'My Island Home'
Solo Sea kayak circumnavigation of Tasmania by Steve Dineen
(Steve Dineen completed the second solo circumnavigation of Tasmania by sea kayak - after Tony Dicker)
Scribe: Steve Dineen
Saturday - 14th February 1998
My expectation was to paddle around Tasmania - time limit - six weeks. This was to be my first time paddling my sea kayak that had arrived late. It was not an ideal preparation for the journey! Andrew Pitt, a nearby neighbour and paddling companion, joined me on the first day to travel from Eaglehawk Neck to Maria Island.
We set off 'pushing' into a North West wind for a couple of hours. At times the going was hard. An early southerly change was due; the wind would then be behind us. We had a commitment to meet my wife Helen, Andrew's wife Sue and kids, Jack and Toby, at Maria Island. Had a break at Cape Frederick Henry then, in a direct line, pushed on to Maria Island. A slight breeze now behind us we put up our sails. It gave us little assistance.
Had lunch at Point Lesueur, on a small beach and then on to Darlington. We had a great breeze, sailing for a few kilometres without paddling, the first day had gone to plan and we arrived on Maria on time, we met up with the others who had caught the Ferry across from Louisville.
Day One - Eaglehawk Neck to Darlington - Distance 60km
Sunday - 15th February
It drizzled all night on Maria. Helen and I were very cramped in our tent. All our gear and the two of us it was too much for the 'small' two-person tent. The next morning my body ached from the day's before paddle, I was happy to have a late departure because of rain. Said my goodbyes to everyone, who were going for a walk then head back, Andrew was going to paddle back to Louisville while the others went back on the Ferry. I headed straight for Schouten Island.
Halfway, there was a small island called lle des Phoques where I hoped to stretch my legs. Unfortunately I was unable to due to the vertical rock faces and the very large caves. I was also unable to get close due to the one to two metre swells. After spending four hours in the kayak I felt a little seasick due to the side swell. My bottom was also a little tender. It kept playing on my mind, 'I should have brought that cushion insert!' Hopefully my bottom will adapt!
The day had slowly improved the sun was now out, on my arrival at Schouten Island I had a swim in the sea and a bath in the river. What a wonderful place! No one here but me. I walked back from the river without any clothes on and not a care in the world. I took up accommodation in the National Park hut, which is located on the North side of Schouten, cooked myself some pasta then went for a walk. There was an abundance of wildlife. I saw a penguin nestled in the rocks, a hermit crab and sea slug in a small rockery, kookaburras, native hens and, later on, a couple of possums. This is what life to me is all about this is why I am doing this trip, this is the most wonderful feeling
Day Two - Darlington to Schouten Island - Distance 40km
Monday - 16th February
My destination today is Bicheno. It, once again, poured all night. I was glad to be in a National Park hut. The weather forecast was south easterly winds - 20-30 knots, 2-3 metre swells easing during the day. My paddling background up until now had been on Surf Ski's so I was not put off by large swells. It was still raining when I left Schouten Island. I would have the wind behind me, so I continued on. Because of all the rain these huge, smooth rock faces had water cascading straight out into the sea. It was a spectacular sight. I decided to set sail. It was great fun surfing down two to three metre swells. I was really motoring! As I approached Wineglass Bay the wind was more a westerly than a southerly and not being experienced with the sail I nearly came out on several occasions. I had to dig in with my paddle to stay upright. I got across the bay okay but decided when I come to the next bay, at Friendly Beaches; the sail would come down. When I reached Friendly Beaches the westerly did not appear to be as bad. I was making such good "ground" I made a silly mistake and pushed on.
A very strong westerly squall hit me all at once and I went straight over. I panicked and pulled the skirt from the cockpit. I was now in the water, two and a half kilometres from shore in a very nasty 20-30 knot wind. Large choppy swells were hitting me. I got the kayak upright and blew up my paddle float and it stabilised the kayak. On the second attempt I managed to get back in. I had more problems. My paddle blade was now stuck in my tie down strap behind me and I was struggling to keep my balance. I finally released my paddle but in the process lost my paddle float. If I fell in now, in these conditions, I would never be able to get back in. The kayak was now full of water. I couldn't get my spray deck on it was really tight as it was still brand new and my kayak was very "tippy".
All attempts to pump it out with the foot pump, I had installed in the kayak, was to no avail the waves kept pouring more in. I decided to try and paddle ashore. My sail was caught under the boat. In my haste to re-enter the kayak I forgot all about it. I tried several time to retrieve it but nearly fell out. Although I am a strong swimmer I would not be able to drag the kayak ashore in these conditions so I decided to let the sail go for fear of losing the lot. After two and a half hours of paddling I reached the beach where I cleaned the water out of my kayak. I then headed off again. Helen was waiting for me in Bicheno and would be wondering where I was. I was very cold and shaken but hopefully a little wiser. It was a lesson well learnt! I paddled into Waubs Bay at about 1630 and had a beach landing on Bicheno beach. I was two hours late and Helen had become a little anxious.
Day Three - Schouten Island to Bicheno - Distance 55km
Tuesday - 17th February
Although I didn't need a rest I decided to spend the day at our parents' shack in Bicheno. I did a quick trip back to Hobart in the morning to get another paddle float. This was absolutely necessary in order for me to re-enter my kayak when overturned as my eskimo rolls were not working in my newly acquired kayak. I wasn't going to get another sail but Andrew lent me his so I decided I would use it, only in light or fine winds.
Day 4 - Rest day re-stock lost equipment
Wednesday - 18th February
I awoke early, about 4.00 am, I wanted to push off early. An early change was forecast - 20-30 knots northwesterly. I will be paddling straight into it. I knew Helen wouldn't be impressed if I woke her this early so I had a couple more hours sleep. Helen then saw me off from Bicheno Beach at about 7.00 am but I only had an hour's good paddling before the wind hit me. I could see it coming from miles away. I pushed into it for a couple of hours but it only got worse and I wasn't getting anywhere with my fully loaded boat. I decided to sit it out for five and half hours in the Chain of Lagoons. It did calm down at about 4.00 pm for about an hour but then picked up worse than before. I was very lucky to make it to Ironhouse Point. There was a boat ramp and a holiday resort called the Craydrop Inn on the other side of Ironhouse point so I pushed on very slowly pushing into this strong northwesterly. On arrival I decided to hire a chalet for the night and get out of this wind, I struggled with my gear up to the booking office, a large black snake crossing my path on the way. When the lady receptionist told me where to park my car and I informed her that I had travelled by kayak, she was horrified! Had a couple of beers in the bar, spoke to an ex-fisherman called John and a retired Telstra linesman called 'Frog'. I then went to bed early.
