Solo Kayak Circumnavigation Of Tasmania
By Matthew Watton - in Penguin Fibreglass Greenlander Sea Kayak
1462km, 24 paddling days plus 6 days off due to unfavourable winds
|Day||From / To||km / naut m.||Total|
|1||Hobart to White Beach||56 km / 30||56|
|2||White Beach to Fortescue Bay||56 km / 30||112|
|3||Fortescue Bay to Earlham||61 km / 33||173|
|4||Earlham to Schouten Island||66 km / 36||239|
|5||Day off (bad blisters & horrible weather)|
|6||Schouten Island to Bicheno||57 km / 31||296|
|7||Bicheno to Binalong Bay||84 km / 45||380|
|8||Binalong Bay to Petal Point||95 km / 51||475|
|9||Petal Point to Bridport||63 km / 34||538|
|10||Bridport to Devonport||105 km / 57||643|
|11||Devonport to Penguin||34 km / 18||677|
|12||Penguin to Somerset||24 km / 13||701|
|13||Somerset to Rocky Cape||45 km / 24||746|
|14||Rocky Cape to Stanley||28 km / 15||774|
|15||Stanley to Stony Point||55 km / 30||829|
|16||Stony Point to Woolnorth Point||30 km / 16||859|
|17||Woolnorth Point to Marrawah||36 km / 19||895|
|18||No paddle / strong s/w wind|
|19||Marrawah to Temma Harbour||25 km / 14||920|
|20||Temma Harbour to Sandy Cape||26 km / 14||946|
|21||No paddle (southerly wind)|
|22||Sandy Cape to Trial Harbour||81 km / 44||1027|
|23||Trial Harbour to Macquarie Harbour||38 km / 21||1065|
|24||No paddle / strong s/w wind|
|25||Macquarie Harbour to Point Hibbs||60 km / 32||1125|
|26||Point Hibbs to Mulcahy Bay||80 km / 43||1205|
|27||No paddle / gale s/w wind|
|28||No paddle / gale southerly wind|
|29||Mulcahy Bay to South Cape Rivulet||135 km / 73||1340|
|30||South Cape Rivulet to Hobart||122 km / 66||1462 km|
This trip was between 14th November 2001 - 13th December 2001
At the time of this trip I was 32 years old. I was working as a police officer at Bellerive (near Hobart in Tasmania - where I am back working again after being stationed at Bridport in N/E Tasmania).
In hindsight I was far too complacent before this trip. I hadn't been doing much paddling so my hands were soft. Ideally I should have been paddling every day for the 2 weeks prior - with a couple of 6-8 hour paddles thrown in each week
- No training
- very little planning
- a total of 4 hours sleep in the 48 hrs before leaving
- working right until the evening before starting the trip
The aims that I had for this trip were-
- lose some weight
- just get away for a while
- paddle around Tasmania in under 4 weeks *
- have a cheap holiday
* my previous best time for a circumnavigation of Tasmania was 4 weeks and 5 days.
FIRSTLY - I would like to thank the following people (or groups) for their support, assistance or both.
These are in order of their occurrence during the trip:
1. White Beach Caravan Park (opened the shop after hours - gave me beach front camp site and wood for fire)
2. Andrew O'Dwyer - Bicheno Police Officer - gave me a hot shower, warm bed, good company
3. Devonport Surf Life Saving Club - friendly faces, support and a nice cold beer
4. Penguin Surf Life Saving Club - hot shower & bed for the night in the surf club
5. Somerset Surf Life Saving Club - hot shower & bed for the night in the surf club
6. Stanley Caravan Park - gave me a tent site close to the beach and were supportive
7. The Manager of Montagu Camp Ground (I'm sorry I can't remember your name) was helpful & supportive
8. Penguin Fibreglass (Rob, Bob, David and John Van der Woude) always did everything possible to keep my Greenlander running well.
9. Paddy Maguire (while at Woolnorth Property) - gave me support, information and a feed of fish
10. Dean Edwards of Temma Harbour - warm drink, weather reports and charged my sat phone with his generator.
11. Dave Scarafiotti and his wife Jane (Strahan Police) - great hosts, nice lunch and a tour around Strahan
12. Alan Skeggs (Strahan Police) - put me up at Strahan with a hot shower and a cosy bed
13. Steve Dineen for being my initial inspiration to do this trip ... and what a great trip it is!
BUT THE BIGGEST SUPPORT WAS FROM MY PARENTS. Dad (Tony Watton) sent me weather forecasts on my phone each day and met me at various points around Tasmania and mum (Suzanne Watton) organised things from home.
I hope I haven't forgotten anyone.
The day before leaving - Tuesday 13th November 2001
I left work at 3.30pm after a hectic day at work. I drove to the supermarket to stock up on batteries, fruit, pasta and other food supplies. I called in to my house and accidentally dozed off on the couch and woke up a couple of hours later. I was really annoyed at wasting valuable packing time.
At 7.30pm I arrived at my parents house at Lauderdale - where my kayaks and paddling gear ‘live’. I started packing my dry bags but after packing my camping equipment I didn’t know what to do next.
For this trip I was going to paddle my ‘Slingshot’ model kayak and I hadn’t done an extended trip with this kayak before and I also wanted to take my trolley as well to make it easier to get the kayak above high water mark each day.
Day 1 – Wednesday 14 November 2000
Start - Battery Point, Hobart
I continued to pack some gear into dry bags while watching tv (more tv than packing) and before I knew it – it was 5am. I had a snooze on the couch until my dad got up at 6am and then I had some breakfast. I had two slices of toast and a cup of tea.
I felt quite nervous as I was packing my gear into the car and the kayak on the roof. I was more nervous this trip than the previous trip around Tassie because this time I was starting the trip leaving from Hobart to head around Tasman Peninsula first. Last time I started at Pirates Bay which is already around the most exposed section of the Tasman peninsula.
I drove to Battery Point and stopped at the beach there. The weather was fine and there was virtually no wind.
I packed the kayak quickly because I was keen to leave. I probably had too much food and water with me but I needed to start with about 2 weeks of food with me.
The course that I planned to paddle was from Hobart, down the Derwent River and around the iron pot (a well known mark for Sydney to Hobart yacht race competitors). I would then head around Tasman Peninsula and Tasman Island before heading up the east coast of Tasmania.
I had to carry enough food to take me 300 km to Bicheno because I didn’t know if I would stop at shops at Nubeena, Port Arthur or Orford. Even though the Slingshot sea kayak is sleek and fast, it holds a lot of gear. That is because it has high rounded decks. I was amazed to find that even with all of the gear and food that I had packed I still had room to put in my kayak trolley.
My father waved goodbye as I left at 10.50am. It was fairly easy going as I paddled down the Derwent River with a very light southerly breeze in my face. I paddled down the western shore until Sandy Bay point and then angled across the river towards Opossum Bay. I stopped on a beach at South Arm for lunch - just below the most spectacular views in Hobart ... its just a pity that the best land at South Arm is all an army base.
It was a sunny day but there was a cool southerly breeze so I huddled down out of the wind as I ate a couple of yoghurt topped muesli bars. I was feeling weary due to lack of sleep in the few days leading up to the start but I desperately wanted to at least reach somewhere on Tasman Peninsula on my first day.
As I rounded the Iron Pot I passed on the northern side of Betsey Island because the wind had picked up and turned to the s/e (headwind). I was buggered by the time I reached Betsey Island. I had already covered about 30km and wanted to stop but I decided to head for White Beach at Nubeena where there is a sheltered beach - and I would achieve my first goal of reaching Tasman Peninsula. It was lucky that I didn’t work out how far I had to go because I would have found out I had 26km to go. A 56km day isn't too hard after a few weeks into the trip but it is hard on day 1.
It was a hard slog into the head wind across Storm Bay to the outer head of Wedge Bay. I hugged the shoreline along the northern side of Wedge Bay as I plodded towards Nubeena – stopping frequently to stretch.
I hit the beach at 7.15pm. I was cold and absolutely buggered. I had travelled 56km on my first day which was hard with head-winds and no training before the trip.
