matty's tasmanian adventures - index
My attempted Circumnavigation of Tasmania in April - June 1999
(Hobart to Port Davey & return then Smithton to Hobart)
Paddler - Matthew Watton
Kayak - Tasmanian made Greenlander from Penguin Fibreglass
On Thursday the 29th of April 1999 I left Hobart on a big adventure. My aim was to paddle around Tasmania starting and finishing at Hobart - paddling in a clockwise direction. As far as I know all previous circumnavigations have been done anti-clockwise and that only 3 people have completed the whole trip and they have all paddled around in an anti-clockwise direction.
The first were Victorian paddlers - John Brewster and Earl Bloomfield in 1979. They spent about 10 weeks on their journey, starting and finishing in Georgetown on the north coast of Tasmania. In 1998 Steve Dineen completed the journey in 6 weeks. He was on course to complete it in about 4 - 5 weeks but was held up with bad weather in south-west Tasmania. Steve started and finished at Pirates Bay (Eaglehawk Neck) on Tasman Peninsula - near the blowhole and Tasman Arch. Steve only bought his sea kayak a few days before leaving on his expedition. He went through some incredible trials during his trip. He had his maps washed over side of his kayak by a big wave on the only day he forgot to tie them on. He ran very low on fresh water and food while paddling down the south west coast but still made it in the end. To read Steve's trip report see 'My Island Home'.
Karen and Dan Trotter from Scotland have also attempted the trip. Their trip was conducted in two separate parts due to kayak damage sustained on rocks at the appropriately named 'Rocky Boat Inlet' on the south coast of Tasmania.
Tony Dicker from north-west Tasmania was the first solo paddler to circumnavigate Tasmania. He was the first to paddle in a clockwise direction around Tasmania. Tony died while attempting to paddle across Bass Strait from Stanley to Victoria in a specially built boat. A fisherman also died while trying to save Tony. I didn't ever meet Tony but he must have been very motivated and had a great spirit of adventure.
Before my trip I had a talk to Steve Dineen and the more that I heard about his trip the more awesome it sounded. His story sounded like an amazing experience and very challenging. Steve's stories inspired me to have a go at it as well. The first problem was that I didn't have a sea kayak. I heard that Penguin Fibreglass in northern Tasmania was making them and a went to the factory and had a look. I liked the look of their boats and they seemed to be well finished and I ordered one in December 1998. It was ready in January 1999 and over the next few months I fiddled around with the setup of the sails (front and rear) but I didn't get around to packing it fully for an overnight trip (this would have been a good idea - to find out how much stuff I could take).
(If I had paddled the Mirage 580 at this time I would have bought that instead of the Greenlander)
Thursday 29/4/99 - Day 1
I got up early and listened to the weather report at 5.55am on ABC local radio 936am and it was going to be fine with light winds. I loaded all of my gear into and onto and into my Subaru and drove to Battery Point - next to the Sandy Bay Rowing Club sheds and spread all of the gear out on the grass and started to pack it into the kayak.
By 10am the kayak was full but I still had lots of gear that I needed to take that I couldn't fit in. It reminded me of the time I went to a supermarket and filled my trolley with food and groceries only to remember as I left the supermarket that I had ridden my motorbike there to get bread and milk and had no room to carry them home.
By 11.50am I had re-packed the kayak and got the essential items inside and some non-essential items back in the car and two dry bags worth of gear strapped to the top of the deck. (the problem was I was using dry bags that were too big and I was wasting lots of space because I couldn't make use of all storage space in the kayak.
The kayak weighed about 27kg when it was empty and I could normally carry it to the water's edge, but now it was fully loaded it wouldn't even budge when I tried to drag it. My father watched and decided that if I couldn't cope by myself now, how would I cope for the next 6 weeks - so he stood back and watched because he didn't think that he should interfere. I eventually dragged it into the water, said goodbye to my father and headed off down the Derwent River. I was concerned about how low the kayak was floating in the water. I had never had it fully loaded before, but then again I had never done an overnight trip with it either. The whole trip was going to be a new experience. I should have done a few overnight trips first but I just didn't get around to it.
I reached Tinderbox at 2.30pm and stopped on the beach for a hot pasta meal for lunch. I reorganised my gear to fit more of it inside the kayak instead of on the deck and succeeded a bit. I left Tinderbox at 4.30pm and continued down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel intending to stop somewhere near Kettering. As I got closer to Kettering the sky was still clear and there was full moon coming up. There was no wind and it was just a beautiful evening. I continued down the channel in the moonlight and eventually stopped at Middleton, which is opposite the Isthmus Bay on the western side of Bruny Island. I couldn't see where I was landing so I approached the shore cautiously and was lucky to find a small beach. I camped on the beach and cooked up a meal and was feeling a bit less concerned about my overweight kayak. I sat on a plastic ground sheet on the beach to cook up some more pasta and didn't notice that I spilt a bit of metho on the ground sheet. I noticed soon enough when I lit the trangia and the ground sheet went up as well. I then melted the bottom of my wetsuit booties stamping it out. I don't know why I didn't just smother it with sand.
I didn't feel like putting up my Macpac Minaret tent so I slept in my bivvy bag on the beach.
Day 1 - 44 km
Friday 30/4/99 - Day 2
The next morning I was hoping to wake up for the 5.55am weather report again but I slept in and woke up at 7am. As I packed the kayak I re-organised the gear again - gradually making better use of the small gaps. [NOTE 1] When I hit the water at 9am the weather was fine and there was a light westerly wind. This wind quickly strengthened and I spent the day slogging into a strong head wind as I paddled from the narrow part of the channel near Gordon to the open water towards Dover.
