This week some 200 sailors aboard 37 cruising yachts and three motor cruisers set sail from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart on the 11th biennial Van Diemens Land Circumnavigation Cruise, familiarly known as the VDL-C.
VDL-C Cruise Nigel Hill and David Weir preparing Dreamtime - photo Peter Campbell
For many it will be one of the adventures of their lifetime. For others, it will be a sentimental journey. Hobart yachtsman Dave Weir is sailing his ninth circumnavigation of the island now known as Tasmania, skippering his comfortable cruising yacht Dreamtime of Tasmania.
The boats come from as far north as Hervey Bay in Queensland as well as from South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The first leg is up the East Coast, passing through the Furneaux Islands and then on to Beauty Point on the Tamar River for three days of river cruising and some shore leave to visit vineyard and other local attractions.
Not all of the boats will complete a full circumnavigation. At Beauty Point, eight boats in the 'half-circumnavigation Tamar Cruise' will leave the fleet, but the numbers will not reduce, as their places are to be taken by yachts that have sailed across Bass Strait from Geelong.
'I’ve been in nine of the 11 VDL-C Cruises…each of them different, with the prime objective of enjoying cruising in company as we show them the beautiful coastline of Tasmania,' Dave Weir said at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT) before departing.
'I’ve sailed the VDL-C aboard several different yachts, and was Cruise Commodore several times, so I just had to continue doing the Cruise and showing sailors from around Australia the magnificent coastal scenery and waterways of Tasmania.
'This year will be the first time for probably half of the cruising boats; the others have been before and just can’t wait to get on the list for the next Cruise.
'The beauty of this event is that we can provide any guidance of advise they need; after all, we will be cruising in small boats in the ‘roaring forties’ on the edge of the world’s largest ocean.'
Cruise Commodore Nigel Hill described the VDL-C as unique in Australia, '800 nautical miles of wonderful cruising – if you don’t have to tack!'
'We will be stopping overnight, or for several days, in magnificent places like the inside of Maria Island, the Tamar River, the Three Hummocks Islands and on the West Coast in Macquarie Harbour and then in Port Davey,' he said.
Commodore Hill said the VDL-C Cruise was about 'sailing and navigating at all times within the bounds of good seamanship, as well as being self-reliant and as self-contained as possible.'
The circumnavigation will take about five weeks. Why not think about it for next year?
A little history:
Captain James Kelly, colonial navigator, explorer, whaler and port officer, was the first Hobart sailor to circumnavigate Van Diemens Land in the summer of 1815-16, in a whaleboat.
Kelly completed the voyage just once, in doing so discovering Port Davey, Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River, thus opening up the West Coast’s potential for mining and logging Huon pine.
The first pleasure yacht to follow his course was Duncan McRae’s Kintail in 1947, currently back in Hobart for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival.