a farmer in Victoria. James and Red are the same person – one is his given name, one his nickname – and he agreed to let us spend some time down on the farm.

Catherine was travelling the 1150 km from the Blue Mountains to the farm and agreed to divert “a little” to pick us up at Lakes Entrance. It was “only a 300 km diversion” – nothing to an Australian. We found three helpful locals – thank you James, Harry & Jeremy – to look after the boat while we were away so waved Artemis goodbye and drove the entire day to Tahara.

We arrived after dark and found a warm, log stove heated kitchen waiting for us and a hot, tasty dinner. The log fire burned continuously for a week and the great food never stopped – almost all from farm produce. We should have put on weight but luckily a farm has even more to do than on a boat so we could burn off the calories as we ate them.

Herding the cattle along the road to a distant pasture

On the first evening Catherine wrote a list of jobs that needed doing and we set to the following morning to be useful. The interesting thing about the list was that it got longer as time went on. Each evening for the first few days we ticked items off and then added more at the bottom. Luckily we all decided that we should stay a day extra and thus left with almost the entire list ticked.

I am not sure if the spare bed was one of the best I have ever slept in but every night we lay down and immediately slept until dawn.

Maybe it was the variety of tasks we were allowed to participate in:

  • pick up the second utility truck from the workshop in the local town (70 km round trip)
  • collect dead wood and old fence posts from the fields and bring them back to the farm
  • cut and stack the wood for the fire
  • tidy up old wire and fencing and bring it back to the farm
  • feed the cattle and dogs
  • plant 239 trees (one was taken back to the Blue Mountains)
  • pick stones off the fields and throw them in the ford
  • mow the grass in the farmyard
  • jump start tractors, move them around and connect various implements
  • roll an entire field flat after it was sown
  • replace a gate and a light and rehang a door
  • herd cattle and sheep
  • collect the fish nets from the reservoirs
  • tag the calves and mark the heifers

Or maybe it was the social program:

  • Visit the Blue Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole in South Australia (a 200 km round trip)
  • friend John’s eightieth birthday party
  • dinner at the neighbours
  • Uncle Ray’s eighty-seventh birthday party
  • a nieces eighteenth and a nephews twenty-first birthday party
  • an overnight fishing trip to a shack on the Glenelg River (another 200 km round trip)

Were we really only there for seven days? It was an amazing experience to be able to visit and work on an Australian farm – normally an experience reserved for twenty something work & travel people. It was thoroughly enjoyable as James was such an amazing host and always willing to answer our stream of questions. Thank you James! Thank you Catherine!

We have created an album with our best farming pictures.

Escape from Tasmania

Tasmania is an island below Australia. The bottom of the island is half way to the North Pole and nothing else projects that far south except the bottom tip of South America. The winds down there are called the Roaring Forties and are strong and unpredictable. The weather forecasts are a bit of science and a bit of a guess.

Orange is 25-30 knots. We were in the orange bit.

In principle, when you wish to leave Tasmania with a sailing boat, you wait for a bad storm to pass and then sail north during the following calm “weather window”. But this principle only seems to work in summer. We were sat off Maria Island waiting for a window in May which is winter on this side of the world.

After lots of planning and just as much studying of the forecast, we set off against a light northerly wind to see “how far we could get”. Surprisingly the wind – which the weather forecast didn’t show – allowed us to sail out in to the Tasman Sea before leaving us becalmed. During the night the strong southerly winds came roaring up from the Antarctic and pushed us quickly straight up the coast of Tasmania. We kept reducing sail and were finally making six knots with almost no canvas out. It was pitch black, foggy and wet so we called the coastguard to ask if they knew of any other vessels at sea we should avoid. They answered that we could stop worrying; we were alone out there.

Avoiding granite reefs to lee

As the wind dropped the current across the Banks Strait increased and sucked us along at an extra four knots. By the time the current abated we were left with a few miles of absolute calm to motor to Badger Island where we anchored behind the island and fell asleep. The next day the promised west wind came in and we hid off the beach sheltered from the storm driven waves and enjoying the view of hundreds of miles of empty islands, reefs and mountains.

On day four and five the wind turned south so we sailed the seven miles to Trousers Point on Flinders Island and hid as well as we could. The howling wind derailed our mountain climbing plans but we managed a walk around the promontory and enjoyed the stunning scenery.

At anchor off Trousers Point

On day six the wind abated before turning west so we tacked up to Wybalenna Bay past the granite reefs for a nights sleep before we set off the following morning directly in to the twenty five knots of wind and the three meter waves. For five hours the journey was exciting and wet. We were alternately jumping the waves or powering straight through them. One huge wave caught Heidi sat at the tiller and she completely disappeared under the wall of water to appear seconds later still steering and still smiling.