When I reached Dover at 3pm I totally unpacked my gear and filled a bag that I didn't need with stuff that I could afford to leave behind. I left it at the Dover Police Station (because the local copper was going to look after it so I could collect it later) and when I left at 8.15am the next morning the kayak was floating a lot higher and it didn't kill me to drag it to the water's edge any more.
Day 2 - 28 km
[NOTE 1 - I now use tapered drybags (cone shaped) to fit into bow & stern of the kayak and make it easier to fill the ends of the boat without getting items stuck up the ends]
Saturday 1/5/99 - Day 3
I left Dover at 8.15am and had a pleasant day paddling in light winds as I paddled south to Cockle Creek - arriving at 1pm. While I relaxed in the afternoon sunshine (and mozzies) a local Parks and Wildlife Ranger (Tim Stredwick) gave me some more information about the best camp sites for kayaks along the south coast. I made a note of this in my logbook. My parents drove down to Cockle Creek to 'see me off' before heading into the unknown of the s/w wilderness.
Day 3 - 37 km
Sunday 2/5/99 - Day 4
When I left Cockle Creek the next morning at 7.30am I was nervous because the south coast and west coast up to Strahan is very isolated. There are no roads to the coast, no mobile phone reception, and at this time of the year there were only a couple of fishing boats in the area.
For the first hour the water was calm and there was very little wind. I saw a seal swimming in the kelp forests and two groups of 15 dolphins that I couldn't get within 100 metres of. I had two possible destinations for the day. The first was South Cape Rivulet (25km) and the second was Rocky Boat Inlet (45km).
As I rounded Whale Head and then South East Cape the wave size and wind speed kept increasing. To get to the campsite at South Cape Rivulet you need to paddle towards the shore and up the rivulet a short distance. I thought that the river mouth would be fairly dodgy because the surf was big at the time. I decided to bypass South Cape Rivulet and continue on towards Rocky Boat Inlet. The wind had become fairly strong from the north-west.
There was nowhere to go ashore because the whole coastline here consists of steep cliffs. I just tried to keep going by drinking as much as I could and eating mini mars bars and snickers to keep my energy up. Eventually I could see a couple of small islands that I identified on my map (south coast walk map) and realised that I had reached Rocky Boat Inlet. I looked into the narrow bay. It was very rocky on each side and I could see some rocks in the water in the middle of the bay as well.
I sat and watched for a few minutes to see how big the sets would be and then paddled into the bay very hesitantly. A wave sucked up behind me a reef appeared in front of me so I back paddled hard and managed to sneak backwards over the crest. I then paddled around the reef only to discover another one over on the other side of the bay - further in. I negotiated that one and then found one right in the centre of the bay.
I made it to the shore without hitting anything and jumped out in waist deep water in the shore break because the 'beach' consisted of large smooth football sized pebbles and some jagged rock formations. I pulled the kayak up clear of the water. Luckily there was a lot of seaweed and the pebbles were slimy which reduced scratches and kayak damage. This made it easy to slide it up above high water mark and tie it off to a tree.
I found a good established campsite next to a creek in the western corner of the bay. There was a lot of fishing boat rubbish around the campsite, which was a bit disappointing. I was feeling pretty stuffed as I had paddled from 7.15am to 1.15pm without any stops. My legs were really stiff. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching a wombat eating and drinking next to the creek.
Day 4 - 40 km
Monday 3/5/99 - Day 5
I awoke to the sound of strong rain on the tent. When I eventually got out of the tent I realised that there was thick fog as well as the strong rain and wind. The wind overnight had also built up the surf that was funnelling into the bay - breaking right across the mouth during the set.
By 9am the weather was starting to clear so I packed my gear as quickly as I could and by 9.30 the rain was lighter and the fog had cleared. I zigzagged out through the surf, dodging the reefs and some breaking waves. I continued on my way to the west and within 30 minutes I had my first ever close up view of Precipitous Bluff. This is an 1120 metre high dome of a mountain very close to the coast at Prion Bay. It was also at this time that the sun started to come out. Any aches that I had seemed to disappear as I gazed in awe at this mountain and the long lines of big surf breaking in Prion Bay.
The happy feelings didn't last very long. Initially it started with some short, strong gusts of n/w wind, but the gusts became longer and stronger until there were no gaps between gusts. Along the 10km cliff section to the south of the Ironbound Range, I found myself trying to hug the coastline, hoping to get some protection from the strong n/w winds. The swells were about 2m high and I tried to force myself to do sets of 100 hard strokes and 50 easy and drinking regularly.
I found this leg very hard mentally because I felt like I wasn't making any forward progress. Each time I looked across at the cliffs I seemed to be in the same place. The problem was that the cliffs were so big but you didn't realise because there were no man-made objects on them to judge sizes or distances.
The next thing to really mess with my head was that my kayak was filling slowly with water. The kayak was fitted with an electric pump that had been working when I tested it the previous day but now it wasn't. I had borrowed a manual operated hand pump from Rob Gough but the problem with these types of pumps is that firstly you need to remove your spray deck (more water can get in), then pump the water out taking two hands to work the pump. (I now put it down against my body through the spray deck and clamp it between my legs, so I don't have to remove my spray deck.)
