Boating started for our family in 1972 when second son Philip joined Sea Scouts. He had progressed from cubs and scouts but found that Sea Scouts was the way to go; for him anyway. It wasn’t too long before there was a Mirror sailing dinghy in the family. Well I was 27 at time and knew nothing about Sailing and nor did Philip, not then anyway, but he knew more than I did. So we joined the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club on the Tamar River in Launceston Tasmania and started
Now most of the kids in the club had been sailing for 5 or 6 years by now and owned beautiful light weight boats and were skilled sailors. We on the other hand were big heavy guys, and very inexperienced and we came last all season. Not deterred, next season Philip got a new crew or sailed on his own, and I got a new boat.
The new boat was a Hartley TS 16 Trailer sailer, “Plum Crazy”. It was built and raced by an older member of PDYC who was retiring from club racing. He took us out for a one hour introduction and instruction to TS 16 sailing. It was an impressive light weight successful racer. So we, that is me and my new crew, wife, ‘Frances’ spent the preseason learning how to sail Plum Crazy. Well they say practice makes perfect so that is what we did. We could at least sail around a course by the time the next season opened. But by now most of our opposition had been sailing for 20-30 or 40 years. We failed again to impress out on the course. We persisted for a few seasons and slowly began to catch up with the fleet ahead of us.
Our daughter Christine by this time had also joined the Club and was sailing a Mirror dinghy which she called ‘The Pink Panther’, She had spent the preseason lovingly restoring and preparing her craft for the racing season.
I must compliment Frances for sticking with me and my determination to conquer this sport. I believe she had the attitude of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. She has a fear of the sea and has never learnt to swim. I think her participation did show her determination to succeed along with me. I don’t think she was completely happy sailing ‘Plum Crazy’, small and tender as it was, so we looked around for a more stable platform to sail on and this came in the form of a 26 foot keel boat called ‘Caralee’ which was also built on the Tamar River.
From 16 feet to 26 feet that was a big jump, “It’s big enough to make scones on Mum” came the cry from the young family and big enough to sleep 4. Well all that was true and we cruised the Tamar River, we ventured out to the open sea of Bass Strait. We raced around the sticks at PDYC with a crew of four, we raced in Junior Offshore Group races in Bass Strait, we had experienced crew, we started winning races and we were really enjoying ourselves. Boating had taken over our life. It was time to learn a bit of theory about the rules of the sea and navigation. So we enrolled and completed a TAFE Offshore navigation Coarse.
Our next boat was ‘Vanessa’, a 31 foot Cruiser/Racing Boat.
Vanessa was a strong, tough boat built in Gosford NSW. She had completed a Sydney Hobart, was a comfortable, real offshore boat, although a little tired when we purchased her in 1981 from a Launceston Owner. It did not take too long to get her ready to race around the course at the PDYC. We competed in the summer season club races, winter races, offshore events and we sailed her to Hobart to compete in JOG events. Our greatest achievement though was to win, on handicap, The Melbourne to Devonport Yacht Race in 1984.
Jubilation all round when a Tasmanian boat wins the Melbourne Devonport. My rise to fame earned me the PDYC’s Yachtsman of the Year award which I proudly share with Frances and members of my dedicated crew who, incidentally, were all past experienced dinghy sailors.
In 1987 we needed to prove to ourselves, that the two of us could handle this boat for an extended period away from our home port. We had of course had many weekends at sea to the Islands in Bass Strait. But we wanted to test ourselves over a longer period and we had a month to do just that. I have the log of this adventure and have transcribed here.
Vanessa Circumnavigates Bass Strait
Crew: Frances and Neale Beveridge
From the Log. Low Head to Low Head 800nm
17th March 1987
0600hrs. Off Low Head heading 34 deg. in light SE winds with barometer reading 1021. Motor sailing, our destination is Goose Island. Log reads 9678
0830 – Winds freshen from the SE so we cut the motor.
1300 – Due north of Ninth Island. Speed down to 4 knots so we motor again. By 1830 we off the southern tip of Goose Island and we are heading for an anchorage on the western side of Badger Island. It is rapidly becoming dark. We had spent too long sailing at 4 knots. A light appears directly ahead. I hope this is a fishing boat and not a light on the shore.
