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15 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Days 3 & 4 - Saturday 15/12/07

Matt rang at 5.30 pm to let us know he was safe at the southern side of Bathurst Narrows, enjoying the peace and quiet of a sunny afternoon.

Apparently, he has injured his left ankle which made wearing boots uncomfortable. Since that incident he has been wearing sandals, until one broke, so he is back to boots again.

All being well he should reach Melaleuca tomorrow (Sunday) when he will reassess his injury. If the food parcel has been left for him by Par Avion he will then need to make a decision as to whether he is fit enough to continue on to Cockle Creek or get a lift out by plane.

13 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Day 2 - Thursday 13/12/07 - Port Davey Track

Just a brief text message from Matt today via sat phone - "At Watershed Camp. 20kms today. Sore and tired but OK."

I tried to call him immediately I received the message but unfortunately there was no signal. I would expect he is limiting his phone usage to preserve battery power, even though he has a flexible solar panel to re-charge batteries whenever possible. I hope he wasn't standing around staring at the phone screen for 2 hours waiting for enough bars to appear so he could send his message.

12 December 2007

SW Tasmania Expedition

Day 1 - Wednesday 12/12/07 - Port Davey Track

A new adventure starts!

Today, at 12.55 pm, Matt started out from Scots Peak Dam on the first leg of a walk down to Melaleuca and, maybe, on to Cockle Creek.

Weather was fine, slightly overcast, with not too many march flies to bother him.

His aim for today was to walk to the junction of McKays Track and the Port Davey Track (maybe 3 - 3.5 hours) and camp there. He expects to take 4 days to get to Melaleuca, then 6 or 7 to Cockle Creek.

I don't expect daily updates, especially bearing in mind the problems he had on his previous attempt to paddle down the west coast but, as information comes to hand, I'll keep this site updated.

According to the registration log book no other walkers were planning to do this trip at this time, so he may not meet many, if any, other walkers.

07 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 6 - Friday 7/12/07

Matt rang (CDMA from Macquarie Heads - thank you Telstra for closing this service from Jan 08!!!) to say he had arrived at about 10 am after a very difficult struggle from his last night's camp site 2 kms north of Sloop Point.

He was up at 4.45 am after enduring a night of strong winds, expecting the wind might drop early in the day. No such luck, so he set off, hugging the shore to gain some protection from the N-NE winds.

As he rounded Cape Sorell he was met with the full force of the gale wind and steep seas. A front came through and turned n/w - which was a gale force TAIL wind (coming from a 7-8 o'clock angle behind) with torrential rain. The wind was so strong he couldn't avoid being hurled down the steep breaking waves so he had to brace for the ride.

As he approached Hells Gates in gale force winds a tourist boat poked its nose out - the tourists must have wondered just what they were seeing as Matt paddled into Macquarie Harbour, apparently having come from the open Ocean.

He now intends to re-assess his plans for the remaining 6 weeks of his holidays but said that he would have gone insane if he had to spend 5-6 weeks by himself back on that section of coast again - when you are so spoiled kayaking and you can do the same thing in 2-4 days.

He now plans to do some more 'normal' trips like Precipitous Bluff 'circuit' (out Moonlight Ridge & back via South Coast Track), Mt Anne Circuit, Frenchman's Cap, and a two week paddle trip to Albatross Island area - n/w Tas.
Thanks Phil for the suggestions. I mainly decided it was best for the little remaining sanity that I have left, that it wouldn't be smart to spend 5 weeks by myself bush-bashing through dense scrub with no tracks. I have heard that someone was stuck in the section near the Wanderer River and was praying for a fishing boat to pick him up to escape it.

from Matt W.

06 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 5 - Thursday 6/12/07

First, a note of thanks to Phil for helpful suggestions of how to protect food when left in a remote area - I'll pass on to Matt at first chance.

Gale force winds today would have made 'progress' very difficult for Matt - from the north to north-east. However, I heard from my wife Suzanne, when I had returned from a day trip to Melbourne, that Matt had made it to about 12 kms from Cape Sorell lighthouse (20 km from getting back into Macquarie Hbr) during the afternoon.

Apparently, if he has a chance he will attempt to get up through Hells Gates during the evening - if the strong winds ease up as it cools down. He thinks the strong wind might be due to a hot day and strong sea breeze.

I hope he doesn't get "homecoming fever" and try to do too much too soon. I would rather he waits a day or two close to Strahan than push too hard.

However, he is his own man and I know he will take care.

05 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 4 - Wednesday 5/12/07

Despite repeated attempts last night no contact was possible with Matt.

I sent the 5am coastal forecast early today in the hope he might be able to get a signal to read that conditions are expected to ease somewhat.
However, at 7.30am I got a phone call from Matt to say he thought it would be insane to continue and undertake the walk as planned. He did not get the text message though.
His reasoning is that he checked the food box at The Shank (where he spent last night) and found that animals had attacked it and water had got into the plastic box even though it was sealed with strong fabric tape.

Imagine the despair if he had found this after 7 days walk and then no food re-supply for the following week!

His plan now is to back-track, maybe to Point Hibbs today.

More news as it comes to hand.

Update from later in the day - Matt has reached Point Hibbs in worsening conditions. He reckons he might try for Strahan (Heads Camping Ground) on Thursday, weather permitting.