Day 5 - Bicheno to Ironhouse Point - Distance 37km
Thursday - 19th February
Destination today - Binalong Bay. Had an early start. Another day similar to yesterday - I wanted to make Binalong Bay. Light winds gradually increasing 15-20 knot north-westerlies. It was a very hard day but my objective was achieved. I hugged the shore all the way around which was suggested by 'John' the fisherman. Although this put a few more kilometres on each leg the wind was not as ferocious. Being close to the shore was also an advantage when I wanted to stop and stretch my legs or have something to eat. I try to do this at least twice during the day and my objective is to average about six hours paddling each day. The last few kilometres to Binalong Bay were very hard. I was hardly moving. The wind had really picked up. On arrival I tied up into a small dinghy marina. A 'local' had given me permission. I walked to the local shop to find out about the best place to camp. Camping was not allowed the nearest park fifteen minutes by car. The shop owner allowed me to camp at the rear of the shop where I spent the night with their dog 'Bert'.
Day 6 - Ironhouse Point to Binalong - Distance 45km
Friday - 20th February
I woke up, the tent was flapping. Turned on the radio for a weather report. More wind and will continue for the next few days. I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something?? Today was going to be a westerly, 20-30 knots easing during the day. I waited until midday. It didn't appear to be easing, I decided to give it a go anyway. I lasted nearly three hours - the conditions were terrible and I didn't get very far. I should not have started. The problem I had with this trip was the time limit. I would have loved to sit out these conditions. Sea kayaking is not a 'pleasant' sport in these conditions. I was really angry out there today, swearing my head off at the wind.
I landed in a small cove just before Policeman's Point. This had little shelter from the wind but it was my best option. It took me several attempts to get my tent up. I had spaghetti and sand for dinner - bloody wind! The wind did ease up about 7.00 pm. Thought about a 'night' paddle ... for only a couple of seconds!
Day 7 - Binalong Bay to Policeman's Point (Ansons Bay) - Distance 20km
Saturday - 21st February
I could break today up into three sections - magnificent, good and lousy. The first couple of hours were magnificent, light winds, large sea birds flying about me. They probably thought I was a fishing boat and were looking for scraps. Sorry fellows, fishing season is at rest for this week. No fishermen anywhere. Great scenery around Eddystone Point. I ran into a large school of dolphins playing and chasing fish. Several of them came up to me and checked me out. Unfortunately I missed another good picture.
Several days before I missed out on the cascading water from the cliffs near Coles Bay because of the rough conditions and this time because my 'non' waterproof camera was packed away in my kayak. I decided that at the next opportunity I'd buy a waterproof disposal camera and strap it the deck. The winds were starting to pick up. It was forecast gale force winds later in the day. I was just hoping I could make it to Mussel Roe Bay before then. I stuck close to the shore as I had done the day before and was making good time. I went in and out the coves checking the kelp beds. I was really fitting the mould of the sea kayaker.
The wind really picked up and 'hugging' the shore was not working, the wind was everywhere. I had one more bay to go and I would be there. The wind was really howling around Great Musselroe Point. I gave it everything I had. The swells had also picked up and were breaking around the point. Several broke over me and pushed me close to the rocks. I had gone too far to turn back. Finally I made it around the point but wasn't out of danger. Waves were breaking across the river mouth to the inlet and there appeared to be a bar across the access point into the bay. I will have to get across it. I cautiously paddled into it in order to find a break when I could go. This was a mistake. A one-metre wall of water caught me from behind out of nowhere and dumped me. I nose dived straight into the sea. I got straight out of the kayak worried about some rocks I had seen. A few 'frog kicks' later I was out of danger. I then washed up onto the beach relieved to be out of there. The reason I was cautious with my approach was that I found the sea kayak would not ride waves like a surf ski, when the white wash hits you behind on a kayak it flings you sideways causing all kinds of problems.
I paddled up river for about 500m and walked into the main street of Poole, it appeared to be deserted everyone was getting out of this weather. I found a lady in the local phone box and asked her for directions to the nearest camping site. She told me I looked like a "drowned rat" and could not believe anyone had been out in that weather, especially in a kayak. She then invited me to her home for a cooked dinner and a shower. We had roast lamb and apple pie and I got the largest serving much to the disgust of Di's husband, Graham. They were lovely people. Di gave me directions to the local camping spot packing me breakfast and lunch for the next day. I put this day down to 'taking the bad with the good!'
Day 8 - Ansons Bay to Great Musselroe Bay - Distance 47km
Sunday - 22nd February
I lay in my tent. Winds still howling - gale force. I was glad to have found this sheltered camping spot just inside the river mouth of Great Musselroe Bay. A rest day must be had. My body probably needs it after the bashing I have been giving it. Just trying to keep the kayak running in these conditions has taken a lot of energy. The Sea Cat had to cancel its crossing of Bass Strait. The second time in three days. Things must be pretty bad out there. I think I'll sleep all day.
Day 9 - Bad Weather Day - Poole Monday - 23rd February
At last! Light winds. I will aim to make it to Tomahawk today, 57 kilometres away. The first twenty kilometres blue clear waters and white sandy sweeping beaches. Tassie is certainly a beautiful place. As I got close to the Northwest tip I could see reefs about 3 kilometres out to sea. The water up here is all churned up probably because of all the wind we have been having and the change in swell and the differing tides across Banks Strait. As I rounded Cape Portland it was like a washing machine. Large swells churning and breaking up in spots. I was glad to get around the Cape. To get to Tomahawk I had to paddle close shore for a number of reasons. The tide floods west across the Strait and at this time of the day I will be heading into it for a couple of hours my theory was to try and miss the brunt of this by sticking close to shore. Ringarooma Bay was a large Bay and the swells were large in the middle of the Bay and visibility was poor. I had also discovered my compass was missing, I must have lost it when nose-diving the kayak at Musselroe Bay. I finally got to Tomahawk but I don't think I missed much of that tide, it was a slow hard slog all the way. The Tomahawk caravan Park is right on the beach an ideal spot to camp.
