D’Entrecasteaux Channel: Kettering and Little Oyster Cove

Back in the Land of the Nuenonne

When we were preparing the house for sale earlier this year, we moved on board Samos, thinking we’d be at Kettering in Little Oyster Cove for several months. We planned to spend that time cruising the D’Entrecasteaux and Norfolk Bay but within a matter of days our lovely mountain home had found itself new owners and we barely had time to tackle our list of boat tasks before we were home again packing boxes.

Travelling in a small van as we did last year and cruising in a small yacht proves that truism of life being richer as possessions get exfoliated and waste gets reduced. But moving house is not good for the environment. You may give the Red Cross Shop your library and St Vinnies the clothes off your back, but the recycling and refuse bins fill exponentially and zero waste targets shatter alarmingly.

We went down to the marina on a sunny day and stepping on board Samos I noticed a swirling black ring beneath the water, just behind the yacht’s transom, and an overlapping circle of silver, moving that little bit quicker. A cormorant was hunting a school of bait fish that panicked into a leaping confusion as the bird downed its catch while rising to the surface.

Relaxing beneath the boom tent with a g&t on a blue day before summer’s lease expired, we watched a puffer fish slowly inspecting the seaweed attached to the floating marina and each time the black swans came visiting the dogs were transfixed.

When the cygnets were young

Life in the marina spools out slowly. Those of us working on our boats shared tools, suggestions, advice and meals while in the background yachts slipped quietly through the marina, the Bruny Island ferries came and went where once the Nuenonne paddled their bark canoes, where Bruni D’Entrecasteaux sailed – sealers and whalers too – and the constant sound on the boat, in the quieter moments and most noticeably in the silence of the night, was the idle clicking of tiny beings feasting on the hull.

Ferry to Bruny (1).jpg
The additional summer ferry crossing to Bruny Island from Kettering

The super blue blood moon rose over Bruny Island, the Channel and the yachts while the dark hills slept and we looked up at the moon and also down at its reflection, snagged in the riggings of yachts impressed by its light on the water.

Super blue blood moon

There have been other times at the marina when nature has gifted us a surprise or two. We’ve been astonished by flocks of about 200 black cockatoos swirling around the pine trees. We’ve stopped to watch the parade of crabs along the marina shallows. Kayaking this cove I once followed a ray as it made its way around the north east corner. I like rays. The ones I have encountered all seem capable and full of purpose.

We were at the marina long enough to enjoy several coffees and breakfasts at the café beside the ferry terminal with its views of Bruny Island and to enjoy the pub up the hill. Really, the marina is for me the heart of Kettering and Kettering the link between mainland Tasmania and Bruny Island. For a small place it’s pretty amazing that along with the pub it has three cafes as well as artistic credentials and links, some believe to planets elsewhere. This extra terrestrial history inspired the Kettering Incident.

We walked the short track through coastal woodland around to Trial Bay, lazed at Kettering Point and in the evening took the short walking track below the cricket oval on the northern side of the cove.  There are houses on the hills which were once entirely forested, that therefore drew timber cutters in Kettering’s early days, and tucked away in the valleys behind the village are farms producing organic produce for which Tasmania is rightly famous.

Marinas can be tough on the watery world but this one has achieved some recognition for its environmental efforts and living on board proved so enjoyable that we agreed that while small is beautiful if we want to live on board all summer long then a yacht a little bigger would be more comfortable.  And so our lovely yacht Samos is on the market and a new adventure is about to begin.



Derwent River: Blinking Billy Point

The Geography of Nervous Twitches

There’s a concrete path that curves around the southern edge of Long Beach and leads out past Blinking Billy Point to Blinking Billy Beach. When the South Westerly is churning up white caps on the river this path is sheltered and has a great view north across Long Beach and down to the bridge but once you step from the behind the shelter of the hill the wind is out to get you and its Antarctic breath can cause your eyes to stream.