04 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 3 - Tuesday 4/12/07

This must have been a very frustrating day for Matt - he is still at The Shank!
I received only the briefest of phone calls from him and 2 text messages:

5.58 pm "Still at The Shank. V strong gusty wind. Next 3 days wind?"

7.35 pm "I am not getting any radio signal for news, weather. Sat phone 1 min per hour."

He apparently tried many times to get a signal and, when he did, I happened to be tending a small fire to get rid of rubbish and did not have the forecast printout with me that I had sent.

The coastal weather forecast I sent by text would not have given him any joy either (if he was able to get it). It started off with:

"A gale warning is current."

I tried many times during the evening to get through to his sat phone but only got the unavailable message. Not a good recommendation for a sat phone in a remote area I thought.

I don't think Matt is running out of time for this food supply trip but I know that hanging around waiting for the weather to improve isn't his favourite way of spending the day in the wilderness.

(from Matt) - I was waiting at the Shank and had no idea what the weather was going to do as I hadn't heard any forecasts. I could see that it was very gusty and would have been messy off Low Rocky Point. After I had watched the weather for the whole day I realised that in hindsight I could have easily coped with the conditions - but I couldn't predict that. It really does drive me crazy when I get stuck at a place. Even though the Shank is sheltered for landing a kayak, it isn't a pleasant smelling place. There is a lagoon full of rotting kelp that smells like poo. The lagoon had a stream of flowing rotten kelp past my camp. After a while you get better at breathing without smelling as well. There are the marks of lots of 4 wheel bike tracks near the Shank from bikes that come down the old mining exploration track from Birchs Inlet (Macquarie Hbr) to Low Rocky Point. There is also fishing rubbish everywhere.

03 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 2 - Monday 3/12/07

Only a sketchy report from Matt today when he rang at 9.05pm due to the appalling coverage by his globalstar satellite phone.
He is at The Shank, about 35 kms SE of Point Hibbs. He left Point Hibbs at 9am after packing and leaving his food parcel for the walk later. He left a second food parcel at Hartwell Cove, about 20 kms SE of Point Hibbs. It had been raining heavily during the paddle and he sheltered in Hartwell Cove for a while waiting for things to improve but after a while he left because he decided he may as well be wet and get warm paddling rather than stand around getting cold and wet.
As well as the rain, it was very misty with only about 2km visibility, so he followed the coast as closely as the large breaking waves would allow.
Yesterday it took him over an hour to get a satellite phone signal before he was able to get through to report progress. Today it was over 2 hours and then the signal dropped out after 2 minutes due to a lost signal. "Thankyou Globalstar." You are improving Telstra/Iridium's business by the day! Even Globalstar Australia's website lists in the coverage details the optimum times of the day that you will get coverage for the location that you enter - maybe once every 45 mins or so in some areas for a minute or two. It is a shame that there satellites are failing (see media reports that they may not be working by 2008)

Even though he is well equipped, with a solar panel to charge batteries, if the sun's not shining when he stops paddling then there isn't much chance to re-charge any batteries. When he landed at the Shank he cleared the braken ferns from an old fishermen's campsite and watched the waves breaking on all of the reefs that make this area sheltered.

02 December 2007

West Coast Expedition

Day 1 - Sunday 2/12/07

After what must have been a nightmare organising gear for two trips at the same time, Matt left the camping ground at Macquarie Heads at 11am with his Mirage 580 sea kayak packed with not only his supplies for up to 2 weeks of kayak paddle, but also food for four (weekly) supply drops when he walks down the coast.
He phoned at 9.30pm to let me know he had made it to Point Hibbs, the first drop-off point, at 7.30pm, very tired.
He had head winds out to Cape Sorell, then light to moderate SW winds during the afternoon. At about 6pm the wind dropped to calm conditions for the final stint to Point Hibbs. Upon landing he set up camp on the beach but was annoyed that he didn't have his sand pegs (snow pegs) as they were in his walking pack - back in the car. He used buried sticks with rocks over the top of the sticks in the sand instead, which held his macpac microlight tent firm on the beach.
Distance covered today was about 60 kms.

29 November 2007

Tasmanian West Coast trip - preparation 28/11/07

With only one day of work to go before I start 7 1/2 weeks away, I have gathered together almost all of the stuff I need for a 6 week walk down the remote southern half of the west coast of Tasmania. I will be walking from Macquarie Harbour (near Strahan) down to Bathurst Harbour (over 200km away) and then maybe a further 80-90 km to Cockle Creek (with some side trips). The first section doesn't have tracks and I will basically be following the coast. It will get tricky when I have to cross rivers. I am carrying a small inflatable boat for this.

Before the walk I am going to paddle my sea kayak down the coast to drop of some food supplies so I won't have to carry 6 weeks of food in my pack. The sea kayak section could be quite challenging by itself. It involves about 450km south to Port Davey and back. I hope to do that in a week - wind permitting.

I expect to leave Macquarie Harbour between 1st to 3rd of December.

My father (Tony Watton) will be updating this blog as I send messages from my satellite phone.

Merry Christmas everyone. I expect to be spending Christmas & New Year lying on a beach, gazing up at billions of stars, watching them streak across the sky (and probably wondering what the hell I have got myself into and wishing my feet didn't hurt so much).

from Matthew Watton.