Day 10 - Poole to Tomahawk - Distance 57km
Tuesday - 24th February
I usually like to be in the water at about 7.00am but the tide wasn't due to change until the afternoon so I decided to spend the morning cleaning and rearranging my gear. I also ate the take away shop out of food! My aim today was Bridport. I wanted to contact Geoff Jennings, Commodore of the Maatsuyker Island Sea Kayaking Club. Jeff had helped me out with some information and promised me a meal, hot shower and bed for the night. I headed off in the afternoon but to my disgust the wind picked up. Just enough to be annoying and slow me down. Five and half hours in the saddle, hard paddling because of the wind, I'd had enough, very disappointed that I hadn't made Bridport. There were a lot of penguins in Anderson Bay. Boy, Waterhouse beach is long! It just keeps going and going. Camped the night in the sand dunes on Waterhouse beach. It was quite pleasant. My own beachfront residence!
Day 11 - Tomahawk to Waterhouse Beach - Distance 42km
Wednesday - 25th February
A good early start. A few hours paddling and had lunch at Fordington. Weather was good, light winds, spent about four hours in Weymouth, and had a good look around. Nice little town. I found it best to camp out of town as most small places don't have campsites or they are not near the sea. I just pick a nice spot as I paddle along. There's a few bad points with many of these secluded spots - march flies and no warm showers! It can sometimes get scary overnight. I was woken by a 'thud', 'thud', 'thud' on Waterhouse beach last night. The noise got louder and louder until it stopped outside my tent. I froze expecting an axe to come flying through my tent. Then 'thud', 'thud', 'thud', a quicker pace moving away from the tent. In the morning the large paw prints revealed those of a kangaroo. Must have been a big roo! This had been a great day I had met my objectives when planning this trip 6hrs paddling time and 50km completed. I found a nice little secluded beach at Stony Head 15km out of Weymouth to spend the night.
Day 12 - Waterhouse Beach to Stony Head - Distance 50km
Thursday - 26th February
I'm a great believer that things happen in 'threes'. Today was, hopefully, my final mistake. It was great weather. I stopped in at Low Head and went down river looking for a shop to resupply my snack bar. I really felt like a chocolate and would have paddled to George Town to get one, with fruit and nuts in it, of course. It was a nice day, stayed in Low Head for four hours. It was a nice little spot. I managed to dry all my gear out. Left at about 2.30 pm and did a short paddle around West Head. It was amazing. Thousands of soldier crabs on the beach. I waited there for about an hour until the tide changed watching these little critters scurry around and siphon through the sand for food. I then headed for Point Sorell. It was about a twenty-kilometre paddle across the bay. The clouds came over and visibility was poor. I kept paddling across the bay. I had been paddling for two hours. Still, Port Sorell was barely visible. I could see a small island and thought this could be the Carbuncle. A funny little island, it must have a small lighthouse on it.
I kept paddling for another half-hour. I now could not see land. I did not seem to be getting any closer to anything. I must be there soon. The tide was with me. I had a slight swell to keep me going. Another half-hour and the island seemed to be further out to sea. It must be my imagination. I stopped and had a really good look. There seemed to be smoke coming from the top of this little island. It was a bloody ship going out to sea and I had been following it! I later worked out I was probably fifteen kilometres out to sea. How could I have been so stupid! I could see some lights in the distance so I followed them back into shore. There was a fantastic lightning storm out at sea as I landed on the beach near Devonport airport. Some people were walking their dog along the beach they helped me carry my kayak and gear to a suitable camping spot and then helped me set up my tent in the dark. I've been very lucky meeting some wonderful Tasmanians.
Day 13 - Stony Head to Devonport Airport - Distance 67km
Friday - 27th February
Yes, it was here again, the famous'wind' - a 20-knot westerly! I tried for three hours but just as before it got stronger and I was hardly moving. I've spoken with some of the locals and some fisherman and they can't believe the wind. A lot of people have said it is like September weather. Things aren't looking good for finishing this trip. I expected delays down the West Coast and hadn't planned for these delays. I paddled into Turner's Beach for shelter and set up camp in the local Beach side Caravan Park. I then thumbed into Ulverstone had a nice meal and bought a waterproof disposable camera. I caught a Taxi back to the Caravan Park cleaned my clothes and had an early night.Day 14 - Devonport Airport to Turner's Beach - Distance 18km
Saturday - 28th February
I had an early start. Winds were forecast again today and they didn't let us down. Great sailing weather ... if I was going the other way! I tried to hide from the wind behind each point. I stopped at one of my mate's mum and dad's at Penguin for half an hour - Jack and Lil Conway where I wanted to be the night before. I had had enough of the wind by Somerset and decided to stop at the Somerset Surf Club where I knew a few people. I set up camp for the night. Helen was coming up for the long weekend. I was supposed to meet her in Wynyard. Luckily I was able to contact her and we met in Somerset. We went into Burnie and bought food for the West Coast haul and back to the Somerset pub for tea and a few beers at the Surf Club. To bed early ... not just because I was tired!! Day 15 - Turner's Beach to Somerset Surf Club - Distance 43km
Sunday - 1st March
Had a nice sail out to Table Cape. The first sail since Friendly Beaches. Alas, it died out after an hour. It was a very nice day and decided to spend more time paddling. Aside from being more enjoyable I travelled more kilometres. Got a good snap of a seal sunbaking in the water off Rocky Cape. It was most surprised when I said hello and took a quick snap. Helen was setting up camp at Crayfish creek Caravan Park. I did an extra couple of hours and went to Stanley. Met up with Helen at Stanley, had a look around and went back to Hellyer where we heard a young bull sperm whale had beached itself. It was a very sad sight. The tide had gone out and it was just lying there. It was breathing very slowly and people were throwing water over it with buckets to keep it from drying up. Apparently it had already been pulled out to sea but beached itself again. The whole pod had beached itself. The other eleven were dead. Why this happened no one really knows. They are beautiful big creatures of the sea. To see this happening saddened me. The young bull was pulled out to sea again and as far as everyone knows was now safe but without its family.
