I am woken by the buzz of squadrons of mosquitoes buzzing about the cabin, those same hitchhikers from the Bay of Fires. In the murky light just before dawn I climb up the companionway and sit on the coach roof. There are no mosquitoes up here, and no wind, and beneath the still water I can make out the ghostly shapes of schools of skipjacks swimming against the current. I wander down the jetty, past the stock loading yards and the honesty box for berthing mariners to pay the harbourmaster, past the silent fish processing factory and the tennis courts. Lady Barron is waking on sleepy sunday morning. At the tiny Anglican church a parishioner is busy washing down the doors in anticipation of this mornings service at 11am. I pause outside the Aboriginal co-operative. It is a bleak building, clearly designed by the same people who built municipal offices, health centers and social security outlets in the 1970s, and is festooned in the usual pamphlets advertising this or that government service. There is a sad and brutal underlying history to the Ferneaux Group, the forced home of the last Tasmanian Aboriginal people, but this is not the forum for that discussion. It is just another reminder of the horror that lurks behind all this beauty.
In 1833 the last surviving Tasmanian Aboriginals ( a mere 160 people) were exiled to Flinders Island, supposedly to protect them from the abuses of the white settlers in Tasmania. The place was named Wybalenna, meaning “black mans house”, but in reality was more like a prison. Most died of homesickness and illness, and just 14 years later the place was abandoned and the remaining 47 Aborigines were sent to Oyster Cove on the Tasmania’s east coast.
I climb the hill to the General Store, and mercy of mercies, they are open, and they have a coffee machine and the weekend papers. Max the affable proprietor introduces himself. He tells me he has quadrupled the take here in just a few years. I ask him if he knows my friend Wendy Jubb, who has a house on the Island. Not only does he know her, but he seems to know her entire family lineage. The coffee is good, and the location perfect for watching the passing parade. Bleary-Eyed locals recovering from the excesses of yesterdays Music at the Vines festival are arriving in a steady stream, pouring themselves out of rusty cars. Nearly all the cars are rust buckets, victims of the salty island air. Max tells me he’s going to sell a lot of coffee today. Everyone seems to know everyone, which is comforting, it reminds me of Jamieson. I struggle to turn to the next page of The Australian in the force 5 gale coming in off my port beam.
A group of four young couples we met in the tavern the previous night roll up. They have come over to the Island from Hobart, bringing their vehicles, boats and their good nature with them. Today they are off to Babel Island for a spot of fishing. Matthew Flinders named the Island “Babel” due to the cacophony made by the millions of sea birds that he encountered nesting there. This lot will feel completely at home, but they are dressed as if they are in Bali. The guys are in board shorts and thongs, and the girls in sarongs. I feel decidedly overdressed in my pullover and wind breaker, but it is not warm. I decide it must be a Tasmanian thing, after seeing the sunbathers at frigid Wineglass Bay the other day; some kind of auto suggestion method that if you dress for summer you can convince yourself it is summer. But it is not, it is bloody cold! The laconic Max has a simpler answer. “If I had a body like them youngins I’d be getting around like that too.”
Max reckons there isn’t much tourism on the Island. “Too expensive to get here”. He tells me the younins have spend a staggering $1000 per couple in travel only. To cross Banks Strait on the ferry it costs $800 per vehicle and $100 per person. It still works out cheaper for them than hiring a vehicle, they start at $90 per day. But Max says they have been good customers, spending their money freely. They were certainly doing that at the Ferneaux Tavern last night.
Maureen comes and sits down next to me. She is Wendy Jubb’s neighbor, clearly she has been talking to Max. She tells me she married a sealer and moved here from Sydney 40 years ago, and kindly offers to drive me up to check out Wendy’s Place at Badgers Corner. I decline her kind offer, as Robert’s arrival is imminent, and we need to take on fuel and supplies for the next leg. Max kindly lends us his Landcruiser to cart our fuel and shopping down to the wharf.
At around 2pm we put to sea, motoring out of Lady Barron following the leads, which are a whole lot clearer to me today than they were yesterday.
We clear Little Dog Island and raise the main.
There is a breeze of around 10 knots against a 1.2 knot tide. While everyone is above decks and the hatches are closed I let the hitchiking mosquitos have it by emptying most of the contents of a can of insecticide into the cabin. WIth a bit of luck we will get a good nights sleep tonight. The sea is smooth and the scenery breathtaking as we glide beneath the Strzelecki Range. It is magical, pure beaches of white sand, slopes clothed in dense Melaleuca sweeping upwards to massive granite tors over 700 meters high. We motor in to Trousers Bay and drop anchor at the northern end of the beach.
The National Parks Service have kindly installed stainless steel BBQs on the headland, so dinner is Greek BBQ squid with Lemon and Fresh Oregano, Fried Potatoes and Onions and a green salad.
We retire early, but just after midnight a howling Katabatic wind descends from the range. Escapade has slipped her anchor with the change in wind direction and is drifting precariously towards the rocks. In the darkness we scramble on deck to move anchorage a few hundred meters to the south, and anchor holding I fall back into a deep sleep.