28 October 2007

Derwent River training

Sunday 28 October 2007 - I left home at 6am and drove to the Derwent River above New Norfolk. I dropped off my mountain bike below the rapids at the Plenty railway bridge and then drove up to Meadowbank Rd.

I was initially planning to paddle down the last 1km of the Tyenna River into the Derwent but I found an easier entry point further up river. Just past No. 174 Meadowbank Rd, I parked and scrambled down a steep bank to the Derwent. I was using a Dagger RPM max - which isn't ideal for a 25km paddle - but I wanted to have fun on the way.

The river level was quite high considering and it must have been due to water coming through the Meadowbank power station because there hadn't been any rain for a while.

I enjoyed the scenery down the river, which is mostly surrounded by farmland. I wanted to familiarise myself with the main rapids for the Cradle to Coast multisport race in March 2008. They are - in order - The Strainer; Gretna rapids; Mitchells; Broken Bridge and Plenty railway bridge.

At the higher river level some areas can be harder than normal and some can be easier - as they are 'smoothed out' with more water moving above them.

The Strainer: involves the main water flow moving directly at a partly submerged tree. The current tries to move you right at the tree. I found it quite easy to avoid it to the left where it was less rough (but slower).

Gretna: As I rounded the bend to the right I stuck to the right bank where it was less rough. The first rapid there is easier than the second. The second went longer and was messier but it was still better to stick next to the right bank.

Mitchells: this was very easy at the higher water level. There were none of the normal rock hazards on the approach as there is with low water and as I went down the rapid I stuck to the right bank. Below this rapid there are undercut rock shelves at low water but they were covered.

Broken Bridge: This was flowing across the whole river at this higher level and I stuck close to the very left. This enables you to go down the main chute and angle left to get out of the current if you choose or at least avoid the big messy waves. I then had to cross to the right to avoid the metal from the actual broken bridge below the main rapid.

Plenty railway bridge: once again the water was flowing across the whole river and not just down the main chute. This meant that a lot of rocks that normally direct the flow were now just submerged and dangerous (to boat damage).

I then left the river and hid my kayak and rode back to Meadowbank Rd. It is only 18km back by road as the river meanders.

All in all it was a good day out and good training.

Training - Derwent River - Sat 27 Oct 2007

I spent half the day struggling to paddle up river through rapids. I started in the Styx River at Bushy Park and paddled into the Derwent and then spent the next few hours to get up to Gretna. By that time I was stuffed and turned around to cruise back to the Styx River and the car. I was using my Perception 'Wavehopper' plastic downriver racer.

Tomorrow I plan to to a paddle in my Dagger RPM from the Tyenna River (Meadowbank Bridge) into the Derwent and 30km down river to the Plenty rail bridge where I will have left my mountain bike which I then have to ride back to the car. I am hoping to have some fun surfing some waves in the rapids on the way down.

27 October 2007

Tasmanian West Coast Adventure

From the start of December 2007, I will be doing a 6 week walk down the west coast of Tasmania. This is a very remote area with no houses, roads and not even walking tracks to follow. I plan to basically just follow the coast but will have to cope with sea cliffs, river crossings and dense bush.

I plan to walk from Macquarie Harbour - near Strahan, down the West Coast to Port Davey and then to Melaleuca. If I still have time (and the will to continue) I will continue to either Cockle Creek or over the southern ranges to Lune River.

I won't be able to carry my food for 6 weeks so I will need to have food drops spaced approximately a week apart. Other people to do this trip have arranged for fishing boats to drop off their food but I plan to paddle a sea kayak down the coast to Port Davey, dropping food at Point Hibbs, Hartwell Cove, Low Rocky Point and Port Davey. I will get Par Avion to fly food in to the airstrip at Melaleuca for my final week. I am choosing to drop my own food off so I will know exactly where it will be. I prefer to be in control of my trip and not relying on other people. At least that way if anything goes wrong - it is my fault.

I hope to drop off the food by kayak and return to Macquarie Harbour. I will also drop off an inflatable raft at Port Davey to get across the mouth of the Davey River to save walking up into the Davey Gorge. I plan to cross from Bond Bay to Fitzroy Point.

I then plan to walk up Mt Stokes, Mt Berry and Mt Rugby before crossing Bathurst Harbour to Melaleuca and then on to the South Coast Track.

07 March 2007

Post-trip clean-up & DCC Race 10

I spent most of Tuesday 6 March cleaning up and washing smelly kayak gear. At 3pm I started thinking about the Derwent Canoe Club race. I felt ok, even though I am still having problems with pins and needles in my hands, so I put my Grafton Paddle Sports 'Wizard' kayak on the car.

I arrived at Kingston early so I could get used to a kayak that is vastly less stable than a my loaded mirage 580. I felt a bit wobbly for a few minutes but when you go from a loaded sea kayak to a light racing kayak it feels great.

We were racing a time trial up the river and a handicap race on the way back. I held back a bit on the time trial because before my circumnavigation I felt like I was going into lactic acid meltdown by the first bend and I had a very hard paddle the day before.

As I paddled up the course I was keeping an eye on the paddlers in front of me to try and gauge my progress and I was keeping a similar gap. By the end of the time trial I felt good for a change. I noticed a big difference after the last 4 weeks of intensive training.

