Port Davey, March 2012

Posted on March 18, 2012 by Jack Kelly
Tags: windeward_bound

It’s been a tough but rewarding eight days. We’ve just returned from the twice-yearly trip to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. The trip around was pretty interesting, as it involved the usual several hours of motoring into the wind (which tends to come in from the west). The ship got some pretty decent rolls going; 30 degrees on one side and 38 on the other. Check out the ship’s clinometer:


We made it to Port Davey in one piece, though some brought their lunch and dinner up along the way. Once inside, the weather was really kind to us: very little wind or anything to trouble us at our various anchorages. With such forgiving conditions, the watches were split into two-hour shifts and most of us had a full night’s sleep each night. There was plenty of time for the passengers to go on their adventures, like hiking and sea kayaking. There was plenty of time for the crew to study, tracing pipework in the engine room, examining the inside of an outboard engine, brushing up on the light and sound signals and revising colregs ((prevention of) collision regulations). This is the sort of weather we were dealing with:

Mirrored Water

Each crew member had a chance to go on some of the activities, so I grabbed a PFD, hopped into the Zodiac and we motored up to Melaleuca. The river here is extremely interesting: the water has two distinct layers. The top layer is tannin-rich fresh water and there’s a clear layer of salt water underneath it. In addition, the water is very nutrient-poor. The combined result is that the marine life’s much more like that of deep sea areas, despite the water being fairly shallow. You get weird creatures like the sea pens, and there are regulations that try to keep it that way. Some areas have a 5-knot speed limit, and pumping bilges or sullage tanks is prohibited in Bathurst Harbour. We took the Zodiac up the river, kept to the speed limits and tied off near the Melaleuca Airstrip:

Tied up Zodiac Melaleuca Airstrip

At this point, we went for a wander on the walking tracks that have been prepared. There’s all sorts of interesting stuff out there, but I’ll have to defer to Peter Grant’s blog, because he’s done a better write-up than I could. There are all sorts of interesting things built out here. This canoe is made entirely out of stringybark to a traditional Aboriginal design. It turns out that the captain of the Windeward Bound, Sarah Parry, helped rediscover how these canoes were made, so the builder was probably one of her students.

Bark Canoe

There are still a few of the rare, slow-growing Huon Pine trees around the area. The tree has the unfortunate combination of being incredibly slow-growing and providing highly useful timber.

Huon Pine

There’s a few interesting constructions around the walking tracks. I have no idea when or how they were made:

Wood People Stick Hut Thatch Hut

On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at Clayton’s Corner and had a little look around.

Clayton’s Corner (Sign) Clayton’s Corner (Jetty)

The house there is still sound, but is not for staying overnight. The sign by the bathtub tells visitors that the stick in the drain is to let the quolls get in and out.


The nearby sheds, however, are not at all sound:

Danger Sign

Too late.

Collapsed Shed

Eventually, it was time to go back to the ship.

Windeward Bound (at Anchor)

I don’t have many photos from the other days, which were spent studying, reading and standing watch. A few days into the trip, the wind picked up and went back to full watches. The final hours at Port Davey were the most challenging: stand watch 2000-2200, sleep until 0200, watch 0200-0400, shaken at 0600 to weigh anchor at 0630, stand watch until 0800. At this point I was off watch, but nobody was allowed to sleep. The wind had picked up, and we had to be ready to adjust sail as we headed south-east to round Maatsuyker Island. When it was safe to stand down the non-watch crew, we all grabbed what sleep we could, while the watch on deck sailed along the bottom of Tasmania at a respectable 7-8 knots.

I don’t remember exactly when we hit Sullivan’s Cove, but we were all on deck to berth the ship and put her to bed. I remember being awake at 0345 on Saturday morning, just before going to sleep. We had an 0830 start that day. Everyone worked hard to rip through the post-voyage clean and pre-voyage checks, and we earned ourselves Sunday off before Monday’s voyage.

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