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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
After cycling on Maria Island we had “a little bit of stress” as we only had a week to reach Hobart in time for the legendary Wooden Boat Festival. We had heard about this event while in Bundaberg and it was “only” 3500 kilometers away. We had been heading towards it since October – four months ago. It is billed as the largest show of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and everyone said it was amazing.
To reach Hobart, we took a shortcut through the Denison Canal. Luckily Ivan from the wooden yacht Laurabada was transiting on the same day and coordinated with the appropriate authority to have the swing bridge opened to allow us through. We just had to negotiate the treacherous bar and shallows to reach the canal entrance. Dougal, who lives nearby went down to the beach in the morning to give us an on the spot wave report and declared the bar “passable”. We are so lucky to meet such amazingly friendly and helpful people.
After lots of hard sailing against the wind we turned the corner around the Iron Pot lighthouse and sailed the last few miles directly downwind to anchor off Tasmania’s capital city of Hobart. The next day Paul and Lucie arrived and we had three boats around us that we knew from Brisbane (2021), Bundaberg (2022) and Tasmania (2023). The sailing world is a village.
The Wooden Boat Show starts with a procession of vessels up the Derwent River so we took our dinghy out and tied to a buoy in the middle of the river and waited. We were approached by a wall of sail as everything from the 670 ton “James Craig” to tiny skiffs set sail and headed our way. A few years ago we watched an Atlantic Rally leave the Canary Islands but nothing can compare to the sight of so many historic boats sailing in company.
In the afternoon and on the following day we visited the show in the center of Hobart. It was an incredibly interesting event made even more so by meeting people we already knew. They, in turn, introduced us to others and, as soon as they mentioned that we had sailed from Scotland, we were immediately made unbelievably welcome.
Ivan invited us on to his beautiful 49 foot ketch and showed us not only the whole boat but also photographs of her history including her build in 1953 by his father. Various other owners called past which allowed us to learn more about treating and varnishing wood in an hour than in the last five years.
Dougal made us welcome at the Royal Institute of Naval Architects booth and introduced us to his family, a colleague who trains ships captains and an inventor who has designed and built an amazing underwater work robot.
The boats were all beautiful and a far cry from modern plastic boats but we both agreed, we love our Artemis and don’t miss having all that wood that needs so much attention.
The weather forecast said “storm” but luckily down here in Tasmania the weather doesn’t read the weather forecast and does its own thing. The result was that we were on our way to hide up a long inlet when we noticed that things weren’t as bad as they were meant to be. Ten minutes later the inlet had been replaced with Chinamans Bay off Maria Island. We arrived just as the rain began.
05:45 Alarm clock goes off. Quick weather check. Blue skies.
Breakfast. Get the dinghy in the water and the engine on. Dress for cycling. Get the bikes out of the boat and in to the dinghy. Cross to the island and find a landing place. Build the bikes together.
08:10 on the bikes and off exploring Maria Island.
The island is uninhabited except for two park rangers who stay in “the city” at Darlington and the first ferry arrives just before nine so, to begin with, it was just us two and the kangaroos and the wallabies and the pademelons and the geese and the penguins and two extremely relaxed wombats. We cycled between the hundreds of “locals” who were all obviously confused about how we were there so early.
We passed ruins dating from the time when the island was used as a convict island and then took the “main road” through the forest to Darlington. The dirt track was well graded, gently rolling and completely devoid of motorized vehicles so perfect for mountain bikes.
In Darlington we found the “town” that was originally built as a penal settlement and later used as an industrial town. At the information office we asked about obtaining a park pass. The lady was a little surprised as you have to show your pass to get on the ferry. Theoretically you can not reach the island without a pass. We explained that we had sneaked in the previous evening and landed at dawn unseen by any one but the local wildlife at which point she thanked us for our honesty. It didn’t help though. The lady had no passes, the phone number she gave us only has an answering machine and the website won’t process us.
We had been advised to visit the old lime hoppers and sing in them which we did and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing acoustics as our voices reverberated around us. I admit that this was not an activity we would have thought of ourselves.
Leaving the town we cycled up a steep grassy hill (Heidi cycled – Neill cycled half way and then pushed.) At the top of the hill we were rewarded with a fantastic view back across the sea we had crossed the previous day with Mount Amos on the horizon. We took pictures and then continued back in to the forest and up to the islands reservoir. Back in town we visited the museum and were amazed to find an Irish visitor sat playing the perfectly tuned piano. What a treat.
We headed back in to the bush and stopped off at an abandoned brewery / winery for our picnic. There is so much to see on this island but the clouds were already appearing to remind us that we were on borrowed time this outing and we should be getting on.
On our way back to the boat we stopped off at the painted cliffs. These are amazing and no photo can not do justice to the colors and textures of these rocks. You could almost believe that the aboriginal great father of all spirits had been painting here back in the dreamtime.
Back at the dinghy we reversed the morning activities and, before the winds arrived were packed and showered with a coffee in the cockpit. Being situative is half the secret to being lucky.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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”.
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.
Once again, a huge thank you to Davo for providing weather forecasts and advice during the crossing. We love having you “in the crew”.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!