Eden to Storm Bay

These photos are the last in Ocean Child's "South Pacific Series", marking the end of her two-year journey 2013-15.

On the way to Eden, Montague Island (below) provides great scenery:

To back-track over the story of Ocean Child's travels, we left New Caledonia and arrived in Australia at Coffs Harbour (northern NSW) on November 27 2015: here Giulia left to return home (Italy) and Meg and I sailed south (one day) to her home town of Port Macquarie, accompanied by her young son George. Naturally they left once we arrived in PMQ. Grant Andrews, a sailor from Tasmania, volunteered to help me with the trip back to Hobart, and Grant and I sailed for two days, reaching Jervis Bay. We took shelter on the southern edge of the Bay, against the forest of the national park (at "Hole in the Wall"). Unfortunately Grant slipped on the deck and fell heavily, hurting his back. Nothing serious, but he decided he needed to rest, and left the boat. Kay McNamara (Brisbane) agreed to join Ocean Child at Eden. However Eden is around 29 hours sailing time south of Jervis Bay, at least for Ocean Child. I left Jervis Bay as soon as I could get favourable winds, sailing overnight alone for the first time. At Eden, Kay arrived by the midnight bus, and we left on December 14.

The East Australian Current (EAC) was a great help as Ocean Child headed south, providing in many places more than one knot of speed boost. I sought it out by looking for either the 100m depth contour or the 200m contour. The 200m contour marks the edge of the continental shelf, and is clearly visible on the GoogleEarth image above. The EAC was easy to identify, as the boost in speed was obvious, as was the increase in ocean temperature from about 21 to around 25 degC. However, not far south of Gabo Island (marking the boundary between Victoria and New South Wales) we lost the EAC, and encountered an adverse current of around 0.5 knot, which we were not able to avoid until we reached the northeastern corner of Tasmania, even though we sailed east into the Tasman Sea over waters more than 1500m deep.

Some years ago, accompanied by my good friend Miriam Ford, I had a great time snorkelling at Bowen Island, at the entrance of Jervis Bay. It was in fact one of the best snorkelling I've ever had, although not without its dangers. Bowen Island lies at the south side of the entrance to Jervis Bay, and there's a passage about 100m wide between the island and Governor Head, a rocky cliff not all that far above the sea. As you might expect, the tidal flow through this passage can be quite fast. All those years ago, I enjoyed this snorkel so much... I've always wanted to go back. It's necessary to be careful of the tidal current in the channel, and visibility is not great due to the breaking waves on the ocean entrance of the channel, but this place is full of movement, kelp beds swaying to and fro, shining yellow and orange in the sunlight.... and LOTS of fish... again a wonderful sight in the constantly moving water. There are heaps of deep purple sea urchins now... I don't remember if they were there years ago.  I love seeing fish in schools, and there were schools of luderick and mullet. I was so cross with myself that I had forgotten my camera! The fish didn't seem too concerned about me, in fact the mullet circled me just to have a closer look. I assume this area must be protected from spearfishing (thank goodness!) although there seem to be a lot of anglers around.  There were also lots of kelpies (mottled green herbivorous fish) and a few snapper, but only small. And when I finished my snorkel, I found an octopus in one of the tidal pools. Its body was about as big as a clenched fist, tentacles about 40cm long. I could see it watching me with its peculiar slitted eyes. Initially it seemed to be searching for crabs, probing small crevices with its agile arms. This was a rare sight. I've only seen octopus like this once before, in years of watching tidal pools.

On the walk back to the boat, I encountered a young echidna. I kept very still and quiet, and it soon resumed its search for ants and termites, although stopping every now and then to peer upwards at me with its tiny eyes.

The photo below: Pelicans just love street lights, which traffic engineers design strong enough to support these large birds. Here is a bird in a typical pose:

Eden in former years was primarily a forestry (logging and woodchips) and fishing town. These industries are fading, and the economy of the town has turned to support tourists and retirees, attracted by the area's natural landscapes.

Eden is not an easy port for small yachts. Here Ocean Child is rafted up next to a fishing boat, on the secondary wharf. There are hot showers, and three cafes at the harbour, and a good chandlery. A marina is planned.