I continued paddling hard into the wind and finally reached an island (Louisa Island) that I sheltered behind on the s/e corner. I couldn't land anywhere because it was all too rocky and waves too big (I should have gone around to the northern side of the island where there is a shallow sand bar between the island and the coast). After some careful map checking I established exactly where I was and I ate a mini mars bar. I then tried my electric pump switch again and 'bugger me' ... it worked. Within a minute almost all of the water was pumped out.
I then paddled out of my shelter behind the island and realised that my one of my possible destinations - Anchorage Cove - was only about 4 km away on the western side of Louisa Bay. I paced myself across Louisa Bay and the closer I got to Anchorage Cove the more sheltered from the wind/swell it was. I reached the beach - catching a small wave to the shore. I then searched the length of the 1/2 km beach for fresh water and a campsite. I found both together in the north-west corner where a camping platform had been cut out - next to a little creek.
Day 5 - 25km
Tuesday 4/5/99 - Day 6
The weather forecast for the day was continued strong n/w winds moderating later in the day. Due to this I left later at 10.30 am with a plan to head for Ketchem Bay, which is the last possible camp site along the south coast.
The winds remained strong n/w for the whole day and it was hard going. The swells were the biggest that I had seen. My guess is that they were about 5 metres high but they were about 10 seconds apart and weren't breaking. As I got closer to Ketchem Bay it became very confusing because I hadn't been there before and there were lots of little bays and not many distinguishing features. After lots of searching and map checking I found the right spot and caught a 4 foot wave into the beach, dodging rocks on the way in.
Ketchem Bay is split up into a couple of beaches by small headlands. I had landed on the most westerly section because it had the smallest swell. It was 3-4 feet compared to 6-8 feet at the eastern end of the bay. The camp site was great and there was plenty of fresh water from a creek that flowed into the bay. It was a relaxing end to a hard day.
Day 6 - 21km
Wednesday 5/5/99 - Day 7
Today was the big day. I had heard so much about paddling around South West Cape that I was really nervous. South West Cape is exposed to the worst weather that reaches the Tasmanian coastline. It is the south-west corner of the island and consists of many kilometres of cliffs for the big swells to rebound against.
I left Ketchem Bay and managed to and punch through a few waves and sneak over a few others. As I left the bay I spotted a fishing boat and paddled over to them for a chat. They said that the fishing had been really bad lately and that they were heading back to Southport.
I continued towards South West Cape in the big swells (possibly 5m) but it was hidden in a sea mist even though it was a sunny day. As I got closer the mist was clearing and I could see the outline and then the whole rocky cape. I had to give it a wide berth as I rounded it because there were big swells breaking all around it. Once I was around it I headed north up the west coast. There were a lot of rebounding waves as well as the n/w swells.
As I continued up the west coast I could eventually see land forms in the distance. I aimed just to the outside (west) of those and as I got closer to them I found that they were big rock pillars out in the water. The biggest one of them was called East Pyramid (the west pyramid was just n/w of the north head of Port Davey). I had to paddle to the west of all of these rock forms because the big swells were breaking around them and I didn't want to risk sneaking between them. (If I have known the area better I would have paddled inside Mutton Bird Island and saved a few kilometres).
After I had passed all of the rocky islands I could head into Port Davey. The water must have been shallower inside the mouth of Port Davey because the swells were building up even higher (6-8m). My destination was Spain Bay, which is about 5km inside Port Davey - on the southern side. As I was heading towards it I heard the chugging of a boat behind me. It was another fishing boat. I told them that my plan was to have a rest day and then try and get to head to Mulcahy Bay for my next stop up the coast after Spain Bay. They said they would radio my position and plans through to Hobart.
When I reached the beach at Spain Bay I searched around and found a good campsite and fresh water. I was feeling relieved to have completed the south coast section but I had some nasty blisters due to holding the paddle very tightly in the strong winds. I decided to have the next day off because I had a shoulder strain also. I got the injury when bracing the kayak catching a wave to the beach at Anchorage Cove.
Day 7 - 56 km
Thursday 6/5/99 - Day 8 - No paddle
Rest Day. I went for a few walks around nearby hills and just relaxed in the sun on the beach. There was a strong wind warning from the n/w for today and there were supposed to be lighter winds on Friday. This turned out to be total crap as today was calm and the it turned awful for a week or more.
Friday 7/5/99 - Day 9 - No paddle
The strong winds that were predicted for yesterday hit today. There were gale force n/w winds that were lifting clouds of spray off the water out in Port Davey. It was hard to stand up in the wind. I didn't even bother to pack up the kayak. By mid-afternoon the winds were even stronger. There were some small water spouts and the bay was white with foam. I hunted through the kayak and found a book and spent a lot of the day reading in my tent.
Saturday 8/5/99 - Day 10
I made sure that I woke up early to listen to the weather report but the reception was poor and all that I could tell was that the wind would still be westerly of some type.
I packed up all of my gear and was on the water at 8.30am. I headed out into Port Davey and found that the winds were very strong and the swells were big and scary. If I had come out of the kayak I don't think I would have been able to get back in due to the conditions. I paddled for 1.5 hours and hardly made any headway. I realised that there was no way that I would make it to Mulcahy Bay by later that day if I continued at that pace. As far as I knew there was nowhere to pull into the shore before Mulcahy Bay due to cliffs or exposed beaches with big surf. I turned back and set up in the same spot in Spain Bay again.