Day 16 - Somerset Surf Club to Stanley (The Nut) - Distance 61km
Monday - 2nd March
Another nice day. Two days in a row. Things are looking up. Said my goodbyes to Helen and set off from Stanley Point around 10 am. Paddled from Stanley to Perkins Island where I had lunch. I then headed around the Shipwreck Point. There were sandbars everywhere. I had to get out of my kayak on several occasions and drag it over these bars. I should have stuck close to Robbins Island where there appeared to be deeper water. If ever I had any doubt that the tide flooded west, now I believed it. Going through Robbins Passage, no pun intended, the current was 'ripping' through and I timed it perfectly. There were hundreds of black swans through the passage. It made me laugh to see them try to take off from the water. They almost walked on water before taking off. I think they were all too well fed. Set up camp at Woolnorth a well-known farming area on the North West Coast, the paddocks up here were certainly lush.
Day 17 - Stanley to Woolnorth - Distance 60km
Tuesday - 3rd - March
Once again I had to drag my Kayak quite a long way, to get to the waters edge, the tides on the North Coast across Bass Strait have a huge difference between high and low waters my tide table book showing about 3 metres.
It was an eerie feeling leaving the quiet, sheltered Boullanger Bay into the deep, dark, Green, blue waters of the West Coast. Stories and the reputation I had heard about the coast made me nervous. It was a perfect, clear still morning as I rounded Waldorf Point. The water beneath me was moving and churning. It had been reported that there had been 6 metre swells in the area. As I rounded Woolnorth Point to my surprise there was a Police launch in the area. They approached me and took my name and details. I know they were probably only doing their job but they were quite abrupt. It was a spectacular morning. I decided to go inside the first Doughboy. It ended up being the wrong decision. A wave broke, as I was halfway across. I had to negotiate white water from a broken wave. As I came into Cape Grim the swells were huge, about 4-5 metres. The problem with these large swells was that they were slamming into the cliff face of Cape Grim and creating a terrible backwash. Keeping the kayak moving was difficult; I was always correcting my balance. I had to admit I was more than a little bit scared. The swell didn't get any smaller as I paddled along. At least when I got into the bays I lost the backwash.
Waves were breaking all over the place. I had to keep my wits about me and on several occasions paddled further out to sea to get around these obstacles. This famous coast was certainly living up to its reputation. I got into Mawson's Bay paddling mostly on adrenalin. As I got half way across the bay the most incredible thing happened to me. I had never seen anything like it before. A light northerly wind put a chill on my back and the mist turned into fog. It started to surround me and in the next fifteen minutes I could not see the land and could only see about fifty metres in front of me. I paddled on peering through the fog not wanting to get too close to the beach with these large swells. After about an hour of paddling and hoping I was headed in the right direction. I could hear waves break in front of me and I had to make a quick right turn around some rocks. Luckily I was in a safe little bay off Bluff Hill Point. There were two fishing boats in the bay and I could see a few caravans and half a dozen shacks. I set my tent up near the caravans. Southerly winds, 20-30 knots, 4-5 metre swells forecast for tomorrow. I will be staying here tomorrow. Later on I met Paul and Narlene Cunningham. They were staying at their shack for the night. They offered me a shower, which I gladly accepted.
Day 18 - Woolnorth to Bluff Hill Point - Distance 57km
Wednesday - 4th March
Two fishermen had arrived late last night and set off early this morning to pull their craypots. I spoke to them when they arrived. The weather would be the same until Friday and they weren't going out for a few days. That meant I wasn't going out either. I wasn't going to take any risks down this coast. I decided to go into Smithton for the night to resupply my food, stock up and have a look around. Paul and Narlene offered me a ride into town where they run a local film developing shop. They also said I could stay at their place for the night. He also lent me his car. All this from people I had only just met. Unbelievable generosity from wonderful people.Day 19 - Bad Weather Day Bluff Hill Point
Thursday - 5th March
There seemed to be no wind around Smithton. I rang the boating weather forecast and there was a lull for a couple of hours while it turned southerly. That's all I needed, a southerly! I thumbed back into Marrawah getting two rides. One from Paul Cunningham's sister and the other from Phil who had been an organiser in the West Coast Classic Surf contest. He told me there had been large swells around for the last three weeks. I walked back into Bluff Hill Point taking what I thought was a shortcut along the coast. It took me an hour to battle rain squalls and strong southerly winds. At least I had great scenery, large waves pounding the coast. I was glad I wasn't out there.
Day 20 - Bad Weather Day Smithton
Friday - 6th March
A terrible night, hardly any sleep. My tent just couldn't handle the wind. It collapsed often during the night. The centre stringer poles were not strong enough and the tent lay on top of me just 'flopping' around. I was also damp from the occasional rain gust. It was not a pleasant night but I had nowhere else to go. I hope to get an early start tomorrow if the wind goes away.Day 21 - Bad Weather Day Bluff Hill Point
Saturday - 7th March
The wind was still here, the swell was still here and it was southerly. I have spent most of the trip pushing into northwesterly winds, I turn around the corner and it changes its mind. The fishing boats still weren't out which was a bad sign. I decided to give it a go. I'd spent three idle days now and things weren't looking good about finishing this trip. It was another one of those days when I shouldn't have. I spent hours the day before working out where I could get out through the reef and I spent an hour the next day going the only way I could, out to sea around it. The swells and breaks change every day. You can't rely on conditions from the day before. The huge swells look like they are going to break on you and all you get is a bit of whitewash and the lip of a wave. The wind was making it worse. I was a little scared off Cape Grim now I was absolutely shitting myself!
Pushed on slowly down to Sundown Point battling headwinds and large waves. A large group of dolphins were in the bay. I was concentrating too much to enjoy their presence. I struggled into Sundown Point where I rested on the beach turned on my radio and listened to the cricket hoping that the waves and wind would subside. It didn't appear to be easing so I went for a walk looking for a suitable camping spot. I noticed an aboriginal midden. I have seen quite a few along the coast. Aborigines must have lived and hunted all the way down this coast. A local shack owner came down to see if I was alright. He offered me a bed and a shower that I accepted. That night we played scrabble. They filled me with apple cider and port. I slept very well.
Day 22 - Buff Hill Point to Sundown Point - Distance 18km
Sunday - 8th March
I was anxious to get away today. The wind had dropped and so had the swell. I said my goodbyes and went down to the beach to get changed. As I was slipping into my thermal gear the wind started again. Well, that was it. I had had enough. I put my clothes back on and went back up to the shack and rang Helen to come and pick me up. I then walked out to the point feeling sick in the stomach. I felt like a failure. The elements had finally beaten me. I sat there awhile thinking about my decision. The wind had not got any stronger. My attitude was all wrong. I must try not to let the elements beat me but try to work with it. Even if I do only get a little way today. I then ran back to the shack. Luckily Helen had not left. Jan and Liz must have thought I was crazy.
