Unto the Gates of Hell

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 16 Feb 2013 04:20
Noon Position: 42 09.23 S 145 19.9 E
At anchor off Strahan
Wind: Southwest F2 gentle breeze
Sea: calm Swell: nil
Weather: sunny, warm
Day’s run: 73 nm

In the mid-afternoon some wind arrived, a nice gentle breeze from the south,
just enough to keep the sails full and the wind vane steering a steady
course. Thus we continued on up Tasmania's rugged granite strewn west coast
until midnight, when, once more, we were becalmed. Fortunately the swell
had moderated considerably so drifting about was quite comfortable, indeed
Sylph decided to settle with it right astern, which, with a little current,
had us drifting towards our destination, now only a tiny ten miles to our
north. So, with another brilliant starlit night overhead, it was impossible
even for me not to be happy. I thought of motoring the remainding distance
but if we had done so we would then have had to have gone to anchor to await
daylight and the tide, so I figured I may as well just drift.

By 7.20 AM, when I crawled out of my bunk to a light breeze, the sun was
well and truly up and we had in fact by this time drifted a little north of
Macquarie Harbour, the entrance to which is forbiddingly named Hells Gate.
I worked the light breeze for as long as I could but I regret to say that my
ambition of sailing even unto the gates of Hell itself had to be abandoned
as the wind faded once more and the BRM had to be called in to service to
take us the rest of the way into Macquarie Harbour. Navigationally the
entrance in the calm conditions was relatively easy to negatiate. Despite
being well into the flood tide there was still a strong outgoing current,
which was not surprising given the narrow passage and the large body of
water behind it, plus the fact that a couple of relatively large rivers
empty into the Harbour. As we passed through the jaws of the Gate it was
easy to see why the entrance had acquired this name. Either side of me steep
rocky crags rose up and the swift running water churned around them. While
today conditions were benign, after all I had planned it that way, in the
days of sail before reliable weather forecasts I could imagine this
particular body of water could be very nasty indeed. I am sure it still can
be but at least there is not much excuse for getting caught out in such
conditons these days.

As we continued in, it became apparent that the tourism industry was doing
well in these parts; as two large motor catamarans careened past us, two
float planes flew overhead, and numerous small runabouts zipped back and

It is quite a run in from the entrance to our destination of Strahan, and as
we cleared the shallows of the extensive shoals and gained the deeper water
of the Harbour proper, the light southerly breeze returned and I was happy
to be able to shut down the BRM and proceed sedately and quietly the
remainder of the way to anchor in the north-east arm of Long Bay, where we
are now lying.

And now it is time to go ashore and have a look around.

All is well.