Friday, February 14, 2020

Hobart (Tasmania)

[Kyle]From Bruny Island, we had a slow spinnaker sail to Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city. We arrived, made our introductions and then the bridge was opened for us to go into Constitution Dock, the very center of the Hobart historic waterfront. We were surprised to be the only transient boat there, particularly since it’s right in the middle of everything and the weekly rate is exceptionally reasonable.

Hobart's waterfront

Hobart is a bustling, vibrant city that hosts a cruise ship per day. There is plenty to keep visiting tourists occupied. It is full of parks, historic buildings, pubs, micro breweries and distilleries for local (and international award winning) whisky, gin and vodka.

We saw a little of each, minus the gin. Our days there were full from waking up to collapsing exhausted in bed each night. We visited museums, including the incredible Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). We took tours of the venerable old theater and the Parliament building. We saw fireworks and had lots and lots of pleasant strolls followed by meals in cozy pubs.

Franko 'Street Eats' on a Friday night

Fireworks and festivities for the Royal Hobart Regatta (a public holiday)

River walk, and a beautiful day at the Botanical Gardens

We also rented a car for a day to see some of the more out of town sights before stopping at the dreaded supermarket for a bulk provision run. My favorite of the sights was the Bonorong Sanctuary. Here, they take in hurt or orphaned animals and rehabilitate them for return to the wilds of Tasmania. The best thing there for me by far was getting to see a juvenile wombat.

He hadn’t pupated yet, so no wings for the Whomp-bat. He was an adorable little furry ottoman that likes to cuddle the legs of his caretaker. His eyes are spaced just the right distance apart to give him a look of cherubic innocence as he toddles along on short legs.

After giving a little talk about the wombats, the caretaker/speaker picked him up and cradled him in her arms like a baby. The little fur ball was so comfortable there that he promptly fell asleep, mouth open and legs twitching. Oh, my. That is the cutest damn thing I have ever seen! {Maryanne: We were told that once they reach age two they start to get decidedly unfriendly and are no longer cuddly AT ALL!}

Don’t be fooled, though. The vegetarian creatures are very dangerous. Surprisingly fast runners, when they feel threatened, they take off in a sprint to gain some distance from their predator. When they have enough of a lead, they stop cold and turn to face their pursuer. This releases such a torrent of cuteness that the rapidly approaching animal is overcome in mid-stride by the overwhelming urge to tilt it’s head slightly to the side and say, “Awww!” This invariably causes them to trip and bash their head open on one of Tasmania’s ubiquitous rocks.

Bonorong also has Tasmanian Devils and Wallabies and lots of other Tassie fauna. I can’t recall many of the details. Our visit seemed particularly short, but then again, I seem to have lost a big chunk of time. My head also really hurts. {Maryanne: Kyle has gone a little crazy over the wombats}.

Kyle adored the wombats
We also saw Tasmanian-Devils, Echidna and the Spotted-Tail Quoll
among the offerings at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

[Maryanne]Kyle seems to be a bit overwhelmed with all the tourist stuff I had him do in Hobart, and totally in love with the wombats after the presentation at Bonorong. I'm pretty sure he'd take a wombat home with him if it were at all allowed. The tourist action started from the first night we arrived (with 'Street Eats' at Franklin Square - a pretty park - where the local council puts on free live music, lays out bean bags and mats on the grass bank, and encourages food trucks and mobile pubs to offer their wares while we relax and enjoying the music).

A challenging scramble along Mt Wellington's 'Lost World' Trail

The Cascade Brewery - just one of the many tastings...

We had a whole week in Hobart, and were docked right in the middle of things at Constitution Dock (a historic dock with a bridge lift required for the rather skinny entrance). There was a time when ALL the entrants of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race could dock there once finished - now the competition boats are mostly way too big to fit. Being able to step ashore so easily meant that we could readily return to the boat during the day and made us more inclined to go out after dark to explore some of the bars and nightlife (we even opted for a local pub quiz one night at the Duke pub). Within the same dock were some of the historic Tasmanian boats from the nearby Maritime museum, in addition to several seafood suppliers, fish and chip restaurants and even an ice cream store (all floating) - everything was way too easy to indulge!