As I paddled on and the wind and waves held me back, my whole attitude had changed. I knew who was boss and I was very glad that the swell had eased off. I arrived in Sandy Cape about 6 am. There were three fishing boats in the bay. I went up to one of them hoping for a weather report. I got a little more than that, a roast meal and a bed and an experience on a crayfishing boat for the night. I thought the fishermen might have been a little apprehensive about a lone kayaker down the West Coast. They did tell me I was crazy but they all wished me luck. I knew if anything happened they would be the first to help. We did a night run and caught eighty crays. John told me that it was about $3000.00 worth. He also told me he was going to Dover the next day and if I wanted a ride down there he would gladly oblige and he wouldn't tell anyone. I did think about it for a little while, but only a little while!
Day 23 - Sundown Point to Sandy Cape - Distance 40km
Monday - 9th March
That fog was here again, John and Des found there way to Sandy Cape beach and dropped me off just before Sandy Cape at a place called Venables Corner. They were going out again for another haul. It was 6.30am, I was hoping to get an early start but you couldn't see a hundred metres in front of you. It got the better of me about 8.30 and I went out. I soon turned back. The swell had picked up again and a big wave broke in front of me. Luckily it reformed but you just couldn't see them coming. There were reefs everywhere around Sandy Cape. It improved a little around 10 am only to find large swells breaking out at sea I would have to go around all of them. The fog hadn't quite lifted and I wouldn't be able to see land. Back to the beach. An abalone diver was now in the bay. I asked him if there was any way through the reef. The only way being out to sea and around the lot he told me. Here he was running backwards and forwards through all of this in his boat keeping an eye on his mate who was in the water and watching the worst of the waves breaking around him. He said I was a brave man being out in these swells. These blokes are unreal! I finally got away around 11.30 am. It was a great day. No wind. There were a lot of short-tailed shearwaters gliding inches from the top of the sea. I had to be watchful of the large swells. Some would all of a sudden appear from nowhere and look like they were going to swallow you up. I would look straight down at the water below me and see if I could see the bottom. If it wasn't that deep green colour I was out of there real fast because I was probably on a reef or a shallow bar. You are very low in the water in a kayak and you don't always see a wave coming till it's right on you and you can bet the one after is going to be bigger. I got to the Conical Rocks Point after about five hours paddling and was very weary with only a few hours sleep the night before. It was a great little hiding spot from the swell. I would like to have camped there but I wanted to do some more kilometres so I could make Strahan the next day. A fisherman sheltered inside the Conical Rocks said I wouldn't be able to get into Granville Harbour because the swell was too big but I would be able to get just around the corner. I followed his craypot line around the reef where I knew I would be safe. Boy, was he wrong. When I got there the swell was too big and I couldn't get onto the beach. These kayaks don't handle surfing the waves too well. I did a bit of backtracking and found a great little camping spot just outside the Conicals but I had to scramble over some rocks to get there. I was very angry about the amount of rubbish in this camping area.
Day 24 - Sandy Cape to Conical Rocks - Distance 50km
Tuesday - 10th March
Another fine day and I've got a lot of kilometres to do today with not many rest spots, After Four-Hour paddling I landed on the beach at Trial Harbour. I cooked myself some noodles because I had run out of my usual lunchtime snacks. I then headed off again to my destination Strahan, a fishing boat stopped and said hello along the way asking me where I was from and offering me their best wishes. They asked if I needed anything. It was further than I thought to Strahan, I was making slow progress. I must have been pushing into a current. I finally arrived. I could see tourists on the beach indicating this was where Ocean Beach road. I had decided to walk into Strahan on this road rather than paddle in to save some time. The swell was still about, but my beach landing went quite well with the kayak staying straight this time. I asked a couple on the beach Otto and Anne (Father and Daughter) from Perth (WA) the location of Ocean Beach road. They offered me a ride and helped me hide my kayak in the sand dunes. I stayed at the local Youth Hostel with them. I could have stayed and talked with them all night. They were very nice and very interesting people. Otto was a retired engineer, a very modest and wise person who lived life to the fullest. Helen also rang that night. To my surprise her attitude had changed towards the trip. She was now encouraging me to keep going. The police had rung her that night to check on me and to see if I had made it to Strahan.Day 25 - Conical Rocks to Ocean Beach (Strahan) - Distance 60km
Wednesday - 11th March
Beyond here there were no shacks, no roads, no power, no phones and no shops. Nothing but sea and wilderness. "The southern extremities of an island at the world's end." (Quote from an early French explorer). I restocked my food supply and Anne and Otto drove me out to my kayak and helped me carry my gear. This was it. No turning back now. I paddled out through the surf feeling good about the trip ahead. I looked down and my map was gone. It must have come out when I hit that wave. I should have known better. It was only sitting under an elastic strap. I had to turn back. Otto and Anne returned to see what was wrong. I went for a swim to see if I could find it but no go. Anne went back to the car and gave me their Tasmanian map. Although it was only a 1:250000 scale map, and I had a 1:150000 scale map, it would have to do. I would just have to ask fishermen along the way. The other problem I had was that Tony Gaiswinkler, from the Tasmanian Sea Kayaking Club, had shown me all the bays that I could land in and I had marked them on the map.
This was it. There was no turning back ... take two! Without a doubt these were the best conditions I had paddled in. The weather was perfect. Not a breath of wind, low swells and crystal clear waters. There were birds everywhere out to sea and schools of fish were running. I don't know what sort of fish they were but they must have been a fair size because the birds weren't trying to catch them for a meal. I paddled that planned average today, setting up camp near Modder River. There was no doubt that this is a great part of Tasmania. Us human beings haven't got to it yet and overpopulated or destroyed this pristine coast. Even the wallabies down here give you an inquisitive look and bounce away casually like they have never seen humans before.