Eventually we turned downwind and “Ciara” the wind vane could take over steering and we could sleep turn and turn about for the next twenty four hours as we passed through an oil field and onward to the Mainland.

We were heading for Lakes Entrance which has a tiny entrance from the ocean which you have to enter by exactly lining up two blue markers on the coast. The coastguard told us that in less then two meters of swell, less than twenty knots of wind and a rising tide it was all “do-able”. We were well within their parameters but still surfed huge waves that appeared from nowhere. Try steering directly towards two markers while surfing down the front of a wave.

Once through the entrance we eventually reached a jetty and made our lines fast to the pontoon. No wind, no swell and salmon for dinner from Jeremy who was fishing next to us. Welcome to Victoria!

“Take Me To Tasmania”

We were recently anchored in a lonely bay with sunshine and a stunning view reflecting in the mirror like water. We took the dinghy across to the neighbour’s catamaran and immediately had beers pushed in to our hands. We were talking about what a great place Tasmania is and he said

There are too many tourists here already. Tell them it is cold and horrible in Tasmania. Tell them we are all unfriendly. Tell them it is dangerous and to stay away.

So maybe you should not watch the following video

Tasmania is one of the least unfriendly places we have been. In Port Davey we took the dinghy across to Pieter van der Woude’s amazing catamaran “Odalisque III” to ask for a weather update. We came back with the weather and a bag of food. Half an hour later they brought us more food. The next day, after two weeks away from shops and civilization, we sailed the uninhabited south coast of Tasmania with fresh wraps, smoked ham, fresh salad and fresh fruit.

Sailing north along the d’Entrecasteaux channel we were hailed on VHF channel 16 – “Sailing Yacht Artemis, this is Daydream. Over!” Colin, who we knew from Port Arthur and who lives on Bruny Island, had seen us approaching on our satellite tracker and called as he saw us passing. He had arranged a berth for us at the tiny sailing club and immediately put us in the Landrover and took us home to his farm in the middle of the bush. He took the rest of the week off to show us everything and when Claire arrived there was an amazing dinner party with the neighbours.

We had battery problems – don’t ask – but pulled in at Kettering and were twice chauffeured to Hobart by John to visit the battery shop. De filled another shopping bag of fresh produce from her garden and they both invited us to their boat for coffee and biscuits before we departed.

We anchored next to friends off North Bruny and enjoyed a great evening where we ate too much, drank a little and the girls played the boys at some horrendously complicated game. The next evening the crew of Mischief invited us to meet them on land for a grill. Two other cruisers we had never met before made us smoked muscles and grilled Abalone (marine snails).

After passing through the Denison Canal we called Dougal who we met a few months ago. He had his friend Matt make us great coffee in his workshop and then turned up with beer and chips for the four of us.

But don’t tell anyone we told you that the Tasmanians were friendly. And don’t watch the video.

Mount Something

We are alone anchored in Bramble Cove in the south west of Tasmania and directly behind and above us is an imposing five hundred meter high mountain of craggy white rock. Our map says its name is Mount Stokes but the marine charts talk of Mount Misery. The pilot book can not decide and shows both. The aborigines certainly used another name before their eradication. It is irrelevant what it is really named, it is impressive under any name.

Imagine it is a warm dry day in late autumn and there is a beautiful mountain offering panoramic views across an island speckled ocean, a landscape of inlets and bays, and never ending mountain ridges. Imagine that a tiny, steep, overgrown path leads from a lonely beach to the rocky summit. And now imagine that the entire day this mountain is climbed by only two people. And imagine that from the summit there are no villages, no houses and not even a wall to be seen. No sign of civilisation impinges on the majestic view except the tiny sailing boat that the two call home, anchored almost five hundred meters below them.

We no longer need to imagine.

Further in to Nowhere

And just when we thought it couldn’t get more remote …

We had heard that up the Davey River there were impressive gorges where the river cuts through bands of hard mountain rock. We had also heard that they were reachable by dinghy.

We sailed across the swelly waters of Port Davey making use of the winds blowing up from Antarctica. We then gingerly nosed Artemis across a shallow bar and anchored in a deep pool with a little protection from a woody peninsular. We used the strong wind to pull the anchor hard in to the sandy bottom and then waited a night to be sure the boat was really safe.