1735 – We anchor within 100 meters of the fishing boat. Goose Island light bears 252 deg. There is a large ship anchored just north-east of Goose Island light.
We catch a few leather jackets and parrot fish then haul the anchor and by 1100hrs. we are off the western tip of Badger Island heading for Prime Seal Island. No wind, oily sea, sunny and warm. We employ ‘Harry’ the autohelm to direct us to Prime Seal and anchor at 1415. On the way I discover water in the bilge – more than there should be. I investigate immediately and discover that water in the engine box is being thrown up by the shaft coupling. The engine is covered with salt water. A few pumps on the bilge pump soon clears the water. The problem needs constant attention for the remainder of the trip.
1030 – Barometer is falling but we decide to go for a sail with intention of heading for Killiecrankie Bay.
1130 – North of Prime Seal Island. Westerly 25-30 knots. We decide Prime Seal would be a better anchorage than Killiecrankie and so return to the same sand patch. We turn in early, Vanessa rolls with the wind and tide from opposing directions.
0600 – The wind has gone to the SW at 20 knots and the barometer is steady so we leave again for Killiecrankie Bay. Full main and No 3 headsail.
1115 – We pick up a mooring after being directed to do so by Margaret who came up on 27.88 meg radio. Margaret is the wife of Alan Wheatley who is ‘Mayor’, harbour master, fisherman, trader, local livewire and goto man of the area. We pump up the Zodiac and go ashore. We meet Margaret who runs the only store at Killiecrankie. We are invited in for a cuppa coffee and a chat. we don’t meet Alan. Word is that he is suffering from a celebration the night before with linesmen from the H.E.C. who have just completed supplying electricity to residents of Killiecrankie Bay.
The weather is deteriorating. The barometer is falling, strong wind warnings crackle over the radio and its raining. A marked contrast to the last few days. We do plenty of reading and catch the odd fish. Vanessa rolls badly at times as the swells roll in around the headland. We rig our accommodation so that we can sleep across the boat. Much more comfortable! The wind continues to 40 knots at times.
The weather is slowly improving. Final warnings are out. Barometer is rising. South-west swell rolls in. We stay here another night.
0700 – Barometer 1018.4. Depart Killiecrankie Bay for Deal Island. Light south-westerly breezes and a SW swell, motor-sail. By 0920 we are off Craggy Island. The tide set is strong around these islands so we allow for this, but still finish sailing rather close to the island.
We can see Deal Island clearly from here. The sea is becoming flat. Typical Bass Strait – strong winds one day flat seas the next.
1350 – Anchor in very safe and sheltered bay at Deal Island. We go ashore where Stan meets us almost immediately and invites us to join him and Shirley for a BBQ that evening. Stan is the Lighthouse Keeper and Ranger for Deal Island, and he always makes you feel welcome. A trip by 4wd up to the lighthouse is a must. A brief word to Stan ensures an invitation. We had met Stan on a previous long weekend cruise here.
We spend another day and another BBQ, this time with Eric and Margaret from the”Lady Kay” who are visiting Deal Island from Corner Inlet, Victoria.
0700 – Barometer 1021 wind NE 15 knots. Depart Deal Island for Wilsons Promontory, south coast of Victoria. Full main No1 genoa, sea confused.
1200 – Barometer 1021, wind NE 15 knots, boat speed 6 knots. West of Hogan Island. Alter course to round the Promontory.
1540 – Anchor in Oberon Bay. NE wind 25 knots. Sailed 58nm today into a beautiful sheltered Bay and catching fish. Our first time here.
26th – March
Wind has dropped to flat calm. “Lady Kay” is in the bay with us, its his home cruising grounds. Eric offers to give us a guided tour. So at 1000 hrs log reading 9908 we begin our tour of the Prom. First up to Tidal River where there is a sheltered anchorage for any weather from the east. Tidal River is the starting point for many of the great walks on Wilsons Promontory, which is mostly National Park. These walks are very popular and must be booked in advance, and camping is one night only at most camp sites.
We motor across to the Glennies and anchor in good shelter. An anchorage can also be found on the eastern side of Great Glennie Island. There is a spike here in a rock for one boat to tie up to. We are only here for half an hour then its south to Skull Rock (local name). It is so calm we can motor right up to, and touch this remarkable rock and watch the seals diving and playing around our boat. This is the sort of day you dream about, the weather is just perfect.
