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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.