Blinking Billy Path
The narrow way

Conversely, when the tide is high and waves are being hurried into the bay by an exuberant North Easterly, you may find yourself attacked by an encroaching wave and forced to turn back. Mostly, though, it’s a sunny light hearted sort of stroll, long enough to sniff the breeze but too short to regard as exercise.

Looking north on the walk to Blinking Billy Point
The view north on the path to Blinking Billy Point

A friend had told me there was a Sandy Bay beach where dogs were welcome any time of day but her description was vague and I had struggled to find it. Then one day, coming back up river after a weekend of sailing in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel I noticed two labradors with their people on a stretch of sand I hadn’t paid attention to before, and recognition dawned. It’s now become a favourite walk when the dogs are keen to go adventuring and I can’t quite match their enthusiasm, or I want to catch up with a friend for a coffee and treat them too.

As with most of this coast, Blinking Billy Point has changed names like people change clothes. It used to be called One Tree Point until (I’m supposing) that lone tree was no more. It was also once called Garth’s Point.

The Garth’s came here from Norfolk Island with seven children in tow and made a quick segue from the merest of shelters to owners of two land grants, the one encompassing the point and the land uphill through what’s now the Alexander Battery Reserve, and the other spread across Porter Hill.

The Garth’s were farmers by day and smugglers by night. The submerged reef below the point was called Garth’s Bank and served two purposes: fishing and smugglers’ lookout. Further uphill on their smaller Porter Hill grant, they built their smugglers’  hut and it lasted until a fire burned it down in 1978. Devon and Cornwall can move over, I think, because Tassie has a rich smuggling history too.

One fine day when we were idling past the point on a light breeze someone mentioned that long ago William Watchorn, harbour master, a man with nervous eyes, lived on the point. He lobbied for a light and he got it. Both the point and the light assumed his nickname: Blinking Billy. The light still stands and while its gaze was fixed and unblinking in its time, it works no longer and is disregarded by river traffic.

This light was rendered useless by the John Garrow Light, a navigational structure, cormorant hang out and sometime racing mark, that took its place offshore on Garth reef. For some obscure reason this light is named after a pastry chef who lived in Bath Street (Battery Point) and the pastry chef’s name was extended to Garth reef as well. It’s now known as the John Garrow shoal.

Blinking Billy Light
Blinking Billy Light
John Garrow Light
John Garrow Light

For a low, unassuming point, Blinking Billy Point carries a wealth of history and interesting buildings. Along with the navigation light there is the remains of the searchlight emplacement. Two spotlights, precursors to the Dark Mofo lights, but focussed on defence not entertainment, lit up the sky from 1890 to WWII, playing their role as part of the the Derwent Defence Network, which included, in this vicinity, the Alexandra Battery further up the hill and the artillery at Fort Nelson.

Old spotlight emplacement

There’s also an old part of the city’s sewage system – a small blue pumphouse which was built in 1919 and is deceptively pretty.

Pumphouse for blog
The pump house

People still cast a line over the smugglers’ reef on fine days, but those of us who sail know only too well the river’s violent mood swings and I’ve seen kayakers caught out here, just metres off the pointt, overturned and struggling to reach the shore.


Nautical News: the newsletter of the Maritime Museum Association of Tasmania. Winter edition, 2002.

Goc, N. 1997. Sandy Bay: a social history, Gentrx Publishing, Hobart.



Derwent River: Maning Reef: A Beach Where the Rocks Used to Be

Unveiled beaches and doppelgängers

Saluting the Governor

The sailing season officially opened last Saturday, the 10th October and Hobart’s recreational sailing fleet turned out in good numbers for the annual sail by  the Governor’s vessel Egeria, moored in Sullivan’s Cove.  Some boats adorned themselves in nautical finery.  We forgot to take off our fenders but by the time we realised this we were relaxing at the rendevouz off Nutgrove Beach and having imbibed a wine or two were feeling too mellow to care that we had not kept up appearances.

