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A wander downriver

Posted by on December 13, 2011

What a nice time we had at Gravelly Beach!

Last Friday we attended a MAST flares presentation at the Gravelly Beach Slipyard. The Slipyard put on a BBQ and all manner of hairy boaties turned up, including yours truly.

We got to talking to a white haired chap who looked like he’d been around boats for a while; he had all sorts of boat safety horror stories to tell. Turns out he was a member of Coast Guard Tamar.

We then moved off to the waterside for the flare demonstration. MAST had brought a bunch of Pains-Wessex hand flares along for all to try. He first tried to let off some “day” flares, the orange smoke ones. Notably, the first one didn’t fire. I can imagine that if you were in strife and you only had one of these, you might be a tad disappointed. Note to self: carry more than one of any flare type.

I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever let an orange smoke flare off, but they put orange dye shit everywhere, it’s noxious stuff, and difficult to clean off. Let them off so the smoke goes downwind and away from anything you might have to clean. The alleged visibility of an orange smoke flare is 4km. It was blowing 10kts or so, and the smoke dissipated dismayingly quickly. Don’t count on them being seen on a windy day.

The next flare fired was a red “night” signal flare. I have seen these fired and dropped into the ocean. They burn all the way down to the seabed; once the magnesium is burning, nothing short of a vacuum will put it out.

I once let an out of date one off, and a chunk of it fell out and burned through my jacket, my shirt, then my arm. Still burning, I shook the fragment out of my forearm muscle and into the water, where it fizzled until consumed. Neatly cauterized by the heat, my injury didn’t bleed, but it hurt like a bastard.

When they had let these red flares burn out, the barrel of the flare was glowing orange hot. The residual heat was enough to boil a bucket of water pretty well instantly. These flares are highly visible, rated at 5km during the day at sea level, twice that at night and 20km at night from the air… But be super careful with them, they are nasty if things go wrong.

The last flare was a red rocket flare. These fire a red parachute flare up about 300 meters into the air, and are most spectacular. I’m not sure if the muzzle velocity is high enough to do someone an injury, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Lis had entered the lucky door raffle, which was drawn later in the afternoon. Just prior to drawing, she hunted me down and cajoled me into entering. She has long found her lifejacket irritating in the way its design pulls at her hair, and this was a chance to win a new one. We joined the throng gathered for the draw and merrily added to the cries of “rigged!” when a Slipyard employee won, and so the hand went back in for a redraw. We quickly established a bargain with Shirley, the shipwright at the Slipyard, that if she won it, she’d donate it to us…. You’d never guess it, but she won! The fickle finger of fate intervened however, and they disallowed the donation! So in the hand went for another redraw… The tension was palpable, match point at the Australian Open has nothing on this… After a long stir of the tickets, the number was drawn… It was my ticket! We had won a new Burke inflatable life vest! Yay! Lis is most chuffed, and very happy with her early Christmas present.


On the weekend we were invited to the AMC Tow Tank Facility Christmas Party. Years ago, Lis got her engineering degree at the AMC and worked there for a time afterward, before we went to the States. It was great to catch up with people we hadn’t seen in years.

A few days later I was talking to a good friend of mine who asked me to look up a friend of his called Henry, a white haired chap who had been in the Navy, who now was a bus driver in Exeter. That afternoon, we walked up to Exeter to re-provision, and walked past the four thousand school buses lined up to take the kids home. Seriously, I have never seen so many; they filled the street. The Exeter Primary and High Schools must service a huge area. Who should be driving one but the white haired guy we had spoken to at the flare demonstration. We said “Hi” but he was clearly working, so we kept walking. We saw him again about an hour later outside the Exeter IGA supermarket, and I asked him if he’d been in the Navy… he had! The white haired guy was Henry! Isn’t Tassie a tiny place!

Today we left Gravelly Beach for a while. We had run low on water in tanks (not filled since St Helens) and had been told we could get some more at the Tamar Yacht Club marina at Beauty Point. The above photo isn’t mine, it’s lifted from the TYC site.

two guys called Dave and Ron take turns looking after the Marina. Ron came down after we tied up at the visitors dock; he takes a photo of every pleasure boat going up the Tamar, he’s got thousands of pictures. Ron gave us names of people to see and places to go in this part of the Tamar, which was really nice of him.

We got in touch with Dave (the other guy that runs the marina) and organized filling the tanks. Turns out water isn’t free anymore; with the increases in water rates, the Marina is now mindful of how much water costs them. It’s apparently free to members, but were asked to make a donation. After a bit of awkward haggling we settled on $10 and got to putting about 300 liters of water on board, not sure whether we had got a good deal or not.

With the tide turning, we cleared out of the marina and headed up where we are now; West Arm. We have gone much further up the arm than our last trip, and found some caves we’d been told about, tucked around a bend.

As I write this, the boys have taken their kayaks ashore to explore. If you look closely in the full size version of the photo below (click on it to get the bigger version) you should see Lachie sitting up in a shallow cave some 20ft up the cliff face.

We have a yummy lamb roast on for tea tonight, and I’m looking forward to waking to the dawn chorus of birds from the State Reserve ashore. Life is good… Now all I have to do is get a job, but that’s another post…


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