Heading back North, Port Arthur to Clarke Island 40:32.3S, 148:07.02E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Wed 22 Feb 2023 07:47

To return north to the Big Island (Australia) we want a weather window for crossing the Bass Strait. The distance from Flinders Island to Eden is about 200 miles or just under two days with a good wind and calm seas. We are now making our way up to the group of islands at the north of Tasmania which includes Flinders Island.

Port Arthur to Clarke Island. 1. Maria Island, 2. Triabunna and Orford, 3.Bryan’s Beach, 4. Wine Glass Bay and finally Clarke Island
Leaving Port Arthur we motored down the harbour and with little wind and confused seas headed for the gap between Tasman Island and Cape Pillar. The confused seas being produced by a SW swell rolling into the cliffs and rebounding. We were glad when, having passed through the gap the swell died completely and we got a usable wind to sail up the coast to Maria Island where we anchored in Shoal Bay along with Scott and Kat on Muskoka.

Passing Cape Pillar
Maria Island is an old Probation Station where the convicts would have been used as farm labourers. Although we might consider probation to be a lighter sentence the conditions and punishment here would still have been harsh. The island is known as a place where it is possible to see plenty of wildlife and on our walks ashore with Scott and Kat from catamaran Muskoka we saw Wombat, Echidna, Pademelon and one unidentified snake (definitely poisonous) which crossed the path ahead of us. At the north end of the island are the ‘painted cliffs’. These are weathered cliffs stained by water which has seeped down through the rock. We anchored off for a quick visit by dinghy before heading across to the mainland and an anchorage near the town of Triabunna.

Remains of convict cells on Maria Island

Echidna, Wombat, Pademelon and of course Kangaroos on Maria Island

The Painted Cliffs
We needed a few supplies but more importantly there was a laundrette here with the added bonus of showers. So after a morning ashore we were well set up with fresh food, clean clothes and bodies. It was an incredibly hot day and during the afternoon the wind picked up. Phil had gone back into town to buy some wine and Sarah stayed on board. In the strong winds some boats in the anchorage started to drag their anchors, but Serenity’s held well. By evening we were uncomfortable about spending another night here as, if we dragged we would be very close to moorings and other boats. We lifted our anchor and moved down the estuary to an anchorage off Orford. This was an open bay but with good holding and some possible protection from the wind. It actually proved to be secure but not that comfortable as we spent part of the night broadside to the swell.

On again the next day we moved to Bryan’s Beach, between Freycinet Peninsular and Schouten Island where we stayed two nights. Inge and Thomas on Saga had left Port Arthur and were heading up in the same direction as us they spent a night at Maria Island and came up to join us at our next stop Wine Glass Bay.

Entering Wine Glass Bay and with Inge and Thomas on the Beach

We could see a chance in the weather to use a southerly wind to do the 100 miles to Clarke Island just south of Flinders.

Running up to Clarke Island

Saga left before us in the morning, about 0900 but we waited another couple of hours. Saga,  a bit longer and faster than Serenity, would arrive in the Clarke Island anchorage in the dark but we would hopefully have a bit less wind and arrive the next morning in daylight.

This passage was very uncomfortable with winds up to 29 knots from astern and a confused sea with up to 3 metre waves also from astern. Serenity coped very well with just her headsail set which we could reef easily by rolling it away to vary the size. At one point we were down to just a pocket handkerchief and still doing 6-7 knots through the water. The wind and seas did decrease during the night, but it was still cold so we were well dressed and kept short watches.  Our approach to Clarke Island was more comfortable despite the strongest tidal stream we have come across for some time. We will spend a night here and start looking around the other islands tomorrow while we wait to carry on north. Clarke Island was the first land in Tasmania to be returned to the indigenous people and you require permission to go ashore. There would appear to be little here to attract us, it is fairly flat and devoid of trees, it was devastated by a severe bush fire in 2014.

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