2020 Tas Brons Delicious Ploughmans to Macquarie Harbour
Position Update 32:07.95S 133:39.07E
From Bron’s delicious Ploughman’s Lunch in Wombat Cove
Through Hell’s Gate to Strahan
An early start brought us back to Wombat Cove on our way out of Bathurst Harbour and during the scenic journey, so reminiscent of the Highlands of Scotland, Bron was busy pummelling the life out of a pile of dough so that once anchored just outside Wombat, as you can see there was another yacht tucked in there, with Nichola alongside, the four of us tucked in to thick slices of her still warm bread with cheese, pickles, olives and celery and, what’s that, honey!
Nichola led the way back out to sea where we were welcomed with a fine 14 knot south easterly and the southern ocean swell. We delighted in being surrounded once more with Shy Albatross and their friends the shearwater or mutton birds as they were named by hungry sailors and settlers and the spearheaded gannets diving for fish. A new addition to the faunal mix were Australian fur seals that would pop their heads above water and take a curious look at us as we sped by and then swim alongside us for a while, they were miles from the shore.
That night we sailed under a jaffa moon and knew that our short reprieve from the smoke of the bush fires was over. The wind was dropping so on went the engine and we motor-sailed with Nichola’s navigation lights to starboard into a surreal misty calm morning.
Fortunately we could make out the light from Cape Sorell Lighthouse but the land upon which it sat was shrouded in smoky mist, the next few minutes would be very interesting. Zoonie’s black outline on the chartplotter had to be trusted, in other words we had to assume the Navionics charts were accurate for this area, or of course, we could take bearings on the lighthouse with the hand held compass and complete a running fix. Then suddenly the automatic light turned off just when we needed it so we trusted to luck we still had plenty of searoom and the closer we approached the more likely we would be able to discern land features.
The entrance to Macquarie Harbour has proved problematic over the years, especially in the days of the engineless square riggers and strong westerly winds and a west to south west swell can make the entrance a real Gate of Hell. Many ships have foundered with the inevitable loss of life. That is one of the reasons the rock training wall you sea was laid at the beginning of the twentieth century, to give ships somewhere to anchor and await better conditions or a pilot to guide them, hence the name Pilot Bay and Pilot Beach.
Rob decided to helm so I was free to photograph the experience. We were lucky that the swell crashing on the rocky shoreline outside had enough south in it to not enter the channel and all Rob had to contend with were currents that could send Zoonie off course as we approached Entrance Island on which you see the pretty lighthouse passing to our left side. It is the left post of Hell’s Gate which was not named because of the natural conditions of weather and tide but the appalling conditions the arriving convicts knew they would encounter at the penal colony on Sarah Island within the harbour. News had reached England of the brutal regime inflicted on the convicts and they must have led lives of utter dread as they were herded across the world to this beautiful place made fearful by the discipline metered out by the Commanders and Governors. More about that later.
How different today when people like us and fare paying passengers choose to come and experience the rugged South West of Tassie.
The conditions we had coming along the channel once safely inside were near perfect as we made our way to Strahan and moored next to Nichola nearly three hours later.
We went ashore to find out about fuel and see what the town had to offer. In the Information Centre one of the ladies gave us a long story about having to get a permit to explore the Gordon River, an area covered with largely untouched temperate rainforest. The pricing of the permits was done in such a way as to make as much money as possible out of visitors and to deter them from coming, so we were temporarily put off. No one likes to feel they are being taken advantage of, do they? We sought another way.
However she did suggest we look around the little museum that occupied a corner of the building and when we entered through a door that could have so easily been missed we went on a fascinating trail of learning about the area.
I don’t want you to miss out on what we learned but as there was so much of it I have divided it up into five separate blogs under the titles; 1 The Needwonnee First Residents, 2 The Life of the Huon Piners felling these ancient trees from around 1810 to the 1960’s and then 3 The Penitentiary Years, within that timescale, between 1822 and 1833. 4 The complex environmental and social issue of Dam Building and finally a bit of philosophy; 5 The Concept of Wilderness. The idea is that if any of these topics do not interest you they are easy to skip. I hope you enjoy them.