I found the caravan park owners as I staggered up a path. They gave me a tent site close to the beach and I returned to my kayak to unpack my trolley to get the kayak up off the beach.
I set up the trolley and strapped the fully loaded kayak to it. I then used every last bit of energy I had left getting the kayak up the steep, soft, sandy beach and up the ramp over the sand dunes to the camp site. I felt a slight twinge in my back as I dragged the kayak up the ramp but didn’t think much of it because I hurt everywhere anyway. The sand was too soft for the trolley wheels to roll so it was harder than just sliding the kayak up the sand.
I unpacked everything from the kayak and set up my tent and then had a hot shower. It felt magnificent to get all of that dry salt off me. Close to my tent there was a camp fire area with some wood provided so I lit the fire and lay down on my sleeping mat to have a stretch. Within a few minutes I had fallen asleep. I awoke an hour later and found that I was the main course for the local mosquitoes.
I was hoping to average over 60km a day and make it around Tasmania in under 4 weeks. If I missed days due to bad weather I would have to do extra to get back in front of the average. I hoped that using my Slingshot sea kayak would help me go faster than I normally did in my Greenlander kayak even though I wasn’t going to use any sails.
I found that after my first day that when the Slingshot was fully loaded it felt just as much a barge as any other fully loaded sea kayak – with the added problem that the Slingshot had a seat that was less comfortable than my Greenlander. In my Greenlander I have a foam Perception seat that Penguin Fibreglass installed.
Even though it was only the end of day 1, I was already wondering if I had made the right choice of kayak to paddle. I was also getting an itchy rash from whenever my arm rubbed against the kevlar inside the kayak - as I packed the hatches.
I crawled into my Macpac Microlight tent and killed a few mozzies that followed me in. I slept very soundly. I chose to use my small one-person tent to ensure I had room to fit my trolley and enough food into the kayak. It was handy to have a tent that could pack up so small but when I was inside the tent the roof wasn’t quite high enough to sit up in – which made it hard to stretch & move around.
End day 1 – Hobart to Nubeena – 56km.
Day 2 – Thursday 15th November 2001
I forgot to set my alarm to wake up on day 2 – and as a result I woke up at 8.30am. I was really annoyed with myself because I usually like to get up by 6am and be on the water at 7am – unless I have a really big day ahead when I aim to start earlier and be on the water at 5.30am-6am.
It took me 2 hours to re-pack the kayak carefully and I managed to fit the trolley inside the kayak after strapping it on the deck the previous day.
My plan for the day was to at least make it around the awesome Cape Raoul and into Port Arthur and if I was going well I would aim to get around Cape Pillar/Tasman Island and continue up to Fortescue Bay. If I hadn’t slept in I would have aimed to get up to Pirates Bay-Eaglehawk Neck area.
As I left Nubeena there were only light variable breezes with overcast skies. The coastline from Nubeena to Cape Raoul is awesome with huge cliffs and sea caves. I snapped a few photos of the cliffs as I cruised along. I was finding it hard to get comfortable in the seat because the Slingshot’s cockpit is fairly ‘snug’ and my back was starting to hurt from the effort to get the kayak off the beach the previous evening.
After I rounded Cape Raoul I decided to aim directly across the bay towards Tasman Passage because the wind was very light. By the time I reached Cape Pillar I was ready to stop for the day but I still had about 15km to go. I stopped briefly to watch the seals on Tasman Island and at Cape Pillar. They didn’t have a care in the world as they slept on the rocks (except for being shot by fishermen).
It is a beautiful sight as you approach Cape Hauy from the south. I aimed for the ‘Candlestick’ and ‘Totem Pole’ rock formations at Cape Hauy and lay back looking up at them as I passed through the narrow gap in Cape Hauy.
I struggled on with aching shoulders, legs and back towards Fortescue Bay. When I landed I unpacked the trolley and started dragging the kayak up the beach. I found that the trolley wheels didn’t roll on soft sand and they required more effort to move than just dragging the kayak on the sand.
Some tourists took pity on me and helped me get the kayak up to the grassy area above the beach and then I pulled it the remainder to the camping ground. I was annoyed to find out that I had to pay extra camping fees even though I already had an annual parks pass. The ‘ranger’ gave me a dodgy looking receipt that looked like she bought the book from a newsagent – but I was too tired to care and I cooked some pasta as it started to pour with rain and then fell asleep.
I woke up a few times during the night because I was too cold in my 2 season synthetic sleeping bag. I also had a small down-filled sleeping bag that I could put inside my synthetic bag but it was too much effort to get it out and use it … so I just shivered instead.
End day 2 – Nubeena to Fortescue Bay – 56km
Day 3 – Friday 16th November 2001
When I woke up in my cramped one-man tent I found that my back was buggered and I couldn’t sit up. I had to struggle to roll onto my side and then crawl up onto my knees. I crawled out of my tent and found that I couldn’t stand up straight unless I pushed my body up with my hands pushing off my knees.
I couldn’t see any way that I could continue the trip because I had no strength in my back. I considered my options and decided that I would start by taking a few anti-inflammatory tablets. I considered using my satellite phone to call dad to come and pick me up but I decided to try and start off and make it the next 20km to Eaglehawk Neck and then re-assess the trip.
I adjusted the leg length of the kayak to give me more stretching room. It was very hard to get the kayak down to the beach but at least it was down hill to the water.
By the time that I reached Pirates Bay/Eaglehawk Neck I was feeling a bit better so I kept going. I decided to aim for the next possible stopping point at Lagoon Bay and I managed to achieve that without causing any further damage to my back. By the time I reached the southern end of Marion Bay and decided to continue north because the wind was very light s/s/e.
I paddled up Marion Bay, plodding along. As I approached Earlham the wind turned around to the n/e and freshened so I lost the urge to continue. When I checked the map I was really happy with my achievement to make it 61km when I was bent over like a cripple earlier in the day.
I stopped on the beach at Earlham and put my tent up on the edge of a paddock. I phoned my dad to tell him about the problem with my back and came to the decision that the only way I would be able to continue would be to change over the kayak and use my Greenlander kayak that has better back support, a roomier cockpit and more comfortable seat.
The next day was a Saturday and dad agreed to drive up and meet me at Spring Beach, Orford so I could change kayaks. This was the only way that I thought that I had a chance to continue.
End day 3 – Fortescue Bay to Earlham – 61km
Day 4 – Saturday 17th November 2001
I paddled the short distance from Earlham to Spring Beach and waited for mum & dad to arrive with my Greenlander sea kayak. I relaxed and explored for an hour and then I saw the familiar sight of my car approaching with my Greenlander on the roof.
I showed them the problem with the Slingshot and then swapped the gear over. At least I would stop getting an itchy rash from the kevlar of the slingshot.
When I swapped my gear to the Greenlander I also chose to start using sails for the following reasons:
for safety if I couldn’t paddle due to another injury
for more fun
and did I mention how much fun it is using sails with sea kayaks.
I said goodbye again and then headed towards Darlington on Maria Island. I thought that I would camp there and continue to Freycinet the following day. As I crossed Mercury Passage towards Maria Island the wind picked up quite suddenly from the south so I decided to turn and straight to Freycinet. I put up my front sail and had a great time surfing down the waves. I put on a pair of thin sailing gloves to get some feeling back into my cold hands.
I couldn’t see Schouten Island because there was low cloud and rain but I aimed for the Ile de Phoques rock initially until Schouten Island came into view. When I reached Schouten Passage I wasn’t able to sail and I paddle the last few kilometres to the hut on Schouten Island. I took my gloves off my cold hands and found that the seams of the gloves had caused blisters on both of my hands.
The weather was cold and miserable but I was happy that I hadn’t thrown in the towel and I had made good progress again. I carried my bags up to the hut. There was no-one staying in the hut so I spread out and made myself at home. I got changed and needed to put on all of my clothes and beanie to try and get warm. I was really cold outside with the rain and strong southerly wind. My back pain had settled down a bit but the blisters on my hands caused by the gloves were big and swollen. HAND BLISTERS PICTURE - Schouten Island
I huddled over my Trangia cooker for warmth as I heated some pasta. I slept on my sleeping mat on the floor and I could hear the gale and rain in my dreams.