Day 10 - 10 km
Sunday 9/5/99 - Day 11
I packed up my gear again and was desperate to leave Port Davey this time. The wind looked just as strong and the waves were as big as ever. This time when I started paddling I wanted to at least get to the northern head of Port Davey to see what conditions were like further up the coast. I measured it to be about 12 km to the northern head.
I paddled for 3 hours in terrible/scary conditions and only just reached the northern side of Port Davey. With that average speed there was no way I would make the further 30km in the daylight. I realised that I would have to return again to Spain Bay. It was really driving me insane.
I cruised back to Spain Bay and set up my tent again - on the same spot. I decided that if they forecast n/w winds the next day (Monday) I would turn back to Cockle Creek. Today was mothers day and I had no way to call mum and that made me more frustrated about being stuck there. In hindsight I could have paddled the half days paddle into Melaleuca Inlet and got a message out by Par Avion plane - or even gone out myself and got more food & returned.
Day 11 - 20 km
Monday 10/5/99 - Day 12
The weather report was for strong n/w winds for the next few days so I decided to head back to Cockle Creek. I left Port Davey for what I was determined to be the last time and I could tell immediately that the conditions hadn't moderated at all. There were 10 metre swells from the n/w and the wind was gusting strongly from the north and there were rebounding waves coming from the cliffs. Just in case it wasn't unpleasant enough there were bursts of torrential rain and fog.
As I got closer to South West Cape again the fog and rain came over again. For about half and hour I couldn't see any land. I knew that I must have been getting closer to the cape but I had been about 5 km off shore so I was more worried about paddling past it and then having to paddle into head winds to get back up to the coast.
I was lucky that the fog started to clear before I reached the cape but the rebound off the rocks was very unpleasant (scary). I had to give south-west cape about 5 km of space because the combination of swells and a current were making a giant washing machine. After I had made it around the cape I had very strong head winds (still n/w) blowing over the top of the cape. I continued to struggle in the gale - making little or no progress trying to get back to the relative shelter of the cliffs near Karamu Bay.
I made it into the coast and had a bit more shelter until I reached the entrance to Ketchem Bay. By the time I reached New Harbour the wind had turned from the north back to the n/w again and I started to catch some runs. It was a relief to be making some good time and I quickly made it across Cox Bight and then into Louisa Bay. Once I had reached Louisa Bay I only had a couple of kilometres to reach Anchorage Cove - where I had camped seven days before. This time the waves here were 4 feet which was about double the previous week.
As I pulled the kayak up the beach I had mixed feelings. It was incredible relief to have survived the nasty conditions during the day and to have 'escaped' Port Davey but I was very disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to make it to Strahan and then complete the 'lap' around Tassie.
Lying in my tent that night I studied my maps and worked out that Cockle Creek was about 75 kilometres away depending how direct a route I took. If I managed to get an early start and had favourable conditions I could make it the next day.
Day 12 - 75 km
Tuesday 11/5/99 - Day 13
I started paddling at 8am and was encouraged by the possibility that I could reach the relative civilisation of Cockle Creek. I started the days paddle by sneaking between Louisa Island and the nearby coast - a gap of around 50 metres. I didn't realise that it was so shallow between them. As I got closer I was caught by a broken wave behind me. While I was sitting on this wave I could see another wave coming towards me from the other side of the channel. The two waves met with a crash in the middle where it was only about 1 foot deep with a sandy bottom. All I could do was paddle flat out and try and crash through it. It always seems to happen to me that I get soaked with cold water at the start of the day.
For the next 5 hours I was flying along with following swells and a strong w/nw wind. It was great fun. The swells were up to 3 metres but mostly 1-2m. The kayak would hum as it flew down the waves.
The last 2 hours from South Cape to SE Cape and around Whale Head to Cockle Creek was a slow plod. The following wind had dropped and there was less that 1m swell. I reached Cockle Creek at 3pm and my body had packed it in. I had been wearing a backpack drink system and the straps had caused open cuts under my arms and I was generally pretty stiff. I gave dad a phone call and he came down after work and gave me a ride back to Lauderdale. It was a relief to be back and when I first saw the cuts from the straps they were a real mess. I had some deep, open wounds that were very sore.
It was great to be back but by the following day I had decided to drive up to n/w Tasmania to continue the paddle. After all I still had another 5 weeks of leave from work to use up and I had spent a huge amount of money on buying freeze dried meals and other supplies for the trip. I was almost in the situation that I couldn't afford to live back in 'the real world'.
Day 13 - 65 km
North Coast: 21/5/99 - 30/5/99
After returning from the exposed paddling around the south-west of Tasmania I was relatively relaxed about the continuation of my trip across the north coast and down the east coast. I drove through Strahan to collect all of the supplies that I had left before my s/w trip. I then continued up the west coast to Smithton, which is the last town along the north west coast.
Smithton is at the mouth of Duck River, which flows into Duck Bay and then out to the coast. The tidal changes along the north coast of Tasmania are a lot bigger than in the south of the state and on the n/w and n/e tips of Tasmania they flow like rivers. One of the problems is that the flow doesn't change at the same times as the tide changes which means that a bit of extra research is in order. The current can flow at speeds of 8-9km/h, which is about as fast as I could go paddling flat out in a fully loaded sea kayak (without a tail wind).
