18th February 2013, Hobart, Tasmania
Our passage from Sydney was uneventful. We were fortunate that the strong north-east winds were coming from astern and as a consequence we made good speed and little movement of the ‘Amsterdam’, sunny skies too. There is a weather front coming in and ahead of it, stronger winds and during the night they reached 40-45 kts. It was not until we turned to the west, to make our approach to Hobart, around the rocky headlands that surround it, that we felt the wind’s effect. We had anticipated it and had heeling water and ballast across on the starboard side, which would (and did) counteract the list to port that we would have experienced had we not done so. Turning into the (inaptly named) Stormy Bay, we made our way north towards the pilot station. Whilst we had lost the ‘open sea’ waves and swell, we still had 30-35 knots of wind as we made our way down the bay. I was hoping that the berth, tucked in behind a cargo shed and some of the buildings, would offer sufficient lee (or shelter) from the worst of it; adding to the equation was a 1 knot current against us, coming from the river ahead.
There’s an old adage that I learned when I was Captain of large ferries operating across the English Channel; “one has to get the approach to a berth correct before one can get the docking correct” and so I took my time, laying the ‘Amsterdam’ slightly off the wind from 2 miles out and using it (and the current) to put me where I wanted to be when it came to being near the dock. She ‘crabbed’ in nicely, all I had to do at this stage, was adjust the speed to ensure she didn’t ‘fall-off’ sideways too fast. 300 meters from the wharf and lifting the stern against the wind, now gusting 25 knots, but mainly around 20, pushing the bow towards the ‘concrete’ to counteract the stern’s movement……..Lovely, she went in on rails, almost doing it herself and there we were, tucked in behind the cargo shed, lots of mooring lines out and the sun shining. A hot day too, 34C, or 92F, and a UV index through the roof.
Hobart was, I hate to admit, founded as one of the British Penal colonies. Men, women and children were transported here on her Majesties ships and spent a life of harsh punishment and misery. Nowadays, it is matter of great national pride for any Australian to be descended from a convict. Hobart is a beautiful city with many of her older buildings (from the 1830’s) still standing, albeit now housing quaint galleries and shops. A large marina shelters numerous yachts, tour boats and float-planes, most of them for the tourist industry of course. The island has had little rain and everywhere is dry and brown; during the transit in, the pilot tells me that they are really worried about fire, everything is tinder-dry and would explode into a conflagration quickly. Fortunately, I think they’ll get a drenching tonight as the weather front promises heavy rain.
It is very ‘English’, as is to be expected. Street names are recognisable to me, the houses look as if they’ve been taken from the British south coast and dropped in Tasmania and they all have quaint English names as well. Flowers abound, beautiful gardens (or yards), lovingly tended flower-beds and huge oak trees in the parks.
Across from us is a strange looking craft, the “Brigitte Bardot”, a monohull with an outrigger and part of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ environmental group. She is waiting for information, where are the Japanese Whalers? When they find out, off they go, across towards Antarctica in an attempt to foil the insane killing of those beautiful creatures. I don’t envy them; knowing those southern waters and what they can do to a ship, going out on a boat that size seems misguided, but they’re keen and desperate to do something to stop the killing, good luck to them.
We sail soon for Adelaide, so I will send this to Julie, our editor and get ready for departure!
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.