South Coast News [24]

By Nick Gill

From The Tuross Pond

For those interested in the behaviour of costal rivers, Norm Sanders reports that Coila Lake at Tuross has risen after recent heavy rains. However, he reckons another metre is needed for the lake to breach the beach and flow out to sea. An indicatior that all has not been quiet down south is the Norm Sanders visitor index. The index has been high lately with various Canberra paddlers lobbing in,in succession over a three week period. Norm is reported to be recovering well and is back at his desk writing.

For That Inevitable Moment

Those participants in the rescue weekend held over April 8-9 to whom I have spoken say it was time well spent. There was discussion on theory, technique and various rescue options. The weekend was held on Lake Wallagoot, near Tathra, and Saturday was spent mainly on the water practising rescues, and being rescued. On Sunday there was a short ocean paddle.

Food Fests

It seems that the Royal Banquet paddle along the Royal National Park went well. Apart from the food, which was apparently excellent, the event was well organised by Gary Edmond. Attendees report that everybody stayed together, and one told this correspondent that the “hot dogs didn’t go thrashing off into the sunset”. Gary came in for high praise for staying behind the group and making sure all were coping. It was also sugggested that the rating system worked.Everybody came prepared for a grade two paddle and paddled accordingly. As a result the group maintained cohesion and paddlers weren’t left behind.

Further to the food front, some testing of pre-made Asian pastes has been going on. If you are looking for that taste sensation without the effort, many of the curry and other pastes and soups on the market are worth checking out. They are also light and easily packed. My favourite is Laksa, a spicy SE Asian coconut dish. If you carry dried tofu, freeze dried vegetables, powdered coconut milk an dry noodles, you can quickly whip this dish up and not pay a weight penalty in the boat. The ingredients above are all readily available at Asian groceries.

Are We In Divine Company?

There is a strong rumour going around that Mark Pearson of Canberra is a rain god. On three separate occasions lately rain has followed Mark on his paddling trips. This phenomenon has now been obsurved at Tuross with Coila Lake now filling, at Merrica River in Nadgeen Nature Reserve over Easter, and at the Royal National Park during the Royal Banquet weekend paddle. Just be wary when Mark suggests a paddle!

Cliff Surfing

Surfing into cliffs may not be everbody’s cup of tea, but Mark Pearson and I gave it our best shot over Easter in Nadgee Nature Reserve. While I simply tipped myself while still in deep water to avoid a collision. Mark was not so lucky One of the casualties of this encounter was Mark’s paddle. Fortunately we had a couple of spare paddles, and Mark was able to use one of these. So if you are thinking of giving up on that spare paddle that you have been carting around on your deck for years and have never used, think again. Alternatively, if you don’t already have one, you might invest in one.


President’s Report [24]

By David Winkworth

Over the last six months or so there have been a few incidents at sea during club paddles which compel me to comment on our Paddle Grading System and general preparedness of members embarking on club outings.

The club’s Paddle Grading System was developed by Gary Edmond for use by event organisers to “categorise” their particular paddle. It is of course hoped that members of varying paddling ability will then use it to assess the difficulty of the event against their skills and make a decision as to whether or not they are competent enoughto participate in that event.

With me so far? It’s fairly straightforward.

Ok, it is imperative that members are familiar with this grading system and adhere to it. We all know that sooner or late someone will travel 500kms or so to a club paddle rated as a grade 3 only to be told that the grade has gone up to No.5 due to sea and wind conditions.

What should that paddler do?… Retire gracefully, I hope, because it’s important that you know your limits and do not intentionally place your well being in the hands of others when you are clearly “out of your depth”.

So, before going on a club paddle, what about a little research. Get a map of the area, the larger the scale the better. Call the organiser and discuss the paddle. Ask them to give a “worst possible” scenario re the seas and weather. Watch the weather maps leading up to the paddle -call the Bureau of Meteorology recorded weather information. If you have trouble interpreting \’leather patterns, give a fellow member a call- talk to members who may have done this particular paddle.

Next, check your safety gear -you should practise using it in your boat too! You should have a paddling jacket accessible AT ALL TIMES and other warm clothing (Test can you put your paddling jacket and extra clothing on while in your boat in choppy or rough seas … without rafting up? Rafting up may not be an option in some sea conditions).

Do you have a pump? Can you use it and brace too? If you use a bailer, is there room between your legs to bail while seated.