End day 4 – Earlham to Schouten Passage – 66km
Day 5 – Sunday 18th November 2001 – No paddle
I could hear heavy rain during the night and it was really cold outside. I think I was trying to find reasons to justify not paddling. The biggest problem was that I had 2 big blisters on each hand. I couldn’t close my hands around my paddle. I was really annoyed with myself because the blisters were caused by wearing gloves the previous day. I hadn’t worn gloves before except for ‘pogies’ where your bare hands are still on the paddle.
I spent the day in the hut wearing all of my clothes and beanie with my sleeping bag wrapped around me – trying to keep warm. Every hour or so I went down to the beach to observe the conditions. The wind was so strong it was picking up the spray and blowing clouds of it over the surface.
I couldn’t write up my log book due to the large blisters on my hands.
Day 6 – Monday 19th November 2001 – start Schouten Island
Today I started heading for New Zealand
There were gale force s/e winds and big swells. This was the 3rd consecutive day of strong southerly & s/e winds so the swell was still building. Early in the day I put up my big sail while the wind was at a moderate level. I found myself in a tricky situation when the wind kept building and before I knew it I was about 10km off Friendly Beaches
The wind was so strong against my big sail that even without paddling the wind was hurling me down the front of the 3m 'ish swells. The problem with this is that the Greenlander is prone to nose diving due to the shape of the bow. To prevent nose diving and 'cartwheeling' the kayak I needed to angle the kayak down the waves as I caught them.
Due to the wind coming from the s/e I needed to angle down the waves to the n/e (angling down the waves to the right). If I had angled down the waves to the left side I would have been heading (remember the waves were coming from the s/e to the n/w) I would have been heading directly west - which wouldn't take me in the right direction at all.
The result of riding down the waves to the n/e and having the boom on my sail out to the left meant that each wave I caught I shot off down the wave taking me even further out to sea. To say I was a little worried would be a major understatement. I knew that I had to take the sail down but I was screaming along out of control and there was a lot of wind pressure against the sail.
A couple of times I tucked my paddle under the shock cord and leaned forwards trying to lift the mast out with both hands but this isn't easy when you are flying down waves at 25 km/h. After a few close calls at tipping over I stopped trying to pull the mast out and just tried to head more in a northerly direction so I wouldn't keep heading out to sea.
The result of this was that I was blown directly down the front of one big wave and nose dived the kayak - burying the front half. The kayak did a cartwheel and then somehow it felt like the kayak was getting washed sideways down the face of the swell. Next thing, before I really knew what happened the kayak started to right itself again and I braced against the wave and popped up. I couldn't believe my luck.
That was too close a call so I decided I had to get the mast down and paddle the remainder of the day into Bicheno. To take the pressure off the sail I had to turn the kayak around so I was pointing straight into the wind. This was still hard because the sail flapped violently. I pressed my head against the boom to try and stop it from flapping against it and stretched forward to lift the mast out. It was a great relief to lift it out and put it away. As I turned the kayak around to head north again I felt totally in control (compared to 5 minutes before).
With the wind strength I was still able to make reasonable time - with a lot less risk. As I approached the Gulch at Bicheno there were a few people on the rocks looking to the south. The must have thought that I was insane being out in those conditions as the big waves crashed against the rocks. I managed to pick up a nice breaking wave and stayed on the swell as I cruised through the Gulch. I was heading for the bay on the northern side of Bicheno (Waubs Bay & Waubs Beach).
I had an uneventful landing in 2-3 foot surf that was curling around the point and rolling into the bay. I dragged the kayak clear of the water and unpacked my wheeled trolley and 'rolled' my loaded kayak up to the grassy area behind the beach. I gave a friend (and local policeman) Andrew O'Dwyer a call. He offered me a shower and bed for the night. His wife and baby were in Hobart at the time. The hot shower was beautiful followed by a counter meal at the local pub. I also took advantage of having some electricity available to charge up my phones (digital GSM, CDMA and satellite).
Day 7 – Tuesday 20th November 2001 – start Bicheno
I took advantage of not having to pack my tent and I was able to get on the water at 7.30am. Andrew was a great help to stop my kayak rolling out of control back down the hill to the water. The wind seemed to have turned to be coming directly from the east. I put my sail up but the wind wasn't behind enough to be useful. I plodded along for the first 35km until I passed Ironhouse Point. A few kilometres later I had a short break at Four Mile Creek - sheltering on the northern side of a point while I had a drink and a couple of muesli bars.
When I continued my journey the wind was still coming from the east but it was just around far enough to be useful to sail - approx 100 deg. The wind was only moderate but there was a big surf rolling into the beaches after the last 4 days of s/e wind. I had a 30km long section of beach ahead with St Helens Point too low to be visible. I knew that I had enough time to get past St Helens Pt so I just kept going with a small amount of assistance from my sail.
As I rounded St Helens Point the conditions changed from messy rebounding waves to flat and sheltered water near St Helens barway. I had previously camped inside the barway after having to surf the waves to get into the sheltered water. This time I decided to have a look around the next point and possible camp at Binalong Bay. I followed the shore closely - looking for a beach to land on with a place to stick my tent up nearby. I landed at a couple of places to investigate but there wasn't anywhere to stop and camp until I got to the beach just past the boat ramp at Binalong Bay. I arrived just in time to get a drink and some food from the shop(that has now closed). The only good place to camp was a 'No camping area', near the tennis court.
I waited until about 9pm and then put my tent up behind a wall near the tennis courts - with the plan to pack it up in the morning before the locals got annoyed with me.
Day 8 – Wednesday 21st November 2001 – start Binalong Bay
When I started the day there was a moderate s/e wind and I surfed waves all the way up to Eddystone Point. It was a fairly easy first 30km's. I had finished this first section fairly early in the day so I continued straight past Eddystone Point. There were a few areas of breaking waves around the point so I had to weave between some sets of breaking waves.
Once I was past Eddystone Point I had the wind behind me and I continued to fly along. The only hairy moments arose when I rounded Boulder Point, Cape Naturaliste and Musselroe Point. The big swells were turning into savage breaking waves on the rocks at each point. Each point was blending in with the next one but I think it must have been at Cape Naturaliste that I tried to paddle on the inside of a group of rocks as a short cut. The path looked clear but as I got closer I could see that the water sucked back leaving an exposed reef. The Greenlander is a pig to turn around and as I did a wide u-turn I just snuck over a breaking wave that was looming up behind me.
I had a moment of relief until I saw another wall of water approaching. This wave broke further out but I was faced with 2 metres of whitewater. I had no escape and I only had time to put in a couple of strokes before it hit. I didn't have enough momentum to break through so I was shot backwards down the wave - covered in the whitewater. I ended up getting turned side on and bracing on the wave until it lost power. I was almost back on the beach when I turned the kayak back out to face another smaller wall of whitewater.
I managed to punch through this one and then put in a big effort in the lull to get outside the break before the next set. I gave the rocks a very wide berth and was very happy to reach unbroken water.
During the afternoon the wind swung around to the n/e and it couldn't have been more perfect. As I approached Little Musselroe Bay I briefly considered stopping there but I was making such good progress that I kept going. With the wind behind me I was making good progress towards Foster Islands and I could see breaking waves near Cape Portland in the distance.
As I was passing Foster Islands there were waves breaking over the reefs nearby. I felt a click with my right rudder pedal and then found that it wasn't working. I thought that their might have been a problem with the cable to the pedal. I couldn't turn right at all. It was lucky I could turn left because I wouldn't have been able to get around Cape Portland and make it to shore. I landed just around Cape Portland at Petal Point at 3.30pm. I had done 95 km's but I still felt ok and I had 5 1/2 hours more daylight.
When I pulled the kayak up out of the water I found that the rudder pedals had been attached to the boat with rivets through the hinges and one of the rivets had broken off. I unpacked my kayak to check through all of my spare bits to work out how to fix the pedal. I managed to dig out the broken rivet with my pocket knife. I didn't have any bolts & nuts that would fit but I found that one of my thick cable ties would hold the bits together firmly. By the time I have fixed this up it was about 6pm and I couldn't be bothered packing up again. I was annoyed because I could have easily made it across the next bay to Waterhouse Point or further to Croppy's Point.