The next morning we awoke to sunshine, no wind and the promise of temperatures above twelve Celsius. We had agreed to explore the river the same day as the crews of two other boats for safety and so awaited their arrival. Once they appeared and anchored, we packed the essentials in to the dinghy, wrapped ourselves up and set off across the sea towards the river while keeping a sharp watch out for the multitude of kelp covered rocks lurking in the dark waters below us. 

The river mouth has a shallow sand bar and we crossed at low tide, surfing the small breakers to pass from ocean to river. The other dinghys were now far ahead of us so we followed the meandering river towards the mountains. Just the two of us, a dinghy, an outboard, a flask of coffee and a packet of biscuits. The nearest inhabitation was hundreds of kilometers away, there was not a single sign of humans and we did not even see an animal the entire journey.

After about sixteen kilometers we reached the point where the river entered the mountains and continued in to the deep gorge. On both sides the cliffs drop vertically in to the black river which reflects them perfectly. We passed the other crews drifting down river but continued on up as far as the dinghy could safely reach. The whirlpools on the surface now promised many submarine, propeller eating rocks and the back of nowhere is not a good place to be “up a creek without an engine”. We turned the motor off and slipped slowly back down river with no sound but the running water. Anywhere else in the world we would have to share the experience with all the other people but here there were no others, here the whole gorge was reserved for the two of us.

With four hours of daylight to still play with we retraced our route at a leisurely pace. The current was now with us so we could run the outboard motor at less speed and enjoy the relative silence and the amazing sense of solitude as we passed virgin forest and untouched hills with everything reflecting in the river.

Nearly seven hours after leaving Artemis we were back home after another exciting adventure. As the sun set, we enjoyed a coffee in the cockpit and agreed that we “did it right” again.

To the end of the world

The dream at the far end of the earth is Port Davey in the south west corner of Tasmania. It can be reached by a long foot march, light aircraft or boat. It is otherwise cut off from the world and uninhabited.

Get yourself to Australia with a boat then travel south for thousands of miles until, having braved the Bass Strait, you reach Tasmania. Continue south stopping off in Hobart then continue to Kettering and then the hard part starts.

We left Kettering to travel south along the d’Entrecasteaux Channel to Recherche Bay. The first day there was little wind but more than forecast and, with full sails set, we made it to The Quarries Bay on Bruny Island just before the sun set.

The second day there was more than enough wind and it was straight against us. We reefed the sails and tacked backwards and forwards up the channel. Heidi was calling the tacks to avoid fish farms, islands and reefs before finally navigaing us into Recherche Bay. We took a lot of water over the bow and were happy with the Bay’s shelter. It is billed as the most southerly all weather anchorage and has provided sailors with shelter for over three hundred years. Here, four boats were anchored waiting for the following day.

At dawn on the third day we headed back out to sea hoping to find the forecast east wind to blow us across the Southern Ocean under Tasmania. Most days this route is impassable but on this day there was one of the occasional lulls in the legendary gales of the Roaring Forties. We rounded Tasmania’s south east corner and were met by the long three meter high swells that work their way up from Antarctica before committing suicide next to us on the cliffs and Islands that litter this area.

The wind did not appear for twelve hours. Normally we would wait but here that is not an option as violent southerly winds were forecast for the following day. We motored past massive islands, imposing capes and strange rock formations. Dolphins and seals joined us at various times and once we even had a pack of dolphins which included two seals showing off that they could jump just as well. One dolphin twice jumped through the rainbow of spray to our side and briefly became a multicolored fantasy creature.

As the sun set we rounded the South West Cape and a breath of wind arrived so that we could finally turn the engine off and sail. I enjoyed the peace and slept while Heidi headed north. The wind lasted almost three hours after which she changed back to motor. When I awoke we were passing hulking rock islands in the light of the full moon. Indescribable!

We anchored by the light of the moon just after midnight and slept until rain and overcast light woke us.

The rain stopped and we sailed across Port Davey and in to the Bathurst Channel. Imagine virgin, untouched hills and soaring craggy mountains with a waterway that threads through them devoid of evidence of mankind. Add areas of natural forest, wooded Islands and stunning reflections. Add wreaths of cloud across the mountains and silence. Here it is all of that but so much more. We passed into the core of this area in wonder and dropped anchor surrounded by unbelievable beauty.

Once around Bruny Island

In 1792 Rear Admiral Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni, chevalier d’Entrecasteaux sailed to Australia and explored southern Tasmania. In recognition of his achievements an island was named Bruni Island. This name was too complicated for the locals so, in 1918, they changed the name to Bruny Island. They called the channel that separates the island from the mainland the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and strangely they can pronounce that.

