How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Tasmania - Down the West Coast – Into Hell’s Gate

when the waters are still in Macquarie Harbour - out from Strahan
Tasmania - Down the West Coast – Into Hell’s Gate
Sunday 26th Jan 2014:
MrJ at rest and play
From Hunter Island we (Alana Rose following Rhapsody) motor-sailed all through that day and on into the night. In the early part of the following morning we arrived at Hell’s Gate, the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour. During the wee hours of the morning, about 0200hs (on my watch – how surprising), I could see the nav lights of Rhapsody in front and the blinking of the beacon on Cape Sorell which told me that we were not too far away. With very little wind I was using one motor and no sails, making around 5knots. Steve decided to slow down, Rhapsody came to a quick halt in front and I was looking at running into him so I made a quick turn a few degrees to the port, while keeping a close look-out in the dark. My next step was to wake MrJ, get him on deck to make the decision as far as what plan of action to take from there. After all he is the Skipper! MrJ took AR round in a big circle landing her further away and more out to sea. There we put out a small handkerchief of genoa and cut the motor to bring out speed back to 3knots. This then slowed AR down. MrJ stayed at the helm to get us through Hell’s Gate at first light in calm conditions.
0400hs - heading for Hell's Gate - lighthouse on the left, Rhapsody's masthead light on the right
Once through the Gate the waterway opened up to a massive span of water, Macquarie Harbour where with no wind the morning colours reflected across the sky and in the glassy water. Both boats headed for the anchorage off Strahan in Risby Cove (S42’09.291/E145’19.872). By this time the NE wind had freshened but we were not too concerned as we thought we were in a safe anchorage (or were we?). After a feed and a shower MrJ and I caught up on some sleep. It was lunch time before we got ashore.
we were blessed with calm waters inside Macquarie Harbour
Macquarie Harbour is one of the notable Tasmanian harbours with the pretty tourist village of Strahan at its N extremity and some nice cruising grounds in its S. The S half of the harbour is in the SW Wilderness World heritage Area and part of this area includes the Gordon River.
through Hell's gate
Hell’s Gate is the entrance to Macquarie Harbour with a convict built West Breakwall with Pilot Bay on the outside. In Pilot Bay is where the big old ships used to be anchored down in foul weather while waiting to be towed into the harbour. Yes, towed! The wooden long boats would tow every ship through the entrance by means of rowing. Very fit strong oarsmen in those days! Or kedge the ships by mean of putting the anchor in the rowboats taking the anchor ahead of the ship, drop the anchor over the side then the prisoners aboard the ship to man the capstan to pull the ship forward by winching in the anchor rode. No motors or any electrics back in the 1800’s!
You pass through a narrow passage between Macquarie Head to STB and the lighthouse on Entrance Island to Port. Once through there is another lighthouse on Bonnet Island and a rock training wall to STB. Then you are in the 4n/m Kelly Channel from which you can go north to Strahan or south down into the harbour.

Strahan is a harbour-side village with quaint old buildings that have been revamped to become pretty tourist town with some old building date back to the mining and timber boom time in the late 19th century. Strahan is nestled on the northern shores of Macquarie Harbour on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. From Strahan boat cruises and plane flights provide a remarkable journey into the pristine temperate rainforests of the Gordon River. MrJ and I did the trip in our own boat AR.

the day was hot enough for the ducks to find a bit of shade

MrJ and I spent only one night anchor off Strahan. The day that we had arrived, after our sleep, we went ashore to look around and have some lunch. The tourist information centre still runs the weekend play The Ship that Never Was. MrJ and I saw this play back in 1998 when we were last in Tasmania.

the hill we had to walk up to get the fuel

Tuesday 28th Jan 2014:
On our second morning at Strahan we had decided to go ashore in the early morning to get some fuel in our jerries before heading out at lunchtime. But AR had other things in mind – she decided to take off without us before we had walked down the hill from the service station. Both MrJ and I nearly had a heart attack upon reaching the jetty when we saw that AR was across the harbour heading for the shallows. Terror filled my thoughts!

scampering back to the boat
By the time we had climbed into the dinghy loaded our jerries and made our way across the harbour AR’s STB keel was sitting in the soft mud bank on the other side. With a bit of a play with the engines and anchor chain we were able to wiggle her off and be on our way. We lifted the dinghy once AR was in the middle of the bay and then sailed down Macquarie Harbour with a fresh nor-easter filling the genoa. All the way down the harbour we had sight of the very conspicuous Mt Sorell to our left and passed several trout fish farms on the right. Our first anchorage was in Kelly Basin, a pretty spot surrounded by high hill, thick forests and Mt Sorel. The fresh winds did not settle till well into the evening.
a rough day on Macquarie Harbour - Mt Sorell dominates the scenery
sunset in Kelly Basin

Kelly Basin was once the site of Pillinger, an old mining boom-town of the late 19th century. Unlike Strahan it only survived for a decade or so until the London-based owner of the mining company died and the company was taken over by the Mt Lyell Company based in Queenstown and Strahan. In Kelly basin there is a ruined jetty on the NW shore with what is left of the old shunting yards and an old railway line.
all that is left of the old jetty at Pillinger.
Pillinger is an abandoned port and townsite in Kelly Basin, on the south eastern side of Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania.

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