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  • Shelley Dark

#5 Sydney to Hobart final strait!

When I first booked Saltcotes for Christmas, I gave no thought to its position relative to the Derwent River, or to the date of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Frances the owner did mention though that in 2017 there had been a race to the finish line between two boats in front of the house on the day after Boxing Day.

That's our house in red, and the yachts sail up the river past it (red track). But the water is 5 kilometres wide at that point, with no guarantee how close they might come to the house. Even if they did, there was a 50-50 chance it would happen during the night.

In the Aussie spirit, the kids organised 2 draws: one for the bigger yachts and another for the handicap honours, writing the results up on a blackboard in the Saltcotes dining room.

We downloaded the official yacht tracker to follow the race from Boxing Day onwards. Very sad for Scallywag when it retired. I hate a broken bowsprit don't you?

The first boats looked as if they'd be in the Derwent on Friday morning, the day we checked out. So we located the two pairs of binoculars, set our alarms, packed our bags and cleaned out the frig ready for checkout, and settled in for the race!

At daybreak on Friday morning the tracker was showing Wild Oats in the lead off Port Arthur, not far from us. That's a screenshot above: Wild Oats on the far left, with Black Jack, Comanche and Infotrack close behind. First time 4 maxi-yachts have been in the Derwent at one time!

We knew things were happening when we saw one of the Mona ferries on its way past to meet the super yachts.

Wild Oats (Philippa's yacht in the draw) appeared behind the Opossum Bay headland before we saw the hull! We could not believe a yacht could be so HUGE!

It was travelling a straight route on the other side of the Derwent, with a very official looking escort vessel and smaller craft following, helicopters hovering around. Too far away to be exciting.

We seemed to wait an age for Comanche (Ange's draw, with the red hull) and Black Jack (John's yacht, on the left) to appear. I was upstairs on our balcony and screamed in disbelief to everyone on the deck below - 'They're coming straight at us!' We couldn't believe our eyes! John took off along the beach for the headland. Alby raced down to the beach with her camera - that's her in the white shorts.

Closer and closer they came!

Changing sails, losing wind, gaining wind!

Every change brought new cries. Oh my goodness, Black Jack is gaining! Comanche has lost the wind! No she's got it again!

They tacked away again, appearing to gain speed.

Black Jack (John's yacht in the draw) was closer and closer to overtaking. As they disappeared, it tacked much closer to our headland than Comanche - it appeared to be a mistake! John was groaning!

We ran inside to watch on television. The cameras only had eyes for Wild Oats and its win. No helicopters over the top of Comanche and Black Jack. We were screaming, go back go back! We want to see what's happening for second and third!

photo of Black Jack by Andrea Francolini

The television channel was still interviewing the captain of Wild Oats when an announcement was made that Black Jack had come second. It did pay off!

What an unbelievable experience! What a vantage point for the race. How lucky were we?

We visited Ridgeline Pottery the day before we left Saltcotes. Master potter Ben Richardson and his wife Peta take a pride in using Tasmanian clays and glazes to create wonderful works of art. It's taken a lifetime of experimentation to learn. They also supply many restaurants and wineries with pottery plates, often using clay or glaze material indigenous to the area of the particular restaurant or winery.

Ben's wife Peta showed us the wood-fired kilns, and explained the process. Firing in the bigger kiln takes 50 hours, with wood needing to be fed in the entire time. The smaller kiln takes a day.

This is a temperature tester for the kiln. They can peer in to see which tooth has melted and know from that how the kiln is going....

There's a showroom and accommodation, and a great veggie garden!

This last is a glaze tester.

The glazes reminded me of the sandstone rocks on the beachfront near our house.

I'm very fond of the walks near here. It's a great bonus at Saltcotes.

And the light! And the shells. There are so many beautiful shells on Tassie beaches.

I've heard it said that if you see Mt Wellington out of cloud, you should go up immediately. There hasn't been a day since we've been here that you couldn't see the summit! This was at dawn on our last morning.

It was with great sadness that we loaded our bags and said goodbye our home for the past week. It's a Christmas we won't ever forget.

Now John and I are at Falmouth, a tiny little town on the east coast with a great beach break off the river mouth. John calls it foulmouth - just being silly, because it's really very charming. Will show you in my next post.The kids go home from Hobart today.

I hope you're having a wonderful break between Christmas and NewYear. Until my next diary post, I wait you,

shelley dark, writer 

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