The geologist and I had invited three friends along, one an able seaman of the four legged variety, our sole adornment in his coat of yellow.  The sky was blue, the sun shone and there was a breeze strong enough to fill sails.  As this was the first time I was skippering on an opening day we stayed on the edge of the fleet, detouring under the bridge, confusing ourselves over the instructions until order was established in the fleet. We snuck in towards the rear, trying our best to keep ahead of the  Beneteau and MONA cat bearing down on us as we headed into the tight conditions in Sullivans Cove, more alarming last year on a larger boat.


We dropped our anchor at the back of the fleet, by now mostly rafted up together off the beach, and I lined us up with a group of large boulders off Maning Reef, clearly much loved by cormorants. The tide was low and the coastline had a surprise for me. Lords Bay had spread itself out. It wasn’t a little beach at all but a long, thin sandy beach running along the back of Maning Reef all the way to Red Chapel Beach, validating my belief that in earlier days this coastline was one long stretch of sand, at least between Short and Long Beaches, if not beyond. As we drank wine and picnicked and the talk turned to rugby, I discussed its changed appearance with E who knew this stretch in all its variations better than me.

Later I quizzed a friend who lives above this beach for a bit more information, and then, when the tide was low yesterday afternoon I went walking, hoping to find bouquets of sea tulips waiting for me on the jetty pilings.

And here’s the thing. I didn’t find a single one, but I did find numerous other little squirts who looked remarkably like pyura Doppelgangera and squirted just to show me how it’s done.

Oysters and sea squirts on a jetty piling.

Despite their name they hadn’t contrived to look anything like the elegant sea tulip I was beginning to believe I’d conjured up. They’re squat, rotund, pustular and a mucky colour, probably impeccably beautiful for blending into their surroundings but a challenge for the human eye to appreciate aesthetically.  A Tasmanian native, it’s well travelled, having hitchhiked on boats since ships first came here, making a pest of itself in New Zealand and the mainland.

I walked on, from stormwater drain to jetty piling to rocky outcrop musing about what it really was I’d seen on the hull. Had it really had a stalk? Had it even been red? Chances are it wasn’t a tulip at all but one of these doppelgängers given they are particularly captivated by artificial structures, according to the literature.

A green tongued stormwater drain.

While thinking about how dramatically we have changed the ocean and the locations of its denizens,  I located Maning Rivulet (I think) which gave me a small thrill.  As I reached the little cove I’d seen from Samos when sailing with my friend the sky filled with tiny floating seeds like small white butterflies.  They made drifts on the sand and  laced  the rock pools, and the next day, around in New Town, the same phenomenon took place beside New Town Rivulet and I saw that they came from tall graceful trees whose name I still need to find out.


Here are some more photos of the Maning Reef section of the walk that I took with my trusty iphone 5s.

They’re in no particular order.



One of two stormwaters very close to each other that are probably both linked to Maning Rivulet
One of two stormwaters very close to each other that are probably both linked to Maning Rivulet


Jetty and the Casino
Looking back at the jetty and Casino
Ducks drinking from a stormwater
The consequences of our filth
Reaching the cove at Red Chapel Beach
Reaching the cove at Red Chapel Beach

A Surprise Gift from Samos

Tulips on a Windy Day

Last Monday I roped a salty seadog into helping me to slip Samos because it was six months since she’d been anti-fouled and time to check how this was bearing up. ‘It shouldn’t take more than two hours or so,’ I said, basing my assessment on remembered past experience.

There was a delay. For a couple of hours we sat on board, then sailed around in circles just outside the marina, trusting that the forecast gale force winds would not eventuate and actually, we were lucky with the morning. It was relatively calm, except for the little gust that pushed us lightly into the jetty as opposed to the cradle as we approached the slip. Yay for fenders. It makes a nothing out of something that could otherwise lighten your wallet.

We scrutinised her as she was slowly lifted on to the hard. She was looking good; very good. But then I saw an unassuming squishy little red thing stuck to her side.

‘What’s that?’ I asked a person more authoratitive than me.

‘I think an Ascidiacea,’ he said, squashing it with his finger. ‘You know, a sea squirt.’

Samos had acquired a pet, or, more to the point, the squirt had acquired Samos.

