Heading to Hogan

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Weather forecast

Leaving Refuge Cove, I’m feeling excited, which is a surprise after yesterday morning’s apprehension.  Here we are, about to strike out on our first crossing!

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Setting out from Refuge Cove

The rain has stopped, the sun is almost shining through the clouds, the winds have dropped  and the forecast is looking pretty good – hah!  However due to an American who strode loudly through the campsite demanding to know what time the sun would be rising in the morning, Harry was distracted and missed the crucial part of today’s forecast.

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Under sail; alert but not alarmed

Within two hours I spot low-lying Hogan Island.  There’s never a sense of being “out there” with the bulk of Wilsons Prom behind us, coastal Victoria to our north and various islands dotted to our south.  The clouds have cleared, the sun is shining, the wind has picked up, and continues to do so.  We’re sailing, I’m focussed, in that “alert but not alarmed” focus that decent seas and a quartering tailwind demand.

Every 15-20 minutes I’m scanning the horizon, Mike’s words of advice sounding in my ears.  This is a busy shipping lane.  I’ve got the app related to the Marine Traffic website on my phone but that ain’t much good stowed in my day hatch.  All focus is on paddling and sailing.  As we close in on Hogan I’m getting that feeling that we’re moving but going nowhere.  The wind waves stand up steeper as they hit the tidal flows.  Still, the Twin Islets seem to be evading me.  Eventually we close in – and hit flat waters.

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Calmer waters

Blue sky, incredible scenery, I cry.  Due to relief from the sea state?  Or thrill at making Hogan?  Or the sheer, stunning presence of this place?

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Approaching Hogan

We land and joyfully commence the unpacking routine, interrupting it for whoops of joy, skinny dips, food breaks and photo ops.

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The remains of the Hogan Hut

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Looking back to the Prom and the Australian mainland

Taking in Hogan

Taking in Hogan

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Tomorrow’s destination – the Kent Group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later, I know I should sleep, there’s yet another big day tomorrow but I don’t want to let the day end.  Harry works and plots inside the tent while I sit outside, breathing, chasing away the persistent rat, adding to the calculations, breathing, smiling.

 

Refuge Cove to Hogan Island

Refuge Cove to Hogan Island

First crossing: to Hogan

First crossing: to Hogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Day 2

Paddling Day 2

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Distance covered: 52km

Launched: 8.00am

Landed: 3.45pm

“Fortune favours the brave”

Monday 23 December 2013

forecastI am well-armed: I have a special talisman, given to me by the friend with whom I had always planned to cross Bass Strait, I have a sackful of well-wishes gifted from those few friends in whom I had quietly confided, and I have Dutch courage, found in my whiskey bottle.  I gather all these resources and launch.

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Ready, set, go

We head down the channel, working from marker to marker, into the headwind under leaden skies.  We turn and even sail out of Corner Inlet.  We stop for a food and pee break.  With the next three day’s kayaking having no possible landings, we choose to use them today.

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First leg stretch

It is cold, it is exhilarating, we are underway.  An emu keeps pace along the shore, us in the shallows.  The sun occasionally breaks through.  I’m doing it!

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Second off-water break

Rabbit Island, the water starts to get bouncy with tidal flows.  Now the wind is getting serious.  The bulk of the Prom no longer provides protection.  I’m paddling my little heart out.  Passed Three Mile Beach.  Next up, Five Mile Beach,  that’s Eight Kilometre Beach.  Even moving at 4 kmph, that’s two hours.  But I’m not moving four kph, it’s less.  Two hours plus.  Okay, is it wise to continue?  To use up all my energy today?  Isn’t this just a romp down the coast of the Prom, with tomorrow being the BIG day?  Should I suggest we land and set up camp?  We edge closer in, gaining a tad more shelter from the headwind.  It’s a slog, Five Mile Beach.   The GPS later tells us we’re travelling between 2 and 3 kmph.  Somehow we arrive at the end, back to cliffline and some shelter.  Okay, just keep on paddling.

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Heading towards Rabbit Island, and the tough stuff

Sealers Cove and bullets of wind blast off the landscape and straight out to sea.  Harry’s experience tells him we’re in at least 30 knots of wind.  After that hairy experience we edge slowly into Refuge Cove.  It lives up to its name, no nasty surprises here, just calm and shelter.

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Refuge sought and found

And so begins the routine: land, unpack, set up camp, gather weather data for tomorrow, consider and plan, eat, sleep.

Port Welshpool to Refuge Cove

Hugging the coast

Hugging the coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing Bass Strait

Trip Day 1

Paddling Day 1

Monday 23 December 2013

Launched: 6.40am

Landed: 4.30pm

Distance: 44km

Refuge Cove boaters campsite

Boat crews leave their mark at Refuge Cove boaters’ campsite

Trust

Kayaks resting

Ready for Bass Strait

That’s what it’s about, trust.  Look at those two kayaks, leaning against the cabin.  I mean, really?  They’re going to be up for Bass Strait? Look at them, two bits of fibreglass, just over ten years old each of them, and we’re going to take them onto some of the most treacherous waters off the Australian coastline?  Yep, we did meet a few who questioned us, yet they only hear of Bass Strait when things go wrong.  We both trusted our sea kayaks and each other.

Trust me

Trust me

Always thought that when I’d be crossing Bass Strait I’d be mega-prepared.  You know, every t crossed and every i dotted.  I’d be super-skilled and super-set.  But here I was, day before departure and my first practice pack.  It was my need to show Harry that he could trust me that made me finally get it done.  It’s scary, wondering, then checking that it all fits.  This makes it real, removes another layer of surreality that hovers.  Harry was spending the day in the car, shuffling it to Melbourne.  I’d best show I was ready.

Time to prove it fits

Time to prove it fits

It fitted.  I wandered off to the cafe in the general store at Port Welshpool.  Harry returned.  So unready was I that this is the first time my new Skwoosh gel pad gets fitted in the kayak seat.  Yep, I’m about to hit Bass Strait and I don’t even know if my seat is comfortable enough for those big crossings.  And if it wasn’t, I’d be seriously hurting and causing problems for us both.

Last minute fit-outs

Last minute fit-outs

With a strong wind forecast for D-day, I put my faith and trust in Harry, despite all my inner qualms.  We were far from our usual Sydney waters with ready access to comms and rescue, the water was colder, the stakes were higher.  Even as we moved our gear from cabin to beach and loaded the kayaks, it took trust in my paddling partner for me to set aside my doubt and go for it.

Small and scared

Small and scared

 

Bass Strait – the statistics

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Two kayakers: Dee and Harry

Kayaks: Dee – Mirage 530; Harry – Mirage 580; both kayaks fitted with sails

Monday 23 December, 2013: launched Port Welshpool, Victoria

Thursday 16 January, 2014: landed Devonport, Tasmania

Total trip days: 25

Total paddling days: 13

Distance covered: 505km

Shortest paddling day: 11km

Longest paddling day: 66km

Route taken:

Port Welshpool – Refuge Cove, Wilsons Prom – Hogan Island – Winter Cove, Deal Island – Killiecrankie, Flinders Island – Trousers Point, Flinders Island – Cape Barren Island – Spike Cove, Clarke Island – Waterhouse Island – Bridport, Tasmania – Weymouth – Tamar River mouth – Narawntapu National Park – Devonport