We arrived in Hobart in good time before The Hobart Wooden Boat Festival began. It is a remarkable event which attracts many enthusiasts from all places. Tasmania has an old boat building tradition, and many “old timers”, windjammers, and also a couple of naval ships were present. Many of the boats were more than 100 years old but they were so well maintained that they looked as new. Among others there were a handful steam driven boats fired with wood. We even saw an outboard engine powered by steam! The festival lasted for 4 days and the final was marked with fireworks Valentines Day’s evening. I doubt that it is possible to see so many spectacular wooden boats on any other place.
Together with our sailing friends we drove around the inland of Tasmania to get a feel for the island. In short it is much different from anything which I have seen before. I had expected the nature to be much like The South Island in New Zealand, but Tasmania is more untouched, rural, unpopulated, and wild than I had imagined and beautiful at the same time with many national parks, mountains, and lakes. We saw much wild life including Wallabies as well as many dead ones lying approx every kilometre on the road.
Hobart is located at the foot of Mount Nelson and Mount Wellington. The latter is 1200 m high, and on a good day you get a fantastic view over the city, islands, and waterways around Hobart.
Dana Felicia participated in the circumnavigation of Tasmania arranged by The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and The Royal Geelong Yacht Club. This cruise is arranged every second year. It took 5 weeks to sail around, with 42 boats joining, and with only two foreigners: a New Zealand boat and Dana Felicia.
Since Tasmania is a relatively isolated island placed in the roaring forties with the shallow watered Bass Strait to the north, sailing in Tasmanian waters can be quite demanding. It has therefore been a great advantage to take part in a well planned and managed cruise and being among local experienced sailors, who not only know the places to visit but also understand to interpret the tide, current, and weather situations much better than foreigners. We have had all kinds of weather and it changes very quickly. Especially the west coast can be and was rough, and there is almost no refuge or shelter in strong westerly winds. At the South West Cape we experienced confused seas on top of the highest swell we have seen so far.
We visited many interesting sites. The most unique places were Macquarie Harbour and Port Davey / Bathurst Harbour.
Macquarie Harbour is 7 times larger than Sydney Harbour and can be entered through Hells Gate only if the weather allows it. Inside is the small fishing village of Strahan placed to the north, and remains of a penal colony on Sarah Island to the south. In Kelly Basin to the southeast it is possible to see the remains of a quite large mining and logging industry which was abandoned approx 100 years ago. It is very interesting to experience how quickly the rainforest erases earlier human activity in the form of large jetties, railways, houses, steam boilers and brick kilns.
Gordon River runs into Macquarie Harbour. It was very special to sail in the brown water collared by the tannins coming from the forests in the national parks around the rivers which lead to Macquarie Harbour. It was possible to navigate 20 Nm up the Gordon River, and the kaleidoscopic effect of the cliffs and forests mirroring into the dark water was spectacular.
Port Davey / Bathurst Harbour are part of the large Southwest National Park which can only be accessed by boat or through a small air strip at Melaleuca when the weather allows it. Communication out of this huge park can only be made with satellite phone. Nobody lives here permanently. The nature is very special with mountains of mainly light grey quartz and sparse vegetation, which makes it very fragile, so special care must be taken when walking on the tracks on shore. The water here is also brown from the tannins from the forests, so navigation in the shallow waters must be made with care. There are many breath taking places and views from mountains and hills around the narrow Bathurst Channel. The whole area has World Heritage status.
In no other place have we seen so many dolphins as in the waters around Tasmania. We did not catch any fish; however our local friends were very skilled and successful. In some bays it is easy to pick oysters which can then be eaten directly or just cooked in their own shell on campfire.
It has been a very positive and enjoyable journey where we have met many friends and enjoyed the company on the beach BBQ’s and occasional dinners in the yacht clubs visited on the way. On top of that we were kindly invited to share the fruits of these clean waters caught by the skilled “fishermen and cooks” among the participants, so we tasted abalones, scallops, mussels, oysters, crayfish (lobsters), striped trumpeter fish, flat head fish, and others which name we have forgotten.
At the final dinner at The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania Dana Felicia was awarded the prise for having produced “The most interesting logbook”.
The return trip to the Australian main land went through The Flinders Islands which turned out to be a nice finish to our Tasmanian adventure. We were able to anchor at the northern most Island, The Outer Sister, where the small penguins came ashore for climbing to their nests in the evening. Later we anchored at Deal Island which is in a protected area. The weather was perfect and it was a magic experience to walk up to the old lighthouse, enjoy the view from 300 m above sea level, and meet the many wallabies on the way. We also experienced penguins and eagles here.
Needles to mention that it has been an unforgettable experience, and it has been very difficult to say good bye to all the helpful and friendly people whom we have learned to know in beautiful Tasmania.