I camped up on the point at Petal Point with a great view across the bay towards Tomahawk.
Day 9 – Thursday 22nd November 2001 – start Petal Point
I paddled from Petal Point directly across Ringarooma Bay on a compass bearing because I couldn't initially see Waterhouse Passage that I was aiming for. It felt like I was heading off in the wrong direction when I left the shore because it is such a big bay and the beach disappears to my left and behind me (on an 8 o'clock angle). Gradually Waterhouse Island appeared and I aimed for the passage. The day consisted of a moderate cruise with a very light n/e tail wind present that wasn't helping me.
I just kept plodding - one stroke at a time. I found that I was struggling with the lack of motivation that I often suffered from when I was paddling in still conditions or light tail winds. I find that when I have a head wind - I have to put in a good effort to avoid going backwards but when there is a light tail wind it doesn't matter if you stop paddling.
I counted down the landmarks as I closed towards my planned destination of Bridport. I looked at the shallow rocky bottom on the southern side of Waterhouse Passage, admired the beautiful white beaches around Croppys Point and smelled the stench of bird poo on Sanderson Rocks. The last 20 km's took forever for the tiny houses to grow to full sized versions.
A 'fresh' n/e breeze picked up about 5 minutes after landing at Bridport. It was frustrating that I hadn't been able to use it but that's life.
I pulled the kayak up the beach at the Bridport Caravan Park and put my tent up on the spot that I had used on my last circumnavigation. I stocked up at the shops and then went to visit Jeff Jennings for the evening and had a meal at the pub with him. I returned to my tent so I could get an early start the next day.
Day 10 – Friday 23rd November 2001 - start Bridport
After checking the weather forecast I believed that this would be my last day of 'helpful' winds for at least 5 days. I intended to paddle as far as I could. I started with a moderate n/e wind and I cruised along with a sail up as well as paddling so that I could keep catching the runs. The wind steadily increased during the first 50km from Bridport to Beechford until I was screaming along almost out of control with the wind propelling me down the front of each wave - whether I wanted to or not. I needed to take my sail down and replace it with my smaller sail but there was so much pressure on the mast that I would need both hands to pull it up.
I swapped the sail to the other side to enable me to head to the s/w and I managed to get into the relative shelter of Five Mile Bluff (8km east of Low Head). I put my smaller sail up and once again started flying towards Low Head and the Tamar River.
I kept thinking that the wind isn't going to get any stronger but it kept strengthening to gale force and I was flying. As I was approaching Devonport I was still making fast progress. I had travelled 100km from Bridport and decided to head for the beach at Mersey Bluff - where the Devonport Surf Life Saving Club was located.
I was trying to sail on a specific angle in relation to the n/e wind and swells and I made the mistake of letting the boom out past 90 degrees to the kayak. The next thing I knew was that I surfed diagonally down a wave and I was turned side on to the wind and had no pressure on the sail anymore and capsized - in slow motion.
I popped up and found that I had drink bottles and food floating away and my hat had disappeared. I struggled to put the sail away and then tried to pull my body onto the back deck of the kayak to be able to climb in.
After I tipped the kayak up the right way it was full of water and very unstable. The other problem was that the foam perception seat became unclipped and started floating away. I grabbed it and put it back in but it wouldn't stay there by itself.
I tried a few times to climb into the boat in gale force wind and 2 metre swells but I was just wearing myself out and starting to panic. I was right off the Mersey river mouth and to make matters worse there was a downpour of rain as well. While I was struggling to climb back in a plane flew over the top of me - quite low as it had just taken off from Devonport Airport. I felt sure that they had seen me and would raise the alarm and this annoyed me because I imagined the bad publicity in the media.
After about 10 minutes of struggling - trying to climb back into the boat unaided I remembered that I still had my paddle float and I got it out and slipped it over one end of my paddle and inflated it. I was then able to get back in and put the spray deck on and start pumping the boat out again. I felt a huge relief as I was still a few kilometres out to sea - but heading for the rocks of Mersey Bluff.
As I approached the beach at Devonport Surf Life Saving Club there were big waves rolling in to the beach (hardly surprising after a few days of n/e winds and the current gale. I could see lots of surfers and kids on malibu boards. It wasn't planned but a big wave picked up behind me and shot me down the front. The greenlander kayak isn't known for its handling in surf and it has a very narrow bow that nose dives easily - which is exactly what happened. The bow dug in and flipped me over and I was tumbled over and over and then somehow I popped up on the surface - the right way up. A miracle!
The next wave followed closely and was another big one. To avoid nose diving again I steered sharply to the right as it picked me up and I shot across the wave until it dumped on me. I had my right paddle blade bracing into the wave as I was covered by whitewater. I held on for a bumpy ride and as the force decreased I righted the kayak again and then saw that there wasn't any beach showing - where it normally was. The rough conditions were causing the waves to crash right into the concrete wall at the top of the beach. I managed to pull off the wave and jumped out to stop my progress.
The sand was very soft so my trolley wouldn't be able to work on it so I pulled it onto the concrete ramp - causing a few more scratches. I got my trolley out and was given a hand to get it up to the surf club by a few members. I had a great hot shower in the club and then had a cold beer in the bar. Within an hour my dad arrived from Hobart to meet up with me and we arranged to stay in a cabin at the Devonport Caravan Park.
Day 11 – Saturday 24th November 2001 - start Devonport
I spent the first half of the day repairing the broken pedal that failed when the rivet corroded 3 days earlier. A person from the Examiner newspaper turned up to do a small story as I was leaving and took some totally unrealistic photos - that always look forced and ridiculous. When I managed to start I was faced with a strong westerly wind and I was feeling flat from the 105km the previous day.
I made it to Penguin surf life saving club and cooked up a great stir fry with dad. We stayed in the club that night.
Day 12 – Sunday 25th November 2001 - start Penguin
Another day of headwinds - this time it was n/w. I struggled to Somerset without stopping anywhere. Surf life saving club members allowed me to stay in the club for the night. It was great to have a hot shower and be able to stand up in a dry, warm place. As I left Penguin at the start of the day - saying goodbye to my dad I was feeling pretty low and also really sore & tired. I had really had enough of this trip. There are a lot of highs and lows during an extended trip like this and this was one of my lowest days.
Day 13 – Monday 26th November 2001 - start Somerset
I awoke to find that there was still a strong westerly wind present. As frustrating as it was - I had such a good run of 'helpful' wind from Schouten Island to Devonport I had no right to complain. The day consisted of long, hard, plodding paddling. It was a relief to have left the towns of north-west Tasmania. This section is my least favourite part of the circumnavigation because the water isn't as clean, it is harder to find places to camp (because you are near towns) and you constantly worry about the security of your gear when you leave it to re-supply.
Table Cape, to the west of Somerset and Wynyard, is an impressive sight from the water. Even though it looks great from the water its cliffs make paddling unpleasant due to rebounding swells and the wind seems to howl around it. Once I was clear of the cape I focused on reaching Boat Harbour, which is a beautiful holiday town with a small shop (seasonal opening times).
I stopped for a stretch at Boat Harbour and considered my destination for the day. I really wanted to make it to Rocky Cape because it is another landmark point that has a view across the next major stretch towards the headland of Stanley.
After leaving Boat Harbour I followed the shore closely because I was feeling tired from the headwinds. As I reached the seaside village of Sisters Beach I was buggered. I had travelled 35km into a strong headwind and I landed to look for a camp site. The problem was that most of the beachfront was taken with shacks so I paddled up the beach to the corner where the boat ramp was located. I could have landed here but it wasn't a great place to camp. The continued all the way to Rocky Cape. I stopped about 3 more times on the eastern side of Rocky Cape and before I knew it I was paddling around the jagged rocks of the cape and I landed on the western side. There are two handy places to stop here. One is on a pebbly cove that is about 50m south of the boat ramp. It is protected by a man-made rock wall that is often just under the surface and can be exposed at low tide. I managed to get stuck on this rock wall that was just submerged and had to lift the boat over - causing some more scratches.
