Australia, from Pittwater to Tasmania
After a night of sailing we arrive in Pittwater, just north of Sydney. Here in Australia picking up a private mooring is never a problem. If the owner does come by, he will simply ask you to release it. We look for a mooring close to a location from where we can take the bus to a supermarket.We buy food for a week and sail along Cowan Creek, all the way to the end, near Bobin Head, where there is a marina where we can do our laundry and take a real shower. We are now on the edge of the Ku-ring-kai national park, where we regularly walk through amazingly beautiful scenery. The eucalyptus trees are shedding their bark and underneath the bark a beautiful new and tight orange or yellow skin is visible. The surroundings are stunning. One of our walks takes us to the park's visitors centre. Here we see rainbow lorikeets, kangaroos and a couple of stones with drawings made by Aboriginals.
After a couple of days in this paradise we leave for Smith Creek. But we are running out of food and it is almost Christmas, so we want to do some shopping. Unfortunately, there is only one tiny but expensive shop in this area, on Cottage Point. Fortunately, there are a couple of moorings nearby, but when we pick one up, someone from a house on shore immediately starts complaining. They don't mind us mooring for an hour though, so we quickly row to shore in our dinghy. We want to make reservations for Christmas dinner in an expensive looking restaurant, but apparently we don't look expensive enough. Their personnel is very unfriendly and we are not even allowed to leave behind our dinghy while we do our shopping. We hurriedly row on, further than we had thought, and we quickly do our Christmas shopping. That is to say, we grab some vegetables and meat from the limited selection and then we paddle back to our boat as fast as possible. Fortunately, we are still in time. We then use the engine to sail to the end of Smith Creek, where we feel as if we have ended up in paradise.We pick up a free public mooring in a beautiful environment. We row all the way to the end of the river on the calm surface. The peace and quiet here are overwhelming. During Christmas a couple more boats arrive, which is actually quite pleasant.
Before we leave Pittwater, we stay for a couple of days near Coasters Retreat, where there are a lot of moorings and other boats. It is so busy that the coffee boat that passes by is doing good business. We too treat ourselves to a cappuccino and a muffin, a belated Christmas treat. During one of our walks we see a wallaby (a small kangaroo) with a joey. Unfortunately, we left our camera on the boat. Then it is time to visit the big city.
With barely a crumb to eat on board we arrive in Sydney Harbour. We are really excited to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, but unfortunately they are not as impressive from afar as we had hoped. We sail to Double Bay where we pick up a mooring. Other sailors told us that this is a good place to buy food. The wind on the foredeck is too strong to inflate our Mini Monster, so we eat dry rice. The next day we empty the local supermarket. We stay for another day, but then it is time to assume our position to be able to watch what is considered the most beautiful fireworks display in the world. We have received advice from several people on where to go and we have made our choice: we sail to Athol Bay. When we arrive, there are only a handful of boats and we choose a spot where we drop our anchor a short distance away from the other boats. It's two more nights until New Year's Eve.The next day we pick up Lynda, who joined us on board in Fiji. She has been in Sydney for a while and she will show us around. We spend the day exchanging stories about the adventures we had since we said goodbye in Fiji. The next day we take her back to shore, because she has to work. Then the show begins. More and more boats arrive in the bay. The first few anchor at an acceptable distance, but then it is getting crowded. Some have no idea how to anchor and have to try at least ten times. We spend the whole day on deck to keep an eye on "Happy". Everything seems to be fine, although we wonder whether some boats dropped their anchors and chains on ours. Slowly but surely it is getting dark and at nine the first fireworks display starts. It is beautiful and we have an excellent view. There is a small catamaran next to us with way too many people on board. It keeps floating back and forth because the anchor can't keep it in place. It is all very enjoyable and when the big, spectacular fireworks display starts on the bridge at midnight, the real party starts. It is very special and we feel blessed to be able to experience this.
A lot of boats leave as soon as the display is over and the rest of the boats disappear the next morning. No one has accidentally picked up our anchor and in the afternoon we sail into the city at leisure, right past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge. It's all very impressive.
