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I departed from Hobart on February 1 for a quick trip home to attend to some business. Our friends Neil and Shelley visited Shear Madness to keep Bradley and Ron company in my absence. During that time, they cruised around Bruny Island and saw the penguins and seals that reside there. They also took the mountain bike ride down Mount Wellington - on a nicer day that we had previously experienced there! We couldn't quite manage to overlap our trips, so I missed seeing them this time. They'll just have to come back again. Also while I was gone, Bradley and Ron took Simon, Clare, and Ellie, our Hobart friends we had met at Port Arthur, out for a day sail.
When I arrived back in Hobart on February 13, we had a busy weekend. First, our friend Simon invited us over for a tour of the Antarctic icebreaker, the Aurora which was in port following her latest voyage. It is an impressive ship and we also met the captain, Scotty, who is getting ready to build his own sailing yacht. We invited him over for a look at Shear Madness. Later, we joined Simon and Clare at their house for a barbecue with some friends. We enjoyed lots of wonderful food.
The next day, Bernard and Carol had invited us to join them on their power boat Cassida (the one we spent New Year's Eve on) for a cruise up the Derwent River, a trip we could not do on Shear Madness because of the low bridges. It was a wonderful trip, very scenic and very enjoyable company. We stopped for lunch and a visit to the pub in Norfolk, the longest continuously operating pub in Australia. When we returned to the marina, after just a few small drinks, Bradley mentioned that he had never actually played cricket. Next thing you know, we had a cricket pitch set up on the dock! We all got a chance to bowl and bat, but spent most of our time retrieving the makeshift cricket ball (a tennis ball) from the water!
The icebreaker Aurora carries two helicopters on board and they were to be flown to a local airport for service. Simon invited us to go along for a nice aerial view of Hobart. So back we went to the Aurora where we watched the engineers move the choppers from the hangar on board to the flight deck. They then had to put the rotors on, a fairly quick and simple process. Then we were ready to go. We each had our own helicopter so we could have a front seat view. It was a short, ten minute flight to the local airport, but it was fun. Simon had asked me to try to get a photo of all three Antarctic ships that we in port at the same time - the Aurora along with the Vasily, both chartered by the Australian government, and the Kapitan Kalebnikov, an adventure cruise ship which takes passengers to the Antarctic and I was able to accomplish this mission.
Soon it was time to bid all our friends in Hobart a fond farewell, with hopes that we will see them again next December when we return here on our way to New Zealand. Then it was off to spend the night in Kettering before heading south to Recherche Bay and eventually around the west coast to Port Davey. After motoring a short way, we were ready to put out our headsail and no sooner had we done that than the halyard gave way and the sail came flopping down on deck.We soon had the sail under control and determined that the halyard was fine, but a small connecting piece had given out and would need to be repaired. Not a big job, but it would require Ron going up the mast to retrieve the halyard. We decided to head for the nearest anchorage for the night and to do the repair first thing in the morning. After a quiet night, the repair was soon made and we were off for Kettering where we arrived by mid-morning. After running a few last minute errands we decided to continue on to Southport, which we comfortably reached before dinner.
In Southport, we enjoyed a very nice hike of several hours, leading to a beautiful cape with a nice sandy beach. Though it is mid-summer, the weather continues to be chilly. But it was a comfortable, sunny day, perfect for a nice walk. The next morning, we set off for Recherche Bay where we planned to wait for favorable weather before venturing back out into the Southern Ocean to begin our trek around the west coast. After a pleasant sail with some motoring, we arrived in beautiful Recherche Bay. It is very remote and boasts the end of the Cockle Creek Road, the southernmost road in Australia. There is a ranger station, a payphone and campgrounds here, but no stores or shops of any kind. There are several good hikes in the area which we were anxious to take advantage of. The weather does not look promising for the next several days, so it looks like we will get a chance to thoroughly explore this area.
Bradley and I started off with the hike to Fischer point which begins at the end of the Cockle Creek Road where there is a nice sculpture of a whale to commemorate the whaling past of Recherche Bay. The walk is mostly along the beach and is about an hour each way. There is a small lighthouse and the ruins of an old pilot house at the point. The next day we took the longer hike to South Cape Bay. This is part of a long hiking track that goes over 100 miles from Recherche Bay to Port Davey. It is one of the most popular multi-day hiking trails in Tasmania. The four hour walk we did was great. The terrain was quite varied, ranging from forests to open vistas to rocky cliffs and crashing waves at the Cape.
Meanwhile, the weather continues to be uncooperative. Winds are from the west (where we want to go) with gale warnings every day. We need the winds to ease and shift direction before we can venture out into the Southern Ocean. Bradley discovered that he lost his sunglasses somewhere on the hiking trail so the next day he plans to go back on a search and rescue mission. As we are getting low on fresh fruit, I decide to strike out on an adventure of my own - to hitchhike to Dover, about 25 miles away to buy some fruit and hopefully check emails. As I started out, I was not that worried about getting to Dover, but I was a bit concerned about getting back as the Cockle Creek road is unpaved and does not have tons of traffic. However, I was to have a very lucky day. Within ten minutes a car came along and stopped for me. It was driven by Winton who was visiting Tasmania from Sydney for a long weekend with his eight year old son Ayden. Winton said they were going to Dover but first they were going to stop at Hastings to see the caves there. He invited me to join them which was great as I had wanted to see the caves but had not had the opportunity. Soon we arrived in Hastings and had a quick breakfast followed by a visit to the thermal springs where Winton and Ayden enjoyed a swim. Then it was on to the main attraction - a huge cave which was spectacular. Our tour guide, Dave, was an American from North Dakota who has been in Tasmania for 35 years. He sure knows his caves and did an excellent job on the tour. Soon, Winton, Ayden, and I were off to Dover with a promise to catch up with each other again in Sydney. I found plenty of fruit at the local supermarket, made a few phone calls, and stopped by the local internet access center to pick up emails. Then it was time to try my luck on the return trip. Lo and behold, the first car to come by stopped (this definitely doesn't happen if Bradley is with me!). The driver was on his way to Hastings where he works as a tour guide in the caves! This was great as it got me just over halfway back, leaving me just 23 kms (12 miles) to go. As I stated down the very long dirt road that lay ahead of me, I heard a car approach. Sure enough, it too stopped, making me three for thee on the day. Not a single car had passed me by and I never waited more than five minutes for a ride. There were three nice, but rough looking guys in the car, but they were going all the way to Recherche Bay and we had a good time. I promised them two six packs of beer when we arrived, which they greatly appreciated. All in all, an excellent adventure.
Bradley had no luck in locating his missing glasses, so he and I made one more trip out to South Cape but still with no luck. Those sunglasses seem to have just disappeared. But at least we got some good exercise. We have been in Recherche Bay now for six days and it finally looks like the weather will be favorable in the next day or two so we will depart for Port Davey, about 60 miles away. Our final fond memory of Recherche Bay was when a crayfish (lobster) boat came in to anchor for the night. We grabbed another six pack of beer and dinghied over to see what he could tell us about the weather and to see if he had any fresh catch he wanted to trade. We were successful on both counts as he provided us three large crays for our dinner. A great deal for a six pack!
On our last night in Receherche Bay we were also joined by our friend Matthew from Lindisfarne who owns an abalone boat. He was headed out the next day to do some fishing and then to dive for abalone. He was planning to stop the next night in Port Davey and said he would bring us a Stiped Trumpeter fish for dinner.