Friday 21/5/99 - Day 14
Drove to Duck River, Smithton. The tide was on the way out. It was raining most of the morning and it took a while to load the kayak. By the time I was ready to go the tide was just starting to come in. I drove my car to the Smithton Police Station and walked back to the kayak. The river level was still very low and at the bottom of the wooden boat ramp there was 10 metres of stinky black mud. You couldn’t walk on the mud without sinking to China. I managed to jump from rock to rock and climb onto the end of the kayak. I slid up the kayak and climbed in. I had stinky black mud covering my legs and filling the kayak cockpit. I used my paddle to lever the kayak down the muddy slope and slide backwards across the mud into the river.
I started paddling at 1pm and the tide was flowing in quickly. I estimated the speed of the incoming flow at 5-6 km/h possibly. I was only just making forward progress while going hard. It took almost 1 hour to get out of Duck River and Duck Bay out to Perkins Bay. Once in Perkins Bay there was only a light NNW wind and a 2-3 ft NW swell. I paddled east along the length of 7 Mile Beach and stopped at 3.30pm just before west inlet which is west of Stanley. By the time I landed the tide was quite high and I set up my tent on sand dune. It was nice to finish paddling when there was a high tide as this meant that I didn't have to pull the kayak up 200m of beach (compared to low tide). It was always essential that they kayak was tied up to something solid above the high water mark at night to ensure that it wouldn't get washed away by a high tide.
Smithton to West Inlet - 20km
Approximate distances to next possible stops:
Rocky Cape Beach 40km
Boat Harbour 50km
Saturday 22/5/99 - Day 15
The early morning forecast was for drizzle and n/e winds.
I was hoping to have mainly tail winds along the north coast and as I paddled around the Nut I was paddling in very light northerly winds and it was warm and sunny. I stopped next to a rocky island that seemed to be a breeding ground for about 50+ seals. I watched them for about 5 minutes and then continued to Stanley. I passed the main beach that faces north and then followed closely around the Nut and then into Stanley Wharf.
It was a low tide and the water was about 5 metres below the wharf. Once I had left Stanley the wind started to increase to be a very strong easterly head wind. I decided to follow the coast between Stanley and Rocky Cape because I knew that it would take a long time to cross the bay but I would rather paddle around the coast for 25.5km that try and go 19km straight across the bay - because I would be making such slow progress that I would be sure to want to be able to stop at some time for a stretch.
I initially headed to the Black River inlet area and stopped for a snack and a rest for 10 mins. From here I still had 17 km to go into an easterly headwind - to get to Rocky Cape. The wind swells were short and sharp and the kayak couldn't run at all and every time the front smashed down into the next swell it jarred my back. The main reason for this was I asked Penguin Fibreglass to build a wave deflector onto the front of the Greenlander Sea Kayak. It was moulded from a surf life saving surf ski. These work well on a surf ski but they are lighter and the bow is more upswept so the wave deflector is higher out of the water.
With the wave deflector on the front of the Greenlander it was low to the water and slapped down on each little swell that I paddled into and sent a jarring through the kayak. It drove me crazy.
I was crawling along at about 4km/h towards Rocky Cape. It took forever to reach the long 'conveyor belt' jetty at Port Latta and the same to finally get to Rocky Cape. I stopped at a little 'pebbly' cove and lifted the kayak up above high tide. This cove was at the southern end of the bay - 200m south of a gravel boat ramp - on the western side of Rocky Cape. Rocky Cape looked like a beautiful place that would be great for snorkelling or diving. I put up my tent in a picnic area and then found a shack that let me top up my water bottles.
Later that night my father turned up at Rocky Cape. He had caught a bus from Hobart to Smithton to bring my car back. He camped next to me that night.
West Inlet to Rocky Cape - 47km
Possible destinations for 23/5/99 - depending on the wind direction & strength:
Boat Harbour 20km
Wynyard to Somerset - a further 10km
Wynyard to Burnie - further 17km
Burnie to Penguin - 17km
I thought that if the conditions were strong easterly again I would probably only get to Boat Harbour.
Sunday 23/5/99 - Day 16
I packed up and was ready to leave at 9am. The little rocky cove that I had landed in the previous afternoon was now at low tide and I found that people had constructed a crescent=shaped dam so that there was a pool of water kept in at low tide. When I was ready to leave I put the kayak into the 'dam' area and and walked it over to the 'dam wall'. I found the lowest height of the wall and moved a few rocks and lifted the heavy kayak over the gap. The kayak still scraped over the rocks but it just left surface scratches.
The next morning I left Rocky Cape and headed across the next bay towards Table Cape. The wind was light easterly and wasn't a problem. By the time I had rounded the awesome Table Cape the wind had totally stopped and the sun came out. The kayak felt terrific as it sliced through the water after the problems yesterday. I couldn't find anywhere to stop in Wynyard to I continued slowly past the Wynyard town area looking at the scenery. I stopped in between Wynyard and Somerset at 'Doctors rocks'. There was a small beach here on the eastern side of a point. This was a terrible place to stop and I ended up setting up my tent on what looked like a nice flat bit of ground. It turned out to be an old section of the main road that was now by-passed and had moss growing over the bitumen. Needless to say it was impossible to get tent pegs in the ground. As a result I tied the tent cords to rocks to hold the tent up.
Rocky Cape to Doctors Rocks - 34km
Monday 24/5/99 - Day 17
The next morning I wanted to leave at high tide to avoid rocks in the bay that would appear at lower tides - so I got up at 5.30 and hit the water at 6.45am. I successfully dodged the rocks leaving the beach and continued on and I soon passed Somerset. It was beautiful to be on the water before dawn and to watch the sun some up. There was only a light headwind and I reached Burnie by mid-morning and stopped to get a drink and do some other business. I must have looked strange wandering around Burnie CBD in my paddling gear (paddle cag, thermals & booties).
