Ding-dong, ding-dong “Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it has just gone 5:30am and this is your wake up call. We are about to arrive in Devonport and expect to offload passengers starting from 6:15am.” This was the essence of our welcome to Tasmania on Monday morning 18th February 2013.
The happy hour at Ashley Gardens last Friday was spent with neighbours Phil and Sandy who are travelling in a small motor home; the topic of discussion was the best way to get from the caravan park to the ferry terminal to board the Spirit of Tasmania for the journey from Melbourne to Devonport.
We had two alternative routes to consider – one provided by Google Maps and one provided by the Caravan Park management. After a few drinks it was decided that a “dry run” would be the best method of determining which route to take. Both couples were sailing on Sunday 17th – Phil and Sandy in the morning and us in the evening. Saturday morning was decided to be the best time to conduct the “dry run”.
On the way to the port we tested the route indicated by Google Maps and given there was some unusual traffic as a result of road works (which would probably not be operating on the Sunday of our journeys) we found the route to be reasonably simple and easy to follow. At the Port we had some discussions with various security personnel to get an idea of what actually happened on the day the ferry actually sailed. One of the ferries was actually in port so we were able to work out how vehicles entered the ship on sailing day.
Armed with our new-found information we had coffee at one of the little eateries in the Port precinct and then set out to test the route provided by the Caravan Park management – except that we would traverse this route in reverse from the Port to the Caravan Park rather than the other way around. Travel on both routes took about the same time although the return journey (Caravan Park route) was longer in length.
Phil and Sandy decided on the Google Maps route as this was simple enough and would suit their smaller vehicle while Margaret and I decided the long route was the more viable given the size of the van we are towing. After Phil and Sandy arrive on board the ferry on Sunday morning Phil rang to tell us how the process of boarding the ferry actually worked (very useful information). It seemed that the majority of park residents were travelling to Tasmania via the Sunday morning ferry as the number of vacant spots in the park after breakfast far outweighed the occupied sites. Not for long though as the next group of travelers arrived progressively throughout the day.
On Sunday we had a leisurely morning progressively packing the van and getting ready to go to the port in the late afternoon. After lunch we pulled down and packed up and by 3:30pm were almost ready to depart – then in the course of moving the jockey wheel I managed to knock the water tap off the draw bar. We hen had to undertake some unpacking of packed items to get to the electric drill and some metal screws so we could refit the tap. Job done by about 4:45pm and it was time for a shower followed by timely departure.
We were advised that the loading process would commence at 6:00pm so our aim was to get to the port around this 6:00pm kickoff. We even parked on the side of one of the roads close to the port so as to avoid having to park at the port itself where parking for vans is quite limited. By the time we moved to the area adjacent to the port loading facility there was already a traffic jam of cars towing caravans, motor homes and all manner of vehicles waiting to load on to the ferry.
Eventually we moved forward to the first check point where we had to surrender a small gas cylinder (for our outside stove) from the back of the truck to be collected gain at the end of our journey in Devonport. We moved slowly from one point to the next until we were directed through the bow of the ferry to deck level 3 where we faced the stern doors about three vehicles back.
We locked the car and headed for the upper decks to the buffet for something to eat the time being about two hours after we first started to queue and about one hour prior to the scheduled sailing time. When we had finished eating and moved up one more deck level to the recliner chairs in which we would spend the next six or seven hours, there were still vehicles being loaded.
Despite the apparent chaos to that point, at the scheduled sailing time the ferry started to move out of the dock and turn for the open sea on its voyage to the Apple Isles. As the lights rimming the shore of Port Phillip Bay slowly faded in the distance, the throbbing of the ships engines provided a background noise and vibration to assist the weary to achieve fitful slumber accompanied by the snores, coughs and sneezes of the other 100+ patrons seated in the recliner area.
After a night of spasmodic sleep and dozing the delightful wake up message was delivered and there was a general movement towards coffee and breakfast in the buffet. Vehicles are offloaded progressively with garage level (the one we were on) called first. We moved to our vehicle sat for a while until the doors were opened and then moved off the ship and slowly toward and through the quarantine checkpoint. We collected our gas bottle and we were away – hello Devonport!