A paddle leash is a must, as it a tow rope of at least 15 metres. Does your tow rope deploy smoothly when you need it. Are your towing points easily accessible?

What about the engine, your body! All the gear in the world is not much good if you run out of steam. Look at the required distance for an advertised paddle. Know your limits! Can you paddle the distance into a headwind? The ocean is a wilderness -it does not suffer fools gladly. At the moment, water temperature in my piece of ocean is around 10 ° C.

Please don’t make other members suffer through having to rescure you because of your bad preparation. Ok, sometimes things happen which even in hindsight are seen to be unavoidable. That’s alright -its why we paddle in groups. I suppose my beef here is that I don’t want the authorities to focus attention on us.

Let’s put our own house in order by getting as many members as skilled as we can. There are members in the club with skills to pass on and only too happy to do it.

Come to ourtraining days, ask questions and practise. Remember, T.I.N.S.F.T.I.Y.B. *)

Our Annual General Meeting for this year, we propose, to be held at the Rock & Roll Weekend at Honeymoon Bay on Saturday 4 November. The reasons are simple: it’s a great place and the Rock and Roll weekend is our biggest yearly gathering. We’ll have some more details on this soon plus advice on setting up your boat for rolling practise. Don’t miss the weekend.

Keep paddling
David Winkworth.

*) There is no substitute for time in your boat.

Equipment [24]

Paddle Preference

By Gary Edmond

Today there just seems to be natural acceptance that to paddle a kayak you use a double paddle with feathered blades. And yet this is neither atural or based on tradition. Many of the hundreds of Inuit kayak designs were actually paddled with single bladed paddles. And, though they developed virtually all the hull shapes we use today as ‘modern’ sea kayaks, the Inuit people didn’t use feathered paddles. And yes it is possible to feather even a traditional ultra thin blade (though the wind cutting advantages would be non-existent).

One of the commonest complaints from paddlers is ‘paddler’s wrist’ – and the most often recommended treatment (particularly when you must continue on the trip) is to use non-feathered blades. Do you paddle with feathered blades or not? Why? Have you tried both?

In his book ‘Complete Folding Kayaker’, Ralph Diaz, says that feathered paddles may have an edge in a foldable boat. Though he does make the point about ensuring the feathering angle is not too great and to engage in stress free paddling.

In his epic ‘Dreamtime Voyage’ around Australia Paul Caffyn used feathered paddles.

I must confess that I use and have used a feathered paddle because that was the only type of paddle handed to me originally. As far as the argument runs, those who advocate unfeathered paddles do so primarily because of relief to the wrists. Though a few reflective paddlers such as Norm Sanders have a teleogical/ontological fustification for their preference: ask him about it sometime. So far I have only experienced serious writst irritation on one occasion, presumably from gripping the paddle too tightly. On my recent paddle across Bass Strait my wrists did ‘twinge’ a few times though I dont know whether that was from the blade orientation or paddling more than 50kms regularly. I’m thinking about having a trial with unfeathered blades as padddlers like Evan Shillabeer and Arunas Pilka seem to have alleviated irritation altogether though such action. If you are comfortable stick with whatever you have.

Can we get any feed back from other club members?

Glennie Islands, Wilsons Promontory [24]

By Rob Jung

I have the good fortune to have friends who are writing and photographing for a forthcoming book about Australian wild islands. (My friends are Alasdair McGregor and Quentin Chester and publishing date of their book is April 96.) During the past six months, I have taken a little time off work to go with them on some of their research trips. Thus in August last year I visited islands off the eastern Northern Territory and in October the Recherche Archipelago near Esperance.The most recent trip was to less remote parts – Great Glennie Island which is off the Western coast of Wilsons Promontory. The way of getting to all these islands has been different, and I was pleased this time to have the chance to use my folding double Klepper sea kayak, Beach Master to get us there.

Glennie Island is a nature reserve, a wildlife sanctuary and in the mainly summer months short tailed shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris) and little penguins (Eudyptula minor) nest there in their many thousands. Consequently the Victorian National Parks service arent too keen on having people visiting at any time, but especially then. However they issued Quentin with the necessary research permit.

Tuesday 27th

We assembled the boat in the afternoon of a perfect beach day, on the main beach at Tidal River. Australians in general know little about folding kayaks (or of their superior seaworthiness compared to plastic boats) and so the assembly of my craft created considerable interest and there was some scepticism about our intentions. One former West Indian resident who passed by knew better. He had seen identical craft used to traverse his island group. I focussed on getting the boat organised, leaving Quentin to answer most of the questions.

