Climbing Mount Amos

We are anchored in Coles Bay on the east side of Tasmania. Getting here was a bit “interesting” with too much wind and lots of waves so we are enjoying the shelter from both.

And looking across the bay. At the mountains. And particularly at the 454 meter high Mount Amos.

The right hand one is Mount Amos (454 m)

The Internet has loads of information about Mount Amos. It says “This is a challenging track only suitable for physically fit and well-equipped walkers.” So it sounded like it was made for us!

We crossed the bay in the dinghy which saved the walk round the long way and headed up to the car park where the trail starts. I almost tripped over two wallabies coming the other way and was about to apologise before I realized they were not small people.

stuck to the granite. Slipping is not an option.

You pass a selection of signs warning about how steep and exposed this track is before following the path in to the bush. The beginning is through the trees and you wonder what the fuss is about until you reach the final warning sign that tells you things are going to get exciting from here onwards. And they are correct. There is lots of steeply sloping granite to scramble up and cracks to ascend. The further you go, the more spectacular the view and the more exposed the climb feels. There are no ropes or any other artificial aids except small yellow triangles that show the route. A lot of the time your not slipping down the mountain relies on your shoes sticking to the granite.

No ropes, no steps. Just steep

We reached the top after over an hour of scrambling and the reaction was “Wow!” While we were there about another six people arrived and, as they crested the top, each one said the same “Wow!” It seems to be the word that fits best. Over four hundred meters below you is Wineglass Bay and a view that extends for miles in every direction. The view is definitely more than worth the climb.

We had pizza, cake and water with us so enjoyed a picnic in the sun while chatting with the international convention of English, Germans, Australians, Japanese and an American. Surprisingly the Germans were the majority.

[Photo by Brooke Davies – thank you Brooke]

The climb down took longer than the ascent as we were being very careful and kept meeting people who wanted to know how much further it was and if it got worse. At the bottom we were really glad to be able to take the lazy option of a dinghy ride back home.

An unforgettable experience

The Tamar River

After a night hidden from the storm that had chased us across the Bass Strait, we rang the Dalrymple Yacht Club and asked about coming over to get the salt off Artemis. Their bosun – Leigh – told us to tie up sideways to the pontoon, clean the boat, shower ourselves and get thing sorted. When we arrived he also gave us some home made jam and explained the fascination of fossicking to us. And Leigh wasn’t the only friendly person we met on this, our first day in Tasmania. Jill & Ron stopped by for a coffee and Jill quickly ran Heidi to the supermarket to buy fresh produce. Stuart also came over for a coffee and explained everything from Australian politics to boat electrics.

We decided to take a run up the Tamar River to the town of Launceston at its head. Not many people seem to do this but it looked possible. Luckily Jill & Ron live right next to the river about half way up so we spent the first evening with Artemis at anchor while we enjoyed dinner at their house. Neill wanted to be back at the boat when the tide turned but we missed that by many hours because the couple are such great company.

The second day the wind was against us all day but we used the incoming tide to push us up the river and past the farms and villages on the banks. One church looked like it had been transplanted straight out of a corner of England but the houses ranged in style from swiss chalet to ultra-modern glass box. After six hours the tide was fully in and gave us no more push so we anchored off a field and waited six hours for the next push to arrive. No hectic. No stress.

The historical port of Launceston. Artmeis dead center.

We arrived in the historical port of Launceston to find that the ships have gone and the mud has arrived. The entire harbour basin is silted up and (after hitting a large mud bank) we found the only “hole in the water” deep enough for Artemis to sit upright during low tide. We were the only boat at anchor and watched the boats in the nearby marina dry out twice a day.

MTB and sailing boat in Launceston

Launceston has a famous gorge where the South Esk River enters the Tamar River. We went for a quick walk up the lower section but returned the next day to complete the longer route up to an old power station and then back through the forest. The gorge is really impressive with something new and interesting round every corner – Peacocks, cable cars, rock formations, wallabies, huge trees, power stations, landscaped gardens, Padimelons and water.

Above the gorge is a forest with mountain bike trails so one day we put the bikes together and set out to explore them. The tracks are a great way to enjoy the bush and enjoy the fun of cycling up and down beautifully crafted tracks. In total we covered about 14 kilometers of trails and met two other bikers. And a hand full of wallabies.

The tidal range was increasing as we approached the new moon and one afternoon we only had 30 centimeters of water under the keel so we decided it was time to leave. Just as we were lifting the anchor a motor boat appeared heading up the river. Heidi recognized the crew as people we knew from Bundaberg so we explained the anchoring situation and moved on to allow them the “hole”. They were going to spend the next few low tides sat in the mud but didn’t seem too worried about that.