On the way back in the handicap race I was feeling great and for the first time this summer I was able to build through the race (even though I did wash ride to the first bend). Normally I am ready to die by the shallow last bend and I am looking for an ambulance down the finish straight but this time I was able to sprint to the end. There is only one more race now in a fortnight then a short break to 22 April for the 'Total Eye Care' Huon Series - 4 races, 22 April, 27 May, 24 June, 29 July.

05 March 2007

Day 26 - 5/3/07

Matt's finished his circumnavigation - 26 days (24 paddling, 1 day for repairs & 1 due to weather).

Today he left Kettering at 7.30am. Initially, conditions were fairly calm and he cruised down the channel at 9 km/h. At 10am he was at Gordon where the Channel widens and he faced very strong s/w headwinds as the course of the channel turns to the s/w.

By 12.55pm he was off Dover and called from his kayak to say he was sheltering in a cove, having a break, sitting 10 metres from a sea eagle, perched in a tree.

I had travelled down to Cockle Creek, half expecting to camp there and see Matt tomorrow but, true to his word, he appeared just before 7pm, having paddled for 11 and a half hours in headwinds, driving rain and steep seas. He hugged the coast for much of the time, paddling further (than the straight line course) but utilising every bit of shelter available.

He quickly changed into warm clothes, we loaded the kayak and headed off. 70km into the wind for the day.

I'm not sure whether Matt will be paddling in the Kingston kayak races tomorrow evening. He now faces the problem of trying to edit 16 hours of video into something watchable. That may take a lot more than 26 days.

04 March 2007

Day 25 - 4/3/07

Matt delayed his departure from Safety Cove until 8.30am because the wind was supposed to ease during the day, then got bored waiting so he headed off to Cape Raoul.

He rounded Cape Raoul at 10am and zig-zagged his way across Storm Bay - changing angle every time the wind changed but ended up heading to the northern tip of Bruny Island and into the D'Entrecasteaux Channel to finish at Kettering at 6.15pm.

On the way he was enthralled by tens of albatross, thousands of mutton-birds, seals and dolphins.

There were no land stops on the way, drinking 1.5 litres of water and eating a couple of muesli bars.

At Kettering he headed for the Roaring 40's business and found Kim & Ian there. They kindly offered a shower (or thought his thermals smelled too bad) and set up his tent on the grass next to their shop. He then walked up to the Oyster Cove Inn for a meal. Happy Birthday, Matt - you deserve it.

His plan is to finish tomorrow, but I don't know how he's going to do it.
I roughly reckon it will be at least 65-70 kms into head winds. I will drive his car down to Cockle Creek to await his arrival. If he can't make it tomorrow then I can camp and wait for him.

03 March 2007

Day 24 - 3/3/07

Matt rang at about 8am from the sea, off Visscher Island near Cape Frederick Hendrick, to say he would hope to be at the boat ramp at the S end of Pirates Bay at 10.45 for a bit of a break. As he was calling, a penguin about 20 metres away was squawking at him in the background.

Today he was up at 5am and started paddling at 6am to take advantage of the N winds that he hoped would last all day.

We decided to take our dog, Topsy, along for the ride and made the assumption that the boat ramp area was outside Tasman NP. Certainly not a pristine, wilderness experience but we take care.

Matt arrived at 11.15am (never been very punctual!!) in perfect, sunny conditions.

Matt had some lunch and unloaded some unwanted gear - bivvy bag, spare meal packs - and generally relaxed for a short time.

He wants to make as much progress as he can today, bearing in mind that tomorrow W winds are forecast, then SW at up to 30 knots in the far S.

So his plan for the remainder of today is to try to get around Cape Pillar and up into Safety Cove. The views will be spectacular and I hope he takes a lot of care. If he makes it the distance for today will have been 80-90 km ish.

Call from Matt at 6pm, camped at Safety Cove, happy with his day's work but very tired.

Tomorrow will be tough.

02 March 2007

Day 23 - 2/3/07

Phone call on the answering machine when I returned home today:

"Hi, I'm at Spring Beach, near Orford. Stopping here for lunch at about 2 pm and hope to go on, maybe down to Earlham or Rheban area, about 20 kms away. Conditions seem to be lifting a little bit at the moment, but will just have to see if that stays. It's been misty with only about between 1 and 5 kms visibility all day, with a SE headwind - only moderate but enough to be annoying though."

Distance so far today has been about 35 kms.

Matt rang again at 5.45pm saying he had made it to Earlham, near the Lagoon, just S of Sandspit Point. He has made camp in a paddock, surrounded by sheep manure and jack-jumpers. Apparently it was the best spot he could find.

Total for the day was about 50 kms, after he followed the bays much of the time.

His plan for tomorrow, when finally some favourable winds are expected, is to start early and try to get to Pirates Bay by lunchtime and Fortescue Bay later. Forecast is "NE to N winds 5 to 15 knots, increasing to 15 to 25 knots during the afternoon then tending W late."

01 March 2007

Day 22 - 1/3/07

I expected Matt to wait at Wineglass Bay until winds became more favourable - maybe Saturday 3/3 for N winds - but he wanted to push on.

So at 7am he set off in atrocious conditions (SE wind, fog) around Freycinet Peninsula, through Schouten Passage and across, due W to Buxton Point. He apparently could not see where he was going due to rain & fog, relying on GPS & compass to navigate and only saw where he was in the last 5kms of this leg. He had just arrived when he phoned me at 12.45pm.