We left Norman Bay each late in the afternoon. It was a pleasant time to do the trip which was a leisurely 90 minute paddle into a gentle NE breeze. We landed in a small harbour on Glennie marked good landing on the charts. It would be sheltered under most conditions (faces north), but at high tide when we arrived it was not an ideal place to land in a kayak, since the tiny beach had disappeared. There were some sloping coarse textured granite slabs in the NE corner (only room for one kayak) and so we lifted Beach Master onto these. Fortunately this spot was 50 cm above the high tide mark, so this became her dry dock during our stay.

This was in fact the easiest landing place in the entire group including nearby islands as well – Anser group, Rodondo Is, and Norman Island. In general the islands dont encourage human visitors. They are difficult to move around on (if you care about the wildlife) and they are difficult places on which to find campsites.

Great Glennie Island is covered in tussock grass and granite boulders with slabs on the seaward margins. Only occasionally are there patches of those dense teatree thickets for which the Prom is notorious. The nesting birds have fertilised the islands giving good soils which allow the tussock to flourish, which is again in contrast to the Prom. There is generally no surface water, although we did see water trickling down a granite slab into the sea from the southern end of the island. With such a high bird nesting population, I would be loath to drink it! With the tussock it looks easy to walk around the island, but the spaces in between the tufts of grass are riddled with bird nesting burrows. Walking must be approached carefully, and even then the ground underneath gives way. We always wore gaiters whilst walking around the island. We didnt see any snakes, just a few skinks. On other Bass Strait islands black tiger snakes abound.

It was fortunate that we landed on a balmy evening, as we didnt have to find a sheltered tent site, just somewhere relatively level. We pitched Quentins tent on a sloping granite slab near the waters edge and Beach Masters docking place. This meant that at dusk we had ringside seats to the coming ashore of hundreds of Little Penguins. Because of our presence they were hesitant about moving past at first, but their nesting instincts soon overcame their caution. When we retired they swarmed all around the tent, serenading the night away with their raucous husky voices.

Wednesday 28th

Quentin’s Walkman was ostensibly brought to listen into weather reports, but it was also a source of cricket scores and other important information. The weather reports we obtained were general and not specifically for southern Gippsland, however they told us that a significant cold front was moving through later today. Thus we decided to go for a cruise around our island group before the front arrived. There was a northerly blowing so we had good sailing conditions down the western side of Glennie Island to Citadel Island.

We saw some Cape Barren Geese (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) on Dannevig Island and landed through a kelp bed at the southern end of the island. Typically the geese flew away before they were close enough for a good photo with my 300mm lens. They were generally seen in pairs and there were a number of them on these islands. They eat a lot, and their living places tended to be denuded of vegetation.

We were back on Glennie when the change arrived. Initially it was heralded by a pleasant southerly. I thought at the time, that perhaps we should have sailed down to the Anser Group in the morning and then come back with the southerly! However within a few hours the wind strength became violent, with spray being whipped off the water in large sheets, like spindrift from powder snow. It became imperative to find somewhere else to camp, and with difficulty we found somewhere – on top of a ridge, snuggled in amongst the crevices between granite boulders. These campsites were for one person only. Fortunately we had two tents. We later found out that wind speeds of 110 km/Hr were recorded at Pt Londsdale.

The high campsite had its compensations – it had a superb outlook to Wilsons Prom. In my past life as a Victorian, I had made numerous trips to the Prom, including a partial traverse of its mountain backbone. Quentin hadnt visited before, so it was the perfect place to recount to him some of these past memories. When nightfall came the Shearwaters filled the sky in their thousands. Little Penguins first announced their landfall with soft squeaking sounds before proceeding to follow their foot pads and rock climbing routes to nests in the heights above. Our rocky monuments formed part of their territory and their nightly singing made sleeping difficult.

Friday 30th

The windy weather continued for the next two days but it gradually eased on Friday. In the afternoon we went for a paddle towards the Anser group but the big swell and backwashes convinced us that it was prudent to return early.

Saturday 31st

With another front predicted for the evening, we decided it was a good idea to leave today. We returned via Norman Island, hoping to land there, but at high tide that option wasnt promising. With a NW breeze we sailed most of the way to Pillar Pt before the wind died. Only a short paddle remained to reach Norman Bay beach. To the surprise of some beach sceptics we had returned, in weather as now as tranquil and sunny as it was on the day we left.

