In The Bag

Friday 10, Saturday 11 January 2014

We start slowly, the weather couldn’t be more perfect, the distance a mere 30km.  Retracing our steps back to the kayaks, we laugh as we load.

This is IT… the day we “cross” Bass Strait, our time to land on the mainland of Tasmania.

Our launch spot couldn’t be more heaven-sent, such a pristine place.  We follow the lines of the island for as long as we can, once we leave it there is little until we reach our destination, Bridport.  Wide open blue sky, flat wide blue sea – this is Bass Strait in another mood.  We spy a kayak and divert to have a chat with a local kayaker out on a fishing trip for the day.  I insist on a silly photo and video shoot, just to prove that Bass Strait isn’t all about life-threatening waves and intimidating winds.

The Furneaux Explorer tracks slighter closer to us to check us out as she heads to her home port of Bridport.

With such you-beaut conditions we head directly across Anderson Bay to Bridport, a long dune-backed beach to our left, Bass Strait shining to our right.  Finally, the gap closes and I spend those last ten kilometres reflecting on the past few weeks: the crossings, the challenges, the discoveries.  It has been quite an adventure.

We reach the busy beaches of Bridport and cruise along, hoping to find one without too many holiday-goers.  We choose one, luckily it turns out to be the beach closest to our contact’s home.

Driving the bow onto the wet sands, I cheer – Bass Strait crossed.

Bass Strait - crossed!

Bass Strait – crossed!

Jeff finds us, gathers us up along with all our gear, brings us to his home, shows us the hose and the clothesline, leaves us to unpack, sort and clean while he orders pizza and opens a bottle of chilled white – this is a man who truly knows sea kayakers and their needs!  Not surprising this, given Jeff is a Tasmanian sea kayaking legend who combines his love of photography with the ability to reach some remote and stunning locations.

We take a rest day with Jeff and are treated to a tour of north-east Tasmania – a local art gallery-cafe, a scenic lavender farm and the local club.

Waterhouse Island to Bridport

Waterhouse Island to Bridport

Paddling 30km to Bridport

Paddling 30km to Bridport

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Days 18 & 19

Paddling Day 8

Friday 10 January 2014

Distance covered: 30km

Launched:

Landed:

Rest day: Saturday 11 January 2014

Westward Ho!

Thursday 9 January 2014

From Clarke most sea kayakers cross the notorious currents of Banks Strait, finishing at Little Musselroe Bay in remote north-east Tasmania.  We had set Devonport as our goal.  Despite the extended stay on Flinders, we still had plenty of time to head that direction.  Instead of coming out of Spike Cove and continuing south, we pointed our bows to the west and took aim for an island 50km away.

Madness!

I did consider this plan totally daft.  Why volunteer for yet another long open water crossing with no possible landing when we could reach Tasmania in half that distance?  There’s no logical answer to this, other than it was there, and we could do it.  Weather conditions allowed it, we had sought and received permission to land on the island ahead, and personally, I knew I was up for it.  After everything I had already done, I was confident in my ability to sit in the kayak seat for a 50km crossing.

Calculations had determined that 11 o’clock was the best time to depart, the tide turning our way.  Yet we were ready and eager to leave by 10 o’clock so off we set.  The GPS reveals a slight bow in our path, caused by the tides sucking us back in the wrong direction.  It didn’t matter, the winds were blowing from behind and we let loose our sails.  The waters of Banks Strait proved an interesting place to kayak, occasional tidal races appearing with white caps offering more challenging moments.

There’s not a lot to see out there.  The wind farms on Cape Portland provided a marker against which to note our passage, then the land disappears further into Ringarooma Bay and we continue, ever onwards until we arrive on the only beach on the island.  Harry strips all off and dives into the wind-blown waves in a mad moment of delight while I wander looking for a campsite, observing the resident Cape Barren geese.

This place is a special slice of heaven and we are most grateful to the owner for sharing it with us.

Clarke to Waterhouse

Onwards from Clarke Island

Onwards from Clarke Island

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Day 17

Paddling Day 7

Thursday 9 January 2014

Distance covered:

Launched:

Landed:

Island-hopping

Wednesday 8 January 2014

This was a short day, yet nonetheless it seemed to bring a range of paddling challenges.  Crossing from Cape Barren towards Preservation Island and then crossing to Clarke Island meant we would encounter a number of tidal flows and needed to be aware of which way the tides where headed.