At low tide it is possible to land just around the point further to the south on a beach in front of a shack (I should have done this). Both these areas are close to a picnic ground. I haven't seen 'No camping' signs there but I suspect it isn't encouraged either. I had stopped here twice before and it felt good to stop in familiar areas. My tent probably went on the same piece of grass each time.
Day 14 – Tuesday 27th November 2001 - start Rocky Cape
Uneventful day - moderate westerly head winds still - followed the shore closely all day and finished at low tide at Stanley - near the caravan park.
At low tide at Stanley there is about 200 metres of beach that appears. It was very handy to have my wheeled trolley with me. I would have worn out a lot of fibreglass (and my back as well) without it. I spent the afternoon walking around the town after having a nice hot shower at the caravan park.
I had a great counter meal at the pub for tea - scotch fillet, chips & salad and a couple of Boags Premium beers. I left feeling full and happy as I staggered back down to the caravan park, stopping briefly to re-supply from the local supermarket.
Day 15 – Wednesday 28th November 2001 - start Stanley
After packing up my tent I packed my kayak and then had a look at the beach. There was a really high tide and there was no beach showing at all. The water was lapping against the boulders that were positioned at the top of the beach. The only option was a concrete footpath that normally gave access from the road to the beach but now was just like a boat ramp.
I packed everything and left room for the trolley and wheeled the kayak backwards down the ramp until the kayak was floating in the water with the trolley still attached underneath. I unstrapped it and packed it away while standing in water a foot deep - and then paddled off around the wharf area and the impressive rock feature in Stanley, known as 'The Nut'.
There was a moderate w/s/w wind present and as I reached North Point I was undecided whether I should aim to paddle the 15 km across the open water to Robbins Island - into the wind - or take the longer path around the shore. This would add at least 15km to the day. I felt the wind drop a bit and thought "it will be ok - I can make it directly across". I started heading across the open water but within 5 minutes the wind had picked up again so I turned to the south and followed the shore.
I ended up following the beach closely - past the entrance to Smithton (Duck Bay and Duck River). I then paddled around Perkins Island where I entered a confusing network of channels between sandy island. The tide was dropping quickly and sandy islands appeared everywhere. It was lucky that 3 fish farm barged passed me and I noted where they went so I could follow the same channels.
I made slow progress through this maze of channels and was relieved to stop on the pebbly boat ramp at Stony Point. This was another location that I had camped at twice before and I moved into my spot next to a covered over picnic shelter.
I had reached the exciting stage where I could reach the west coast tomorrow. I could remember the fear and apprehension that I felt as I was doing my first circumnavigation of Tasmania - 2 years earlier.
This time I knew what the coastline looked like and had a better idea of the places I would be able to land down the rugged west coast.
Day 16 – Thursday 29th November 2001 - start Stony Point
I had a fast start to the day as I slipped out into the tidal stream. I cruised along in the fast tidal flow - averaging 10km/h even though I was heading into a light head wind. I headed along in the channel - close to Robbins Island. As I passed Wallaby Island I realised that it was close to high tide so I aimed to pass on the southern side of Kangaroo Island. This is only possible at close to high tide - and gives you about 1-2 feet of water for a few kilometres. If you get caught there at low tide - you would have a long wait for the water to arrive again.
There were hundreds of black swans relaxing in the shallow water near Kangaroo Island and it was a relief to move back into deeper water and be free of the bottom drag. I continued across the bay towards Woolnorth Point (northern most point of the main Tasmanian island - and the north-west tip of Tassie.) and landed on the eastern side of the point on the pebbly shore. I went for a walk across the end of the point to the western side where I had a great view of Trefoil Island and down to the twin rocks known as 'The Doughboys'.
As I returned to my kayak on the eastern side of Woolnorth Point a commercial abalone boat returned to shore after fishing down the west coast. The fishermen retrieved their boat from the rocky shore and we had a chat for a while. They pointed out a good spot to camp and a barbecue plate. He also gave me a few abalone for dinner that were greatly appreciated. I didn't meet any of the property owners at Woolnorth but I now understand that they don't encourage visitors camping around the shore of their property.
It was really interesting just watching the strong tidal flows around the point - similar to being hypnotised as you stare at a campfire. I regard this area as the most treacherous area to paddle due to the jagged reefs and very strong tidal flows. I was relieved that the weather was being kind to me but the tides were still flowing fast. I also watched a couple of sea eagles that soared around and then perched on a post that marked a tidal reef just offshore.
Day 17 – Friday 30th November 2001 - start Woolnorth Point
I got up at 6am and started paddling at 7am. I had to paddle against the current to get around the point which involved a fair bit of effort but it didn't last long. I stopped for about 15 minutes on the beach next to Davidsons Point to take some photos of the Doughboys. The journey south, past the Doughboys and Cape Grim was a long, hard slog due to the large, messy rebounding swells. Anyone who plans to paddle down the west coast of Tasmania must be able to put up with these conditions because there are a lot of them.
After passing Cape Grim the conditions improved a bit and I just cruised along for the 24 km's down to Marrawah. I landed at the southern end of the beach - just off the picnic shelter. As I surfed towards the beach in the 3-4 foot spilling waves I aimed away from the rocks close to the shore (the beach is clear of rocks about 100m north of the picnic shelter). I jumped out of the boat just before the rocks and waded in the water to manoeuvre around the rocks
Day 18 – Saturday 1st December 2001 – No paddle
My dad met me at Marrawah and we went for a drive down the coast to Couta Rocks and Temma Harbour. I had no intention of going out paddling as there was a strong s/w wind. It was strong enough that I could kill myself all day and only make 10 kms and probably have to make a big surf landing. We camped at the picnic area at the beach
Day 19 – Sunday 2nd December 2001 – start Marrawah
I started paddling at 7.30am - heading out through a 4 foot surf. After I rounded Green Point there was a large s/w swell rolling up the coast and a moderate s/w headwind. The wind had dropped a bit from the previous day but the swells were huge (maybe 10 metres).
This section of coast is really interesting in calm weather but in rough conditions Bluff Hill Point had lots of rocks with breaking waves and Arthur River was treacherous and then Couta Rocks (which is a harbour for fishing boats) looked horrible.
As you approach Temma Harbour there is a reef that runs parallel to the shore for the last 1.5km before the entrance (it is about 300-500 metres off shore). On my previous trip I had paddled inside the reef and managed to sneak through a gap in the reef to get into the harbour. On this occasion I had to paddle well out beyond the reef. I paddled to a point that was directly out from the entrance to the harbour and looked in. All I could see were lines of breaking waves, rolling into Temma Harbour. I watched for about 10 minutes as line after line of breaking waves entered the harbour.
While I watched I considered my options (about maybe trying to land somewhere else) and came to the conclusion that this was the best of a bad bunch. I started to creep in carefully watching the waves in front of me and behind. I aimed for the middle of the harbour and found that the waves that appeared to be breaking from behind were only just peaking up and while they were big swells I could still get through. I continued nervously and made it into the shelter of the bay. I landed next to the house where fishing boat 'Miss Temma' was up on its slip due to the rough weather.
I then set up my tent on the southern side of the bay, near an old shed. I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to Dean Edwards who runs Miss Temma crayfish boat. He gave me a hot cup of coffee and he charged my satellite phone batteries while he had his generator running.
Day 20 – Monday 3rd December 2001 – start Temma Harbour
24 km of TORTURE
After running the gauntlet of big swells rolling into Temma Harbour I turned south again. The first half of the trip was very hard due to a strong head wind and very messy water due to the rebounding swells off the rocky coastline. During this first half of this leg I was only averaging 3-4km/h due to the strong head wind.
I had reached the northern end of Sandy Cape Beach and I had 12km to go before I reached the sheltered corner at Sandy Cape. Sandy Cape is only low ground so the wind was howling over the top and whipping up short, steep wind swells. For that last 12 km's I had to battle to travel every foot of distance. I averaged 2-3 kilometres an hour and took 5 hours to finish.