We had made a journey to an island, which I would normally not choose to visit.

I enjoyed the experience, but felt glad that few others would feel tempted. I felt that this is one place where other lifeforms are free to go about their affairs without too much disturbance from humans. This was not completely true of course. I was very quickly reminded of this by the story from the National Park rangers when we got back. They told us that there was a large oil spill rapidly drifting east towards the Prom and the islands we had just left.

A Furlough in the Furneaux [24]

By John Stomps

(See another article by Gary Edmond on the same trip)


  • Mike Emery Greenlander Double: Hobart
  • Veronica Sterne Greenlander Double: Hobart
  • Arunas Pilka – Arctic Raider: Canberra
  • Gary Edmond – Pittarak Expedition: Wollongong
  • John Stomps – Iceflow: Melbourne (VSKC)

After some frenzied bursts of activity; packing, buying food and numerous phone calls I was finally on the “Spirit of Tasmania” headed for Devonport and the start of a 23 day paddle through the Furneaux Group of Islands from the northeast corner of Tasmania.

Two of my co-paddlers were apparently on the same boat. I left a message on their cabin door to arrange a meeting. Hovering around the reception area they picked me out of the crowd, luckily not too many others showed up matching my clothing description of “white T shirt and blue shorts”. Seeing their two compact bags made me wonder about my five large bulky bags and if I could shrink them down to a similar size. Luckily, Mike and Veronica had outpacked us all. This was especially reassuring as I figured this would slow them down to my likely cruising speed.

At Little Musselrow Bay my hopes proved short lived. After crashing out through small waves the double cruised on at a very respectable speed. Following much gear jamming I left with my tent, Thermarest, dry bag with food and five days supply of water stored in my cockpit, both bulkheads being crammed full of seakayaking “essentials”.

After a 6km paddle we camped overnight at Swan Island to allow the best timed crossing of Banks Straight. We met the lighthouse settlement inhabitants and stocked up on fresh water before crossing Banks Straight to Moriarty Point on Clark Island. The 18km crossing proved straight forward with just the usual lumps and bumps. Hot weather called for cooling off so out came the diving gear and before long we had a nice feed of cray and abs for dinner. This proved to be a very reliable way of supplementing our diet with a variety of fish on the menu. In fact, such was our success that “fish free” days were declared later in the trip to give the taste buds a rest.

After a relaxed camp at Rebecca Bay we cruised on to Rum and then Preservation Island (so named because of the survival of the crew of the “Sydney Cove”) a heavy sea mist surrounded us once we landed and led us to ponder navigation possibilities in those conditions – luckily we never had to test them

The next day we continued on around the west coast of Cape Barren island and into Thunder and Lightning Bay – an Idyllic spot with a freshwater spring at the northern end and large creek running to the sea at the southern end. We continued on around Cape Sir John to our first encounter with civilisation at Cape Barren Township.

Cape barren has a population made up of descendants from the Tasmanian Aboriginals and early sealers. They ran a small Co-operative store where we hoped to realise our dreams of…eating icecream. After a long trudge up the hot road our hopes were dashed when we saw the store was closed. But we soon found that things aren’t always as they seem in this area when a local made “arrangements” on our behalf and we found the store operating busily behind closed doors – before long we had “heaven on a stick”. On return to the boats we discovered the tide had deserted us and left us with a long trudge out through knee deep mud and muscle beds to relaunch the boats – another lesson in tidal movements!.

Camp was made on long Island and calm hot weather again made for good diving. After spotting some big fat crays we experimented in stretching our arms into rock crevices where they were hiding but discovered after half an hour they were big and fat exactly because they knew how to stay out of arms reach.

Goose Island was the next destination and Beagle and Badger Islands proved interesting stopovers. Throughout the islands we explored many of the small huts owned by the lease holders (often with fresh water tanks) – these were used whilst shearing the resident sheep and maintaining the property. We often found no one home and could only stare longingly at the red wine and other food sitting on the shelf through the window.

Goose is the most isolated island and has an old abandoned lighthouse settlement on the southerly tip. Landing on a small beach we found enough drift wood to build several small houses. A good sized mutton bird rookery lay amongst the dunes which provided some rousing wake up calls around dawn each morning and made sure we caught the maritime weather forecast at 5.55am. It was a short hop from Goose back to Badger but a strong easterly made the going tough.