The south wind had been against us all the way up river and now the north wind was against us heading back down. At least the engine had a good run to chase away the cobwebs it normally gets when we are out sailing. We spent one night just off a wooded beach with the sound of nearby cattle as background accompaniment and the second night we waited in a basin just before the coast to be ready for the next adventure.

The Bass Strait

Bass Strait has a well deserved reputation as one of the most treacherous bodies of water in the world. A combination of shallow seas, currents and weather systems has brought many a sea voyage to an untimely end.

Old Salt (https://oldsalt.net.au)

A typical quote about the Bass Strait, the area you need to cross to get from Mainland Australia to the island and state of Tasmania. But every one agrees that Tasmania is beautiful and the inhabitants are incredibly friendly so we had to cross the straits.

We left Jervis Bay and began by sailing 250 miles down the coast of Australia. Once we reached the “end of the continent” the weather forecast was showing very strong winds in the straits so we turned west and stayed near the coast. That worked well until we reached a huge oilfield which stretches south effectively blocking our path. We turned south and passed a few oil rigs which are huge, like science fiction monsters and can be seen far away. More worryingly, we turned straight in to the heavy weather and our instruments were showing huge buoys scattered around but which we could not see in the three meter waves. We survived and then crossed a traffic separation scheme which is a motorway for ships. Luckily it wasn’t too busy.

Wet outside or cold inside. The Bass Strait has something for everyone.

By now the wind was really strong and pushing us at seven knots towards the passes between Flinders and Deal Islands. The charts showed that we were going to be arriving when the current was at the strongest against us. “Wind over current” is something you really want to avoid so we took away all the sails except a few meters of foresail. We were still making four knots but that would allow the tide to turn. Neill went for a sleep and left Heidi to deal with the five cruise ships that passed during the night.

The Bass Pyramid. It is vital to avoid hitting these lumps of granite.

The plan had been to anchor at Flinders Island but, with the forecast now promising strong west winds, that became unsafe so we decided to continue on to the north coast of Tasmania. This added 80 miles and another day to the journey but we were promised three hours of north east wind which would help us “get in position”.

Green against you is exciting. Orange is not good. Purple is bad.

The three hours arrived but instead of wind we were becalmed and could go nowhere. When the wind came back it was a strong south west wind so we were as hard on the wind as we could set the boat. We made good time but it still took us eleven hours of jumping waves and diving through others to reach the mouth of the Tamar River. It was a wet and rough ride.

Only five miles before the river mouth the wind dropped so we put out all the sails and got a bowl of food. We had each taken two spoons full of noodles when the wind picked up again and turned 180 degrees. Within minutes we had high wind and waves from the north east. Bowls in the sink, stow the big genoa, set a third of the small jib sail, turn the boat back towards Tasmania and start a wild ride in to the river. Heidi was calling the course from the chart table and Neill was doing his best to steer the course she required. Luckily the wind bent round a headland and allowed us to sneak in to the river.

Still doing seven knots we continued up the river for five miles before anchoring in a tree protected bay up a sidearm of the river. Safely at anchor we could take a good look at our Artemis and see a foresail needs the attention of a sailmaker, and everything was encrusted in salt. But we had made it safely across the Bass Strait to Tasmania. Another story for when we are old.

Finally in Tasmania

Once again, a huge thank you to Davo for providing weather forecasts and advice during the crossing. We love having you “in the crew”.

Sydney Harbour (and surroundings)

For over thirty years I had a dream to sail the world and that dream also included the moment when the boat finally sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For a European sailor, this is the proof that you made it to the other side of the world. Here is the moment that Artemis sailed past the Opera House to pass under the Bridge. Magical!

Artemis looks tiny

We anchored in a hidden bay beyond the bridge and made new friends when Wendy and Dave invited us for dinner and we returned the favour on Christmas Eve.

Catherine (our host in the Blue Mountains) came on board on Boxing Day and as soon as she was onboard we lifted anchor and set off to witness the start of this years Sydney to Hobart race. There were thousands of boats spectating the chaos at the start of the race but we managed to work our way to the edge of the exclusion zone and enjoy watching crazy people doing crazy things.

111 vessels racing and 1000 spectator boats

The next day we anchored off Cockatoo Island – an ex prison and then shipyard – and took the dinghy to the interesting place. The visit confirmed what we already knew from other prisons – the convicts were sent to Australia as slaves. The new colonies needed free labour and the criminals supplied that manpower in awful conditions.