Day 26 - Ocean Beach to Varna Bay (Modder River) - Distance 50km
Thursday - 12th March
Yesterday was the 'calm before the storm'. The winds had picked up today, 20-30 knots - Northerly. At least the wind will be behind me and if it gets too bad I will head for shore. I'll give it a go. It turned out to be very unpleasant out there. The water was really moving about, swell in all directions. I went over to a fisherman in the next bay, Hibbs Bay, who was hiding behind some reefs and asked him for the best place to get protection from this wind. He told me that the next bay around, Hibbs Point to Spero Bay would be my best option. There would be another fishing boat there as well. At Hibbs Point there was a colony of seals. Once around the point wind didn't appear to be as bad. I decided to push on with the breeze behind me. I would like to try to get to Elliott Bay today which was another fifty kilometres away. Wrong decision! The wind really picked up. These unbelievable squalls behind me were really making life unpleasant and my kayak was beginning to become uncontrollable. The kayak was not handling the conditions at all well. It kept veering to one side. I think because of the banana shape of the boat and the sloppy conditions the rudder spent most of the time out of the water. I believe this to be a bad design fault of this kayak. I went for shelter in Wanderer River where a fisherman said a kayak could get into. Well it could, but I went in the wrong way between two large rocks instead of paddling around the reef. White wash pushed me around and I nearly lost it all on some rocks. I was quite upset when I landed on the beach knowing I would be stuck here for awhile. I would rather be where the fishermen go for shelter. Not only for company but to get current weather reports and communication to the real world. The bush was very dense here. I had to set up camp on the beach. I did this so I could be seen from the water in case a small craft passed and maybe wanted to drop in. Well, that was my theory anyway. I then had my usual wash for all those smelly spots, made a nice dinner and had an early night.
Day 27 - Varna Bay to Wanderer - Distance 40km
Friday - 13th March
I had been having trouble picking up a radio signal. I was lucky enough to get the early 5.55 am ABC weather report. Gale force winds from Low Rocky Point to Port Davey that was where I was headed. Strong winds in other coastal waters. 3-4 metre swells in the west. It was also raining on and off. The sea was certainly churning out there. I wasn't going anywhere today, especially on Friday the 13th! I went for a short paddle up the river. It kept going and going and going. I decided that if I were here tomorrow I'd take lunch with me and go right up the river. It was certainly very picturesque. If I were a Tasmanian Tiger this is where I'd live. Dense rainforest, beautiful river and isolated location so no one could come and find me. I did some maintenance on the sea kayak and found the adjustable straps connected to the rudder foot pedals were only hanging by a thread. I did the best job I could and repaired them. As I sat there having tea I watched the sea. The tide was low and massive great waves were rolling through the river mouth and smashing into the beach. There were dark grey clouds behind this scene. It sent shivers down my back. I was glad to be on land.
Day 28 - Bad Weather Day Wanderer River
Saturday - 14th March
As I was lying in my tent last night the sea sounded like a jet engine plane taking off. It was reported 3-4 metre swells 5 metres in the south. I hope they drop off so I can get out through this river mouth. It had turned southwest overnight. It poured with rain and blew all night. I hid my tent behind a large log, put rocks around the tent pegs, dug it into the sand and modified the tent poles. Luckily it stayed up. It was a terrible night and a change is not forecast until tonight. The river cruise will have to be cancelled. At home I usually don't take much notice of the weather but I find it hard to believe these bad conditions. From now on I will take more notice of the weather. I think I'll blame El Nino. Had one of the hottest days in March in 58 years yesterday. Melbourne had one of the hottest days ever recorded.
There must be something happening out there. I went for a walk later in the afternoon. I picked up about a dozen blue packing straps that probably came off fishing boat boxes, which was disappointing. I also found a great little camping spot. I followed what looked like a track into the clearing, about 500 metres. It looked like someone had lived here before, a long time ago. I found an old wash board, a rusted old metal box and what looked like an old jewellery box. It had the old heart pumping for awhile but nothing in it. A sick penguin had washed in on the beach. I'm hoping he was just tired from the rough conditions and would swim away again after he had rested. I placed him under a log out of the wind; he didn't even try and bite me.
Day 29 -Bad Weather Day Wanderer River
Sunday - 15th March
I found my little penguin mate dead in the morning. The sea lice were already making a meal of him. The swell was still up and I doubt that even Ironman Trevor Hendy would struggle to get through this surf. Only a slight wind, due to ease in the afternoon. I waited around, cooked myself a big meal and went to get some water from a small stream. It did ease up. I was really nervous about getting out there. Aside from the large swells I had to negotiate a shore break and a second reef break. Finally, I had more respect for the sea. The shore break didn't go too well. I had to duck through a wall of green water. The reef break went well. I was able to slip out through sets. The swell was huge. It had been reported 3-4 metre swells. I felt so inadequate out there in my little sea kayak. The swell wasn't only big but the water was moving everywhere from the recent stormy winds. It hasn't happened the whole trip, but today I got seasick. I mean, really seasick! After throwing up Chilli Con Carne I felt absolutely terrible.
I was quite faint and I knew I had to get in to shore. There weren't any places I could see. My paddling had slowed down to a snail's pace and I had lost all my strength. I had put myself in a dangerous situation being too close to the shore break looking for a spot to get in, especially with these swells. I had to sprint several times to get over the lip of these waves. I was still throwing up but knew it was more dangerous to stay out here in my condition. What I had to look for was a reef that would take the impact of the large waves. You then slip behind the reef and hope there is a sandy beach behind it. I finally found an ideal spot. I didn't know where I was and I didn't care. I was now dry reaching. Very happy to reach the shore I lay on the beach for about an hour until the cold got the better of me. I then went up and set up camp and worked out I was in a small bay near Lewis River. Some 'yahoos' had set up camp here before complete with barbecue area, table and chairs and had even paved an area with rocks. It makes me wonder why they would leave their rubbish here. It was disgusting. At least they had left some reading material. In a plastic bag I found six National Geographic magazines.
Day 30 - Wanderer River to Lewis River - Distance 28km
Monday - 16th March
As soon as my head hit the 'bag of clothes' last night I went straight to sleep. I woke about 3 am still feeling queasy in the stomach. I also had diarrhoea. It makes me think that the problem may have been in the water I had drunk from the stream. I had taken precautions with the water using purification tablets and I also boiled the water. I'll never really know but the water I've kept I will throw out. Strong wind warning forecast again tomorrow, north westerly changing to southwesterly with similar strength. Later in the morning I went down to the beach. The wind didn't appear to be that bad. In the end I decided not to go. Even though time was a factor I was still feeling quite ill. It was raining and I didn't really want another one of those days where I shouldn't! Had an afternoon walk over these huge sand dunes. A lot of rotting bull kelp on the beach and the smell was not pleasant. There was also a lot of bird life in the area. Cockies making a lot of noise and crows but they looked more like ravens. They probably were.