I continued on towards Penguin - enjoying the coke that I had bought in Burnie. I stopped in Penguin for a couple of hours to catch up with a few friends and then continued to Ulverstone. I was on the lookout for a place to stop but didn't find anywhere suitable. I continued and stopped at Turners Beach at 4.30pm. (43km) I camped next to the train line and discovered that the trains are a lot more active up there than in the south. I have stopped at Camp Clayton and I walked up to the main 'office' area to ask for permission to camp on the edge of their property.
Doctors Rocks to Turners Beach - 46km
Tuesday 25/5/99 - Day 18
The weather forecast at 5.55am on ABC radio was light N - N/E and a cooler change later with possible thunderstorms.
From my cosy tent I could already hear the rain pelting down. I kept lying there, hoping that it would stop because it is a hassle packing up in the rain. Everything gets wet before packing it and it adds weight to the kayak.
I eventually packed up in the rain and started paddling at 9.15am. I headed to Devonport, stopping at the surf life saving club at Mersey Bluff and met up with John Van Der Woude - who owns Penguin Fibreglass - who made the Greenlander kayak that I was using. After a lunch break I continued along the coast past Port Sorell and around Badger Head and continued to the Badger Beach in the Asbestos Range National Park which is just west of the mouth of the Tamar at Georgetown. This was the first day that it had been worth putting my sails up and I made good time. The wind became quite strong by afternoon from the n/w. I was still very new to using kayak sails and was nervous and not quite in control.
I set up my tent in a rough, scrubby area on the side of a road. I unpacked my kayak to find my pack of maps that had become wedged in the end of the kayak. Before I had bought tapered dry bags I had to put the smaller objects into the ends of the kayak to fill up the space efficiently. It just so happened that one of my small packages was my maps and my phone charger. I approached a house and explained my situation and asked the occupants if they would charge my mobile phone. They agreed and I left it there for a few hours and picked it up again just before going to 'bed'.
Turners Beach to Badger Beach - 45km
Wednesday 26/5/99 - Day 19
By the morning there were strong n/w winds and as I paddled across the mouth of the Tamar I dodged the reefs while riding the big swells. It was scary but fun as well. The wind became gale force and I stopped at midday because there was torrential rain as well. While paddling I was only using 1.250,000 maps. They don't show much detail but they are useful for a long distance. With the helpful winds I thought that I was making better progress than I actually was and as a result when I rounded the point near Lulworth I thought that I was actually coming into Bridport. I have never seen either place before and the shapes of the bays were similar (but Bridport is a lot bigger scale). I guess that I was just being more hopeful.
I headed towards a boat ramp on the western side of the bay. There was a 1m point break there and I had to pull the kayak up a rocky boat ramp. I got knocked over in the shore break and just managed to grab the kayak before it got trashed on rocks. I made the mistake of holding the kayak on the shore side of the kayak. When a wave hit the kayak it almost crushed me against the big, round boulder rocks. I just managed to dive under it as the kayak was hit by a wave and was propelled towards me. I lost my cap and when I pulled the kayak up on the rocky boat ramp I had to go back out into the cold water and swim after it as it was washed and blown away.
When I was safely on shore I regretted landing on the boat ramp. It was a very abrasive surface. I unloaded most of the gear out of the kayak and then carried up to a dirt area near a car turning circle. I set up my tent nearby. I then turned on my gps and found out that I was in Lulworth at Tam O Shanter Bay.
During the afternoon the very strong n/w wind continued and a lot of surfers arrived to surf on the point break.
Badger Beach to Lulworth - 45km
Thursday 27/5/99 - Day 20
When I left the next morning it was tricky getting off the rocky boat ramp with the 1 metre point break washing up the ramp. I watched the waves for a while and pulled the kayak to the area just above where the bigger waves were breaking to. After waiting for a particularly big wave, the next big on washed up to me and I quickly pulled the kayak into the water as the wave washed up. I ran the kayak out into the water and threw my bum into the seat, with my legs still out on the deck. I paddled hard to just sneak over the next wave before it broke got out safely - with a few more scratches on the hull from the boat ramp.
I put a sail up straight away and had a fairly quick trip. There were strong n/w winds and big n/w swells to Bridport. I spent the half-day surfing diagonally down waves to Bridport, where I set up camp at the caravan park. I walked to the shops and bought more food and topped up my water supplies. Later that night I had a big feed of nachos and coke for tea while I listened to the world cup cricket.
Tomorrow I hoped to get to Tomohawk or further.
Lulworth to Bridport - 36km
Friday 28/5/99 - Day 21
I left Bridport at 7.45am. There was a gusty wnw wind. When leaving Bridport I paddled directly north for an hour to get a good angle to have the wind and waves behind me. I surfed over to Waterhouse Passage but as I got closer I believed that I was heading into a current. It was slow to get through Waterhouse Passage due to this current but at the eastern end the current was less and I sped up again. I headed towards Tomahawk in very strong, gusty winds and fairly flat water - due to the protection of Waterhouse Island and Waterhouse Point.
