Strahan, West Coast. The past 24 hours have been intense, but along the lines of a very old movie title, ‘if this is Sunday it must be Strahan’. And a very sunny, ice-cream licking location it is. We are tied up alongside a schmick fishing boat – with picturesque Strahan village behind us.

As ever with boating, our plan to stay overnight at Three Hummock Island changed at the last minute. Just before we sat down for dinner – following an impromptu VDLC gathering ashore – we decided that it was a good idea to up sticks that evening and start our 120-mile journey to Strahan rather than wait until the morning. Working 2-hour watches between the three of us we motored overnight, with a total passage time of 18 hours. There were some interesting fishing boat sightings, plenty of rock and roll (non-boaties please note this is not dancing, it’s a lively motion of the boat), and ‘Stavros’ our new crew member whiled away quite some time ‘feeding the fish’.

Seeing the dawn, arriving in Strahan at a sensible hour, and then having the afternoon to relax, eat lunch, play cards and (for the others) snooze, would suggest we made the right decision to leave Three Hummock when we did. But, there’s more to tell about our pit-stop with Bev and John O’Brien, and for that you will have to wait for the next post.

Not a great photo, but it was my first dawn while on watch

We passed through the infamous 'Hell's Gates' in heavenly conditions

The boys went ashore and guess what they bought for lunch...

We are not the only VDLC crew taking it easy in Strahan

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15 miles off Three Hummock Island. From the sked this morning we hear that most boats are on the move again. At Stanley last night we had a couple of new-comers and as we head to the Fleurieu (Hunter) Group there are vessels dotted around us. Some will be coming to Three Hummock, others may keep going to Strahan. As usual, it depends on the weather and how people are feeling about where to go and what to do. For every vessel the cruise is a different experience but weather and other conditions are central to everybody’s planning.

We heard that the elusive Perky was delivering fish dinners last night around the Hunter Group. We did get a sighting of him in Stanley one day – drove in, waved, did a 360 and drove out again. What an iconoclast.

With nearly 4 bars showing on the dongle I should be able to add a few pictures before I post this, and then I think we may be out of range for a day or so.

Below is a small selection of some of the boats I have photographed. If you are on the cruise and want a copy of any please add a comment and I will email you.

Beyond The Narrows

Great Sandy is a Tasmanian boat returned from Noosa for the VDLC

Big Bill's boat....

Visscher, a neat Steber 38 likes a bit of fishing

Tradition takes on Dana Felicia

Weiry having a dream of a time

Perky pops in then pi$$es off again

....and they didn't even look our way! (can you name these RYCT members?)

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One of the exciting things about visiting new places is the chance to buy local produce. With the north-west being so highly-regarded for the produce of its lush fields, bays and waters, I’ve actually been a bit surprised to find how tricky it can be to get hold of things – at least right here in Stanley. Buying prepared food in a restaurant, however, is another matter and we have done extremely well in the eating out stakes!

Just back to the fresh produce, however – I do want to thank Clare and Bruce Jackson of York Town Organics for growing such wonderful rocket, baby silverbeet and mixed salad greens. I don’t know who you are, but I have said small prayers for you each time I have eaten your divine greens over the past few days. These I brought with me from Beaconsfield, and sadly have found nothing to compare in the Stanley supermarket. A foray to a major supermarket in Smithton yesterday was successful though, and finding raspberries from Dunorlan and an abundance of Pipers Vale blueberries boosted my spirits not just my anti-oxidants.

Our dinners in Stanley have been excellent – my duck at The Seaview Inn was cooked to perfection; my chicken parmigiana at The Stanley Hotel was a classic; and my octopus and chorizo salad, followed by butternut pumpkin risotto at Zanders was my very favourite style of food.

Sorry to say, I didn’t do the tourist thing at any of these dinners so there are no ‘in restaurant’ shots. I hope the pictures of a couple of exteriors, and then how we burn off the calories (pushing electric bikes up the hill to Highfield House; walking The Nut) are adequate.

Our new crew member (who we will nickname once we get underway tomorrow) arrived today and we are about to have a ‘farewell to Stanley’ cocktail party aboard E2. The Kreglinger ‘champagne’ bought at Strathlynn the other day will no doubt go down well!

The superbly maintained landmark pub, The Stanley Hotel

Excellent local octopus products are fortunately available in the shops as well as restaurants of Stanley

The very smart Zanders in Stanley

I told him not to get the bin in the photo... me, bikes, Nut

The fool on the hill, or the nut on the decide

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Stanley is proving to be an idyllic place to be marooned while waiting for the wind to change. In addition to the houses and other buildings around town that simply cry out ‘take a picture of me, take a picture of me’, there is the amazing Highfield House to explore.

