Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stanley to Hunter Island - Tasmania and Shepherds Bay, Hunter Island to Macquarie Harbour

Stanley to Hunter Island

Saturday 25/01/2014
Not a big rush to get going this morning we have a short run of 35NMS to get to Shepherds Bay, Hunter Island for an overnight stay before tackling the west coast. Due to the winds the next couple of days we cannot overnight anchor on our way to Macquarie Harbour so tomorrow will be an overnight sail.
But as I said we did not need to rush things so we went with Steve and Kerrin to Moby Dicks for breakfast and I think what I saw makes it a good place to go, some of the local families go there for breakfast. After breakfast we went to get ready to sail, we still had not seen Les, he said he would be down yesterday morning then he said he would be here this morning but no show , so we phoned him and he got a little upset when I said that we were not pleased him telling us that where he put us was the better place for the conditions, so I think I upset him a little.
(The beach at Shepherds Bay, anchorage was good with a little swell but not uncomfortable)

We had a good sail today, a little lumpy with 20 plus knots of winds but sailed all day at 7 to 8 knots with the mainsail reefed right down and the headsail having 5 turns on the furler. We arrived at Shepherds Bay and dropped anchor, 'Rhapsody' arrived a short time later. We had a quiet night early to bed and early to rise for leaving in the morning.
(Limestone rock formations on Hunter Island)

Shepherds Bay, Hunter Island to Macquarie Harbour

Sunday - 26/01/2014
Happy Australia Day.
(We may be at see but we still celebrate Oz day, Kanga the deckie checking the wind generators ashore)
We weighed anchor at 0610 hours, it was a cool morning but calm we headed south to Stack Island and the tide was with us pushing us along at 6 plus knots with one engine and the mainsail hoisted, very little wind. After Stack Island we turned to head out of Hunter Passage to where the two tides meet. Fortunately we were close to high tide and the seas on the other side of the passage (west coast) were calm other than a 2 metre rolling swell. It got a little bumpy where the two high tides meet but we have seen and been in worse.
As we passed the NW headland of Tasmania you could see large numbers of wind generators, they were only just turning with the little wind that was about. Not having any wind to transit the west coast can be a blessing, this coast line is notorious for the harsh seas. It is a wonderful thing today to have the weather services we have so that we can pick what weather to go by. When you read of the 1820's when the ships sailed from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour not knowing what weather was in store for them, it may have looked good when they left Hobart but the weather patterns are totally different from East and West coast. Their ships were slow and would take more days than a month. In 1826 the ship 'Cypress' left Hobart and encountered such bad weather decided to sail via the east coast to Macquarie Harbour where she arrived 53 days later having been damaged off Cape Baron Island where she lost an anchor. In a normal situation going around the bottom of Tasmania to Macquarie Harbour it would still take 26 days to sail the 200 nautical miles. These days when we can pick what weather to sail in sailing at a rate of 5 knots we can make the same voyage in around 40 hours.
One of the other benefits we have is that we are sailing to Macquarie Harbour for a different reason than they were those days, for all the beauty that is there today it was not that beautiful to the people that were sent there in the 1822 and onwards, it was seen as a very isolated place where escape from prison was thought to be impossible the land so covered in timber and mountainous country one would not be able to find their way and that is if they could get away from Sarah Island, I would image the place of beauty was not what they saw.
(An albatross sores over the seas, pictures do not show what seas are really like, here we have a 2 to 2.5 metre swell about 14 seconds apart which is not uncomfortable you just roll up and down the waves, swell can come from a hundred miles away, we do not have any wind therefore no wind waves, it is wind that gives us the nasty waves)