I then headed for Tomahawk Island. I wasn't sure if I could get through the gap between the island and the coast but I found that there was just enough water. I had never been to Tomahawk before so I stopped near the houses (shacks) to look around. I was looking for a place to camp and a shop. I couldn't find a shop so I returned to the kayak and headed further east. I stopped just to the west of the boat ramp and found that I was at the caravan park and the shop was there.
I set up my tent there and bought a few snacks. As it was Friday night my parents had decided to drive up to Hobart to hopefully catch up with me somewhere around the coast. I called them from a phone box and told them where I was.
Bridport to Tomahawk - 42km
Saturday 29/5/99 - Day 22 - Day off at Tomahawk, catching up with my parents and relaxing.
Sunday 30/5/99 - Day 23
After camping at Tomahawk caravan park I left at 9.30am. There were still strong n/w winds. The next leg was going to be tricky as it involved paddling around the n/e tip of Tasmania (Banks Strait). There would be strong currents here just like the n/w tip of Tasmania.
To take advantage of the n/w winds I left Tomahawk and initially paddled directly north for about an hour until I was directly west of Cape Portland. I then turned to the east and surfed down the n/w swells diagonally to keep on an easterly course.
As I appraoched Cape Portland I could see a big area of steep breaking waves. I put in a very hard effort and gave the cape a wide berth and surfed my way around it. Shortly after going past the cape I glanced back and found that it was already a long way behind me. I assumed that I had the current with me. I had been told that it can flow at up to 5 knots (about 9-10km/h). I was paddling at about 8km/h on top of that so I was speeding down the coast. It was just luck that I had reached Banks Strait at a time that I the current was flowing towards the east because I hadn't been checking tide tables and hadn't done enough research about the tidal flows.
I kept paddling hard and was making great progress with sails up - even though the weather was horrible with torrential rain, dark sky and big swells. By 4pm I got my first view of the Eddystone Point lighthouse against the dark skies. I managed to reach the lighthouse and camped on the southern side of the point. As I set up camp I turned on my phone as I did every afternoon and I found out that search and rescue had been looking for me all day - unsuccessfully. Someone had seen me with a sail up out off Tomahawk and thought it was someone in a dinghy waving a flag - in distress. In hindsight it was a bad move having a red sail but I just thought it was nice and colourful and it was Penguin Fibreglass that suggested it in the first place when I ordered the kayak. Search and Rescue guys had a miserable day looking for me but in the strong winds I had managed to cover 85km in 7 hours and ended up a long way from their search area. As some police knew that I was roughly in that area and the sighting could have been me - they had called my mobile phone to check on me.
Where I stopped on the southern side of Eddystone Point, it wasn't an ideal place to camp. I set up my tent on the beach above high tide. With the big swells on the northern side of Eddystone Point I hadn't seen the boat ramp and I hadn't seen the sheltered beaches (near the shacks) on the northern side of the Point either.
I had travelled 80km in 7.5 hrs which was an indication of the strong tidal flows.
Tomahawk to Eddystone Pt - 80km
East Coast: 31/5/99 - 5/6/99
Monday 31/5/99 - Day 24
I left Eddystone Point at 8.30am in bright sunshine and cruised slowly past Ansons Bay, Bay of Fires, The Gardens and Binalong Bay. I was feeling a bit stiff and sore (and unmotivated) after yesterday's adventure. It was totally calm for about 2 hrs and I cruised with the spray deck off. It had been fine and calm for the whole day and a head wind came up just as I reached St Helens. It find it hard to push myself when it is calm because it is peaceful and relaxing. I reached St Helens Pt at 1.30pm and stopped near the boat ramp. I camped on the point - putting my tent up on a track.
Eddystone Pt to St Helens Pt - 34km
Tuesday 1/6/99 - Day 25
I left St Helens at sunrise and paddled steadily south in calm, sunny weather. While I was paddling past Scamander (about 5km out from the coast) an albatross landed right next to the kayak, with its feet down, landing like a seaplane. It swam over to me and seemed really curious. Within a minute 4 other albatrosses had landed and were swimming around the kayak as well. They were incredible and had a huge wingspan. They were on the water preening themselves. I set there watching them for about 20 minutes but eventually continued, leaving them behind as they rested in the calm conditions. I continued south and about 5 km further south the 5 albatrosses landed near my kayak again. I just stopped for about 5 minutes this time. Nearby I also saw a seal pop up and swim around for a while until I lost sight out of it.
I continued cruising south and stopped on the southern side of Long Point near Seymour (15 km north of Bicheno). It had been a great day seeing lots of seals, birdlife and paddling 55km.
St Helens Point to Seymour - 55km
Wednesday 2/6/99 - Day 26
The next day I left Long Point and headed south towards Bicheno. A fishing boat had been moored near me at Long Point and it left just before and also headed towards Bicheno. I put in a bit of effort to try and stay up with it. I was only going slightly slower that it but it at least gave me something to focus on.
When I reached Bicheno I stopped at a jetty in the gulch. I filled up all my water bottles so I would have enough water to stay at Wineglass Bay for an extra day. I made up some banana rolls. I only stopped for a short time and left at 10.45am. I kept going and as I got to Friendly Beaches I could see some big black clouds coming from the west - towards me. I was a few kilometres off the beach at the time so I thought that I had better get in closer in case of lightning. It was just as I reached the rocky coastline of Freycinet that the storm came over. I paddled as close to the cliffs as possible and sheltered in the kayak next to the cliff as the storm passed over. The winds created a small water spout that went past at one stage. I was very relieved to reach the shelter of Wineglass Bay at 4.45pm.
