matty's tasmanian adventures - index


Strahan to Hobart sea kayak trip


These were the details from the Maatsuyker Canoe Club's plan for this paddle in early 2003.



The Plan
Pre-trip skills
Paddling Safety during the trip
Pre-trip maintenance
Essential Gear
Food & water
Possible landing & camping sites

The Plan

Trip Length - Four weeks

The meeting point is in Strahan (see map) at the small beach next to the police station and caravan park.

We will start by paddling from Strahan out to the Macquarie Harbour heads (Hells Gates) - time permitting.  It is possible to drive out to the head so if for some reason we need to drive out to the heads and start from there - that option is available to us.

The hardest section for landings is from Strahan to Port Davey.  The key factor is that it isn’t worth leaving Macquarie Harbour if there are strong head winds. Strong s/w or westerly winds will slow the progress and build up the surf to make it hard to land and reduce our options of where we can reach on the first day.

If the forecast is bad (for Sunday 23/2 and beyond) due to days of southerly, south-westerly or very strong westerly wind then we can do some paddling in Macquarie Hbr to get the body working. We just need to be able to get back in time to head south when the wind settles down.

ONCE WE ARE UNDERWAY - As we head down the coast the main priority will be to find sheltered spots to land to prevent gear (and person) damage. Landing at a good camping spot is less of a priority than finding a sheltered landing. If you can get both it is a bonus.

IN AN IDEAL SCENARIO we would be at Port Davey by the end of the first week. We could spend about a week and a half in Port Davey/Bathurst Harbour and then use the last week and a half to get around South-West Cape and cruise along the south coast.

If there is a miracle and the weather is calm when we are on the south coast we could go to Maatsuyker Island.  The landing area consists of lots of seals and slippery rocks. (AS OF 2009 - possibly ??? no landings in Dec & Jan due to seal pups - (contact Parks for info)

 - This was a proposal in a 'Maatsuyker Island - Boat access draft issues & Management Guidelines Paper - 29 May 2008'.  There were meetings with Parks & they were given feedback and then it was just silence from Parks.  Who knows what the result was...)

Four weeks of food is a lot to take in one go. I am planning to leave a bag with Par Avion to be delivered to Melaleuca about 2 weeks into the trip (about 8th of March). It is also possible to purchase fuel (metho, shellite or small gas cylinders).

If we drop the bags to Tasair before driving to Strahan. They would deliver the bags on either scenic flights or when dropping off bushwalkers.

Pre trip skills
-practice ‘ins & outs’ through some surf to practice the timing of getting out when the smaller waves of a set come through and also bracing on waves coming back in.

-practice eskimo rolling if you can. If you can't roll at least work on support strokes and self rescues using a paddle float

-re-entry and roll up (with or without paddle float)

Paddling safety during the trip:

One of the problems that we have faced in previous trips is that we have been spreading out too much and people being left on their own.  We may have 10 or 11 kayaks leaving Strahan.  We will discuss the plan for the day before we leave each day and discuss any problems each evening.

We will aim to use a 'buddy' system while paddling.  This will be a lot safer - especially when in windy or rough conditions.  We can't have the situation where there are 11 kayaks spread over a kilometre from front to back and some close to shore and some further out.

The other system that we eventually used on our Bass Strait Paddle is that we re-grouped on the hour, every hour and then had a break from the time the last person arrives.

It is important to stay fairly close together so we know how each other is feeling. If decisions need to be made they should be made by the group. If we stay together it will look better for Jeff’s video as well.

This trip has to be treated with a team approach - to look after each other.

Pre trip maintenance:

-Check sails for thin areas (you can get sail repair patches from sail making businesses)
-Check rudder for weakness due to previous bends (if your rudder has been bent before you are better off getting a new one for this trip)
-Check rudder cables for fraying (it is smart to take some spare cables and work out how you could replace them at sea)
-Repair all leaks
-Check all bolts, nuts (ensure they are stainless with lock nuts - and take some spares)


-small sailing shackles
-Take a spare paddle between every two paddlers
-you need a spare hat and sunglasses to replace the ones that you will lose in the surf somewhere (you can get some sunglasses with polarised lenses at Snowgum outdoor shop for about $20 and you can get the hats with the flap down the back at Peter Johnstons in Hobart)

Essential Gear:

-Fibreglass repair materials (it would be wise to take a ‘kit’ of fibreglass repair materials between every two paddlers)

-Tube of aquaseal to repair neoprene hatch covers or damaged spray decks.