What I loved about it was that it is not restored and repolished to within an inch of its life as many heritage properties tend to be. I know that a great deal of work has already gone into saving what is a significant property, however, and ongoing work and funds will be needed to keep it going. But, I love it just the way it is!

The other thing that really impressed me was the way in which the interpretation has been managed. Everything felt very natural and there was no need to feel you couldn’t walk around and get as close to everything as you wanted. The use of documents, snippets of letters and other commentary from previous owners and visitors gave me a real sense of life in the place.

There are also lovely touches of humour – on a chair in the dining room for example there is a tiny little sign that says ‘no bottoms please’ – so much nicer than having a pile of fancy furniture all roped off.

Before we leave Stanley – which may be on Saturday – I will update you on our various food exploits. I’m saving them up for a ‘special edition’. Mind you, I don’t have any photos of food or restaurants so I will have to work out between now and then how to fix that!

Also, just a warning, but when we leave Stanley we may find ourselves just a little out of phone and internet range. Don’t worry about us, we will not be lost as sea, just a little ‘disconnected’. And, now, back to Highfield House and a few photos….

Highfield House and The Nut in the background

Dining table setting is printed on a paper table-cloth!

Nothing is too fussy

I always love the kitchens and laundry equipment

All this cockerill was interested in was sheltering from the wind - note he is nearest to the hedge and all the hens line up behind!

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Stanley, and the fun continues. Seriously! With new crew arriving in a day or two, we got busy doing a couple of bags of laundry. In Stanley, the venue for this enticing activity is the local caravan park. And what a pretty place it is too. Right on the waterfront and spotlessly clean and tidy. You will see from the photos that with wind to cause what’s on the line to flap only in the ‘horizontal’ position, there are some safety precautions when approaching to remove said laundry.

Of course, you will see that in fact we were testing out a couple of battery-assisted bikes, picked up for rent at the very smart new homewares store in town, The Brown Dog. Run by the same enterprising chaps who own @VDL Stanley accommodation, the Brown Dog is another sign that Stanley is the place to be.

The bikes were great fun and certainly helped us get to and fro. When the chores were done there was another treat in store. The next post explains our afternoon of heritage and our evening of (more) food and wine.

By the way, the Grumpometer is still showing no reading at all so that’s why you’re not getting daily updates …. any more chirpiness and I will have to implement the Chirpometer!

Pegs on level 3 setting in Stanley

Safety head-gear recommended!

Our rented electric-assisted bikes

Returning laundry to the boat is a breeze

It's a long climb up the ladder from low tide

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Stanley, and I reckon this is certainly the place to be right now. The fleet is again somewhat scattered, with one or two I think still at Beauty Point, some in the Mersey at Devonport, a couple at Wynyard, and others ahead of us in the Hunter Group. In Stanley we not only have good shelter inside the fishing boat dock, but there is an abundance of things to see and do here. Just looking out of the windows on the boat or wandering around the docks, there is always activity of some sort.

There are no real anchorages around Stanley, and no yacht club or public marina. Which is why, along with 8 other VDLC boats we are tied up here. As soon as the weather for boating improves we will leave Stanley, but in the meantime the fishermen have been very understanding of our need for shelter.

Red fishing boat

Stanley has a busy and productive fishing dock

VDLC boat Westwind ties up at the wharf

Get those lines on!

Sea Esta and Bundaberg in the calm of the dock

Beyond the breakwater the conditions are quite different!

Unusually, there is some comfort in being close to a pile of rocks

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Stanley, north-west coast. Tied up securely in the fishing dock, thanks to Clint Walker from the Seaview Inn, and berth owner, Michael Hardy. Since our arrival a number of other VDLC vessels have turned up and we have assisted where possible. I don’t know that there has ever been a vessel like the Dana Felicia here and between the two of us we are creating some interest among the local fishos.

We have motored from Beauty Point through to Stanley today and sit under the shadow of the prominent ‘Nut’. With a gale warning announced on the 1630h weather sked we were pleased to only be an hour or so away from Stanley at that time. As part of my seamanship training by the skipper I’ve been looking carefully at the sky over the past 2 weeks. The photos below, I hope, will give you an idea of how a sky changes as the weather does. I certainly can’t predict anything yet, but the more I watch, the more I learn.

Stanley as it appears on the chart

1657h benign, but a change on the way - The Nut ahead

1717h change coming

1723h thickening up

1757h change is here, but now not far to go

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Location: off the north coast of Tasmania, between Devonport and Stanley.