Even when I was within 100m of the beach at Sandy Cape the southerly wind was so strong that I couldn't get any closer to the beach for ages. The wind was blowing the boat backwards, it was blowing my body backwards and I was so close. As the 1 foot waves broke on the northern side of the cape the wind blew the tops off the waves creating a huge wall of spray rising up along the length of the wave.
When I eventually reached the beach I had to lie down on the sand for a rest for about 10 mins - I was exhausted. I then looked for a good tent site and pulled the kayak up on the trolley. The tide was low and there was a few hundred metres of beach exposed.
I spent the afternoon by exploring the area at the end of the beach where there is a hut (locked) that appeared to have a phone in it.
I heard a weather forecast during the evening and they predicted that the strong to gale force southerly wind would continue tomorrow. I slept very well that night because I had decided that I probably wouldn't be able to paddle the next day due to the continued strong headwinds.
Day 21 – Tuesday 4th December 2001 – No paddle
I had a sleep in and was shocked and annoyed when I got up at 9am (I usually get up by 6am) and I found that there was only a light s/e wind. I looked out to sea wondering if it was going to pick up again. Eventually I realised that I had left it too late to leave. The next landing point would be Conical Rocks Point (Conical Harbour) that was 43km away and I had missed my opportunity. I could have made it if I had got up at my normal time.
Instead I spent the afternoon listening to the 3rd Cricket Test between Australia and N.Z. where Australia struggled to survive for a draw. I walked to the shack to get some water and did some fishing (unsuccessful). Later I had a stroll out to Sandy Cape. I planned to walk further to have a look at Native Well Bay on the southern side of Sandy Cape. On the map there were a couple of huts there and possibly a bay that would be sheltered from northerly weather. Instead I returned to the tent and had an early meal and packed as much as I could in my kayak - to be ready for a good day tomorrow. I was still annoyed at missing a reasonable paddling day.
Day 22 – Wednesday 5th December 2001 – start Sandy Cape
I think I slept a little lighter as I was motivated and determined to have a good day. I woke up at 5am and was paddling by 6am. There was a light easterly breeze (blowing offshore). I paddled close to the cape and then stayed pretty close to the shore - to look at the remote beaches. I now understand that it is possible to drive 4wd vehicles up from the Pieman Heads to Sandy Cape - although the beaches are risky. It is probably easier to use 4 wheeler bikes. These vehicles were transported across the wild Pieman River by punt just inside the heads.
While cruising towards the Pieman Heads and Conical Rocks Point the wind swung around from light easterly to the n/w and then ended up as a light s/w wind. This was alright as the coast was now angled to the south-east.
On my previous adventure down the west coast I had missed the entrance to Conical Harbour so this time I was determined to find it. I stayed as close as I could passing the mouth to the Pieman River. It looks eerie as the nice blue water turns to black due to the tannin from vegetation upstream.
I reached Conical Rocks Point. The swell was small and I stayed in close to the rocks as I explored around the point. There were lots of big rocks offshore and I paddled between the rocks and the shore and found myself in a sheltered area. The water was beautiful and clear with lots of kelp and reefs which calmed the water even more.
I saw some shacks on the shore and paddled over to them. As I approached I saw some 4 wheel drive vehicles and some men who were baiting some cray rings. As soon as they saw me approach they all stopped what they were doing and stared. I felt really uncomfortable and could almost hear the banjo's playing as I headed towards the cast of 'Deliverance'.
I stopped long enough to have a leak and eat some fruit and then left again. I found a small gap in the rocks to get out of the harbour to the south and headed towards my next landmark of Granville Harbour.
The last time I did this section I was well offshore and sailing fast. This time I was paddling all the way and was within 100 metres of the beach and rocks. In a few of the bays there were aluminium dinghies with guys pulling cray pots. None of them were wearing life jackets and they were all taking a risk being in so close with the waves breaking close by.
By the time I reached Granville Harbour I had seen lots more fishing dinghies and I found the harbour a lot calmer than my last visit as well - when there were waves breaking across the whole entrance to the bay. It was calm this time and I still had lots of daylight so I thought that I might be able to make it to Trial Harbour in these more settled conditions.
I kept plodding along in the light s/w wind that wasn't slowing me too much. When I reached Trial Harbour the tide was low and there was a large reef exposed. It was the first time I had seen Trial Harbour in anything except wild weather. It was good to see where the reefs were to understand where the waves would break in rough weather.
I cooked some tea and then walked up to the top of the hill above the road that links Trial Harbour to Zeehan.
I felt great after moving 81km closer towards Strahan. I was now only half a day's paddle away from entering Macquarie Harbour and the relative civilisation of Strahan.
Day 23 – Thursday 6th December 2001 – start Trial Harbour
I woke up at 5.45am and got up at 6am after listening to the weather forecast on the radio. When I ventured outside the tent it was cloudy and there was a light easterly wind. I packed slowly and left Trial Harbour at 7.45am. I initially followed the shore closely but then switched on the gps and headed in a straight line to the entrance to Macquarie Harbour.
Soon after leaving Trial Harbour the wind dropped totally and the surface was glassy. Each hour I turned on the gps to find out how far I was away from Macquarie Heads. Each hour I was closing 7.5 to 8 km towards the heads. Setting myself challenges by checking the gps each hour gave me some motivation to keep paddling. It is always hard to push yourself when the water is calm - all I wanted to do was slouch down in the kayak and relax in the stillness.
The direct route to the heads took me 5km offshore and with no wind present I sat and listened and there wasn't any sound at all. I was too far out to hear waves breaking on the beach.
When I was 10km from the heads I got my CDMA mobile phone out. I was now back in a service area so I phoned a couple of friends to have a chat while I sat in the still conditions. I also phoned a friend at Strahan Police Station and asked if they could meet me at the boat ramp just inside the heads in an hour and a half.
I cruised into the heads at 12.40pm after the 35km down from Trial Harbour and then followed the beach around for another few more kilometres. I stopped at the boat ramp and wheeled the kayak clear of the water with my trolley. I barely had enough time to get changed when the local police 4wd turned up and Const. Dave Scarafiotti took me back to town.
I had a beautiful hot shower and then picked up some groceries from the supermarket. Alan Skeggs - another local policeman let me stay in the flat behind the station. I felt spoilt as I lay on the couch watching tv.
Day 24 – Friday 7th December 2001 - day off Strahan
I woke up at 5.30am and found that there was a chill in the air and there was a strong s/w wind. It didn’t take too long to decide that I would have a day off. It was a fairly easy decision to make while I was sleeping on a sofa-bed in a warm sleeping bag and using a soft pillow.
I called dad and told him that I wasn’t paddling and he decided to drive to Strahan to see me. I went to buy some breakfast from the shop and then hung around the police station for a while with Dave Scarafiotti.
After having lunch at his house he took me on a guided tour of the works on the Abt Railway and the dirty King River.
Dad arrived in the early afternoon and we had tea later at the Strahan Golf Club (turkey). We set up our tents back out at the Macquarie Heads where my kayak was and I loaded everything I could to prepare for the next part of the adventure.
Day 25 - Saturday 8th December 2001 – start Strahan
I had set my alarm and I woke up at 5.30am. The thought of leaving Strahan to head down the west coast and around the south coast always makes me apprehensive. I wouldn’t feel as nervous if I was heading off with a group.
Dad couldn’t have been more helpful. He made up some sandwiches for me to eat for lunch. I could tell that he was very nervous about me going and that he was keeping busy.
I packed up and loaded the kayak. Dad and I dragged it out onto the beach on the northern side of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. There was the odd fishing dinghy heading out through the heads.
It was overcast and there was a light southerly/s.west breeze but I had made up my mind that I was going regardless. After a day off in Strahan I needed to get back into it. On my previous ‘lap’ I had paddled from Macquarie Heads to Point Hibbs - a distance of 60km - and I was keen to at least cover that distance again. I knew that there were quite a few beaches that I could stop at on the way if I had to.
The swell was between small - moderate around the rocks of Cape Sorell and the coastline was scarred by fire. Large areas were destroyed by a recent fire and it wasn’t pretty.
