Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Snug in St Helens

Following a blustery day hiding out behind Cape Barren we set sail at dawn. The wind was light in the anchorage but soon freshened as we entered Banks Strait. This strait is a thirty mile stretch that separates Cape Barren Island from Eddystone Point, Tasmania notorious for rough seas.The wind continued to build up to thirty knots during the day but luckily the direction shifted round to the north west to allow a comfortable ride. We reefed in the main and yankee and by the end there was just the staysail set and the wind vane steering did all the work as spray flew across the cockpit.
Eddystone Lighthouse on the starboard bow.
Binalong Bay was looking too exposed to anchor off so we opted for St Helens. The barred entrance is notorious so it was with some trepidation that we made the approach. The water was flat but there is not much water under the keel even near high tide. Brian had the job of navigating us through the maze of sand banks trying to match up the markers shown on the chart with what lay before our eyes.

It was a nice feeling to reach clear water at the end of the entrance channel and in the last hours of light we found the public wharf where we sized up the fishing boats to determine their suitability to tie up to. Extra points are awarded to boats that are clean, have good bollards and dont look like they are about to set to sea.
Alongside at St Helens
Settled in we explored the town. St Helens is a small town that services the sparcely populated north eastern corner of Tassie. We had debated whether it would be an IGA town or have gained a Woolworths/Coles supermarket, so it was with some amusement we found a "Super IGA". It is not big by any standard but seems to have everything you would need. We tinkered away on various boat projects and gave Dove a good clean.

Today was a day off and after a slow start fueled by servings of Brian's scrambled eggs with coffee we set off. A couple of bicycles had been procured and we headed for Binalong Bay. Lonely Tony had given this place high praise a few years ago awarding it "best wilderness destination in the world" or some such accolade. High praise indeed. The bikes were nothing flash and a far cry from the Long Haul Trucker I had been riding in North America. The frame was really too small, making me feel like a school aged hoon cruising the streets looking for trouble. Brian had not been on a bike for over twenty years but you know what they say about riding a bike, Once you have learnt you never forget. Having said that, it was hard work.

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It was about ten kilometeres to Binalong Bay over some gently undulating hills, where we found a cafe overlooking the beautiful beaches of the Bay of Fires. A long lunch, a read of the newspapers and then we hit the road again looping around the coast. A tiger snake basking on the road suprised me. It was pretty close by the time I saw it and I had this vision of running over it, getting it tangled up in the wheel and it snapping at my heels. Less dramatically some braking and swerving saw the snake slither off into the bush.

Skeleton Cove. Arrgh!
The view down the coast revealed pretty calm condition out at sea, which is encouraging for tomorrow. It looks like the winds will be light but moving into the north for a couple of days which should be just enough to get us into Hobart. We are both feeling pretty tuckered out this evening. There is a curry simmering away on the stove and I suspect we will be having an early night so we can catch the tide for the bar crossing in the morning.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roaring Forties

We reached the shelter of Cape Barren in the Furneaux Islands under strong moonlight last night and the anchor chain ran free. So much so that that the bitter end shot out of the spurling pipe to my surprise and I was quickly grateful for the nylon warp splicing it to the mast step, otherwise it could have been one of those embarrasing moments.

Wind Vane Self Steering at work.

It was the end of a good passage that started in Sydney about three and half days before in light and variable conditions. We had motored gently south out to the continental shelf and found a pod of Humpback Whales and regularly saw Shy Albatross on the first day.

A light easterly sprang up in the evening and this built up to about 15 knots the next day and eased round to the northeast. We ran with twin poled out headsails and a reefed main which the wind vane self steering gear worked well with. It was great to see the wind vane do all the steering while we sat back and attended to other bibs and bobs around the boat.

Brian at work in the galley
Initially we were aiming for Eden but the weather looked like holding so we pressed on, in a race to our new target, Flinders Island which we hoped to reach, before a cold front swept over us. The current around the NSW/Victorian border was especially strong and gave us an extra two knots which whisked us into Bass Strait but I didnt think we would quite make shelter before the cold front.

The 3G mobile booster aerial came into its own, with us able to access the internet even forty miles offshore. The Bureau of Metorology website was the favourite and gave us the reprieve that we needed. The cold front had slowed down and gave us an extra 18 hours which allowed us to sail gently into Cape Barren under strong moonlight last night. We rolled away at anchor as the wind died but by this morning the front had passed over flattening the sea out and leaving us with that cosy feeling that only comes from being securely at anchor during a gale. We could think of the rough conditions offshore from the warmth of the cabin with a fresh coffee in hand.

The wind may ease this afternoon and then a trip ashore is on the cards. Tomorrow we plan to sail south to Binalong Bay. It is only fifty miles south across Banks Strait on the east coast of Tasmania so it should be a brisk day sail.