Up Tasmania's East Coast

tasman island lighthouse  

The 40 mile passage to Maria Island was cold and raw, but benign. It's easy to forget it's summer here since the temps remain cool for the most part. We left Port Arthur and headed down the bay just after dawn. We could see the Tasman Island Lighthouse perched atop the ragged cliffs of the island far above us. Built in 1906, Tasman Island Light sits solitary, ~900' (278m) above the sea, making it one of the highest lighthouses in Australia. The southwest swell kicked up the sea and we had a washing machine of a ride until we rounded Tasman Island and then set our sails and headed north. The following seas and southerly winds worked in our favor for a quick ride up the coast.


rafts of sooty shearwaters


Rafts of sooty shearwaters floated in our path and took off in unison as we approached. Prions hovered over the waves and a shy albatross circled above them looking for breakfast. Dolphins made a quick appearance as did sea lions, but they disappeared too quickly for photos. We spotted smoke intermittently on the treed hills ashore; the bushfires remain unchecked in some areas.





Had the day been clear, we could have spotted Maria Island much sooner, but with the smoky haze still clouding the air, we didn't spot it until we were about 15 miles away. This mountainous little island has served as a penal colony, a limestone quarry and farmland and it's now a National Park in its entirety and we were headed there for some hiking. Mount Maria at 2,333' (711m) dominates the view.


mount maria


We anchored on the island's west coast in Chinaman's Bay, popular with cruisers for its comfortably shallow anchorage, white sand beaches and access to bushwalks. Unfortunately, by the time we anchored the wind was blowing near 30 kts which made the task of launching the dinghy more like flying a kite. We decided to wait. The forecast called for more of the same for the next three days, but backing to west and southwest. After a fairly calm night, the wind increased again by early morning and we opted to head across the Mercury Passage to the little town of Triabunna. Maria Island would have to wait.

Only 12 miles from anchorage to anchorage, this short trip was the stuff dreams are made of. We were close-hauled, wind 40º off the nose, but we managed to slip along in 20-25 knot winds up and across the Mercury Passage. Once in the lee of the mainland, the seas calmed and the wind clocked just enough to allow a smooth, easy passage to the anchorage in Spring Bay. We could see the entrance to the long, well-marked channel into town, but once again the shallow channel depths kept us anchored in the bay.

Changes of plan are typical for cruisers and the norm for us, in particular. You have to go with the wind and the tides and the currents … and your whims. The winds were in charge this day. We'll see what there is to see and do in Triabunna and wait for an opportunity to visit Maria Island when the winds are more cooperative.

By the way, for anyone interested in seeing Yanks try Vegemite for the first time, be sure to check the blog on Australia Day (January 26th) as we open our virgin jar and give this iconic Australian concoction a go.


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