Buxton Point is very exposed and unpleasant in strong s/e wind. Hence, he does not expect to stay here for long - just enough to get some food and recover a bit - before pushing on to Little Swanport.

It seems that favourable winds are always 2 or 3 days away, changing as forecasts change.

He said his hands look as though they have been in a bath for a month. They certainly did not look good when I saw him at Bicheno, but he did not want any medical treatment for them.

Matt wanted me to say Hi to everyone who reads the blogs of his progress, and especially to the people who have made kind comments about what he is doing. I pass on the messages and I think they lift his spirits when things seem to be going against him. Thank you from Matt.

When I saw him at Bicheno he got rid of some gear that he hadn't used or needed & loaded up with more fresh water so the net effect was probably a weight increase. To give his fingers & wrists some different exercise (from gripping around the paddle shaft) he sometimes paddles using his hands and still manages to reach 6.5km/h.

Call at 3.55pm to say he was camped just inside Little Swanport estuary, on the south side, very comfortable and a nice site in a paddock next to an old shack.

28 February 2007

Day 21 - 28/2/07

Winds expected to be from SE today, between 15 and 25 knots, which means a hard slog for Matt.

He left Bicheno at 7.45am and I headed back to Sandford the easy way!

I received a text message at 1.30pm to say: "Safe at Wineglass Bay. Staying here. Challenging day." Distance about 35kms.

A bit later Matt rang to say that he had been bounced around by a big dumping wave as he stopped for a while at the northern end of Wineglass Bay and that he was surprised when he re-appeared from the white water after bracing on the wave for what felt like a long time. He was relieved that the kayak didn't roll over and break the video camera on a pole on the deck.

In view of the weather forecast for more SE winds tomorrow he thought he might not paddle until Friday. However, he does not have much faith in the forecasters' NE winds that are expected then.

The next section of the trip is through Schouten Passage, either to camp on Schouten Island or to head across Great Oyster Bay to Maria Island.

Day 20 - 27/2/07

On the way to Bicheno today Matt had a break at Long Point, near Seymour, after battling mostly SE winds during the morning. When he rang me from here at about 12.30pm he reckoned he still had about 3 hours paddling to reach Bicheno.

On previous occasions he has stopped at Waubs Bay - a sandy beach where there is a toilet block and a grassed area. Although not intended for camping it is a convenient spot and only a few hundred metres from a cafe and supermarket for supplies.

I arrived at about 2pm and waited for Matt's arrival. I saw him approach inside Diamond Island and had previously seen people walking out along the connecting sand bar. Matt had to drag his kayak across this when he reached it at about 4.45pm.

It had been a tough day's work - unkind head winds - and he hugged the coast to try to minimise the effects.

Total distance for the day was about 50kms.

Rather than set up camp we decided to sleep in the Patrol but, what with interruptions from a car-load of local drunks, this was anything but an undisturbed night. However, we were warm and dry and did not need to pack away any wet gear the following morning.

26 February 2007

Day 19 - 26/2/07

When Matt phoned at 6.45pm, having just landed at Scamander, he reported that he had been up, vomiting, from 12 midnight to 2am while camping at Eddystone Point.

He has a number of freeze-dried wilderness-type meals and he thought that maybe it hadn't cooked properly. I thought these meals were pre-cooked and then immediately freeze-dried to seal in freshness and goodness. Maybe I'm not quite right about that.

He was up at 6.30am and started paddling at about 8.30am into an easterly breeze and stopped for a break at St Helens Point, some 30kms due S - surfing in among some nice waves to Beer Barrel Beach.

Here he ate some muesli-type bars and felt a bit better. He pressed on at a slow pace of about 6-7 kms/hr, covering a total of about 55kms for the day.

I told him about the memorial service for Andrew McAuley. I audio-taped the PM report and will let him hear that tomorrow, when I catch up with him at Bicheno (hopefully). I know Matt would have liked to be at that service as he has a great deal of admiration and inspiration from Andrew.

25 February 2007

Day 18 - 25/2/07

Matt finished paddling early today (4.30pm) so he could make use of the sun and charge up his phone and video camera batteries, as well as getting more well-earned rest.

He is at Eddystone Point, about 55kms travelled for the day. There were light E winds and a favourable current for the first 25kms that enabled him to maintain a speed of around 10 kms/hr. He then detected the current turning.

He had a 45 minute lunch stop near Poole at Great Musselroe Bay before continuing with a NE sea breeze to Cape Naturaliste. This was then of some assistance and helped him down the coast.

His hands and wrist were not too much bother but he did have trouble clenching his hands early on today.

24 February 2007

Day 17 - 24/2/07

Matt is at Petal Point tonight, having arrived and made camp at about 7pm.

The first 35kms of today's paddle were into a light N wind and the going was good. The wind then turned E and made for a slog into his rest stop at Tomahawk.

When he resumed paddling he hugged the shore of Ringarooma Bay until Petal Point, which added about 15kms when compared with the direct route across the Bay. Total distance today was between 65 and 70kms.

He will need to take extra care when negotiating Banks Strait tomorrow and winds and currents are notoriously strong. They can combine or oppose to make life very difficult or very fast. Here's hoping it won't be too bad for him.

23 February 2007

Day 16 - 23/2/07

Matt rang at 6.15pm from Bridport, having paddled for about 10 and a half hours and only one beach stop for a break.