There were serene sections passing by sculptural rocks; there were challenging sections where the white waters could have been due to reefs or to tidal flows and we had to work out which as we moved closer.  There was a tidal flow off the south-west of Preservation that brought me back to my experience in the Gulf of Corryvrecken (Scotland) and finally there were the lichen-coated majestic rocky shores of Clarke Island and the calm waters of  Spike Cove.

With hindsight, I wished we’d planned the day differently and actually landed on Preservation Island and had a closer look at Rum Island.  Having read more of Matthew Flinders’ adventures in this area, and the tale of the wreck of the Sydney Cove, walking the sand and land of these places would have been a special treat.

A sunny afternoon in Spike Cove allowed for wandering and rambling, limited by the dense bush which, despite its low height, proved quite impenetrable.

Cape Barren Island to Clarke Island

Cape Barren Island to Clarke Island

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Day 17

Paddling Day 7

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Distance covered:

Launched:

Landed:

 

Onwards

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Donning all my paddling gear for the first time in six days brought mixed emotions… joy to be moving along again, some nerves at what lay ahead.  The winds eased as predicted and by late morning, with the tides turning in our favour, we took off.  Cape Barren Island loomed large, much larger than I’d imagined it.  We took a brief stop on Long Island before skirting around the north-eastern corner at Cape Sir John.  The high tides helped get us over the reefs and into Thunder and Lightning Bay.

What a place!  After a week in the relative civilisation of Flinders, here we were, back in the wilderness and alone.  No infrastructure, no water tanks, no roads or tracks.  Just us in a glorious place with a sunset.

Trousers Point to Cape Barren Island

Trousers Point to Cape Barren Island

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Day 16

Paddling Day 6

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Distance covered:

Launched:

Landed:

Stranded

Thursday 2 – Monday 6 January 2014

Following our dash down the coast of Flinders we knew we’d be yet again land-bound for a number of days.  What to do?  Well, the first day was easy.  With a tab on the bar at the tavern in Whitemark we headed there, walking and then hitching a lift into town.

Flinders sits on 40 degrees south, the roaring forties.  Standing on the Whitemark jetty, we looked out into Bass Strait, leaned forward and were kept upright by the winds.  Having galeforce winds blowing straight at me – this was a joyful and somehow hilarious experience.  A truly ‘living in the now’ moment.

After a quick squiz at the well-stocked IGA supermarket we strolled into the Interstate Hotel for lunch.  Thanks to our very generous friends we enjoyed having lunch cooked and served up to us, going the whole hog and relishing our sticky date pudding on their funds.  Naturally, this was all washed down by a bottle of fine Tasmanian chardonnay.  We were a rather happy pair when we sat back in the chairs, sated.  Out came our maps, charts, compasses and other gadgets.  The very pleasant dining room was the perfect spot to plan our next moves on the water, whenever the winds abated.

Second day, well that decision was easy too… naturally we had to climb Mt. Strzelecki.  With much debate amongst sea kayakers about the two types of paddlers who cross Bass Strait, those who climb Mt. Strzelecki and those who don’t, we were fortunate enough to join the former group.  It’s a few kilometres walk from the Trousers Point campsite (towards Whitemark) to reach the start of the trail.  Once off the road, the trail goes up, up and up, and then up some more.  Through beautiful forests and flowerbeds we hiked until we entered the cloudzone and could no longer see wonderful coastal views.  Once at the top, the mists blew round, toying with us, giving and taking away the views to sea and the islands, and inland to deeper mountain terrain.

Inside the cloudroll of Mount Strzelecki

Inside the cloudroll of Mount Strzelecki

With the winds still howling in from the west, what else could be done?  As odd as it felt, we hired a car for two days.  Moving from our kayak-based journey to car-based travel took some mental readjustment.  We loved the car, and how it allowed us the opportunity to traverse this magnificent place.  Exploring the south, middle and north-east, we saw much of Flinders Island, met many open and friendly people and vowed to return.

The servo in Whitemark is one of those old-fashioned servos: providing service.  Harry stood in the sideways-pelting rain and filled the tank; the servo guy stood next to me under the patch of shelter, shrugged his shoulders, “No point us all getting wet,” he commented as Harry did his job.

With one final day of slowly decreasing winds we made ready to get on the move.

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Days 11-15

Thursday 2-6 January 2014

Distance covered: 20km (on foot); quite a few (in the car)