Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Onward, to Van Dieman's Land!

Sunday, February 18th - In the dark evening with a smattering of raindrops upon the window (just enough to make pictures come out really badly) we drove up the tall narrow ramp -- more like a one lane bridge really. The lights of the classic Titanic-esque hull of the Queen Mary II are just off to our right and a little further forward, making it seem smaller than the red and white Spirit of Tasmania II that looms up right in front of us. While the whole front of the Queenscliff ferries opens like a whaleshark, the Spirit of Tasmania seems to suck them aboard with a straw, into a narrow one-car-wide entrance at the very beak of the prow.

   Once aboard we were directed up a ramp to park in one of three lines of cars on the port side .. it took awhile for me to orient myself since we had driven in from the front and were facing aft -- it being already dark even once we were moving one got no sense of direction looknig out of the windows so I kept having a hard time keeping track of which was port or starboard or fore or aft. Once parked we took everything we'd need for the night (no vehicle access during transit) and headed to the central stairwells. I was excited because I haven't ever been on a cruise or overnight ferry (except this one time in Sweden in 1999 which is longer ago than I can remember). Family cabins hadn't been available anymore when dad booked most of a week previously, so mom was in a four person women's cabin and dad and I were in a similar men's cabin. The hallways were so narrow one had to back up against the wall to let another person pass. The rooms were of course small but comfortable, with two bunkbeds, a desk that I can't imagine anyone using since it would obstruct everyone else and the llight wouldn't be appreciated t night, and a bathroom. After putting our stuff on our beds we went upstairs -- our car was on deck 6, rooms on deck 8, most of the length of deck 7 was "lounge," chairs and TVs. Deck 9 was crew only and 10 was also sort of lounge style but mostly deserted -- maybe it's more popular on day transits. There was of course a bar on the main lounge deck, but they had a very very small selection, not one beer remotely resembling craft and didn't even KNOW what a the traditional sailor's drink the "dark and stormy" is (ginger beer and rum), which is weird because its not nearly as obscure in Aus as in the States, most bars in Australia seem to have it in can. There was also a restaurant which we didn't partake of outbound but on our return we did and some of the buffet style food was pretty good. At the front (or was it aft, I really don't know!) was a room that was kept dark and full of recliners for people who didn't want to fork out the dough for a cabin -- I'm told it's really uncomfortable, and really, after paying $100ish (AUD, so like $75US), it seems silly to balk at paying another $33aud for a bunk in the dorm style cabins. Another economic mystery is it seemed like some people do this transit all the time, but flying costs abut HALF AS MUCH (google search just now is giving me $89 and $112 round trip options) and takes a fraction of the time. Obv the ferry is the only option if you want to take your car but seemed like some of the regulars take the ferry to commute regularly for work between Melbourne and Tassie and you really don't need a car to get around Melbourne.

Web photo since I don't have any worth posting from this episode but believe every entry should have a picture.

   We settled down to watch the Olympics, which fortunately was on about half the TVs in the lounge. As I mentioned before, we as a family don't watch much TV, but we have always watched the olympics. To me the Olympics is a special family tradition that feels almost like Christmas, since I can remember even as a very young kid getting to stay up later than usual to watch the olympics with my parents. We also none of us follow team sports at all, personally I can't even begin to comprehend how people can get excited about teams that really just represent a brand name, none of the players come from the city they "represent" and get traded around all the time, and one pointless season of pointless sporting and appalling scandals follows endlessly on another. But things like the Olympics I feel represent inspiring acts of true sportsmanship and striving for excellence, as well as national honor in fun way which allows one to get excited and root for countries one has a connection to.

   My parents being early-birds as usual went to bed much earlier than me, but I was enjoying the Olympics and wanted to still be up when we crossed the bar out of the broad bay Melbourne is at the back of. I believe we had departed around 9pm, and for the first few hours there was no feeling at all of wave movement. Finally, around 12:40am the vessel began to noticably buck a bit. I went out on deck to find the air warm despite the brisk ocean breeze, and we were just passing the Queencliff lighthouse. I walked through to the port side and saw the darker Point Nepean sliding past with the Sorrento lights further down the peninsula. At this point the boat had enough of a galloping motion that one stumbled around like a drunkard. Most of the rest of the passengers had gone to bed and crewmembers were cleaning up the lounge area. I've had a few locals ask me since if we had a "rough passage," and I'm never sure what to say, was this rough? It's relative. I've sailed in gale conditions with 18 foot swells in a 100 foot schooner, when even the most experienced crewmember kept a barf bag at hand any time they were belowdecks -- THAT was "rough." This was just enough to be fun and make me nostalgic for my sailing days.

   Made my way to my cabin happily bouncing off the walls like I was in a pinball machine. Tried to enter the cabin as quietly as I could and climbed onto my bunk with just the light from my phone -- apparently not the norm of courtesy here: my mom's roommates apparently routinely turned on the lights when they got up (and one was in the bathroom for two hours in the morning!), and when one of my roommates (who had a remarkable ability to loudly mumble profanities in his sleep) got up at 5am he had no compunction about turning on the blazing lights. The ship's announcements gave everyone a wake up announcement 45 minutes from arrival, I think around 7:15, using nice non-jarring tones. Dad and I talked a bit to the fourth member of our cabin, a regular on this route, who gave us some tips to see in Tassie. I forget exactly how we found mom, maybe she tapped on our door, anyway it turned out she'd already been up for some time (see also roommates turning on lights in her room). We went up to deck 10 to get some coffee and watch Tasmania approach. At first it appeared as a series of mountains with golden light shining down upon it through the clouds. Gradually it got closer and bigger until the town of Devonport lay around us in the dull grey morning light. Drivers were instructed to board their cars deck by deck and presently our call came. Recall we'd gone up a ramp to park, we appeared to be on an entire deck that would elevator down when the deck below cleared, and from a few cars ahead of us one could see the cars exiting below out the big opening in the back. A car near the very front of one of the rows below us (with door open here), an elegant classic car of some type, was unable to start and holding up the whole row behind it. After some ten minutes a RACV (Australian AAA) car came on on the ramp and jumped it -- I was really surprised the ferry didn't have portable jumping kits itself considering that out of a load of 700 cars at least one probably won't start every time. Finally our deck lowered down and we were off down the ramp and onto Tasmanian soil. I kept asking my parents "can you believe we're in Tasmania?? Did you ever think you' be in Tasmania??" Would we see the famous Tasmanian Devil? Maybe discover the last Tasmanian Tiger?? Tasmanian Lion??? Visit dismal swamps? Drive into a mine shaft? Eat scallop pies*?? All that and more will be answered in future entries!!

*just last night my Australian friends laughed at me for the way I say scallop ("scah-lop") and instructed me it's, let me see if I can get this right, ::does jaw excercises::, "skwau--loup?"

Tags: australia, boating, my parents, nautical travel, tasmania, travel, travelogues

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