We left Kettering to sail around the island and began by sailing across the channel and anchoring in the lonely and quiet Alexanders Bay. We were totally alone until we were hailed by Lucie and Paul from Pittwater who had just escaped from three weeks trapped by awful weather in Port Davy. They dropped anchor and, by the time they reached Artemis, we had a meal waiting for them. One thing led to another and it was a late but incredibly enjoyable evening.

Alexanders Bay

On day two we headed south directly in to the increasing wind. The waves grew constantly, driven by the wind and after a few hours we popped in to the Isthmus Bay and hid behind a forest. We continued the journey the following day to reach Southport on Tasmania. We anchored in well protected Deephole Bay and were soon joined by a second boat. Jo and Michael were locals taking a few days off to “get away from it all” on their boat. None the less they welcomed us on board for drinks and fed us quiche. They also pointed us to the abandoned railway in the forest and the walk across to the lagoon.

Cape raoul

The next leg took us back to Bruny, past the lighthouse and through a small rocky channel that offered great views of a seal colony but required precision navigation. Luckily Heidi is now an ace navigator. After the seals, we turned North and headed for Adventure Bay. I have written about the great bike ride and hospitality we received there in another post.

From Adventure Bay we crossed Storm Bay to reach the Tasman Peninsular where we anchored in Ladies Bay behind Frying Pan Point (honestly, we don’t invent these names). From here it was a short walk to the ex convict settlement at Port Arthur. This is not the first convict prison we have seen but definitely the most depressing. In other countries we have been faced with the history of the use of non European slaves. Here we could experience the barbaric story of the British enslavement of their own people.

Port Arthur

Once again there were two boats in the bay so three nights running there was drinking and fun conversation on the boats. On the third night Colin and Claire also fed us a delicious curry and invited us to visit them at their farm on Bruny Island.

After fourteen days, we today completed our circumnavigation with a forty mile sail back to the island through rain, mist and variable winds. Tonight we are anchored in Quarantine Bay and thinking of all the new friends we have made in the last two weeks.

Adventure Bay!

In 1642 Abel Tasman first sighted Adventure Bay. In 1773 Captain Tobias Furneaux anchored here. In 1777 Captain Cook resupplied here and Captain Bligh followed him in 1788.

Adventure Bay 1777

And in 2023 Artemis arrived after nearly five years sailing from the west coast of Scotland. Some days you just feel the centuries of sailing that surround you.

We were lucky to meet Gill, a resident of Adventure Bay, on the shore. He and his wife Virginia let us store our bikes in their garden so this morning we only had to take the dinghy to shore and start pedalling.

and in 2023

Our route crossed to the far side of the island over the hills and through a huge forest. Heidi found a route that was rocky and steep but had the advantage of no traffic. There was just us and the wallabies.

We continued around the island passing through the tiny settlements and then cycled out on to the neck – a long strip of sand that joins North & South Bruny Island. From a small hill, we had a stunning view of the islands and across to the mainland.

View along the neck and back to South Bruny Island

The journey back was along a winding road past historic sites and beaches and, for our 48 kilometers and 1000 meters of climbing, Virginia rewarded us with coffee and chocolate biscuits.

As Captain Cook noted; the locals are amicable.

Our route is at The photos are here.

The Kettering Experience

Sue & Chris were in Tasmania on holiday from Queensland so we considered fixing the tiny drip in the toilet before they came out sailing. However, being experienced sailors, we were pretty sure that a tiny drip could become a horror story so decided to wait a day.

After a beautiful day sailing with our guests, we levered ourselves in to our tiny bathroom and searched for the leak. We rebuilt the entire pump unit but that did not help so decided it was due to back pressure in a blocked pipe. We pulled the main discharge pipe off and got soaked. It appeared that the valve that keeps the sea out was no longer working and we needed a new one. Remember that we mentioned horror stories in the previous paragraph!

To change a leaking valve you have to lift the whole boat out of the water and have someone who knows what they are doing. Luckily we had briefly met Jon – who was to become our “fairy godmother” – at the wooden boat festival in Hobart. We rang him and said “Help!” to which he answered “Ring Angelo and come to Kettering”. We rang Angelo who said “no problem” as Tasmanians do and then rang the marina for a lift out. The marina was fully booked but, when we said “Jon sent us”, a two hour gap appeared which Angelo said was “no problem”.

On the way to Kettering we stopped off at Bruny Island for three hours of wet, cold, foggy sailing with Janeil and Simon. Simon enjoyed the Tasmanian summer and spent all three hours at the tiller. After we anchored Janeil and Heidi thawed him out and he fell asleep.

On the appointed morning Jon came round to look at the problem and said “bugger-it, you can’t put a new valve in there. You have a Blake valve from England and nothing else will fit”. He cancelled Angelo and rang Bruce who built his own boat thirty years ago and included five Blake valves. Bruce came over and took a look and explained that the valve could be reground but the boat needed to come out for longer than two hours. Jon and I visited Emma in the marina office and they extended the two hours in the (full) marina to two days!

Once we were out of the water Bruce took a look at the dismantled valve and asked if we had a UK bank account as only a new Blakes valve was going to help and you don’t find them in Australia. So we are out of the water for a maximum of two days and need a valve from the UK. The horror story had happened as expected. But…

We were in Kettering. Bruce fished his spare Blake valve out of his boat (one of only two Blake valves available in Australia) and lent it us. Jon made a new teak spacer plate to fit under the valve and lent us the big tools we needed to get the old valve out. Alan lent us the “gunge”, spanners and paint we needed to complete the job. Bruce inspected and approved the new valve and we were back in the water as planned and the boat was waterproof.

The old hosing was ripped and bent at the ends so we bought some nice shiny new tubing and then wasted two days trying to get the f’*+?=ng stupid tubes on to the b/&%$rd fittings. Eventually Bruce advised that he had tried the white tube years ago and it was impossible to fit. Callum also told us that he and his son had given up with the §h”t white stuff. We changed to Plan B and used a combination of cut down old tube and new bendy stuff.

With everything rebuilt we checked the toilet and the pump still leaked! Horror Story Part 2. We ordered a new pumping unit to be flown in from the mainland and replaced old with new. After a few tries we finally had a non leaking toilet.

We pumped the toilet in to the holding tank and then tried to pump the tank empty. The pump-out wouldn’t pump and blew the fuse so we took it apart and ordered a service kit from the mainland. The serviced pump still would not work so we took it out and reinstalled it a few times. In the process we discovered that the original wiring and fuse was wrongly dimensioned so now we can fix that as well.

Somewhere under the rainbow

The above sounds like a bit of a disaster but there were compensations.

  • we were lent Callum’s carpet lined berth.
  • we were invited to a Barbecue at Jon & De’s fantastic house.
  • we were invited to drinks and snacks on board Anne & Ivan’s beautiful wooden ketch “Laurabada”.
  • we were twice guests for dinner on Bruce and Thelma’s stunning wooden boat “Tui of Opua”.
  • Janie & David finally caught up with us.
  • we had two great dinner parties on board Artemis.
  • we learned loads from everyone and
  • we have a whole set of new friends.

Cycling Hobart

Heidi found a bike route that promised to pass through the best of Hobart. It was only 9 kilometers long but we needed to get in to the city from our anchor place and visit an engineering firm further north so we “extended” it a bit.

We took the bikes to the beach, put them together and headed towards the city. There was an extra route for bikes so we followed that. It included a stupidly steep uphill section so I sensibly pushed. Super Hero Heidi cycled and was still panting when I reached her at the top. After that it was all downhill until we reached the docks area which we already knew from the Boat Show.

We rode along the coast along an old railway line and passed the start of the Tasman Bridge so diverted to admire the view from the middle arch which is sixty meters high. That also added another few kilometers to the route. Then a little more railway line until we reached Spectrum Engineering where a few boat problems were solved.

On the way back we passed through the botanical garden and the business district. The nine kilometers had stretched to thirty. The track is at Alltrails.

A few days later it was time to summit Mount Wellington. It stands high above Hobart and can be seen from everywhere. There is a road all the way to the top and it is “only” 1271 meters high. The advantage of starting from a boat is that you always get to cycle every single meter.

The first half of the route up was fun as we wound our way through the forest and past reservoirs, gaining height all the time. At about the time when I started to think that it would be nice to reach the summit, there was a sign saying that it was still another 12 kilometers and 800 meters. And yes that is an average of 7% for 12 kilometers. Some nice person had painted the distance on the road every kilometer so you always knew exactly how far you still had ahead of you. And the average may have been 7% but there was some 10%!

Luckily there were superb views, lots of shadow and occasionally a following wind. Heidi cycled everything but I occasionally had a stroll next to my bike to move the strain to other muscles.

Eventually we reached the top having been passed by one bike all the way – an E-Bike! The views extend far across Tasmania and we could look down on the bays we had anchored in on our way here and Artemis far below us. It was nice that so many people congratulated us on our fitness or stupidity. Most people we met could not even envisage the climb we had just done.

It took four hours to climb the mountain and less than one to descend even though we did two beautiful off road trails heading down.

Our track is at Alltrails.