His hands are still giving him trouble, with broken and unbroken blisters but a bit more of a concern is the fact that his right wrist continuously aches and he is not able to pull the paddle through the water as he would like. He reckons the only cure is about a week's rest, something that apparently is not going to happen just yet. He was able to maintain a speed of between 6 and 7 kms/hr but if he had been 100% fit it might have been more like 8 kms/hr.

He had heard that the NSW kayak paddler was due to arrive at Bridport at about 11am today but so far he has not found out whether he did.

All being well his next scheduled campsite may be Waterhouse Point, about 35kms or Cape Portland, more like 70kms.

22 February 2007

Day 15 - 22/2/07

Matt made good progress today, reaching Greens Beach at the mouth of the Tamar River (west) just before 6pm. He made a stop for a break at Devonport on the way and covered a total of about 50kms for the day.

Winds started out rather fresh, from the SE, but moderated during the day.

With a bit of luck tomorrow should bring some W to NW winds during the afternoon after early SE to NE winds between 10 and 20 knots.

It is possible that he might make it to Bridport tomorrow but that would be a big paddle (nearly 70kms I estimate).

21 February 2007

Day 14 - 21/2/07

We were up at 6am and while I made some sandwiches for Matt's breakfast and prepared some bread rolls with Vegemite, peanut butter or apricot jam for his day's supplies he packed his kayak and took it down to the water's edge ready for action.

There was a breeze of maybe 10 knots from the NE and, as he had to head out to Table Cape from Boat Harbour, this was to be a headwind for him.

At 7.30am he set off and immediately headed for the lee shore so he might avoid the worst of the wind. I started back for Hobart.

Matt rang me at 2pm from near the Burnie Surf Life Saving Club where he was having a break before heading off to Penguin, where he expected to camp tonight. After the headwinds out from Boat Harbour he found the wind had dropped a bit so the remainder of his paddle today was not too unpleasant.

Matt's hands are certainly showing signs of wear and tear from all the paddling. He has large blisters, some broken, some unbroken right across his hands and has been forced to wear gloves for part of the time. However, the seams in the gloves have contributed to the blisters. He had expected that by now (2 weeks into his trip) his blisters would have turned into calouses. I think the fact that his hands are permanently wet has made the situation worse.

Call at 8pm - Matt has made it to Ulverstone - a distance of about 50kms for the day, initially in pretty tough conditions.

Update 2 at 9.15pm - Matt rang to say he couldn't believe what had just happened.

Just on dusk he had set up his tent at the mouth of the Leven River and got into his dry clothes when he saw two men swimming in the river. He noticed that they were being swept out by the current and could see there was a disaster just waiting to happen.

He quickly got his kayak organised, gathered the paddle float and buoyancy vest and paddled out to them. They were totally oblivious to the fact that they were being swept out to sea and they would soon be swimming in the dark. He managed to persuade them to swim diagonally back to the beach and possibly avoided what could have been a tragedy.

He is now drying his clothes and hoping for a quiet night!!

Day 13 - 20/2/07

I drove up to Boat Harbour and, on the way, had a phone call at 12.30pm from Matt. He was having a break near Rocky Cape (I was still near Deloraine) and he reckoned he still had 2 or 3 hours paddling ahead of him.

He arrived at Boat Harbour beach after spending some time following the shore around, like a tourist would, at about 3.15pm. As there was no accommodation available we decided to wait until dusk before setting up the tent near some campervans, away from the beach.

We had a relaxing afternoon and evening - a meal at the local cafe - and a comfortable, warm night on a grassy campsite.

19 February 2007

Day 12 - 19/2/07

A good day's paddling today. Matt rang at 7.30pm, having arrived at Half Moon Bay 15 minutes earlier.

He had good southerly winds up to Cape Grim, then calm conditions, but current against him, through Robbins Passage. He had a well-earned break at Stony Point, then pushed on, with another break at Half Moon Bay.

He paddled between 85 and 90kms today - one of the best so far.

Given that he might encounter SE to E winds (10-20 knots) tomorrow he might make about 40kms, which would take him to Boat Harbour or thereabouts.

I plan to drive up to the NW tomorrow to catch up with Matt again.

Day 11 - 18/2/07

Matt had a rest day today, after his battle with headwinds during the past 2 or 3 days. The forecast for Monday 19/2 is for S to SW winds so he intends to wait until then.

In the meantime he is comfortably camped on the grass at Green Point, with toilet and outside shower facilities - almost like home!!

His plan is to round Cape Grim tomorrow and possibly reach Stony Point but he needs to take special care because of the extensive sand banks around that area, particularly near Robbins Island. He will not want to drag his kayak several k's over soft sand. I think he has a copy of the tide tables so he should be OK.

17 February 2007

Day 10 - 17/2/07

Phone call at 6.10pm - Matt has reached Marrawah (Green Point Picnic Ground) after a struggle from Temma, about 40kms away.

Started off with strong NE headwinds, then eased off a bit. He had a lunch break at Bluff Hill Point. He then paddled with NW wind and arrived, buggered as he put it, at Marrawah at 6.10pm. No march flies but millions of sand flies. If it isn't one pestilence it's another.

After seeing my text forecast for tomorrow (Sunday) with strong NE to NW winds he thinks he may have a rest day and try to get around the "corner" on Monday, when SW to S winds are expected. However, things can change.

He seemed happy with his progress today.