She definitely is

From Cockatoo Island we sailed through Sydney and out to the seaside town of Manly. The wind was against us so we needed to tack regularly, but with two farmers daughters as crew it was easy. The ferries very professionally avoid sailing vessels but the two cruise ships we met are just too big to avoid anything. We went round them.

We’re on the top of the world … (thank you Muhammad Fawad Faheem for the photo)

In Manly we climbed to the top of a neighbouring hill to enjoy the view out to sea and back towards Sydney. On our way we passed a packed beach full of Australians enjoying summer and noticed a lot of people were regrettably transitioning from pure white to lobster red. Surely they can’t all have Scottish ancestry.

Back in Sydney we sailed in to the heart of the city and, after visiting the fish market, picked up Heidi – our second visitor. Having two Heidis onboard was a challenge. One was navigating and one was on the helm steering us among the ferries. My commands were on the lines of
“Nav-Heidi, where is the next turn point?”
“At the end of the Island.”
“Helm-Heidi, turn towards the water tower after the next ferry passes.”

We anchored in Farm Cove, right next to the Opera House, on the thirtieth to wait for the New Year fireworks. On the thirty-first the bay began to fill with boats and people started covering the surrounding coastline. I was wondering what could be so good that people were willing to sit for over eight hours to reserve a place. We had our home with us and could enjoy all the comforts but they were sat on a blanket just waiting with an ice box and Portaloos.

On the shore behind us there was a private party area where people had paid AUD 475 (€300) each to enjoy a three course meal and the best view of the fireworks. We ate a four course meal, drank champagne at midnight and sat on Artemis right in front of them so that our mast was in their way 🙂

The fireworks were phenomenal. They were breathtaking. They were loud. They were bright. They were indescribable. I now know why people sit on their blankets all that time. Wow!

Sydney Cycling

After the “Blue Mountain Tour” we took the train back to Sydney and spent the night there. Trying to find a restaurant turned in to a disaster and I still don’t understand how we could have walked for two hours and only found McDonalds. But that is another story for when we get old.

The next morning we cycled across the city and then across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Less than twenty four hours before we had been at the Red Hands Cave where aborigines had lived for thousands of years and here we were cycling across this engineering masterpiece with a view of skyscrapers and the Opera House. Life is strange.

After a tasty and filling cooked breakfast in North Sydney, we cycled along tracks, pushed across beaches and carried our bikes up and down steps along the coast and back to Artemis.

I love adventuring and I love exploring the world but I also love coming home to our boat!

In to the Blue Mountains

Heidi checked the Internet for “what to see in Sydney” and the answer was always:
– Blue Mountains,
– Harbour Bridge,
– Opera House.

The Blue Mountains were only a hundred kilometers from Pittwater where we were at anchor and we knew Catherine who lived “in the mountains”. It turned out that Catherine was on holiday in California and ten marinas had no space for the boat so things were not looking too positive. But, as so often, it all turened out OK in the end. Catherine flew home and one marina had one buoy for one week.

We left Artemis attached to her buoy and set off along the windy road through the hills of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Of course the first kilometers were all uphill. Once we left the forest we entered Suburbia and stayed there for the rest of the day. Sydney sprawls out across all the surrounding plains and hills which gave us a great chance to see “how the locals live, shop and amuse themselves”. After seventy kilometers we stopped in Windsor for the night and enjoyed a well earned pizza and wander along the high street where we found a tree full of the loudest parrots you ever heard.

On Day two we could see the mountains in the distance and after only twenty kilometers we reached the serious climb from the river up to the Hawkesbury Lookout. After that is was all uphill to Faulconbridge and Catherine’s lovely home. We were given a bed, fed, met the dogs, enjoyed Catherine’s company and had the use of the hot tub. What more could we ask for.

Directly from the house door, we rode out along a fire trail to the Grose River Lookout. This is a bit surreal as you leave the town behind you and ride through the surrounding forest until suddenly the track stops on top of a huge cliff. Imagine the Grand Canyon with trees. It is definitely not something we were expecting “on the edge of town”.

Our next trip started some way from Faulconbridge so we cycled across to the Railway station to catch a train. Unfortunately that night there had been a serious derailment so the track was closed. Once again Catherine saved us by lending us her car. From Blackheath we cycled out to the Baltzer Lookout. Same sort of effect as the previous day except that we were above a thousand meters so the cliffs are higher and there is a huge section of cliff called the Hanging Rock which is nearly detached from the mountain and looks ready to fall off.

