matty's tasmanian adventures - index


Kayak Circumnavigation of Bruny Island

Aim - To paddle around Bruny Island in one day - approx 142km non-stop paddle AND do it at least under 20 hours

After a recent paddle around Maria Island (the previous day) - I started thinking of other possible challenges. I quickly came up with the idea of paddling around Bruny Island in a day. I was guessing at the distance being somewhere between 100km and 150km. A rough calculation at an average speed of 7 km/h indicated that it would take between 14 and 21 hours.

A closer check of a map confirmed that the distance would be around 140km which meant that I needed to allow about 20 hours to do the paddle. I decided that I would start early in the morning and try to finish before sunset. Counting back the hours meant that I really needed to start at midnight to finish the paddle before 8pm. I have to admit that the thought of starting at midnight and paddling for 6-7 hours in the dark didn't appeal to me much, considering I would still have another 10-12 hours left when it became light.

I decided that if I didn't have a go at this paddle soon I probably wouldn't do it.  The nights were getting longer every day as well. So two days after my 76km paddle around Maria Island I loaded my kayak on the car and headed down to Tinderbox. Tinderbox is about 20km south of Hobart and is the closest point to the northern end of Bruny Island.

I wanted to get on the water at midnight but I was running a bit late and I arrived at Tinderbox beach at 12.30am. There are no lights at the beach and it already felt a bit eerie loading up the kayak at this time of the night. There was virtually no wind and it was a clear night and I knew that I would be a lot happier when I got onto the water.

I was paddling my Tasmanian-made Greenlander sea kayak with 2 sails. I like this kayak because it is very stable, holds lots of gear and works well with my sails. By 1.30am I had loaded the gear I was taking and was ready to go.



Gear list-

bivvy bag
sleeping bag
sleeping mat
set of clothes
walkman radio
mobile phone
kayak repair gear
first aid kit
wheeled kayak trolley


selection of mini mars bars, snickers etc
jelly babies

I took some camping gear with me in case I was totally stuffed and needed to stop and camp somewhere and the trolley was in case I needed to get over the neck (between north and south bruny).

To navigate I was using a deck mounted 'Suunto' compass that was lit with a red cylume stick poked underneath it.
I had the 1:100 000 land map on the deck of the kayak as well as the marine chart for Bruny Island and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.

I looked at the chart and could see that the first navigation light to aim at was the light on Bligh Point that was about 4km away and about 200 degrees. It needed to aim at a white light - flashing every 2 seconds. The first problem I found was that there are lots of fish farms in the channel and they all have flashing lights on them. I eventually identified the correct light to aim for and cruised along easily with the very light s/w wind not affecting progress. There was no moon, no clouds and an incredible view of the stars. Every few minutes I saw another meteor streak across the sky.

As I continued down the channel towards the Bruny Island ferry terminal I must have been noticed by a worker on one of the fish farms. I assume that they must have thought I was 'up to no good' and radioed the other fish farms because there were spotlights on me and boats searching for me for the next 3 hours. It became really annoying having spotlights shone in my eyes but it must have looked a bit sus. seeing a kayak at 2 in the morning.

After the first hour I was reaching Woodcutters Point on Bruny Island and passed Kinghorne Point (opposite Woodbridge) after 2 hours (3.30am). I was now heading south past the big opening to my left to Isthmus Bay on Bruny Island.

Once you spot a navigation light it is easy enough to head for it but the distance away can be very deceptive. After 3 hours I was passing Simpsons Point and reaching the 14km wide section of the channel at south Bruny. The light s/w wind was increasing to a moderate s/w wind but still not a big problem.

The next light to aim for was on Zuidpool Rock. The sky was just starting to show signs of a glow of light as I passed this navigation light. It then took another hour before I actually felt the warm glow of the sun. I was feeling very sleepy as I hadn't gone to bed the previous night. In my original plan (starting at midnight) I would have reached Partridge Island by 7am. I ended up leaving at 1.30am and I was quite happy to make it there by 7.15am.

Reaching Partridge Island was one of the landmarks that I was aiming for and there was a nice little beach at the southern end of the island. By the time I was passing the beach I had decided that I was going to try and paddle around the island without stopping (on land). I continued on, still with a moderate s/w wind.

For the next 4 hours I had 2m swells from the s/w and rebounding waves back of the cliffs as I headed towards Cape Bruny and on to Tasman Head at the s/e corner of Bruny. This was another significant point for me. It is always nice in a hard trip when you get to see a totally different set of numbers on your compass.

I was now heading up the eastern side of south Bruny Island and I was in very calm water. There was a clear, blue sky and no wind. I was now into my 11th hour of the trip and had paddled over 80km and I was feeling pretty stuffed. For the next hour as I continued up to Arched Island I paddled slowly and ate my jelly babies and some chocolate and drank about a litre of water to get some more fuel in my system.

This coastline is called the Fluted Cape State Reserve and consists of some very high cliffs and amazing sea caves. I would have loved to stop and explore them a bit more. I reached Cape Conella after about 12 hours of paddling and next 5 km of coast had great sea caves every 20m or so. The sea breeze was now strengthening from the north-east. It was a nuisance because it was slowing me down and I really wanted to finish before sunset.

When I reached the southern end of Adventure Bay (at Penguin Island) I had done 100km. I stopped and had a good look at the map only to find that I still had over 40 km to go. That was pretty depressing because that sort of distance is normally a whole days paddling on my recent trips - and I had already been going for 13 hours.

I decided that I had gone too far to give up now and I just plugged away into the sea breeze. It took forever to get closer to Cape Queen Elizabeth (formerly called Cape Frederick Henry but changed for a royal visit). Once I reached Cape Q.E. I seemed to take forever to make progress along the cliffs. There was also rebound coming from all directions but it was possible to catch and get a ride on some of the swells.

For the next 20 km as I headed up to the northern tip of Bruny Island I just counted down each bay - longing for the sight where there wasn't any more land ahead of me and I could turn west again for the last 3-4km back to Tinderbox. The 18 hour mark that I had been trying to beat ticked over as I reached the northern tip of Bruny Island. This was the first time that I was able to use my sails. For the last 3 km I had both sails up and cruised across the channel and up onto the beach at Tinderbox.

It was now 7.50pm and I had completed the 142km in 18 hours and 20 mins. I pulled the spray deck off and pushed on the sides of the cockpit to get out of it. I thought that my legs were fine until I tried to use them. They weren't working at all. I managed to slide up onto the back of the cockpit and lifted my legs out onto the sand. After a bit of stretching I fell off the kayak onto the sand.

I had to walk around for a few minutes before I struggled to pull the kayak up to the grass above the beach. It then took me quite a while to unpack the kayak because I was feeling generally stuffed. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any injuries or chaffing and actually felt better that I had when I stopped for food at the s/e tip of Bruny.

I took a few photos of the maroon sunset to finish off the film that I had been taking during the day. I tried to get pictures of all sections of the island - once I had some daylight.

I had a real sense of personal achievement as I drove back home. I had just paddled further in a day that I had before (previous best 115km from Low Rocky Point to Cox Bight - without getting out of the kayak) and also paddled about 5 hours longer than I had before. A pit stop at KFC on the way home quickly replenished my lost reserves (and then some).

I now have to find a new challenge.