16 February 2007

Day 9 - 16/2/07

Matt rang at about 8.30am to report that he had left Sandy Cape, paddled for 3kms and had to return because he had made virtually no headway. He reckoned he would not have reached Temma before dark at the rate he was going. So he's having an enforced "rest day", having to endure the march flies and hot winds. At least he can jump into the ocean for a temporary cooling-off.

The forecast is no better for Saturday: "NE winds 15 to 25 knots, possibly reaching 30 knots at times. Seas 2 to 3 metres. W swell near 2 metres."

Things may improve for him on Sunday: "NE to NW winds 15 to 25 knots, reaching 30 knots offshore, easing to 10 to 20 knots before shifting SW late."

Matt thinks it's a BOM cop-out to say "late" - does that mean 4pm or 11.30pm???

Update at 8.15pm - Matt rang at 7.30pm in the middle of a violent electrical storm at Sandford, Tas (hail the size of walnuts and torrential rain - hurray) - to say he had just put up his tent after paddling in very tough conditions (NE winds) for 5 and a half hours to make it to Temma, 23 kms from Sandy Cape. Very short, steep seas must have been a very difficult time for him.

2nd update at 8.50pm - Text message - "I was given a whole crayfish by fishermen. They couldn't sell it because it had some legs missing. Very tasty."

Some people have all the luck!!!!!

15 February 2007

Day 8 - 15/2/07

Apparently, today started out OK but it finished up a very hard slog into NE winds.

By lunchtime Matt had reached Sandy Cape - about 30kms from his Conical Rocks campsite. His text message said he was feeling tired, would rest then try for Temma, another 20kms or so NNW.

By 4.25pm another message said he tried to get to Temma but had to turn back because of very strong NE winds.

We tried several times to speak using his CDMA phone but it was not possible. 3rd message at 7.21pm emphasised his frustrations: "Very hot and windy. Too windy for tent. [this means he is using his bivvy bag instead]. Billions of march flies eating me. No shade. Luckily there is a water tank. Try and battle to Temma tomorrow."

I doubt whether it will be any easier for him tomorrow. Forecast for the area says "Strong wind warning. NE to N winds 10 to 20 kts, increasing to 20 to 30 kts before easing late in the day. Seas 1 to 2m, rising to 3m. Westerly swell near 2m." I text him the forecasts every day but he won't get any joy from that one!!

14 February 2007

Day 7 - 14/2/07

We were up at 5am in pitch darkness. Matt packed as quickly as the darkness and his headtorch would allow and had a couple of sandwiches for breakfast.

There was an outflowing current, with a breeze from the NE, as he started paddling at about 6.45am.

He was aiming for Granville Harbour, about 50kms away, bearing in mind that winds were not expected to be favourable.

When he rang at about 3.15pm he had made it as far as Conical Rocks (75kms). He was talking to me on the phone when he said, "There's a 4-wheel bike coming towards me - I'll ring you back".

When he did ring back about 20 minutes later he said, "You're never going to believe this". Apparently, the passenger on the bike was Bill Ritchie from Newfoundland, who is to be giving performances at Ten Days on the Island and was having a look around the West Coast before the event.

During the past few months he and I had swapped emails as he had seen my website and asked about maps and bushwalking. So when he asked Matt if he knew about the 3 women who had paddled around Tasmania (and Matt had virtually been their manager on a lot of their trip) Matt put one and one together and asked if Bill had emailed anybody about maps. He said he had and had emailed Tony Watton. Whereupon, Matt must have said, "Well, he's my dad". And we think Tasmania is a small place - the whole world is!!!

Day 6 - 13/2/07

Up at about 7am for a bite of breakfast - how civilised is this?

Matt went to the supermarket for food supplies and decided it would be a paddle day after all, having previously considered having a rest day.

His hands were still very blistered - some broken - but he thought that when he actually started paddling he would not be thinking about them too much. They did not look good to me.

He left from the jetty at the Campground at 12.45pm and I immediately set off for home.

I had just reached Swan Basin Picnic Ground when I got a call from Matt saying with some urgency, "Please come back." Apparently he did say more but the line had dropped out and I did not hear anything else.

On returning he showed me a hole where one of the kayak seat bolt heads had pulled through the kayak, leaving a hole about 15mm across where water flowed in.

After some discussion about how to fix it, we decided that large (35mm diam) stainless washers could be shaped to provide a much better hold. Also Matt had some Knead-It to repair the split hole edges. Luckily, I was able to buy some washers in Strahan and together we fixed the seat mountings. Also, we put more impact-absorbing foam under the seat, against the kayak hull base.

Relaxing afternoon, early night in the Olympus tent at the Campground so Matt could get an early start on Wednesday.

Day 5 - 12/2/07

I drove over to Strahan where I expected to see Matt, deliver some supplies and generally catch up with him.

I arrived at 1.15pm and went out to Macquarie Heads - no Matt, no phone signal. Drove back to Swan Basin Picnic Ground to get a phone signal and watch the channel for any Matt action. I dozed off and was woken at 4pm when Matt phoned. Apparently, he had been trying to get a signal with his sat phone for about 30 minutes. I drove to the Campground, where Matt had arrived and started to unpack his kayak.

He told me there had been lots of offshore reefs and breaking waves. He paid close attention to his surroundings and stayed well out to sea. He had light winds. When he turned at Cape Sorell there was a headwind and an outflowing current. He crossed to Ocean Beach to catch waves and get into Macquarie Harbour.