We find an anchorage in Blackwattle Bay, near the fish market, from where we can easily travel to the centre of the city. Sydney is a beautiful, pleasant city, with smooth new skyscrapers but also a lot of lovely old buildings. There are many festivals during the first week of January and we visit several of them. We see, for example, a giant rubber duck, designed by a Dutchman, sailing into the city. Using the bus, train and ferry we visit several parts of the city and when Lynda has time she takes us to the Rocks, an old district with a couple of bars which all claim to be the oldest in Sydney. In the cinema we see "Life of Pi" in 3D, what a beautiful film! Time flies and before we know it we have to start preparing for our trip to Tasmania.
From Sydney to Flinders Island
In Vanuatu we met the "Seafever" with Allen, Tracey and their three kids. They live on Flinders Island on a farm, but they keep their boat in the bay of Killiecrankie, on the north western side of the island. Allen has arranged a mooring for us in this bay, because anchoring is often not possible in Tasmania because there is a lot of sea grass on the bottom and our Bruce anchor, which always works well, doesn't like grass. But now that we know we will have a safe mooring, we don't have to worry about visiting this very isolated island between the continent and Tasmania.
Since the northern wind we need usually doesn't blow longer than two days, we have a stop-over in Eden after two nights. There we wait for two days until the storm coming from the south has passed. As soon as the wind is blowing in the right direction, we leave to cross Bass Strait, which is famous for being difficult to navigate. Every is going well until we are close to Flinders Island, but then, as night falls, the wind rises and we are pushed towards the island. The waves are getting very uncomfortable and the sea is so rough it's hard to even just sit in the cockpit.We switch on the engine, which allows us to sail even closer to the wind, and this way we just manage to make it to the bay of Killiecrankie. It's getting light again by the time we finally enter the bay and the waves are starting to calm down again. We almost pick up the wrong buoy which, as it turns out later, only keeps a lobster cage in place on the bottom.
The next day the family takes us on a tour around the beautiful island. There are approximately 850 inhabitants and the main source of income is livestock farming. In the capital, or rather, the main village, we find a supermarket and a shop that sells everything but the kitchen sink, from white goods and electronics to clothes, shoes and toys. And if you are looking for something special, they might just have it in their stockroom. It feels as if we have gone back in time.
We have lunch at the family's farm. In a national park we see a dozen wallabies which we are allowed to feed. We also see an enormous goose, a species which can only be found here. After having seen the whole island, the family drops us off at our dinghy and we say goodbye.
Just a short row and we'll be home. Or that is what we thought. There is a strong wind and even if we paddle at full power, we are unable to row against the wind. Now what? We walk all the way to the other side of the bay with our dinghy, to a spot where we will have a better angle towards the wind and that way we manage to get back on board.
During the last couple of days in the bay there is a lot of wind and we don't really dare to go on shore. As soon as it calms down a bit, we go for a walk near the bay. Finally the wind turns and blows from a favourable direction to sail on to Tasmania. We shelter in Musselroe Bay from another strong southern wind.By now, the constant howling of the wind around our boat is beginning to get on our nerves. Fortunately, we are able to go online almost everywhere, which allows us to arrange a mooring place in a marina in Hobart, so we can explore the rest of Tasmania in a camper van.
Wineglass Bay and Hobart
But before we can do that, we drop our anchor in Wineglass Bay, in the middle of a national park with purple rocks. The anchorage is very well sheltered from the wind which is again coming from the south. We stay here a couple of days and take a couple of walks, one of them to the other side of the peninsula. There are a lot of wooden boats in the bay which are all on their way to the wooden boat show in Hobart. Because we have used up a lot of diesel to arrive in various places in time to avoid the unfavourable strong wind, the level in our diesel tank has become dangerously low. The only place were we can top up is at a difficult to reach spot behind a couple of sandbanks. We don't feel like going there. Which is why we wait for a favourable wind to begin the last stage to Hobart. Our guardian angels seem to be on our shoulders again and when we finally enter Storm Bay, the wind turns with us. For the last thirty miles we sail on the headsail, without waves and with just enough wind to make good progress. Once we arrive at Tasman Bridge, in the centre of Hobart, we start the engine to complete the last 5 miles to the marina. As soon as we have tied up the boat, we are in for a very pleasant surprise. But more about that next time.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)