MONA - the Museum of Old & New Art was a hit for us
Playful and dramatic

We explored a host of museums, including the Mawson's Antarctic Hut Replica, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (both of those within the same block as the boat). MONA was an unexpected hit, the art experience starting with the special ferry service that delivers you to the door; much of the gallery is underground, mined into the local rock, and this adds a special extra feel to the place. We felt we'd finally found a modern art gallery we actually enjoyed; it even has its own brewery and vineyards! There wasn't so much of the old stuff, but we did see the best ever presentation of an Egyptian Mummy: Entrance was restricted to two people at a time, the artifact was in the center of a dark room, with stepping stones across dark water to get to the exhibit - once in the center of the room the mummy was on one side, while on on the other a CT scan was shown on a life size screen and depicted the various image slices from the case through the bones etc - really impressive - you can see it for yourself at Visualizing Pausiris. Even more surprising is that MONA is a private museum; it is owned by David Walsh, a Tasmanian considered a bit of a rogue by the establishment since he made his fortune as a professional gambler.

We shared a tour of the Tasmanian Parliament with just one other couple and were amazed to learn that they have a majority female in both houses, and a female governor right now - Yay Tassie! Since there were no plays performing when we visited we chose to take a tour of the Royal Theater; the stage and seating are really nice and a host of famous actors have performed there and professed their love for it (we liked it too). The additional spaces were currently undergoing a major expansion program (which would explain the no performances while we were there).

We even found time to visit nearby picturesque Richmond with its wonky 1820s convict built bridge
(The oldest stone span bridge in Australia)

Along with Mountain hikes, Parks, Gardens, Pubs, Cathedrals, Markets, Convict Prisons, tastings of various alcoholic beverages, and generally strolling around the various districts - we kept ourselves busy and had a great time in Hobart, and I think we will forever think of it as one of our special places.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bruny Island (Tasmania)

[Kyle]The forecasts promised a sail in light tailwinds and sunshine to Bruny Island. I was looking forward to that one.

It never materialized. We ended up in cold rain and a gusty, freezing wind the whole way. By the time we anchored, all I wanted to do with the rest of the day was hide inside under a few blankets.

Things were much improved in the morning. The wind was down and it seemed like it might almost get hot later. We waited a bit for it to warm up and then headed ashore to the only thing around, which was the House of Whisky. By then it was afternoon and we had already eaten, so we weren’t in Breakfast Whiskey territory. We weren’t even the first people there.

We bought a flight of Tasmanian whiskies from a 23-year old who knew way more about whisky than we ever will. I wouldn’t say they are up to Scottish standards, but it’s clear that they are on their way (they are certainly winning plenty of awards!).

Merino sheep, and the 'House of Whisky' were right by the anchorage
We hitched a ride to the Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co.

That didn’t take nearly long enough, so we started walking south with our thumbs out. In no time, a local woman dropped us at the Bruny Island Cheese Company. We weren’t planning on staying, but the food smelled really good. Also, they have their own microbrewery (the Bruny Island Beer Company). {Maryanne: Bruny Island is way bigger than we'd anticipated at 50km/30miles long, we should/could have spent much more time there, especially in the southern national parks. We made the most of a day ashore from our protected anchorage and didn't venture beyond the narrow 'neck' that divides the North and South of the island.}

Whew! We needed to walk that off, so we kept heading south again. Another local picked us up and drove us to The Neck - the spot where North and South Bruny are joined by a narrow isthmus of sand. There, we got long views in both directions, including the high cliffs of South Bruny.

The 'Neck' is also home to a large little penguin rockery
(you generally only see them at dusk/nighttime)

We didn't see the penguins (just footprints)
Penguin ramps are installed just in case one gets stranded on the road

A bit more walking and two rides later, we were back at Begonia, where we finished our day with a tour around the anchorage to introduce ourselves to the two new arrivals in the cove.

We had started off thinking we would have an easy day of a whisky tasting and a short walk, but had managed to stretch it into a whole busy day of seeing much of the island and meeting lots of people. It seems like we’re due for another rest day...

[Maryanne]There is no public transport on the island, and despite being anchored within a mile of the ferry terminal there is also no opportunity to rent a car or anything. We resorted to hitch-hiking and never seemed to wait long. We were picked up by locals and visitors: Stephanie, who is currently planning for a wedding in March 2020); Norm (a retired psychiatric nurse); Joe (a very young father who sold his oyster business to spend time and make memories with his young family; and visitors returning to the ferry: Ali and Rajesh (extra happy Pakistani immigrants running a lumber supply business in Sydney who were visiting Bruny Island as part of a 'working' holiday).