We left the kayak near a shack - the owner offered to keep an eye on it - and drove into Strahan. We had a steak dinner at Hamers and stayed at a unit for the night. Very comfortable.

11 February 2007

Day 4 - 11/2/07

Update received from Matt at 7.35pm - safe at campsite about 10kms north of Pt Hibbs - probably just north of Hibbs Bay. He reckons he has about 45kms to go to reach Cape Sorell, then maybe 25kms to paddle up Macquarie Harbour to Strahan.

I will drive to Strahan early tomorrow (Monday 12/2) to catch up with Matt and deliver some items he has asked for eg spray jacket with hood.

He was saddened to learn that Andrew McAuley's kayak has been found, about 45kms west of Milford Sound, minus Andrew. We hope and pray he will be found before it is too late for him.

10 February 2007

Day 3 - 10/2/07

Call received at 5.55pm - Matt at Nye Bay, 1km into the Giblin River, about 10kms south of Low Rocky Point. He pointed out that he deliberately avoided Spain Bay, where he was holed up for about 3 days on a previous trip around Tasmania, and Port Davey.

He is reportedly "stuffed" - maybe an understatement given that he paddled about 100kms today.

Tomorrow (Sun 11/2) he will try to get to Hibbs Point, or a bit further north and on Monday he hopes to be in Strahan.

Forecast for Sunday is "E to SE winds 15 to 25 kts, tending E late. Seas 2 to 3m. SW swell 1.5 to 2m."

09 February 2007

Day 2 - 9/2/07

Matt rang at 10.50am and confirmed that the satellites were rubbish!

He is at the mouth of the Louisa River, having a breather for lunch. He then intends to paddle on to Ketchem Bay or, if he is too tired, will stop at New Harbour. He said he was buggered, and blisters are appearing on his hands. Apparently, they will clear up during the second week. He also has a head cold and yesterday was suffering from a dose of the runs. Imodium seems to have taken care of that problem.

Phone line then dropped out!

Text message received at about 3.50pm - at Ketchem Bay.

08 February 2007

Day 1 - 8/2/07

I sent Friday's weather forecast by text at about 5.15pm. A bit more promising than for today.

"E to NE winds 5 to 15 kts tending variable during the afternoon with inshore sea breezes. Seas around 1 metre. SW swell decaying to around 2 metres."

Matt phoned via satellite phone at 9.15pm. He has reached Deadmans Bay after battling very strong headwinds most of the morning. He has had a lot of trouble getting a signal and said he thought all the satellites had dropped out of the sky!

Phone line then dropped out.

I hope to get more news tomorrow.

Update for Day 1 on Day 2 - 50kms today. He wanted to stop at Rocky Boat Inlet but waves were breaking across the bay, then on to Prion Beach but on approach there were huge waves so he abandoned that plan and continued on to Deadmans.

07 February 2007

Day 0 - 7/2/07

Well, he's off - sort of.

Matt decided to leave from Cockle Creek instead of from Orford so it will leave more time for him to spend in the NW and perhaps to visit King Island.

He left Cockle Creek at 1.20 pm after a leisurely kayak pack and I drove his car back to Sandford almost immediately.

He experienced very strong SW winds on the way to Whale Head and after 12 kms could see very rough conditions ahead. He paddled on for another 3 kms before making the decision to turn back and stay at Cockle Creek tonight, rather than totally exhaust himself right at the start.

The call came through at about 6 pm that he would try again tomorrow, hoping for kinder conditions in the morning. However, Thursday's forecast is "W to SW winds 10 to 20 knots, easing to 5 to 15 knots then tending SE later. Seas 1 to 2 m. W to SW swell 2 to 3 m." He may delay his departure until later in the day.

Put today down to a good, hard training paddle!

04 February 2007

Packing Day

Today (5 Feb 07) have the unpleasant task of finding all the gear I need for my trip and buying 2 weeks food supplies and then seeing how much of all that will fit into my kayak. Even if I can fit everything that I want, it usually makes the kayak SO heavy that it breaks your back to get it in & out of the water and a pig to paddle. A sane person would ask "Why the hell do you do it then?"
I guess my answer is that the coastline of Tasmania is really beautiful and I love paddling along it's coastline.

I have paddled along the coast before but every trip is different and each time you get good weather in different places. This allows you to get in close to new beaches & coves that you haven't seen before. Places that only a few people have ever seen.

Some days are really hard and you can get depressed when you get stuck somewhere and can't make progress against strong winds. Some days you have favourable conditions and you travel long distances and feel a great sense of achievement. It is just good to be out there amongst it.

Summer Kayak Trip Feb - March 2007

I will be starting my kayak expedition from the east coast of Tasmania on Wednesday 7 Feb 2007 - from Orford. I will be heading south, around the Tasman Peninsula and across Storm Bay to Bruny Island and then to Cockle Creek. I will then head along the south coast of Tasmania and up the west coast to Strahan to re-supply.

I will then continue up the west coast to the n/w corner of Tasmania at Stanley to stock up again. I would like to possilby head to King Island and paddle around the island. The rest of the trip is up in the air because it will depend how quickly I get up to Stanley.

I will be in contact with my father - Tony Watton, by satellite phone, who may be able to update this during my trip.