Last night was the cruise dinner at the Tamar Yacht Club. Not only a celebratory event, but a chance for crews who have joined from Geelong to also get to know their circumnavigating comrades. Many of the participants in the cruise have done it all before, some many times. But every cruise there are new people who come along to experience this very special event.

What’s really fascinating is the diversity of the participants. Where they are from, what they do for a living, and how they use their boat. At our table last night, for example, we had Sven and Jola who have been on board the 65ft Dana Felicia for many years, cruising the world. Also an ex-New Yorker, now Tasmanian (via Melbourne and many other places) and his wife who was Tasmanian yachtswoman of the year in 2009. Cruise stalwarts (read most hard-working Committee Members and world sailors) Jeremy and Penny, who not only prepare the invaluable Cruise Manual, but take on the role of Radio Relay Vessel during the trip. And a cinematographer and a lawyer, from Sydney. Plus of course the two of us. Me an ex-Pom now Tasmanian via Sydney and my loving husband – born in Broken Hill, NSW, and who has covered many ocean miles aboard a variety of yachts. Somehow I managed not to take a photo of our own table. Maybe because I was having too much fun!

It’s great to be underway again, and although our trusty crew have gone back to the real world, we will pick up our next ship-mates in Stanley. There I’m sure I will also continue to find fresh, nutritious vegetables, and plenty of fish. This is important since “The Fisherman” and his tuna-catching rod and lure have now gone home. We miss you already and hope the cracked rib gets better soon!

Radio operator extraordinaire, Bryn of Coastguard Tamar radio

The blue cruise polos were out in force

Again, the sharing of more vital cruise information

Tamar Yacht Club did a great job for a big hungry crowd

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Tamar Yacht Club, Beauty Point. Another glorious day on the Riviera Coast of Tasmania! The morning sped by, comprising a walk along the river, a coffee at the local cafe, and provisioning at the well-stocked supermarket in Beaconsfield. Getting farm-fresh organic rocket and spinach in the fridge is a great result!

I’ve also written and published a one-page cruise newsletter – three news items only – the lead story being a total wind-up about the stowaway ‘cruise mascot’ Matty Maatsuyker and his apparently missing neice. By the way, both of them are soft toy Tasmanian devils….I’ve spun the line that Matina (so she has been called by the Cruise Commodore’s wife), previously a socialite and now reculsive founder of ‘MatiLeaks’ has not been seen since the beginning of the cruise. Whether involved in criminal activities or just keeping a low profile……. you get the picture.

Being such a beautiful day, local newspaper, The Examiner sent a photographer up from Launceston so I whizzed him around the marina to take a few snaps for tomorrow’s paper. I’ve also got to know more people, and finally met Roy and Di’s cat. I wasn’t really sure they weren’t having me on, but I can confirm that in addition to the two Tassie devils doing the circumnavigation there is definitely a cat.

There is a cruise dinner tonight so no doubt lots more stories and revelations about other people’s boats, lives, pets and plans for cruising farther afield.

A real photographer!

Sven and Jola are travelleing the world on Dana Felicia

The circumnavigating cat!

No dogs on the cruise, but this cute guy is a TYC local

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This old saying, heard often from my husband, is now beginning to make sense to me. Mind you, it seems to be the men (and women) who are deteriorating faster than the ships! Our boats are cleaned, they are calm, and none of them appear to be in danger of rotting over the 3 days we are here in the Tamar.

Yes, the camaraderie I mentioned two days ago continues to intensify. The downside is that any healthy weight-loss and well-being after 8 days off shore are gradually eroding. The upside is that we are finding out more about cruising, the shared experiences (see ‘exploding cryo-vac sausages’ below), and working out logistics of transporting crew to and from the various locations along the journey.

With wheels at our disposal, the highlight of our day was a superb lunch at Daniel Alps’ Restaurant at Strathlynn at Rosevears. Adjoining one of the top wineries in Tasmania, the restaurant deserves all the accolades it still receives after many years in operation. I am no food writer or critic, but to come away from any meal with so many delicious flavours still on my mind and on my tongue some hours later it will be an experience to remember.

Our crew also spent some time at the mining museum at Beaconsfield and came away very impressed with the way in which the recent and the ancient history of the small town has been set out.

I for one am looking forward to getting on with our seafaring journey, and tomorrow I will provision the boat again for the next leg of the trip.

Swapping vital cruising information

Making the most of every drop of sunshine

Why do some sausages explode when cryo-vac'd and frozen?

Splendid vista from Daniel Alps' Restaurant at Strathlynn

Sensational scallops too!

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