After leaving Eden, our arrival at Bass Strait was interesting and dramatic. Just before nightfall, in still air, we were welcomed by a group of particularly large dolphins, with much tail-slapping and jumping. Pairs seemed to be taking it in turns to jump sky-wards, as if competing "who can jump the highest". They seemed to rocket into the air, jumping at least one body length above the ocean surface. Unfortunately it was too dark for successful photography.

As we headed out over Bass Strait, without wind, over dark glassy calm water, Ocean Child's bow-wave was brilliantly lit by phosphorescent plankton... just spectacular. We left a long trail of light behind us too, disturbed by the propeller. Again, too dark for photography. These lights were complimented by hour after hour of electrical storms, mostly too far away for us to hear their thunder, but nevertheless lighting up the entire ocean for a split-second...

On reaching the northeast corner of Tasmania... well, we were about 35 miles due east of the corner, we found a group of four sperm whales. As far as we could judge they were swimming north east. These whales feed largely on squid. How they can catch such agile prey is a mystery to me.

If you google "sperm whale images" you can find really amazing and dramatic photos... highly recommended.

We headed for Great Oyster Bay, Freycinet Peninsula, where we sheltered for a day from southerly headwinds. We used a public mooring, conveniently placed near the village of Coles Bay.

Once near the Peninsula, the smaller coastal dolphins appeared in considerable numbers.

As I don't know how to write code for streaming video (please help me if you can!) the following links go straight to MP4 files, suitably compressed for viewing on a computer. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, you will have to wait for the whole file to download before it starts playing. With slow connections, this will take some time. Coles Bay Dolphins 6 seconds.    Coles Bay Dolphins 20 seconds.

I wanted photos of seals... I think New Zealand Fur Seals... at Ile des Phoques (Seal Island) just south of Great Oyster Bay.

Seals investigate a foreign object (me) 20 seconds.   Young male seals play-fighting (42 seconds).

Who could resist swimming with these beautiful creatures?  I think seals are one of the few marine creatures exhibiting both a sense of fun as well as a sense of their own grace. I have had young seals tug at my flipper... actually a bit disconcerting... and watching them is very like watching a ballet... but without music of course! 

South of Ile des Phoques lies the stunning scenery of Maria Island....

...and the Tasman Peninsula...

...and, as the day was drawing to a close, Hippolyte Rock, east of Fortesque Bay:

In the photo above, the small white patch just below and to the left of the Rock is a sunken reef. Several vessels have come to grief in this place. Another sunken reef lies just west of the Rock and east of the nearby Cheverton Rock (here hidden behind Hippolyte). The pale line just left of the Rock in the sky is low cloud hanging over Eagle Hawk Neck.

Later, night having set in, we passed close to Tasman Island... looming huge and black against the night sky on our starboard side. It looked so impressive I woke Kay just so she could see it. It had a surreal feel, a bit like something out of "Lord of the Rings", towering above us. Its lighthouse (276m above sea level) was entirely obscured by low cloud.

And in the morning, before dawn, the colours of sunrise on Storm Bay:

In spite of appearances, yes, these are the real colours... not Photoshopped!

We arrived at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT) Sandy Bay, Hobart, on December 20, 2015, almost exactly two years after our departure on December 23, 2013.  Throughout the trip Ocean Child and I had many adventures, happy crew, and no serious accidents or incidents (save my fall doing the laundry at Nelson Marina NZ in January 2014). We saw fascinating places and met friendly and interesting people. Due to the absence of rough seas and strong winds, our elaborate safety gear (Epirbs, life raft, jack lines, satphone, lifejackets etc) remained unused. My only major disappointment was that Ocean Child and I were never able to visit Tonga, due to wind and crewing difficulties. The highlights of the expedition were without doubt my times with a few special and wonderful crew, most met in 2013...  Anne, James and Alice (to see the relevant blog pages, click on 'Home' below). All three stayed with Ocean Child for about three months. It was a great privilege to have such amazing people on board, and here I should include Giulia and Tom too, although they were with me for a shorter length of time.