My heavily laden Icefloe proved more than a handful in these conditions with steerage taking most of my energy. I swore I would fulfil my plans to fit a rudder after the trip. But knowing that every arduous crossing has a golden sandy beach at the end helped me push on. In this case a nice little cove and grassy slope on Mt. Chapel island. It was an island with a fearsome reputation developed over the years by its major inhabitants 3,000 Tiger snakes. They seemed pretty scarce as we set up camp so we presumed the stories unfounded and went diving. With a good fish curry brewing we watched the mutton birds soaring and swooping against the sunset sky. Next day was a good opportunity to explore and we set off to scale the mountain and cross the island. On reaching the summit we saw a small hut and airfield. Working our way through the scrub we walked down and knocked on the door to our surprise someone was home.

In fact it was a man called Terry Schwaner – an American snake researcher – and our introduction to the local tiger snake population. After an afternoon catching and tagging snakes and discussing snake population numbers we decided the stories were probably true and spent most of the trip back to camp staring at the ground in front of our feet.

Prime Seal Island was next in our sights and after a short stop at East Kangaroo Island we turned with the wind and hoisted sails (the double and Iceflow that is) for a breezy 20 km run to the south west tip of the island. Despite its name there were no seals to be seen. The sealers were obviously very thorough and succeeded in wiping out the entire population.

We thought our own population was starting to diminish when we failed to meet up with Gary as arranged. The alarm was short lived as he walked up the beach to the proposed camp site. Never the less, the cray fishermans radio network had already been set abuzz by “Kathleen Maree” for all listeners to be on the lookout for one of the “paddle people” last seen heading north in a white Pitarak.

The next day we awoke to grey skies and lumpy seas – what I envisaged to be ideal rest day conditions – Unsure of what to do we walked across the island to the farm settlement catching glimpses of paddymelons along the way and odd feral peacocks. A quick chat to Craig on board “Kathleen Maree” via Mikes UHF confirmed the weather would continue.

Back at camp we reassessed the seas and decided to press on. After experiencing steerage problems Mike and Veronica “kindly” offered me a tow. But I soon realised this was not going to be the easy way out I had hoped for, instead I became the “human slingshot” being catapulted forward by the double on the breaking swells. After 10-15mins the fun started to wear off as I realised my low support stroke was getting weaker and we had only covered a fraction of the crossing. Luck was on myside and the tow line snapped as a large wave passed. I turned and surfed with the swell happy to be independent again. The crayfisherman turned and raised their stubbies to us as they passed – not at all anxious to trade places. In the lee of the Pascoe chain of islands we had respite from the wind and headed for Flinders Island mainland. After some coastal contouring we landed at Boat Harbour Bay.

Camp sites proved scarce along the sand as threatening clouds loomed overhead. However, the fickle finger of fate was on our side. In this case a kind offer to stay in a vacant holiday flat. Hot showers washed off our newly acquired “tans” and comfortable chairs made us appreciate what relaxing was all about.

Next morning was back to reality as we paddled to Killiecrankie in a stiff head wind. Knowing it had a shop gave us the extra will power to push on. Before long we were rewarded with icecreams, chocolate and fresh bread. This was a welcome change from the standard vita wheats with peanut butter and cheese.

After the feast it was a short trip across the bay to a pristine campsite at Stackies Bight. Sheltered from all sides we weathered a storm for the next 3 days. Mike and Veronica’s tent became the “community hall” hosting card games, strategy meetings, etc. A trip to the summit of Mt Killiecrankie showed us exactly how low rain clouds really do go, and our boats discovered how much sand they could collect in a blow. It was however, a good rest and maintaining a more permanent camp provided two hours extra leisure time each day.

The weather had washed away plans to paddle the north coast to the Sisters islands. So the return journey began the next day with a hop to Settlement Point. (It was here a disastrous attempt was made to re locate Tasmania’s last aboriginals inthe 1880’s.) But like old nags heading back to the stable our nostrils flared at the scent of the bakery and pub in Whitemark (the “big smoke” of Flinders Island) which we reached the next day in very respectable time. Thankfully the pub’s dress codes weren’t too strict and I slipped through with my thermals thongs and board shorts unnoticed. We stayed until sunset so we could sneak back and camp on the main beach.