We headed down the coast with rolling 2 to 2.5 metre swell which just rolled at around 12 to 15 seconds apart which made it comfortable it was our plan to arrive around sunrise as we did not want to attempt entering Hells Gate in the dark. People think it is called Hells Gate because of what lay behind it in the 1820's the conditions the people had to live in or should I say exist in the early parts of 1822. The name Hells Gate came about because of the treacherous seas and the difficulty to access the narrow shallow waterways.
Night came and we fell into our normal four hour watches, I doing the 2000 hours to midnight and Nancy the midnight to 0400 hours etc. When Nancy took the watch at midnight the winds had already picked from the NE we had dropped all sails early due to no wind and also it looked like I had broken a baton on the mainsail from it slapping side to side with the wave action. I said to her that we need to slow because we are getting ahead of time. I then went to bed but Nancy woke me at 0200 hours saying that the winds had picked up she can see a flashing light ahead and we are catching up right behind 'Rhapsody'. When I got up on deck 'Rhapsody' was right in front of us so I changed course to port, looking at the chart I could see the flashing light was the entrance light to Hells Gate but this was still 12NMS away. 'Rhapsody' had cut its engine and was just slowly moving under sail to slow right down as we were going to get there too early. I unfurled the headsail around five turns and shut down the engine once I had my bearings and said to Nancy I would look after it and for her to get some rest.
Monday - 27/01/2014
We sailed at 3 knots which would slow us enough to knock on Hells Gate at first light. As we got near Hells Gate the NE winds had stirred the ocean so now we have NE wind waves against SW swell making the waters like a washing machine, a little uncomfortable but not bad.
Once behind the break wall it calmed and the entrance was great. When calm the entrance is beautiful, I found the electronic charts to be accurate which is always good. But entering this time in the morning gives it something special although there was still little light, there is a man made break wall on the outside of the entrance and one on the inside.
(Welcome to Hells Gate which is just ahead, it was darker than the picture shows as we entered I have lighted the picture so you can see)
These were built by the convicts the outside to settle the waters on the narrow entrance and it also made Pilots Bay where ships in the early days would be tied to two heavy anchors in the bay until the seas calmed enough for them to enter Hells Gate, the inside was something to do with shipping the massive logs as they were losing them in the rough seas. My photos will not do the place justice I am sure. We entered through the narrow seaway with ease of modern day charting and vessel. Going back in the early times calm days like today they would have to lower the anchor into a boat and they would row the boat ahead and drop the anchor then the prisoners would man the capstan and haul the ship forward on the anchor this would be repeated until the ship had entered Hells Gate.
(Hells Gate light)
As we entered the Macquarie Harbour proper the NE winds met us and we had the wind on the nose all the way into Strahan where we anchored. The anchorage of the town proper is of moderate holding as the bottom is silty mud base, our anchor took hold and we got everything settled and had a snooze before heading ashore. Strahan has changed a little since our last visit back in 1998, it has like most got a little more commercialised and geared up for tourism but still a pretty place. We looked around did a little shopping before a reasonable quiet night on board.
('Rhapsody' passes by the second light, this photo shows the light that we entered in.)
(Sunrise ahead, the line in the water is where the fresh water and seawater mix, the Gordon and Franklin Rivers continue to flow at a good rate along with streams and creeks so the harbour is mainly fresh water although tea coloured.)
('Rhapsody' ahead in the choppy seas with NE winds blowing as we head north to Strahan)
(Strahan ahead, anchor, breakfast, shower sleep)
(Strahan waterfront shops)
(Sunset in Strahan Harbour)

(Strahan by night from our anchorage)
Tuesday - 28/01/2014
We decided that we would go down to Kelly Basin south end of Macquarie Harbour and go into the Gordon River tomorrow. Our original plan was to move anchorages before the heavy weather arrived by going the other side of Strahan Harbour but we changed our thoughts to go with the winds and sail down the Macquarie Harbour. We had to duck ashore to do a fuel run first so we dropped the dinghy went to the fuel station and returned to see Alana Rose the other side of the harbour on the sandbar. Apparently a precursor to today's weather  in the form of a wind bullets dislodged us and we dragged. I must say I have been pleased with my Rocna anchor but in these conditions it failed and the reason is in this type of slimy silty mud many anchors can fail, but the Rocna and other anchors of similar design will fill the scoop with this mud and it will stick, when this happens it does not allow the anchor to reset, some plough type anchors may but not always. We headed for the boat and got aboard, turned instruments on started engines and because we fortunately was in the same type of ground but a little shallow I was able to put the starboard engine full astern which finally took the stern backwards and turned it towards a port direction , then once it had moved a little tickled the port engine ahead slightly helping the back of the boat turn outwards away from the land and then both full astern and we were out of our bad situation with a few more grey hairs and wrinkles. Nancy winched the anchor up and had to scrape the silty mud from it.
(Beautiful Mt Sorell)
After settling down we hoisted the dinghy and got out of there and headed to Kelly Basin about 16NMS away to a more sheltered anchorage. As we turned out from Strahan the winds got heavier we had 40 knots from behind so we let out a little headsail shut down the engines and sailed down the harbour at 8 plus knots.
Back at Strahan there was a cycle race staring in town so not many people would have noticed Alana Rose going away by itself but we did learn later that the two pilots that run seaplane flights saw it and had actually notified the Police but when they saw us heading there they also notified the Police. They say when all else fails read the directions. I had failed to read that section in the guide book that states that the harbour is only moderate holding in moderate weather.
After an invigorating sail down the harbour we anchored in Kelly Basin where the winds were sheltered and the anchorage a lot safer.
('Rhapsody' anchored nearby in Kelly Basin after a rainstorm)

A quiet night after a relaxing afternoon we had a good sleep to get going at first light into the great Gordon River, which I may add is uncharted, although we do have mud maps that were prepared by West Coast Yacht Charters and found them quite helpful. These mud maps do not have depths but do offer advice, I and Nancy put depths on them as we went along and I will add waypoints to these also.


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