Day 31 - Rest Day Lewis River
Tuesday - 17th March
The 5.55 weather forecast. Strong wind warning still current. I had to make a start. Day seven and I haven't even made it around this southwest coast yet. The wind didn't appear to pick up as strong as the forecast yesterday so I'll give it a go. Well, it did pick up today but as soon as I felt it getting too strong I snuck behind some Reefs and looked for some way to get in. I managed to do fifty kilometres so I was very happy. Although I had the wind behind me it was very uncomfortable out there. Three-metre swell going one way and wind slop going another. You always have to be correcting yourself or end up in the drink. Conditions were pretty similar to Sunday. The seasickness had not returned. It must have been the water. I know I will never eat Chilli Con Carne again! I got a bit of a fright out there today. I came over this wave and there was this "thing". I froze and my first thought "a shark". As I started to paddle away from it I noticed it hadn't moved. At closer examination it was a seal lying on its side. I know I've mentioned rubbish before but it beat everything today. I was located behind Alfhild Reef in a small cove, this place was absolutely disgusting. It was littered with stuff people must have thrown overboard. There was even a TV there! I took a photograph. I will be showing the National Park ranger as soon as I make it home. There was a lot of bird life on the beach. I'm sure that if they were to ingest some of these small plastic particles it would be a slow death for them.
Day 32 - Lewis River to Alfhild Bight - Distance 50km
Wednesday - 18th March
Gale force winds. It's blown all night. Luckily I had taken my tent bush out of the wind. I was starting to get a little concerned. My water supply was low. My food supply was okay. I had not eaten a lot since throwing up on Sunday. I was missing my wife and my family. I would rather be home working around the house than laying in a tent waiting for good weather. Day 33 - Bad Weather Day Alfhild Bight
Thursday - 19th March
Eighteen degrees, rain and still gale force winds from Port Davey to South East Cape. I've got to start thinking of ways to get off the South West Coast. Going back to Strahan with strong Northwest winds is out of the question. I could try to paddle into Port Davey to Melaleuca and walk out of here but that still means paddling out of this and around Davey Head. It's a bit early yet but I have my EPIRB (Emergency position Indicating Radio Beacon) that I could set off. Apart from the embarrassment, I take philosophy from Laurie Ford who is who is a Tasmanian legend on Sea Kayaking, you get yourself into it you get yourself out of it. I can't just sit here waiting for good weather. Supplies are now low. I would kill for a can of coke!
Day 34 - Bad Weather Day Alfhild Bight
Friday - 20th March
Still gale force winds and raining in patches. The temperature in Hobart while I have been down here has been 10 degrees warmer and the wind 15 knots less. It certainly is a harsh climate down here. This is my situation. I have a couple of emergency dry packs of food but without water I have only one day's food supply left. There is a dirty old creek here but the water is barely flowing, it is dark in colour and looks undrinkable. I am three days paddling away from Strahan with good weather, three days paddling away from Southport with good weather. One day paddling into Melaleuca, probably another two or three days to run out of here with a light pack. Melaleuca has an airport marked on the map. I don't know whether it is used regularly. Maybe I could get some food brought in. No matter which way I choose, depending on the weather conditions, I will have to leave here tomorrow.
Day 35 - Bad Weather Day Alfhild Bight
Saturday - 21st March
I lay awake for most of the night and worried about the day before me. Apart from the wind blowing hard I was thirsty and hungry which was also keeping me awake. Early weather report gave a final gale warning. Depending on when it calmed down I would be able to get out of here. I was very relieved when the sun came up. The wind started to calm. I packed my gear up and sat on the beach waiting for it to settle a little more. I scooped up the water that had settled from the night's rain in my kayak seat, filtered the sand out with toilet paper and had a nice little drink. It calmed down to light southwest winds and I got away about 9.45 am. As I rounded North Head I noticed a few fishing boats working around the reefs. I tried to catch up with them and hope to get some water but the swells were large and the fishermen could not see me. By the time I arrived in their vicinity they had all moved on. I had no hope of catching them. I couldn't believe how weak I felt paddling. It must have been from the lack of food. I had been rationing my food for days. I also had a sore throat either from the lack of water or because it was infected from vomiting. I decided to push on and go around South west Cape and hopefully stop off at Window Pane Bay hopefully to get some water. My main aim is to get to Cox's Bight today. Small planes land regularly bringing tourists in. I may be able to get in contact with home or get some food brought in. Luckily a fisherman saw me near Mutton Bird Island. On approaching he asked if I was okay. There had been a broadcast lookout for a solo kayaker as he was overdue. Probably the authorities had been contacted a little early but I was glad someone out there cared. It was very rough and churning conditions but I managed to get some water from the fisherman. He also threw me a couple of apples and told me he would let the authorities no I was all right. The spectacular South West Cape was what I expected beautiful mountain range scenery. The swells were large, churned up and inconsistent. It evened up as I got around to the south coast. It was my longest day in the kayak to date and definitely my hardest, over nine hours with no stops and doing it all on two apples. I didn't realise Cox's Bight was a surf beach and surf was up! I tried to come in on the Bluff side of Cox Bight where the surf wasn't big. Wrong. It wasn't big because there were reefs there. I was riding this nice little wave but ended up having to jump out of my kayak and swim it away from these rocks with waves bashing into me. This was all I needed. I finally made it to the beach with only a few minor scratches on my kayak. I could see some bushwalkers walking along the beach so I followed their trail. I set up camp next to this group in a great spot half way along the beach near the opening to Freney Lagoon. It was just on dark. They told me that the pilot of the plane had told them they had been instructed to keep an eye out for me. They also told me when they first saw me they thought I was some kind weirdo walking up the beach carrying shopping bags. (These were my waterproof storage bags). I celebrated the day with the last of my food, a can of spaghetti. It was absolute heaven!