I initially headed for the northern end of Wineglass Bay where I could see some people. I landed there and asked them if there was a good place to camp. They said that the normal campsite was at the southern end of Wineglass Bay. I paddled down to the other end of the bay and set up my tent where the little creek comes out. The next day I had a rest day at Wineglass Bay - relaxing in the sun.
Seymour to Wineglass Bay - 53km
Friday 4/6/99 - Day 27
As I left Wineglass Bay on Friday the 4th of June I had worked out that I would be able to get home to Lauderdale in 2 days if I had a couple of big days. With this as a goal I paddled down the eastern side of Freycinet Peninsula towards Schouten Passage. The eastern end of the passage blends in with the rest of the cliffs and you don't realise that you are getting close until you are actually there.
I had strong northerly winds and 1-2m swells. I paddled through Schouten Passage and then headed directly towards Maria Is. I was a bit nervous about this because at one stage I was 15km away from any land. I managed to stay in the kayak and had a lot of fun with surfing down the swells with the sails up. As I got closer to Maria Island the wind calmed down.
I kept paddling south and initially aimed for Lachlan Island - in the middle of the passage between Maria Island and the coast (Mercury Passage). As I neared Lachlan Island I could see a big sandy beach - Sandspit Point near Rheban. I landed there and found that it was a wide beach and it took ages to pull the kayak up above high tide mark. I hadn't landed until 5pm and it was almost dark so I was quite cold while setting up the tent on the sand dunes in an uncomfortable spot. I was getting sick of camping and short daylight hours.
Wineglass Bay to Sandspit Point (Rheban) - 73km
Saturday 5/6/99 - Day 28
When I woke up on Saturday the 5th of June I had decided that I wanted this to be my last day as I was well and truly sick of camping and paddling. I knew that I could make it to Lauderdale by that afternoon with either tail winds or in light or no wind. I was determined to do it even if it took until midnight. I was very lucky to have another day of northerly winds. I reached Marion Bay narrows by midday and the wind had turned n/e. The wind couldn't have been better because when I reached the Dunalley Canal the current was against me so I just stopped paddling and sailed up against the current - getting a few strange looks from people who had never seen a sea kayak with a sail.
I had phoned my dad earlier and he had been driving around trying to spot me and he finally found me at the western end of the canal. I stopped at the boat ramp at that end of the canal. He had brought a salad roll for me and a bottle of coke. After the coke for a quick boost I paddled along the home-stretch, past Primrose Sands to Frederick Henry Bay. From here I had 15km to go to Lauderdale and it was about 4pm . I put in a huge effort as I crossed the bay. I wasn't exactly sure I was going the right direction but as I got closer I recognised the lights and some houses.
I hit the shore at 5.30pm in darkness and dragged myself up the beach. I was very lucky that my parents lived on the beach. We quickly unloaded the main drybags and then carried the kayak up into the back yard. I had a beautiful hot shower and then collapsed in front of the wood heater. After 13 days of paddling (and 2 rest days) I had got back home. It was great to see most of Tasmania's coastline but I was very disappointed not to make it all of the way around Tasmania. Within a few days of getting back to work I applied for some more holidays (6 weeks) to have another go at the circumnavigation. (that time it was successful).
Sandspit Point (Rheban) to Lauderdale (through Dunalley Canal) - 62km
|Paddle Leg FROM||TO||Distance||Time||Av spd||conditions|
|Hobart||Middleton||44km||5.5hrs||8 km/h||light wind - no help|
|Middleton||Dover||28km||4.5hrs||6.2||cross wind & head wind|
|Dover||Cockle Creek||37km||4.5hrs||8.2||light wind - no help|
|Cockle Creek||Rocky Boat Inlet||40km||5.75hrs||7.0||cross wind & head wind|
|Rocky Boat Inlet||Anchorage Cove||25km||6hrs||4.2||strong head wind|
|Anchorage Cove||Ketchem Bay||21km||4hrs||5.25||head &cross wind|
|Ketchem Bay||Spain Bay||56km||7.5hrs||7.5||v.light wind - no help|
|No paddle due to serious hand blisters|
|Spain Bay||return||10km||2hrs||5||v.strong head wind|
|Spain Bay||return||20km||5hrs||4||v.strong head wind|
|Spain Bay||Anchorage Cove||75km||6hrs||12.5||v.strong tail ,cross & head|
|Anchorage Cove||Cockle Creek||65km||7hrs||9.3||mod tail & cross wind|
|DRIVE TO SMITHTON|
|Smithton||West Inlet||20km||2.5 hrs|
|West Inlet||Rocky Cape||47km||8hrs||moderate to strong head wind|
|Rocky Cape||Doctors Rocks||34km||6?|
|Doctors Rocks||Turners Beach||46km||light head wind|
|Turners Beach||Badger Beach||45km||light head wind|
|Badger Beach||Lulworth||45km||moderate n/w tail winds (45 deg. behind over left shoulder)|
|Lulworth||Bridport||36km||strong tail winds & n/w swells|
|Bridport||Tomahawk||42km||gusty & strong w/n/w wind|
|No paddle: re-stock supplies||Tomahawk|
|Eddystone Point||St Helens||34km|
|day off at Wineglass Bay|
|Wineglass Bay||Sandspit Pt||73km||moderate tail wind|
|Sandspit Point||Lauderdale||62km||light to moderate tail wind and 45 deg tail wind|