-The mozzies and the march flies can be savage down the west coast so take the aeroguard or rid.  In the past I took some loose fitting, tough clothes to wear when on shore that the march flies can't get through - like king gee trousers & thick shirt.  In an hour you could get 20 march fly bites that drive you crazy for the next 3 days.  March flies are most attracted to blue and purple so avoiding those colours will help.

Sun blockout and Sun glasses - it is worth taking a spare pair of glasses as well - to use after your first ones get washed of by a wave. Zinc cream is also good because it lasts longer on your face. I found that the backs of my hands were the most prone area to getting burnt.  (in the past I started to get a bad reaction to having thick zinc cream on every day for 2 weeks - maybe it isn't good over extended periods)

Hat - you need a hat with a flap at the back to keep the sun off your neck and ears. It is also worth taking a spare in case you lose one going out through waves.

Snow tent pegs for camping on the sand - or use rocks and buried sticks.  It is almost guaranteed that we will have to camp on the sand at some stage.  I also take a plastic ground sheet to sit on and to put at the door to the tent to get in without bringing the beach with me.

Jack jumper ants, Bullants, Inchman ants, bee or wasp stings - if you are allergic or have had a previous bad reaction then further bites will probably be even worse so take antihistamine or one of those 'pens' to jab yourself or actually take adrenalin if you are really allergic - talk to your GP about it now because you will be a couple of weeks away from one soon.

It is likely that we will walk up a few hills around Port Davey so a small backpack and some bushwalking shoes/boots (and maybe gaiters) would be handy.

Paddle ‘leash’ – have a length of short cord or shock cord to attach the paddle in strong wind or if you drop the paddle while sailing or when capsized

Pump - if you use an electric pump make sure the wiring is in good condition - test it.  It is worth having access to a manual pump also - between every 2 paddlers.  ALSO TAKE A GOOD SPONGE - to clean up the last couple of inches that the pump can't get rid of

First Aid kits - It would be adequate to share first aid equipment between a few people but make sure you take your own specific needs.

Sore eyes - In the past I have had trouble when I have got the dried salt (from my face) in my eyes. Eyes can also get very sore due to the glare from the sun’s reflection. I have taken eye drops in the past for relief (check with a GP or at a chemist for something appropriate for sore eyes due to sun glare & salt).

Muscle strains - Anti-inflammatory tablets/creams...

Hand blisters - try not to get them in the first place by doing regular paddling before the trip.  Once you have got them they will start to get better after about a few weeks.


Food & Water

On my previous trips down the west coast I haven’t had any trouble finding clean fresh water. In the past I have started with about 3 x 1.5 litre bottles – just in case but I have found creeks where I have stopped in most places. A collapsible water container is also handy (eg a 5 litre bladder from the water containers from a supermarket).  I haven't had any problem with the water quality but it is wise to take a packet of water purification tablets and/or a water filter for bugs in the water.

On previous club trips people have taken lots of bottles of coke to refresh at the end of the day.  A more compact alternative is to take a powdered drink to add to the water.  I have taken snap lock bags with 'Tang' in them to add to my drink bottle for some variety.

As far as food goes, if everything goes to plan we will finish paddling each day with enough time to go for a swim to try and do some fishing or exploring. It is worth getting a recreational abalone and crayfish permit from a post office or Service Tasmania (about $43 for crays & abalone) before leaving.  On the Bass Strait trip the use of a sling spear and a pair of fins also proved valuable.  You may also want to take a thin summer wetsuit & neoprene hood & face mask/snorkel if you are planning to try and get crays & abalone.

Four weeks of food is a lot to take in one go. I am planning to leave a bag with either Tasair or Par Avion to be delivered to Melaleuca about 2 weeks into the trip (about 8th of March). Tasair (Hobart Airport) charge $4.40 per kilo for bags to be delivered to Melaleuca. It is also possible to purchase fuel (metho or shellite) at $4.40 per litre.

At the start of each days paddling you need to have enough food and water accessible as you paddle in case we are not able to stop for breaks before the finish point.


