January 25, 2005 (pt. 2)
Jill and I landed in Hobart after a 48 hour trip from NYC. Normally this jaunt is supposed to take about half of that, but plane delays and confusion at United Airlines added another day to our trip. Still, it's hard to complain too much, as the trip used to take seven months by sail from London.
We were picked up at the airport by a suntanned and happy Captain Jim. One half hour later and we were on board Onora, gleaming and calm in the bright Hobart sun. For those that haven't seen her, let me tell you that this is a big boat. The deck is so expansive that your mind immediately begins wondering what types of sports you could comfortably play without leaving her topsides. Baseball would probably be a stretch, but tennis would certainly fit.
But there's no rest for the wicked, so the four of us took off for a bush hike about an hour or so outside of Hobart. Jill and I were both excited to see the unusual variety of wildlife that roam the island of Tasmania and the hike helped the excitement grow. We spotted a good sized wallaby snacking on some moss just up the hill from a serene waterfall. A wallaby is a smaller sized kangaroo; this one hopped along and regarded us with some caution. But even this good sized fellow was dwarfed by the massive eucalyptus trees that towered overhead. The trees in this forest are rivaled in size only by the redwoods of California, and don't really begin producing any branches for dozens of feet up. They created a towering canopy over us as we hiked out the rest of the day.
We bummed around Hobart for the next day, drinking killer Aussie coffee and spending the afternoon climbing down from Mt. Wellington, the 1100 meter peak that overlooks the harbor city of Hobart. This city is tucked up the Derwert River, giving it a bit of shelter from the open sea. Like most harbor-based cities, Hobart's center is nestled around its waterfront, with the city center a quick walk from the docks. It's an easy place to feel comfortable quickly. We wrapped up the day with a fancy dinner and walk through the cool night.
Next day was cast-off. The whole crew enjoyed a fantastic breakfast of delicious muffins, thoughtfully brought aboard by the handsome visiting son (that's me). Onora sailed out the harbor about mid-day under a sunny sky and light winds. We ran down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel for a few hours and anchored off Bruny Island, mostly motor sailing and enjoying the mild afternoon from the warmth of the pilothouse.
Bruny Island hugs the south-east corner of Tasmania, which in turn sits off the South-east shores of Australia, which itself lives in the lower South-east corner of the world. For a place that looks like the edge of nowhere on a map, Bruny Island doesn't seem that remote. It's got a wild feel, covered by hills and a scrubby bush. But aside from the occasionally persistent big flies (dumb), it's a pleasant place to traipse around in mid-January.
The four of us spent three days in and around Bruny, going ashore in the dinghy in the morning and scouting out a day hike. In the afternoon we'd scoot over to a different harbor and land sometime near the late summer sunset. I'd usually jump in the cold water (and then right back out again, thanks) after the anchor was down. Then we'd all spend the night beating me at cards and enjoying the delicious meals prepared by the First Mate/Galley Head (thats Jean for those who don't know). Jill battled through a cold picked up on one of the planes we took to fly out, but that soon melted away in the fresh Tassie air. After settling in we realized we were having a pretty great time.
One quick editorial note: I found the sight of the Southern Ocean entirely hypnotizing and quietly scary. We spent one afternoon hiking around Recherche Bay, located near Tasmania's Southern tip. The European captain of the ship that the bay was named for referred to the spot as "a lonely harbour at the end of the world". Although it was an inviting spot for a summer hike, it looked out onto the wide expanse of the world's cruelest body of water - the Southern Ocean. Nothing but cold water stretching across the horizon, ending only on the frozen shores of Antarctica. The black waves of the Southern Ocean roam the top of the sea and never break on land. It's quite a distant thing to look out upon. I was impressed with a capital I.
By the time that we sailed back into Hobart harbor on Monday morning, we'd already spotted at least two snakes, three Echidna (very cool little guys), two penguins, a foot-long lizard, numerous native birds, thousands of mini-sand crabs, some strange ocean dwellers and one seal, swimming out at sea in the kelp and looking at us with mild suspicion. Clearly, this would not be enough. Jill and I scoped out a Tasmanian Devil park in the guide book and demanded to be taken there immediately. So the four of us jammed into a junky rented Daewoo and high-tailed it out to the Tasman peninsula about one hour outside of Hobart.
The Tasmania Devil Park was great for a number of reasons. Sure, they take care of injured birds and possums and stuff and that's all good and well. But there were two very cool things we really liked. First was the 'roo and wallaby area. They let you walk into a big fenced off field where there's dozens and dozens of kangaroos and wallabies just hopping around, right next to where you're walking. If you're dumb enough, you could walk up to one of the guys and yank on his tail before he beat the hell out of you. Needless to say, this would never fly back in the States.
Second on the reasons to go back was the 5:00 feeding of the Tasmanian Devils. These little suckers are about the size of a really big housecat and love to eat dead animals. They sleep during the day but put on quite the show for the 5:00 crowd. Running around their pen, growling and chasing each other for a scrap of furry wallaby bit. Fun-ny. Despite their obvious feral nature and malodorous presence, Jill still wanted to take one home. "I'd call him Tazzie," she stated quietly.
One more day here in Hobart and we'll leave Onora back to the Captain and Crew. We'll spend it buying a few gifts for the friends taking care of our pets and shoveling our walk in the NYC blizzard...
Thanks for your thoughts, Justin.
It was a blast having them onboard, we hate to see them leave and we can't wait till they return again.
Now our focus turns to our next passage to New Zealand. This could be another wild ride across the Tasman Sea with big winds and high seas. Once again we will be glued to the weather reports and anxious to find the best window for the crossing. Our destination is Invargargill - a check-in port at the bottom of the South Island. It's fair to say we are moving into a more difficult leg of our journey. Stay tuned, mates.