I was keeping alert because I knew that there are a lot of shallow reefs south of Cape Sorell (pretty much all the way to Low Rocky Point). I had an uneventful day as I plugged away down to Hibbs Pyramid.
You can see Hibbs Pyramid for hours before you get there. It slowly grows before you and suddenly you realise that it has loomed up before you. No matter what the weather it is an awesome sight. The pyramid is surrounded by kelp forests and crystal clear water. My frustration with this area is that on the previous trip I didn’t find a good camp site. I had camped on the beach the last time so I was keen to find a clear camp site this time.
As I approached HP I could see a fishing boat sheltering behind it. I aimed for the n/w corner of it and managed to catch a nice wave that picked up over a reef. I held the wave for a hundred metres or so and then paddled over to the fishing boat. I could see one young guy on the deck and he was absorbed in something. I paddled up to the boat as quietly as I could. When I was within a metre I said g’day to the guy on the boat and you should have seen him jump.
I asked him about a spot to camp and he wasn’t quite sure. He said that they usually had bbq’s in a small sheltered bay and pointed to it. As I paddled over to the bay a runabout from the fishing boat flew past me piled high with cray pots. I continued into the bay. The water was still a beautiful crystal clear and there was a natural rocky breakwater in the bay. It consisted of a circle of rock that came close to the surface - with a small gap that allowed entry (big enough for a dinghy or kayak).
I pulled up on the coarse sand/gravel/pebbly beach. I was immediately stunned by the amount of plastic rubbish. I was surrounded by a beautiful bay that was covered in plastic bottles and containers. I climbed out and dragged the kayak away from the water.
There was a line of seaweed around the high tide line and inside the weed were millions of blue bottle jellyfish. As I walked along in my wetsuit booties I created loud pops with each step - like walking on bubble wrap.
I checked around the bay and found that I was blocked by a steep bank and thick scrub. At the eastern side of the bay I found a small track up the bank next to a trickle of water coming out of the bank.
I scrambled up the bank and found I was in a boggy area that was flat and grassy. There must have been a spring coming up. There were lots of wallabies around feeding on the grass. There were plenty of flat places to camp but the ground was so boggy from the spring it was out of the question.
I made my way back to the kayak and paddled out of the small bay to the wider beach to the east. I landed at the same place as my previous trip and thought that I would just camp on the beach again.
I set up my tent on the sand and then relaxed. I spent the afternoon eating my sandwiches that dad had made for me in the morning. I got my maps out to programme in all possible landing points for the next 150km - to cover all options. You never know when you will get caught in low visibility fog/mist or stuck out after dark so I made sure I had my gps and a waterproof head torch handy.
I took a few more photos of Hibbs Pyramid even though I had lots from last time. I noted in my logbook that I would love to make it past Low Rocky Point tomorrow. That would require a minimum of 55-60km.
In this area it was really hard to get a weather broadcast on the radio. The ‘AM’ signal on the radio was OK at night but by the time the coastal waters broadcast came on at 5.55am it had been light for an hour and you couldn’t understand the radio. There were no strong wind warnings during the night time weather reports so I thought I would be alright.
I set a range of goals for the next day. They were-
minimum achievement - Mainwaring Inlet - 40km ish;
good achievement - southern side of Low Rocky Point - 55 to 60km:
great achievement - Mulcahy bay - 80km;
sensational achievement - Spain bay (Port Davey) - 125-130km
Day 26 – Sunday 9th December 2001 – start Point Hibbs
I got up at 5.40am and the weather was overcast and the sea was calm. I hit the water at 7am and paddled close to the shore around Point Hibbs looking for other possible landing points. Even though there was virtually no wind there was still a reasonable swell rolling into the shore creating 2-3m waves on the beaches to the south of Pt Hibbs.
The wind was light and variable (E to NE to N to NW) swinging slowly around behind me. From the southern side of Pt Hibbs the next natural spot to aim for is High Rocky Point and Montgomery Rocks. I aimed for this because it is more direct than following the shore. If I had more time to explore it would have been nice to go into the mouth of the Wanderer River which is next to Christmas Cove. There is supposed to be a good landing point there.
It just wasn’t meant to be this trip so I focused on my next landmark which is the mouth of the Mainwaring River. I had this point marked on my GPS because it is hard to spot the mouth of the river unless you are close to the shore. It help to look for the Acacia Rocks and then keep a lookout for the river mouth.
I was making good time as I reached the Mainwaring River so I plugged on. The wind had been very light but it started to pick up so that it was useful to put my sail up. A few torrential showers passed over as I approached Low Rocky Point but I was making fast progress - at least 9 to 10 km/h and sometimes above.
As I reached Low Rocky Point I checked my watch and it was only 1.50pm but I had already paddled 60km that day. I snuck through a gap between sets of breaking waves on the point. I stopped on the southern side of Low Rocky Point and gazed at the beauty of the south-west. I was getting closer to the more familiar areas to me.
I had a big decision to make.
- Should I follow the shore and head into the corner of Low Rocky Point on the southern side where there is a good camp site.
- I could aim across the bay towards Nye Bay or Mulcahy Bay (15 or 20km’s)
- I could go all out to make it into Port Davey to Spain Bay (60km)
I initially decided to go all out for Port Davey and selected the north head of Port Davey on my gps. That was 45km away but I was travelling at 11-12km/h. Once I reached the North Head I would still have 10-15km to go. If the wind stayed up from the n/w I would be ok but I was feeling pretty buggered.
After an hour or so of heading for Port Davey I changed my course for Mulcahy Bay. I didn’t want to risk being stuck out in the dark - especially if the wind changed.
I continued to make good progress with the sail up heading towards Mulcahy Bay. As I entered the bay I saw a fishing boat (the Lufra) chugging around setting cray pots. I chased the boat and they spotted me and came over. As I spoke to the skipper I could tell he thought that I was a lunatic but when I told him I had paddled from Hibbs Point today he just confirmed to himself that I was a lunatic.
He said “are you heading into the gulch?” I had to ask “is that the best spot to pull into?” I also asked if there was a beach in the end of it or was it rocky. He said there is a small beach.
The boat headed off towards the gulch and I followed along behind. The gulch was protected by some large jagged rocks at the entrance and by some other rocks inside the gulch. It was long and the swells settled the further I went in. At the end there are lots of jagged rocks on the left half of the gulch and it was clear on the right.
I landed on the beach which consisted of stinky mud - stained by rotting sea weed. Once again I was disappointed to find rubbish everywhere – consisting of plastic containers and stubbies.
While I lay in my tent I managed to hear a faint weather report after the 9pm news. The ‘bureau’ had issued a strong wind warning for s/w to southerly wind. I realised that I probably wouldn’t be paddling the next day.
Day 27 – Monday 10th December 2001 – Mulcahy Gulch
5.30am - I woke up to heavy rain, strong southerly wind and it was cold outside. I didn’t need much of an excuse to go back to sleep.
9am – I woke up again because I had started to get hot in the tent and the sun had come out. I got up for a look at the conditions and there were big swells from the south and strong winds blowing straight up into the gulch. It was still possible to launch safely in the gulch, even with wind howling directly in – but I would have spent all day going nowhere.
10am – More rain, wind still strong, weather too unpleasant to stay out of the tent.
12.35pm – Listened to the weather report on ABC radio and heard that the strong wind warning had been upgraded to a gale warning for the whole coast and there would be some snow around. I gathered up some water and snacks from my kayak and took them back to the tent. It was times like this that I would have preferred to be using a tent bigger than the Macpac Microlight that I had chosen (to reduce weight and space).
4.30pm – I had spent the last 3 hours huddling inside my sleeping bag wearing every item of clothing I had. I peaked outside and could see that the water was all foam. I was relieved that I had chosen not to paddle.
The day had been so nasty I didn’t stay outside to cook tea. I just had a couple of muesli bars and dozed off again.
Day 28 – Tuesday 11th December 2001 – Mulcahy Gulch
I woke up at 3.37am. The gusts of winds were very strong and I was worried that a tree would come down on the tent. I was imagining being trapped under a fallen tree with broken rib and other injuries. I kept my satellite phone close. The gusts kept getting stronger.