On the fifth day we left the bikes on the porch and enjoyed a guided tour of the Mountains led by Catherine. More stunning views, a tasty lunch in a quirky little restaurant, the hundred meter high Wentworth Falls, more views and then afternoon coffee and cake in a hotel left over from the last century. It was almost as exhausting as the seventy kilometers on Day one.

We left the mountains by cycling up the motorway! It was an Australian motorways so it had a footpath and a bike lane which we made use of. After a few kilometers we turned off in to the bush and enjoyed the stunning Woodford Oaks Fire Trail. This is a track that runs generally downwards along one of the ridges in the bush. It has great biking, great views and lots of nature. A real “Wow”.

We added in a ten kilometer diversion to visit the red hands cave. This is an amazing site where hands have been painted on the back wall of the cave by aborigines. Some of the hands were painted 1600 years ago at the same time as the Romans were still occupying Britain. That takes some time to get in to your brain.

Finally, at the foot of the mountains, after a final seven kilometers of rocky single trail, we took the train to Sydney. Now we know why the Blue Mountains are at the top of the “things to do” list. Stunning is the only word.

The tracks are here:
Day 1 to Windsor
Day 2 to Faulconbridge
Grose River Lookout
Baltzer Lookout
Woodford Oaks Fire Trail and Red Hands Trail

Pittwater

Pittwater is a huge harbour just to the north of Sydney and is where half the population of Sydney keep their yachts on mooring buoys. We sailed overnight from Port Macquarie to the entrance and waited offshore until first light when we entered passed the lighthouse, ghosted along pushed by the breeze and dropped the anchor in Morning Bay.

We were anchored in a national park so we took the dinghy to shore and headed for the hills following small trails through the bush. We were rewarded by stunning views across the boat filled waters. On the way back down we took a wrong turning and were punished by a bull ant attack. Strangely for Australian animals, the ants are not really poisonous; the sting just burns like hell. Not an experience we wish to repeat.

The next day we were visited by Paul on his sailing boat and invited round to “their” bay at Coaster’s Retreat. (We know Lucie and him from Bundaberg.) They organised us a friend’s mooring buoy and made us extremely welcome. Their hospitality knew no end and included showers, drinks, dinner, the garden wallaby, sailing on their ketch and a guided walk through the surrounding hills. They definitely get five stars if they are ever listed on Trip Advisor.

During the week, Pittwater is a beautiful area to sail but unfortunately, at the weekend, it is taken over by two types of idiots. Firstly there are the racers. They know who should give way to who but believe that being in a race allows them to do whatever they want. At least you can more or less rely on them cutting dangerously close to you. Secondly there are the common variety of idiot. It is impossible to discern if they just do not understand the laws of the seas or have a rudimentary knowledge but fail to apply it. Either way they are extremely dangerous. Taken together the weekends are a good time to stay at anchor and go for a walk.

Behind the Pittwater is the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park which starts on the shore. Luckily the forest is penetrated by long flooded river valleys which you can sail up. We followed the Hawkesbury River and then turned in to Cowan Creek before taking the narrow Smiths Creek and spending the night in Squid Bay. Here we were deep, deep in the forest and surrounded by steep, forested sandstone cliffs. Unfortunately two other boats turned up for the night but it was still beautifully peaceful.

Back down the river and across the bay, we anchored off Palm Beach and walked along the busy street to the supermarket. Two locations, about ten kilometers apart, but two worlds.

New South Wales at last

We are on our way to Tasmania. We have been on our way to Tasmania for a month. We could get depressed

We are going nowhere. A month of trying to get to Tasmania and we only made 900 km. Google Maps says we could have driven here in nine hours. The wind is always against us or there is no wind or there is a storm. And the motor has a problem and the boat leaks and …”

But that is not us.

A month ago we left Bundaberg heading South with a plan to sail the 2600 km to Tasmania. Since then we have enjoyed fantastic sailing and are convinced that Artemis is much faster with her new antifouling.

Artemis at anchor in Coffs Harbour

The periods of no wind, too much wind or head wind have given us the time to revisit Fraser Island, visit friends and see new places on the way south. We have always found well sheltered places to hide as the storms come through.

We were in Coffs Harbour waiting for the wind and so we had time to go mountain biking. The bikes are the perfect way to see “behind the scenes” where ever we are. This time we cycled through housing estates and then out in to the countryside. We started to climb a hill when Heidi’s pedal had a problem. Back on the road a council worker lent us his adjustable spanner to fix the pedal and then gave us a refill of iced water. A dream! Back in the hills we climbed a stupidly steep track and then trailed back down a long flowy route through the forest. A mountain bike is like a boat – freedom!

