matty's tasmanian adventures - index


Huonville to Hobart - kayak trip

One of the Hobart kayak clubs had a tradition of doing this paddle on winter solstice.  It meant starting well before dawn & finishing after dark & paddling all day in the cold & usually strong winds as well.  I decided to do the paddle in summer in long daylight hours to make it less unpleasant.

Date 29/12/08

I had been waiting for some favourable wind to do a paddle from Huonville to Hobart.  The distance is between 90 to 100km depending how direct a course you take.  The forecast was for n/w wind initially but turning s/w later.  That seemed to be pretty good as the first half of the paddle was basically south, turning east and then heading n/e up the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Derwent River.  As for the trip in 2003, I was going to leave my car at Huonville and my father, Tony Watton, was going to ride his bike from Sandford to Huonville to get the car and then drive to Battery Point to pick me up.

I arrived at the boat ramp in the Huon River at Huonville at 5.15am.  I had decided to use my newest kayak - a Grafton Paddle Sports - Time Traveller.  The Time Traveller is a 6m multisport kayak that is at the more stable end of the range of racing kayaks.

The gear I was taking was:

2 x 1.5 litre water
a few bananas
a few food bars (Cadbury Brunch Bars)

I started paddling from Huonville at 5.45am.  I turned on my gps and I must have had a 2-3 km/h current because I was moving at 12-13km/h.  I stuck to the western side of the river initially in the westerly wind but crossed over to the eastern side of the river just before the bend in the river at the 21km mark - where the river turns to the s/e.

There had only been light westerly winds but they dropped at this turn in the river.  At this point I was also joined by about 10 dolphins.  I continued to cruise at a moderate pace on the long straight of about 20km to Huon Island - at the mouth of the Huon River.

As I passed Port Cygnet a yacht came motoring out of the bay and crossed my path.  I couldn't resist getting on it's wash.  I had a chat with the couple on the yacht and they said they were heading back to the Royal Yacht Club at Sandy Bay.  Before I got to Garden Island a sea breeze picked up from the s/e - a headwind.  I stuck closely in behind the yacht and although I had to put in a lot of effort I was going 13km/h. 

I stayed on the wash of the yacht for about 14km and only left them when they put up a sail and aimed further south.  I cruised along the shore and around the corner to Gordon.  There was a moderate easterly wind here that wasn't helping or hurting me.  I cruised a bit further up the river to Middleton and stopped for a drink and snack.

From Middleton I crossed over the Channel and followed the shore of North Bruny up to just south of Dennes Point.  I stopped here for another stretch, drink & food.  I lay down on the pebbly shore for a stretch and accidentally dozed off in the sun.  I woke up about 15 mins later and then headed off again.  In the Channel between Dennes Point and Tinderbox the effects of a strong s/e sea breeze were apparent.  There was a steep 1m wind swell that was rebounding off the cliffs and it was very messy.  It was here that I wished that I was in a sea kayak rather than a multisport kayak.

I had to use full concentration as I turned into the Derwent River.  I had to go diagonally down the waves but the short rudder was out of the water most of the time and it was a real challenge.  I took it very carefully towards Taroona and the conditions were much improved north of Crayfish Point.

I stopped for a final stretch on the northern side of a little rocky point at Taroona High School.  From there I had a fast cruise with 1-2 foot s/e wind swells up to the finish at Battery Point.  Later when I checked the distance of my trip it was between 95-100km.  If I had taken the best straight line course it would have been about 90km.

I finished at 4.30pm - about 10hr45mins after starting.  I felt pretty stuffed and was looking forward to a big cold drink and a good sleep but I was happy that I had finished after not finishing the previous attempt below in 2003.


Previous Huonville to Hobart (ended up at Kettering) trip


Date: 31/5/03

Paddler: Matthew Watton

Kayak: Slingshot

I arrived at Huonville at 5am and stopped next to the river at the ramp for the jet boat.  It was very dark as there was no moon but the temperature was mild due to the gale force n/w wind that was present.

I was the only paddler to turn up for the extended day paddle for Maatsuyker Canoe Club.  I knew that I would be hurting by the end of the day because I hadn’t been in a kayak for about 4 weeks and my hands weren’t hardened up or blister proof.

There were no clouds and plenty of stars visible.  I had programmed the route into my gps because there was no light reflected from the moon.  I hadn’t paddled down the Huon River before so I wasn’t familiar with the locations of any shallow regions or other problems.

Within the first few hundred metres there is a sharp right hand bend in the river that turns to the s/w.  I had planned to stick to the western side of the river because there would be some light from the houses and the town of Franklin as I headed down river.

The warm wind n/w wind made me start sweating early on and I paused to take off my waterproof paddle top and stuffed it into the cockpit.  I was paddling a Paddling Perfection ‘Slingshot’ – without a sail.