We check out other small islands, some colonised by several hundred seals, then we head for Fenwick Bight, where we raft up next to ‘Lady Kay’ for a late lunch. We motor up to Refuge Cove on the western side of the Prom in the afternoon and anchor after completing thirty miles for the day. Thank you Eric and Margaret for a great day. All new to us.
We spend four days in Refuge Cove fishing, walking, reading and resting. But generally sheltering from gale force winds in Bass Strait. I try several methods of collecting water on board and found that by plugging the cockpit drains with wooden plugs, that a heavy shower of rain would produce four gallons of water in no time at all.
The gale has passed and we are motor sailing to Port Welshpool and arrive about midday and tie up at the jetty. A local on the jetty assures us it is only five minutes into Welshpool. This turned out to be ten minutes in a van that stopped to give us a lift. We stocked up with some fresh veg and took the long walk back. The exercise did us the world of good.
1300 – We leave Port Welshpool on a rising tide and were entertained on the way by an oil rig support vessel with a shining new helipad on its arf deck and a helicopter making practice landings and takeoffs. Back in Refuge Cove just before dark.
0600 – Weigh anchor, head S-SW to round the Prom. The wind dead ahead 20 knots apparent – so we motor. We round the Prom to head west, wind dead ahead, The wind follows us as we head up to Tidal River. There is a SW swell rolling into the anchorage so I give that idea away and motor across to Waratah Bay, It will be nice there while this breeze holds in the west. We pass Whisky Bay, Norman Island and Shellback Island.
1350 – Anchor in Waratah Bay. This is a delightful bay and very picturesque. We catch some fish and enjoy the sunshine.
0530 – Depart Waratah Bay. Barometer 1021. No wind. Motor all day.
1800 – Anchor just east of Cowes jetty in Westernport Bay just before dark, tide beginning to ebb. I make sure we are holding well, employ the Zodiac and row ashore. We check out the shore lined restaurants and walk the town for a bit of exercise, pick up a takeaway and enjoy it on the beach. We return to find the tide is running at 2 knots. An oil tanker arrives and anchors about half a mile to the north west.
A thick fog descends just after daybreak. We can’t see the tanker or any channel markers or anything at all.
1100 – We can see our way clear to move up the bay to Hastings and the tide is with us. We pass H.M.A.S. Cerberus, a naval training base, and several Industrial wharves. By now the bay is alive with watercraft of all types, yachts, runabouts, ferries and fishing boats. All out enjoying this magnificent sunny day. We tie up at the Westhaven Marina and fill all our tanks. We book into a berth for $16.00 a day. Hot showers first up. Frances not to keen on the open plan shower room. All squeaky clean and tidy we relax a little before deciding our next move. It is Saturday evening and a warm. The top soon comes off a cold Boags beer. It’s not long before a member of the Hastings Yacht Club is introducing himself and inviting us round to the club to join him and the members for the evening. The club is not licenced but its BYO and a very friendly atmosphere. Several of the members had recently been cruising in Tasmanian waters and had not long returned from the Tamar river yacht clubs hospitality.
We met Andy the skipper of “Shardarover” who we had often heard on the HF radio when cruising in Bass Strait on previous trips. Andy very kindly offered his small van to us, for the next day and we graciously accepted this offer. First up was the laundromat then a tour of Mornington Peninsular visiting top spots like Arthur’s Seat and Waterfall Gully National Park.
After 4 days we make an effort to head south to Grassy on the SE coast of King Island. It will be a 24 hour sail, and the weather forecast is good. We encounter a very heavy swell on the way down the bay and decide to wait another day. We shelter at Cowes.
We motor out past the farewell buoys and Seal Rocks in an uneasy sea and leave the Victorian coast at 1400 hrs. The sea soon settles down away from the tidal influence of the bay. We have a light northerly wind and we are rigged with full sail. During the early evening a large vessel appears on the horizon bearing 280 deg. The bearing does not change. We are on a collision course. We are heading south, the ship is heading east. The bow and bridge become clearly visible. I am tossing up, what move do I make. I do have right of way. I will hold course for a few more minutes. I consider calling CH 16 VHF. He is 2 miles away. Then slowly the starboard side becomes more prominent and thousands of tons of steel becomes more apparent. In four minutes he is crossing our stern. Thank you Sir. We see several more vessels during the night, but no more excitement. Frances takes the first watch as the night closes in and I will relieve her for the night watch. Vanessa is sailing well and the north wind holds all night.