For a guide here are links to the 1:250 000 maps for the trip with possible camp sites marked (grid squares are 10km).

West Coast - Strahan to Hibbs Point
West Coast - Hibbs Point to Low Rocky Point
West Coast - Low Rocky Point to South West Cape - including Port Davey & Bathurst Hbr.
South Coast - South West Cape to Cockle Creek


The most useful maps to use for the trip are the 1:100 000 tasmaps from Cape Sorell down to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. There is a special South Coast walk map that is good for the South Coast.

The 1:100,000 maps are:
Cape Sorell
Port Davey
Old River
South Cape OR South Coast track walks map
(the south coast walks maps has more information than the South Cape map)

The land maps are better than the marine charts because they show better detail of the places we are going to land and camp at.
We really don’t need the charts because there aren’t strong tidal currents and as far as dangerous reefs go - if there is a wave breaking on a reef in front of you - try to go around it.

The 1:25000 series of maps show more detail but you would need to take 16 maps and keep changing them over while you are paddling or have 5 waterproof map holders.

In this series of maps there is a gap of about 100km due to 4 maps not existing yet. This gap covers the area just north of Port Davey and Louisa Bay areas.

The 1:250 000 maps are adequate for the big picture and you would only need the one for the south west (but you can't rely on them as your only map information.

Tow ropes - have one rope for every two paddlers. The tow rope needs a section of heavy duty shock cord at one end to avoid both paddlers getting whip lash each time the strain is taken up.

Possible landing & camping sites and their distance from the entrance to Macquarie Harbour

Sloop Point  (23km)
Gorge Point (30km)
Birthday River mouth (41km)
Hibbs Bay & lagoon area (58km)
Point Hibbs (good in most conditions) (60km)
Spero Bay (if there are very strong northerly winds) (70km)
Wanderer River mouth aka Christmas Cove (ok in northerly conditions but if s/w swell picks up you can get stuck here) (81km)
Mainwaring Inlet (sheltered mouth of Mainwaring River - mozzies galore) (98km)
Diorite Point/The Shank area (9km north of Low Rocky Pt - shelter behind rocks & reef) (108km)
Cowrie Beach (below Low Rocky Pt) (125km)
The corner at Low Rocky Point - aka ‘Big Beach’ (128km)
Mulcahy Bay (either in the gulch to the west or in the bay itself) (150km)
Wreck Bay (only if northerly wind & low s/w swell) (165km)

Port Davey/Bathurst Hbr

Bond Bay (200km)
Davey River and gorge (20km each way & back to Bond Bay (240km)
Breaksea Islands & Bramble Cove &Mt stokes (260km)
Schooner cove (264km)
Balmoral Bch & hill  & Spring River  & Mt Rugby base (285km)
Melaleuca (if we paddle along the northern side of Bathurst Hbr and back along the southern side and into Melaleuca (extra 45km)- (340km)
Melaleuca to Schooner Cove (361km)
Schooner Cove, around Breaksea Is, into Hannant Inlet to Spain Bay (384km)
Between Port Davey and South West Cape
Spain Bay to Mutton Bird Island - Investigate for sheltered areas (400km)
Window Pane Bay or Island Bay (411km)
McKays Gulch (426km)

South Coast - possible landing points
Ketchem Bay (sheltered from s/w) (447km)
New Harbour (sheltered from s/w) (455km)
Maatsuyker Island (need calm weather) (20km out from New Hbr & 15km back to Anchorage Cove)
Cox Bight (gets some surf in southerly or s/w) (475km)
Anchorage Cove - western side of Louisa Bay - (sheltered in s/w) (488km)
Louisa Bay - Louisa River mouth/Louisa Island (sheltered in s/w) (493km)
Deadmans Cove (sheltered in s/w) (507km)
Prion Beach at mouth of New River Lagoon (if we are lucky to get small surf and offshore wind) (517km)
Rocky Boat Inlet (in small surf only) (522km)
Surprise Bay (in small surf only) (530km)
South Cape Rivulet (surf with strong southerly wind) (550km)
Cockle Creek (calm) (577km)

If anything these distances are slightly over-estimated when I measured them.  Heading to Maatsuyker Island adds about 30km.  If we did everything on the way it totals about 600km.  As everything depends on the weather I am sure we won't get to go everywhere we want to.