This kayak is fitted with a mast step but it was installed too close to the cockpit and as a result any cords coming off the boom get in the way too much.  The other problem is that the kayak is quite round and high and can be hard to handle with a sail in strong cross winds.  The shape of the hull also pushes the kayak sideways.  To prevent this you would need to use a lee board.  I decided to not bother with any of this and just paddle it.

About 13 km into the trip I could see the pre-dawn glow from the east.  The n/w wind wasn’t really helping much as it blew across me initially but when I turned to the south – near Castle Forbes Bay – I started to pick up some runs.

I continued to zig-zag as I caught a run with the wind & waves and then turned right to get ready for another wave.  The section from Castle Forbes Bay to Brabazon Point passed very quickly.  The swell had built up to a couple of feet and I cruised along at 12km/h + while on the waves.

After Brabazon Point I turned s/e to travel directly with the wind and continued to cruise at 12km/h or more.  As I reached the opening to Port Cygnet the wind was funnelling out creating confused swells from the n/w and n/e.


The swells went back to the consistent n/w swell at Eggs & Bacon Bay (I would like to know the origin of the name – breakfast on the beach maybe?).

The wind strength continued to build and it was definitely gale strength as big clouds of spray were blown into the air in mini water spouts.  It was nice to get into a bit of shelter after passing Ninepin Point – at the edge of the marine reserve.

I couldn’t help thinking about the Cessna that crashed into the water between Huon Island and Arch Rock about 5 years ago.  I had dived there as part of the Police Search and Rescue squad that found the plane and recovered the back packs of the walkers that were travelling to Melaleuca to do the South Coast Track.

I cruised along for the next 7 km’s in calm water – next to the Channel Hwy – sheltered from the gale.  As I came into view of the wharf at Gordon I also started to feel the n/w wind funnelling down the D’Entrecasteaux Channel also.

I had covered about 50km in 4½ hours and I knew that I would have to struggle against the wind for 50km to make it to Hobart.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.  My father (Tony) was riding his bike from Lauderdale to Huonville to pick up my car.  He would have to ride about 60km and it would be very unpleasant riding in the gale.

I stopped for a stretch just north of the Gordon wharf at a small beach and had a snack and a drink.  I found that I had about 3 inches of water in my cockpit.  I will have to investigate that later – but the drybag with my food in it had a tiny hole in it and the bag also had a couple of inches of water in it as well.

My bananas were wet and slimy and other food soaked in salt water.  I wasn’t happy but I had no-one to blame.  After 15 mins of stretching I continued up the channel.  I stuck as close as possible to the western side of the channel to try and shelter from the n/w gale.  There were lots of recently fallen trees lying across the foreshore due to the wind.

I couldn’t stay as close to the shore as I would have liked due to the presence of the oyster leases that block the path.

About 8-9km north of Gordon at Fleurtys Point the coastline turns towards the n/w and I was exposed to the full force of the gale.  It is at this area (or the previous point – Flowerpot Rock) that I normally cross over the channel to take the shortest route that follows the eastern side of the channel along the western side of Bruny Island up to Bligh Point on Bruny – and then over to Piersons Point.  Due to the n/w wind I decided to stick to the western side of the channel for the wind protection on the northern side of each bay.

Between Gordon and Woodbridge I was suffering with sore legs due to the cramped cockpit and chaffing under my arms from my thermal top and also some hand blisters that were the size of 20c coins.

I wasn’t enjoying myself at all and wanted to stop.  I kept trying to convince myself that I just needed to keep plugging away and once I reached the Derwent River I would have a sniff of home and be ok.

On the other hand I didn’t want the chaffing to cause open wounds and the blisters to break.  I was thinking about the club trip next week which involved a paddle from Corinna on the Pieman River down to the heads – and maybe out to Conical Rocks Hbr.

As I approached Kettering I saw a yacht struggling to motor from Bruny Island across the channel.  He turned towards me and asked if I was ok and I gave him the ‘thumbs up’ and he then turned back towards Kettering.  He must have been thinking “What the hell is a kayak doing out in these conditions” which is exactly what I had thought about him in his yacht.

The more I thought about it I managed to justify to myself why I should stop and it wasn’t too hard to stop when I reached Kettering.  The wind was very unpleasant and there were lots of occasions where I saw a huge gust coming across the water and I had to hunch forward and grip the paddle tightly to avoid it being torn from my hands.

I battled against the wind into the bay at Kettering and pulled up the kayak at the Roaring 40’s Kayaking shops ramp.  The shop was shut but I relaxed on the grass next to the shop as I waited for dad to turn up with the car.

I spent an hour stretching out my aching back and shoulders and legs.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a kayaker got deep vein thrombosis from sitting in a kayak for long periods.

The drink and roll from the shop at Margate was almost as good as the hot shower at home.  Overall the trip was about 68km in 7 ¼ hours without sailing – thanks to the surfing down the Huon.