I recalled the yacht I’d seen washed up on Nutgrove Beach, bearded with seaweed, weighed down with mussels, oysters and plump polyps– a sorry sight in one way, an octopus’s garden exposed in another. It’s a rich and diverse community that eye out a yacht’s hull and from one little squirt whole ecosystems grow. We washed her down and thought we’d put her back in within a couple of minutes.

‘Maybe by 4,’ the men in the boatyard told us. ‘Or else tomorrow.’

Given our heavy hearts, a new strategy required (me) and a sense of impending doom (the seadog) I decided to stand her lunch and over coffee we considered the gathering winds.

‘I’m not too happy about those winds,’ she said.

‘We’ll be sheltered in the marina,’ I encouraged, well aware that not having sailed on Samos with me before, she had every reason to suspect the boat might get the better of me, smash us up against moored yachts, or rocks on the far side of the river, or that, once in the marina, we might crash about, unable to squeeze ourselves into the berth. This salty seadog has been witness to some mistakes I’ve made that no one, not even a landlubber who has never sniffed the sea breeze, should ever make.

Back at the marina we discovered that Samos’s descent back into the the salty brine was being impeccably timed for the arrival of the gale. We’d no sooner past the jetty than we were clobbered by its full force and my attempts to get the boat into reverse for our entry into the marina were thwarted not once but time over time as the gale messed with the bow. We gave up, and did some circles waiting for a lull, and when one came I was just quick enough to whip her into position. Within minutes we were trundling down the channel and securing her in her berth.

‘I can see you’ve got that bit down pat,’ said the seadog generously, given I had wasted her entire day. But after she had gone and I was tidying up the boat, I reflected on the winds that blew, the pirouettes we made, one or two contingency plans I’d mentioned and I sadly realised that it might be a long time until that most excellent seadog chose to come on board Samos again. I guess the lesson is that if you can’t control the winds be careful when you sail, but then again, in the Roaring Forties you’d never go sailing at all if you weren’t prepared to partner the wind and tango on the water.

I came home and opened my trusty guidebooks, keen to know a little more about Samos’s recently deceased pet. I discovered two Asciddiacea in my pocket guide, Cunevoi (pyura stolonifera), the sea squirt, green and somewhat shapeless IMHO and the Southern Sea Tulip (Pyura australis), both belonging to to the phylum Tunicata, so called because they wear an extra ‘tunic’ to protect their sac-like bodies. Going solely by the pictures, I figured that Samos had gifted us an unwanted sea tulip. Chai, from Perth, has a blog with some good pictures of this interesting creature and The Atlas of Living Australia is a fine authoratative source, but there really isn’t all that much literature given it was first described in 1834 by Quoy and Gaimard.  We’ve largely ignored it, but, yachties, it’s not ignoring us.


According to my more comprehensive guide, a sea tulip is actually an animal that enjoys a good wharf piling and is sanguine about turbidity – and you really would have to be tolerant of mucky water to thrive in a marina or harbour. The pyura are all sea squirts and you’d have seen them in rock pools or washed up after storms. Instead of legs or floating free like other ascidians, it has a single stalk and its body looks like a lumpy jelly because it has rows of raised tubercles. This compound ascidian is actually a colony of tiny individuals and it has spread itself far and wide through the subtidal fringe zones, from southern WA to Tasmania and up the eastern seaboard by releasing gametes into the water for fertilisaton and by hitching a ride on boats and ships. In their larvae stage they look like tadpoles.

Sea tulips are filter feeders, sucking in water through an inhaling siphon and exhaling through another siphon expressly for that purpose.  It’s a simple and elegant lifestyle.

Our tulip was gone before I could photograph it but as well as the pages listed above, a Google Image search will display a range of different sea tulips. It’s worth a look.

And it’s also worth noting that amateur identification can often be wrong.  Who knows – perhaps it was a doppelgänger and not a tulip at all.  I had reason to question my perception when I took a little walk.

Inspiration Has Many Threads (3)

Small Adventures

Version 3

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. 