As a result of sleeping so much during the previous day I ended up lying awake most of the night waiting for a tree to fall across the tent. As I lay in my sleeping bag wearing my beanie I kept thinking I could hear a cat ‘meowing’. Later as I dozed off I dreamed that I was in a house with a panther sized black cat following me around.
I woke again at 5am. The wind had dropped a bit between 4am and 5am but then another front must have come through and it was stronger than ever – with torrential rain.
Just before the 5am news abc radio played the Seachange song and I laughed to myself that this was my seachange.
There weren’t many options for tent sites in Mulcahy Gulch due to the thick scrub surrounding the water, so I couldn’t avoid being under the trees that creaked in the wind. It was driving me crazy being stuck in the tent in the bad weather. I had aimed to finish the trip in under 4 weeks and I estimated that I still had at least 3 days to go. The last few days could be –
Possible destinations to finish:
1-Mulcahy Gulch to south coast (either Ketchem Bay or New Harbour)
2-Southport area or somewhere in D’entrecasteaux Channel
3-finish in Hobart
It is easy to write it down but totally dependant on the wind direction.
5.15am – I poked my head out of the tent to find that the sea was wild with lots of foam from breaking waves. The wind was still coming from the south to s/w.
10am – I woke up again after dozing on and off since 6am. For the past two days I had been continually wearing all of my clothes to try and stay warm. I was wearing woolly socks, tracksuit bottoms, t-shirt, rugby top, polar fleece jacket and 2 beanies, all inside my sleeping bag, and I was still barely warm.
By midday I crawled out of bed and decided to go exploring in between rain showers. I scrambled up the hill through the scrub to walk to the east towards Mulcahy Bay. From the top of the hill I would have had a great view – if the weather was clear.
I returned to the tent and managed to get a rope around the tree that was most likely to fall on my tent. I tied it off to another tree so that if it fell it would be re-directed away from my tent.
I cooked up some pasta in the vestibule and it was nice to have a hot meal again after not cooking for a few days. The wind seemed to be settling down a bit so that it was still consistently strong but without the extreme gusts.
During the afternoon I tried to plan for the next day. I was determined to leave Mulcahy Gulch because I was sick of the smell of the rotting kelp and I was disappointed to have failed to finish in under 4 weeks. Today was the 28th day of the trip.
I planned that even if there was a moderate southerly I would try and make it to Spain Bay in Port Davey – about 40km away.
The wind was supposed to turn to the west later in the day and I could possibly get around South West Cape if the wind turned early enough.
Day 29 – Wednesday 12th December 2001 – start Mulcahy Bay
Started paddling at 6am
Wind initially s/w and big waves breaking around entrance to gulch. Lots of rebound until well clear of the coast.
Had to pay close attention to rocks and reefs on the way to the north head of port davey
Wind had turned slightly to w/s/w and was just around enough to put a sail up.
I had the smaller of my 2 sails up and was making reasonable progress towards s/w cape.
During the few hours between Port Davey and s/w cape the wind picked up again and there were some big swells rolling in from the s/w to west. By the time I was within 5km of the tip of s/w cape the wind was quite fresh indeed. I didn’t want to stop paddling to take the sail down in the strong wind and big swells. I just kept sailing and paddling as I gave the breaking waves off s/w cape a wide berth. There were huge swells peaking up around the cape and there were rebounding swells in all directions.
Whenever I am in a scary position I try and get out of there as quickly as possible. I caught as many waves as I could and paddled hard to get clear of s/w cape and it was a huge relief to get around it. It is a great feeling to get to the end of a section of coastline and even more special at s/w cape. It feels like you are near the end of the earth.
I had to paddle about a kilometre clear of s/w cape to avoid the breaking waves but as I turned to aim east along the south coast I had following wind and waves. With the following conditions I decided to aim to pass just to the north of De Witt island to head towards South Cape.
If I needed to stop before South Cape there were plenty of options. I was making such good progress – averaging better than 10km/h – that I started to consider the possibility of making it past south-east cape. Once I was around s/e cape I had finished the south coast and I knew that I could travel up through D’entrecasteaux Channel and the Derwent River during the night and be in Hobart by mid morning. That would require a 260km paddle.
I reached south cape at approximately 8.45pm and realised that it would be dark by the time I got to s/e cape. I remembered that the waves peak up steeply around s/e cape and I didn’t want to do that in the dark so I changed course for south cape rivulet.
I was pretty tired as I approached south cape rivulet at 9.15pm. I could hear the surf pounding and see from the back of the waves that I was going to ‘have some fun’. I stopped outside the break to watch for a while – to see how close I could get to the breaking area.
I waited until I thought that the set went through and I chased the next wave in. The problem with a fully loaded sea kayak is that they are heavy and slow. When you catch a wave with a surf ski you have some chance of keeping it straight on a wave but when you go down the front of a wave on a sea kayak you have no chance of paddling out in front of the wave enough to avoid being turned sideways by the wave.
Before I caught the wave I decided to aim well clear of the river mouth in case I came out of the kayak and was swept out to sea again. I aimed to the east of the river mouth and was turned sideways on the wave. I braced on the wave until it ran out of power and then paddled to the beach, about 50m to the east of the river.
The water was swirling around at the river mouth and I pulled the kayak along the beach and up into the river. I paddled up around the bend and pulled the kayak up at the camp site. It was now dark and I was thrilled to have made it so far but also very tired. I had paddled from 5.55am to 9.15pm without stopping anywhere.
I changed into dry clothes quickly and put my tent up and went straight to sleep.
Day 30 - Thursday 13th December 2001 - start South Cape Rivulet
I had fallen asleep without setting my alarm and woke up at 6.30am. I packed the kayak quickly and ate some muesli bars. I was determined to make it back to Hobart that day so I got out enough food and water for a long day.
The result of the strong s/w winds over the past 4 days meant that there were about 6 foot waves breaking at south cape rivulet. There were some a bit bigger and some a bit smaller.
I was a bit nervous as I paddled down the rivulet towards the surf. I could see a few lines of surf ahead of me. I let a few waves hit me and watched the waves break further out. After a bigger one hit me I decided to go for it. I put in the big strokes and got hit in the face by a big wave that swamped the kayak.
After being hit by about 10 waves I thought I was clear only to find that there were more waves breaking on a reef to the east. I found that I had lost a brand new pair of sunglasses that was tucked under bungy cord on the deck.
I started to sail across towards s/e cape but the westerly winds were so strong I was almost knocked over by a gust within a couple of minutes. I managed to get the sail down and continued to paddle towards s/e cape. I had to give it a wide berth due to the 3-5m swells breaking around the cape. I stayed well clear until I had passed Whale Head.
The water was protected past Whale Head and I was feeling great. When I reached Recherche Bay the wind had dropped more and I just continued to paddle slowly – aiming for Partridge Island in D’entrecasteaux Island.
I had enough snacks in the kayak to keep paddling and I plodded slowly towards Gordon jetty. I kept forcing myself to continue – one stroke at a time – just enough to keep the kayak flowing through the water in the light westerly wind.
It was 7pm when I reached Tinderbox at the top of the D’entrecasteaux Channel. The police boat Van Diemen steamed past without seeing me and I got my phone out of the hatch and gave them a call. The turned around and came back for a chat.
I phoned dad from the mouth of the Derwent and told him that I would be in Hobart at approximately 10pm. I continued to plod along and managed to sail for about half an hour as the wind turned to the s/e.
I barely noticed that it was getting dark at 9.30pm as I paddled past Taroona and Sandy Bay. The final stretch from Sandy Bay to Battery Point was beautiful. There was phosphorescence around the kayak and the wind dropped totally.
As I weaved through the yachts at the Royal Yacht Club I could see dad standing at my car – waiting on the foreshore. He couldn’t see me approaching in the dark – at 10pm – and I called out to him. I put in a little spurt and ran the kayak up onto the beach.
I climbed out slowly after sitting in the kayak for 15 hours and Dad gave me a hug. We unpacked the kayak, loaded it on the car and I got into some warm, clean clothes for the first time for a month.
I really enjoyed the sandwiches and chocolate milk that dad had brought me.