Day 36 - Alfhild Bight to Cox Bight - Distance 65km
Sunday - 22nd March
Today is world day for 'water', a very appropriate day. I will never take water for granted again. Apart from a sore bottom I was very happy. My plan for the day was to talk to the pilot who, apparently, flew in several times a day. He may be able to bring me some food or, even better, contact Helen and see if she could come in for the night. I would like to see her and for her to see the scenic coastline. Alas, gale force winds again. The plane won't land on the beach in these conditions. The bushwalkers moved on each of them giving me some of their food, which was very kind. The wind really picked up around 9.00 am, spray being blown from the top of the sea. It was a spectacular sight. It was quite a warm day and we had quite a heavy downpour. I took all my clothes off and had a shower on the beach. A group of amateur photographers with a guide arrived later in the day. Luckily I had finished my shower! They had been dropped off at Melaleuca and had walked to Cox's Bight. One of the photographers owned a restaurant and they brought several different Currie dishes with them for their first night. I was asked me over to dinner, I gladly accepted, of course. We also had red wine and the young lady's tour guide daughter washed up our dishes after dinner. Now these bush walkers knew how to camp!
Day 37 - Another Bad Weather Day Cox Bight
Monday - 23rd March
Today was world 'Meteorology' day. I must say their forecasts have been terrific. I couldn't have got around without them. I made an early start. A couple of photographers were up early taking pictures of the misty, overcast conditions. They helped me take my gear back to my kayak and took a couple of pictures of me leaving. I wanted to make it to Cockle Creek. I would have a moderate southwest breeze to follow me. It rained most of the way. The breeze was good. I even had the sail up for a couple of hours until the kayak started spinning sideways down the swells. I made really good time until I had to push into the winds into Cockle Creek. It was a good day though - 75 kilometres - the most to date. My body had adapted to these distances but my bottom was still in agony no matter how I tried to soften my seat. I set up camp near the Rangers Station where there is a spot set aside for camping. I later on became friendly with a couple of tourists who were having a meal at the time, okay I was on the scrounge. Without even asking they offered me a sandwich, some soup and some beans. That evening I contacted my parents and let them know I was okay.
Day 38 - Cox Bight to Cockle Creek - Distance 75km
Tuesday - 24th March
It was a cold but beautiful morning when I left Cockle Creek. There was a strong wind warning due later on in the afternoon. It would be at my back and I should be around Tasman Head sheltered by Bruny Island before it hits me. The strong wind came in a little early and I had to put up with it for about half an hour. This Artic Raider Kayak again let me down, I couldn't keep her straight slipping sideways down these waves and getting hit side on by whitewash. I nearly came unstuck several times. It was very dangerous as I was near a cliff face and rocks. If I was on my surf ski it would have been fun taking advantage of the wind chasing and surfing down these swells. It was flat calm around the East Side of Bruny, high cliff faces, lots of caves and thousands of big white jellyfish in the water. I will have to come back here one day and explore. I reached my destination Captains Cook landing place in Adventure Bay.
Day 39 - Cockle Creek to Adventure Bay - Distance 65km
Wednesday - 25th March
Today I wanted to cross Storm Bay to Port Arthur. A strong wind warning between Low Rocky Point and Tasman Island had been forecast. There was a lot of water across Storm Bay and not much land I might as well sit it out for the last time as better weather was due on Thursday and Friday. I had set up camp at Captain Cook Memorial Caravan Park and had been enjoying some luxuries, a shower and also a nearby shop. Today I think the weather bureau got it wrong. My observation from the shelter of Adventure Bay was that swells were low and the winds did not appear to be bad across Storm Bay. I did however feel comfortable with the fact that I have learned from my past days to be cautious of Tassie's volatile weather.
Day 40 - Final Rest Day Adventure Bay
Thursday - 26th MarchI had perfect weather across Storm Bay that was a real relief. There was still movement in the water today but somehow it was beginning to feel like home. I paddled into Safety Cove feeling very weary after my non-stop paddle. I was to meet Helen here. I waited until dark; still no Helen then decided to go to one of my mate's parents' place - Mr and Mrs Cupit who lived nearby. I would be able to use their phone. They were delighted to see me, as they don't get many visitors down this way. They said I could sleep the night in their caravan. We found Helen a little later on. She had been held up at work and got lost looking for Safety Cove.
Day 41 - Adventure Bay to Safety Cove - Distance 57km
Friday - 27th March
Mr Cupit cooked us up a nice hot breakfast before my departure, again I have been so lucky on this trip meeting so many lovely people. I was glad I only had one more Cape to go around, I have found the sea is at its worst all confused about its direction and usually large unpredictable swells. No need to worry it was a another great paddling day going around Cape Pillar and this picturesque southeast coast. My body however felt like it had just shut down. Maybe it had had enough and knew the end was near. As I paddled my kayak into Eaglehawk Neck I felt a terrific sense of achievement. My whole family and close friends were there to welcome me home. I had learnt a lot about myself on this trip about myself and about this beautiful island I have been living on all my life and knew nothing about.
Day 42 - Safety Cove to Eaglehawk Neck - Distance 41km
Distance travelled 1400 kilometres
Longest distance in a day 75 kilometres
Shortest distance on a paddling day 18 kilometres
Total days 42, overall average 33 kilometres a day
Days lost, 15, due to bad weather
Days when paddling 27, average 52 kilometres a day
Average hours paddled a day - 6 hours
Total hours overall - 165.5
Average speed - 8.5 kilometres per hour
Sailing time 8hrs
Body weight lost - 13 kilograms
All up I had met my objective of six weeks to the day.
Matt's Trip Report Pages
- Tony's trips new link: http://tonywatton.net.au/
- Kayak around Maria Island - day trip
- Kayak Circumnavigation of Bruny Island
- Precipitous Bluff - kayak & walk, 3 days, March 20...
- Precipitous Bluff - kayak & walk Jan 2008
- Matthew Watton, Tasmania Circumnavigation attempt ...
- Matthew Watton - solo Tasmania Circumnavigation #1...
- Matthew Watton - solo Tasmania Circumnavigation #2...
- Matthew Watton - solo Tasmania Circumnavigation #3...
- Steve Dineen's solo kayak circumnavigation Tasmania
- Federation Peak
- Farmhouse Creek Track - Judds Cavern
- Port Welshpool to Hogan Island & return
- Port Davey Track walk
- Huonville to Hobart kayak paddle
- John Brewster and Earle de Blonville - First ever ...