~ Jawaharial Nehru

This year no further overseas travel is on the agenda. A small yacht, perfect for exploring the Derwent and the D’Entrecasteaux, has been nibbling at my wallet as yachts and ponies are known to do.  But the boat is a partnered venture. There are weekends when I’m free to do other things.

One Sunday, with the boat on the hard, I suggested we go up the Derwent Valley, away from the coast, to see the leaves turning. At Plenty we kept on going. Soon we were passing the farm where we’d once holidayed with friends. A fine drizzle blurred the land but on we went into territory I’d all but forgotten. I could barely remember the Craigbourne Dam and it was a novelty to stop in Hamilton (a tiny sandstone town surrounded by hills) for a coffee.

This sense of disconnection had me thinking about local adventures – small adventures with more modest carbon footprints than jet planes. Deciding against googling the definition of ‘small adventures’ I decided that for my purposes a small adventure would be limited to the state, either planned or serendipitous. I believe you can have an adventure sitting mindfully in a garden if you are open to the world about you. It’s how birds land on your head and skinks climb over you. There does not need to be high drama or fear of loss of life or limb. An event or occasion can be an adventure, it simply depends on cultivating a particular state of mind, squeezing adventure from what’s already known and ordinary. An adventure can be minuscule but the pleasure can be immense. It could involve an epiphany. Conversely, there could be terror.

I had thought, when I took up sailing, that I would drift beneath a blue sky sipping gin and tonics. Instead I’ve got to know the wild wind and I’ve enjoyed countless exhilarating days on local waterways, getting to know these aspects of the island better but neglecting to stay in touch with others.
So I made a decision. My year of small adventures would be opportunistic and would focus largely on sailing and beaches, be that by foot, kayak or bicycle.  And for that I needed a plan.

Kelp detail


Inspiration Has Many Threads (2)

It’s Written in the Literature

Version 3

I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular pattern of living, my own individual balance of life, work and human relationships…  My situation had, in certain ways, more freedom than that of most people, and in certain other ways, much less.

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

When I was pondering the shape this blog should take, it wasn’t to other blogs that I turned but to my friends, the books.  My reading for pleasure over the past year has been almost solely confined to sailing – mostly circumnavigations by people made of different stuff:  Bernard Moitessier, Joshua Slocum and Tania Aebi to name a few.  I thought about the writer’s like Dervla Murphy, who have carried me with them on their bicycles, writers like Laurie Lee with whom I walked out one midsummer morning through England and into Franco’s Spain, while  managing to co-exist in a boiling high school classroom.

Recently I’ve been listening late at night to The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert MacFarlane. One moment we’re on an ancient pathway then I wake up to find I’m with him on a boat.  Roger Deakin (‘I went to Wales because the place was stiff with magic’) would be right at home adding the chilly Derwent to his  Waterlog but wild swimming is not entering into my plans.  I like to stay warm.  My favourite kayaking companion has always been the enigmatic  imposter, Grey Owl, back when you could truly lose yourself (and your identity) in the Canadian wilds.  And more recently I’ve also read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, about the walk she did down the Pacific Coast Trail after her mother died.

I’m no writer, no adventurer.  I read, I holiday, I work with people whose memory and bodies are failing them.  They are losing their history, grieving the loss of themselves and everything they hold dear.  Around me there are beaches.  I have two dogs for whom a stretch of sand and a cold current represent the penultimate adventure.  I have a helpful geologist who knows his vegetation too.  I have feet, a bicycle, a kayak and a yacht.

But reading about grander adventures is inspiring.  It occurred to me that down in the depths of the oceanic web I could start a modest blog so that I can scribble a little, fiddle about on beaches, mess about in boats, think as I cycle, sense the earth beneath my feet, carry dreams on my wake and reflect on memories as I peer into rockpools.  In trying to shrug off the notion that only great adventures matter I thought again about getting to know the beaches and coastlines and in so doing discover the nature of the world we’re fast rubbing out before loss becomes our nightmare and our sorrow, and the beaches disappear insufficiently recorded.