1305 – Anchor in Grassy Harbour. This is a beautiful little bay and well sheltered. I think Frances was a little apprehensive about the crossing but she is very relieved now and sheds a small tear for the achievement. We tidy up our sails and gear and row ashore and get a lift up to Grassy in a dusty old Holden ute. We wander the town and call into the Pub where we get all the local information on King Island, the cattle industry, the prospects of the Scheelite Mine, of farmers and the fishermen. A very friendly lot.
0630 – We must move on. What a beautiful morning, but it can’t last. I hoist the main, lift the anchor and sail out of Grassy Harbour, and then hoist the genoa. Heading 110 deg. Frances goes below, we are doing 5 Knots. I put Harry on to steer. The wind is northerly, sheets slightly eased, Harry handles this easily. Time for the coffee. Another incident with shipping in Bass Strait looms up on the horizon, with the sun behind her and off our port bow. The bearing does not alter. We are converging much faster this time. The ship is the ‘Straitsman’ and is heading for Grassy Harbour. We are about 2 miles from the port. I harden up on the wind a little and allow him to cross our bow. The skipper recognises our presence by stepping out of the bridge and giving us a wave.
1030 – The barometer is falling but the breeze has dropped out so we have to motor. We check out Hunter Island and the beautiful anchorage in Shepherds Cove before sailing over to Three Hummock Island. The north easterly is freshening and the baro is still falling but the anchorage is safe. The wind drops out giving us a peaceful night.
0615 – Heading for Stanley on Tasmania’s NE coast, with full main and genoa.
0730 – A 35 knot change hits us from from the west and we rapidly reduce sail. We are soon shooting down the waves at 10 knots. Frances loves steering downwind. We jibe around the headland and 20 minutes we are in fisherman’s dock, Stanley harbour. 1115 hrs. Stanley is a great little town for a stopover, popular with tourists. There are craft shops and restaurants, fish shops of cause, and with a must do walk to the top of the ‘Nut’ for a magnificent view of the bay and harbour. There is a chairlift. Plenty of history as well.
A gale has whipped up white water and horizontal spray in the bay. We stay put until the weather settles down.
15th – April
0730 – We leave Stanley to run the 30 miles to Wynyard with the wind still behind us. It’s an easy run and we arrive about one hour before high tide. Well timed, we need a rising tide for a safe entry. We enter with care and tie up behind “Jenny G”. We had met Ron and Joy, who are from Port Hacking, while we were in Stanley. They have been cruising in Tasmanian waters since November.
Two policemen were on the Wynyard Yacht Club Jetty to welcome us but took little interest in us after a quick inspection revealed that we were not carrying any cray pots. Ron was questioned as to weather his pot was licensed. I suppose they have to there job. The small town is an easy walk from from the jetty and club members are friendly and helpful. We were even taken for a two hour tour of the local tourist highlights on the morning of our departure.
1215 – Leave Wynyard on the tide.
1730 – Arrive Mersey Yacht Club in Devonport after an uneventful sail. Ron and Joy are already there and we join them for a few drinks at the yacht club bar. We discuss cruising New South Wales and Queensland and beyond.
17th April – Good Friday. We wander up to see Arthur Redman and discuss our trip with him. Arthur is Mersey Radio, I don’t think he ever sleeps, he is there with weather forecasts and warnings to help yachties and small ship, some times in distress, and boating in Bass Strait. He has followed us around Bass Strait and we are grateful for his presents on the radio. Similarly we are grateful for Joy from Coast Guard Lock Sport and Alwin from Westernport Safety Council. It is another pleasant sail round to the Tamar River.
1800 – We anchor in west arm Tamar River and spend a quiet Easter in our favorite anchorage.
Log reads 10483. Distance travelled – 815 nautical miles. 31 days.
PS: All our sailing to date has been without GPS or Radar.
In later years we sailed to North Queensland. And that is another story.