THE ANCIENT INTERLOPER

We recently published news of the forthcoming summer sailing season. Whilst many yachties love the allure of racing, the return journey home is just as exciting! So remember to put the dates in your diary...


The Ancient Interloper appeared on the walkway at Constitution Dock after last year’s Melbourne-Hobart Eastcoaster race and got chatting with Mike Harrington, the cook aboard fourth-placegetter Fuzzy Logic.

Fuzzy Logic at Constitution Dock. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


Was the skipper aboard? No, the owners were up at their hotel ashore and would be back later.
Could he leave his two hefty seabags aboard and catch up with the owners after he had checked out the berthed yachts?
Sure!

Mike Harrington aboard Fuzzy Logic  Fuzzy Logic crew L-R Gary, Stephen, Noel, Mike and Jarrod. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


When the old bloke got back, co-owners Stephen Dawes, a lighthouse keeper, and Gary Prestedge, a lawyer, were aboard, enjoying a beer and the sunshine on deck with Mike, a marine equipment distributor, Jarod Halnon, an arborist, and Noel Ryan, an IT specialist.
We hear you’ve flown down from Melbourne and are looking for a ride back to the mainland, Stephen said. Have you had any offshore sailing experience?
Done a couple of Sydney-Hobarts, owned a Swanson 27 for 13 years and did 10 Melbourne-Devonports in it, the Ancient Interloper said. His next Bass Strait crossing would be his 49th under sail.
We normally sail with a crew of 10 and there’s five of us taking her home this time. Put your bags down below: you’re coming back with us, the owners said.
After Stephen cleared the Ancient Interloper with the ORCV for the 530 nautical mile passage, the mooring lines for the Murray-Burns-Dovell 41 were cast off and the slippery sled headed for the Iron Pot and Storm Bay.
The short cut through the Dennison Canal and Dunalley was out because of Fuzzy’s 2.6m draft, so it was a mainsail and jib romp across to the imposing cliffs of Cape Raoul before hardening up on the freshening nor-north-easterly to tackle the turbulent tide-race slot between Tasman Island and Cape Pillar.

The famous "Organ Pipes at Cape Raoul. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


As Fuzzy closed in on the gap, which can run at up to 11 knots, the seas got steeper and lumpy with backwash from the awe-inspiring cliffs.
The crew began to hum their theme song _ and although it was familiar, the Ancient Interloper couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
Then a sudden fierce downdraft flipped the headsail and main from starboard to port tack.
The skipper said enough-is-enough with thrashing to windward and put his charge on a course back to the shelter of Port Arthur and a fisherman’s buoy mooring for the night.
Several other mainland-bound yachts came in to raft up at the pier.

 Relaxing in Port Arthur. Spot the AI with the yellow tumbler! Photo courtesy Mike Harrington  Scenic Port Arthur. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


Next morning Fuzzy’s team waited for a yacht to leave and not return (testing the sea conditions) before again setting sail for the north.
The passage through the Cape Pillar-Tasman Island gap was spectacular, capped with close views of the craggy island’s disused and dilapidated flying-fox landing terminal.

 
 Thrashing towards Tasman Island. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington   The dilapidated flying fox on Tasman Island. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


Leaving the Hippolyte Rocks well to starboard, Fuzzy sailed along the Tasman Peninsula past Eaglehawk Neck and Pirates Bay, where the Ancient Interloper’s first yacht, a 33-ft Huon pine sloop, was built decades earlier.
Then on past the Forester Peninsula and Maria Island to find shelter in a cove on the northern side of Schouten Island.
Where the fishing fleet settle for the night is usually the best indicator of a safe, secure anchorage, so we dropped our anchor outside a line of local boats and hit the bunks.
A rude awakening about midnight with a clatter of the engine kicking to life, shouts and the anchor coming in found us being blown down towards a lobster potter _ the wind had done a 180degee shift and come in at 30+ knots onshore!
Stephen got Fuzzy going after a narrow escape from the fishing boat and in the pitch black night we motored out towards some shelter off the southern end of Freycinet National Park, with a stream of fishing boats making a run for it too.
Stephen and Gary, concerned at our draft and with no experience of the intended shelter anchorage, elected to do “laps” motoring up and down Schouten Passage as the wind gusted to 49.7knots and showered us in sheets of spray upwind.
The crew broke out their theme song... What was it again?
After an hour or so the wind moderated to 25+ and we crept gingerly into the anchorage, where the Ancient Interloper elected to keep an anchor watch while the crew belatedly took to their bunks.
At 04.00 hours the first trawler left, followed at 04.30 by a lobster boat. We stayed put until 06.00 hours, then had brekky as we headed east to the Tasman Sea’s lumpy conditions.
It was sweet sailing up past Eddystone Point and our timing was impeccable for passage with the tide through notorious Banks Strait.
The Ancient Interloper even saw flying fish (do they come that far south?) for the first time skittering across the waves in 100m swoops.
Bass Strait was in a benign mood.
It was calm and sunny, with schools of bait fish busting up around us to keep us entertained.
The breeze dropped out and most of the crossing from north of Swan Island to Flinders was under motor, relieved by a 12-hour mostly night time spinnaker run in 8knots of breeze, with Gary in his element at the helm.
Our only concern was whether we would have enough diesel to power us all the way across.
Stephen, one of the three permanent lighthouse keepers at Point Lonsdale, knows the hazards of The Rip and why passage through is recommended with a flood tide.

L-R Stephen Dawes and Gary Prestedge. co-owners of Fuzzy Logic. Photo courtesy Mike Harrington


His stars were aligned.
We got there just as the flood began, swept up into the Bay, docked at Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club to pick up fuel delivered by Jarod’s brother, dropped off crewmen Jarod and Noel, then rode the flood into Corio Bay and Fuzzy’s berth at Royal Geelong Yacht Club.
As the Ancient Interloper stepped off with his kit bags slung over his shoulders after the 5-1/2 day trip, it finally dawned on him what the crew’s theme song was: Gilligan’s Island!

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