In Coffs Harbour we also let the locals convince us that the sea was now safe with absolutely no crocodiles and probably nothing else too dangerous. Feeling very bold Neill dived off the boat and Heidi took the more sedate route down the ladder. (How can any one climb slowly in to cold water feeling it slowly rise up around you and then it reaches the top of your legs! No way!) Even if the sea is “refreshing” it is great to be back in the water.

The Hastings River. Boats at anchor. Port Macquaerie in the distance. A water plna elanding next to us.

The main engine was failing to start occasionally but we have identified the problem, patched up a fix and are now in correspondence with Davo about how too fix it properly. The advantage of being a sail boat is that the engine is mostly a “nice option” – unless you are drifting towards the coast with no wind, then it becomes mission critical.

In the galley (kitchen) we had a leak but while in Port Macquarie Heidi decided that the time had come to “sort it out”. A day later the necessary woodwork had been removed, the internal hole plugged and the external hole sealed with epoxy. Half way through the job we had our first hail storm since we left sailing but the following downpour proved that we had stopped the leak.

And today the local maritime patrol guy came past in his patrol boat for a chat and offered some advice about crossing the river bar tomorrow.

Life isn’t so bad 🙂

Sailing South down East Australia

Life is happening faster than I can write about it. From Bundaberg to Fraser Island then on to Moreton Bay and the Gold coast before passing behind Danger Reef and using the strong winds to finally reach New South Wales and Cobbs Harbour.

While waiting for the wind to change in our favor we took a walk along the long lonely beach on Fraser Island. Just the two of us. And a million soldier crabs.

If the skipper gets a rope wrapped around the propeller, then the skipper goes in the water to cut it off – and tries not to think about the crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish and snakes.

In Moreton Bay the shipping lane is a little confined so, when a ten story cruise ship wanted to pass, we moved a little to the side.

Night time off Brisbane. The skyline is full of the lights of anchored ships but luckily we have them all on the AIS screen so we can sail a course around them all. Hopefully they all have their AIS senders and lights switched on.

We passed between Cooks Island and the swell breaking on Danger Reefs just before sunset. The channel is deep but very narrow. The trick was to reach the start of the channel and then turn EXACTLY 180°. Luckily there was a small wood on the distant land that you could aim for.

We were running in front of strong winds trying to reach Byron Point (the most easterly point on the Australian mainland) where we could duck in to the wind shadow of Australia. All afternoon we saw the sailing boat A’Bientot chasing us. She eventually passed us at sunset.

We rounded the South Solitary Island with its old lighthouse after two days at sea and just before turning in to Coffs harbour – our first landfall in New South Wales.

You need friends

The world is beautiful. The sea is magical. The land is teeming with myriads of plants and animals. But, it is the people we meet who make our travels so interesting.

We were anchored off Fraser Island close to another boat and each time we passed, we checked if there was anyone sat in the cockpit but found it empty. On day two or maybe three the neighbors waved and then came across in their dinghy. We agreed to meet at sundown on their boat for drinks. We took a home made pizza bread with us and the sundowner turned in to a late-nighter.

SY Hau Korahi at anchor off Fraser Island

They were getting ready to leave their boat for six months and so needed help emptying their freezer. The next night we gave our best and it was once again very late when we took the dinghy home under the stars. The third night they moved down the island and anchored in another bay. We followed, anchored next to them and continued to be “helpful”. I still have no idea where the six hours went each evening but none of us were bored.

Thank you Sally and Neville from the sailing yacht Hau Korahi for three wonderful evenings.

We left the company of Hau Korahi to sail in to Moreton Bay and tie up to friends private jetty at the “bottom of their garden”. Sue and Chris are sailors and understand the priorities. Attach Artemis safely to land, have a shower, put everything in the washing machine and then make a drink and enjoy great company.

We spent three nights with these fantastic friends. They took us to all the shops we needed for those “hard to find little bits”. Without their help we would never have even known where to start looking. They also lent us their car to do a major shop and fill the lockers. It was amazing knowing that we had a vehicle from supermarket to boat. Normally we agonize over how many items we can fit in our rucksacks and bags, on this occasion we just bought a few extra of everything. The luxury of it all.

We asked if we could stay an extra day so that we could repair our bimini (cockpit sun cover) on their shady, flat, clean terrace. Not only did they agree, Sue spent the entire day assisting, explaining how we could improve things and suggesting two perfect design modifications.

In the evenings, they taught us two new games and Neill continuously lost both badly. And we should also mention the stream of fantastically cooked meals and refreshing drinks.

Thank you Sue, thank you Chris. Our break with you was such fun.