The people on the island are remarkably entrepreneurial. There is lots of farming (including merino sheep, honey, & oysters), and lots of firsts for the state and country including the first to make whisky (Lark distillery - winning international awards), the first (in the world) to make vodka from sheep whey - and they have won a ton of awards in 'best vodka' category for that quirky achievement, they have numerous vineyards, and (of course a healthy tourist industry for their scenery and wildlife. Not bad for an island off an island off the far SW of Australia}.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Randalls/Huon Bay (Tasmania)

[Kyle]More big winds was coming to southeastern Tassie. It was supposed to be worse the further south and west we were, so we decided to continue north and east. We pulled up a giant ball of seaweed with an anchor in the middle of it and headed out. We were right in front of the other two boats in Recherche.

The wind hit almost as soon as we exited the bay. It started at twenty knots, but soon rose to forty. That is probably too much wind for any sail. We were going across the wind, so I left just a scrap of jib out to keep us moving so I could steer. The other two boats kept their sails stowed and elected to motor instead.

About five miles north, the wind started to abate a little. Gradually, I unrolled more and more jib until it was fully out. The monohull behind us did the same.

We had a pretty good race going. We would get a gust and pull ahead. Then they would get a gust and pull ahead.

Our course took us just a little too close to Rossel Point, on the northern side of Southport Harbour. We got there first. The wind in the lee of the point died and then started swirling around faster than I could steer to compensate for it. We gybed and gybed again, and then tacked and tacked again with no ability to get up enough speed to steer a straight line. The wind seemed determined to put us directly in the path of the approaching monohull.

Just before they would have had to veer out of the way to keep from hitting us, even though we were technically the give way vessel, they ran out of speed and suffered the same treatment as us.

What ensued was a comical, super-slow speed near-collision. We both drifted helplessly towards each other while spinning in circles as we tried to harness enough wind to move.

Then we suddenly got hit with a ten second blast of fifteen knot winds, which allowed us to put some distance between the two of us. We got hit with another and then another and pretty soon, we were zooming away as if the whole thing hadn’t happened.

The same events repeated as we passed Esperance Bay. We stopped again, but the monohull was on a diverging course that took them further from land, so they never lost the wind completely. By the time we had made it through, they were halfway to the horizon.

At Huon Bay, the terrain bent our crosswind into a strong headwind and we decided we had had it for the day. We pulled into Randalls Bay, where we were just able to tuck behind the protection of the sandstone bluff that cradles the bay like a protective arm. It was windy and choppy outside, but we had flat water and light zephyrs where we were. We even had clear skies for a nice sunset.

We spend a couple of days aboard being pushed around by the wind
(a screenshot from our anchor alarm app)
Until we could finally get ashore. Blue skies at last!

After a couple of really rainy, windy days, we ventured ashore for a hike. We started at the strangely named Echo Sugarloaf Conservation Area. They have a new trail to the summit of the hill of the same name (it looked nothing like a sugarloaf). It was a pleasant stroll. The easy path made its way through eucalyptus woods and grassland to the top. The best thing was that we were there early in the day, so the critters had yet to scatter to their hidey holes. We saw several Pademelons, which are the smaller end of the macropod family that contains kangaroos and wallabies. Kangaroos are basically deer sized. Wallabies are like big retrievers or even Great Danes. Pademelons are terrier-sized. Whereas kangaroos are decidedly lanky, Pademelons are comparatively cute little puff balls.

Meeting our first Pademelons

At the top, we also ran into one of the locals (Paul Thomas) who helped plan, build and maintain the trail. He gave us a few suggestions for other local places to add to our walk.

Enjoying Echo Sugarloaf

Following Paul's advice, we walked the long way along the coastal path to Eggs and Bacon Bay. Eggs and Bacon would undoubtedly be a great address to tell people you have. It’s named after a flower that (colour wise) looks like eggs and streaky bacon; it is common in this one bay, but rare everywhere else . On the day we were there, it seemed like a remote and windswept place with a somewhat stinky, kelp-strewn beach.

Walking west along the coastline trails

On the walk there, though, we did get to see some lovely beaches and even spotted a few of the rare local Swift Parrots. They kept buzzing us at close range and refusing to sit still for a portrait. We finally had one that landed right in front of Maryanne and posed for her. That’s when her camera quit. She had it back in order ten seconds later, but that was one second too late. Doesn’t that just figure?