In the morning we awoke to find the supply ship “Lady Jillian” unloading on the dock nearby. We quickly packed up our camp to avoid being so conspicuous. Another trip to the bakery gave us the luxury of fresh bread for the next day or so and a good “carbo loading”. On our way we stopped at Big Green Island and inspected the settlement. Finally we stopped at Trousers Point in Strzelecki National park. Here we dedicated the rest of the day to sleeping, something we were becoming relatively good at. We made the summit of Mt Strzelecki the next day but found low cloud swamping our views again. The afternoon was again dedicated to sleeping.

Franklin Sound was next in our sights, our slow progress confirmed its reputation for strong currents and big tides. A rest on Tin Kettle Island recharged the batteries and we cruised onto Little Dog Island. As we approached a lady on shore waved us over. Before long we were sitting down to cups of tea and cake as Celia (mother of a family staying on the island) told us what we were doing was “just wonderful”. Afterwards it was a short paddle to Great Dog Island. Here we camped in front of an old settlement and made preparations for a night out on the town at the Furneaux Tavern in Lady Barron township. After a pleasant 3km paddle we wasted no time in looking over the menu and our meals were “wolfed” down in record time as they arrived but, some how it never seemed quite enough.

Luckily it was “happy hour” and potato wedges, party pies and sausage rolls poured out by the platter full. Some subtly was required in “carbo loading” on snack foods neatly laid out to cater for 50-60 people. But by circulating between the platters and retiring to our table for short rests we had a very “happy hour” indeed. Our return paddle proved interesting as we headed off in fading light. An informal race ensued between myself, Arunas and Gary so we reached Great Dog Island in record time except it was the wrong bay!!! A fairly hectic search followed and we found our camp 2km further north.

Next morning we made the short crossing to Vansitart Island where a large cargo ship (the “Farsund”) lies wrecked off the coast. Cape Barren Island lay a short distance away across the channel. To paddle south around the exposed east coast or back around the west became the point of contention as conditions became unsettled. We solved the problem by splitting into two groups. Mike, Veronica and myself headed west as Gary and Arunas headed east. West proved fast and relaxing as we sailed around Cape Sir John with a following sea. Gary and Arunas found what they were looking for, challenging conditions plus a sea mist to match. After a pleasant camp on Preservation Island and Gary and Arunas on Cape Barren we met the next day at Rebecca Bay on Clark Island. Only Banks Straight lay between us and the end of the trip so we made sure to squeeze in one last fish dinner. A strong south westerly greeted us the next day, big white rollers covered the main channel and gave us another rest day.

A radical change in weather brought perfect conditions in the morning and we made good progress across the straight but persistent westerly currents swept us almost 6km off course forcing us to change course almost directly east on a slight ferry glide. Finally, we made Little Swan island. We stopped to look over a pelican rookery and then made the last hop to the mainland. An exiting finish was made by shooting up the tidal rapids of the inlet at Little Musselroe Bay.

Furneaux [24]

By Gary Edmond

(See another article by John Stomps on the same trip)

It was a dark and stormy night.

Recently our entire club received an invitation from the Tasmanian Sea Canoe Club’s Commodore (the venerable Mike Emery, not to be confused with Laurie Ford of the Maatsyker Canoe Club,) to participate in a combined clubs paddle to the Furneaux Group, namely around Flinders Is. With due haste this notification was passed on to various members, the info-line and published in the following edition of the NSW Sea Kayaker. Despite interest from a number of people, the knowledge that Arunas Pilka and Gary Edmond counted themselves as ambassadors of the first order seemed to dissuade those initially enthusiastic. Obviously a month’s leave at short notice precludes many worthy potential paddlers, not just those from our own club. Access to the ferry and the logistics of transport both to Melbourne and then from Davenport to Little Musselroe Bay made the organisation formidable. Fortunately much of this was alleviated by the generous and facilitative nature of the inestimable Commodore Emery.

Gary arrived in Canberra on Friday, via a lift from his generous friend Sol Mendes, alias Goncalves. After some last minute purchases Arunas and Gary set off for Melbourne on Sunday, January 8. After a night of semi sober revelry in Eltham, where Arunas had arranged to store his car, we were dropped at the wharf. After some initial disquiet concerning the transportation of our kayaks we were glad to discover that they were safely catered for on board the yellow baggage trolley for the nominal fee of $25. The Bass Strait crossing was uneventful and Arunas commented that Lake Burley Griffin was often rougher than the Strait. We met the only other mainlander to make the trip, John “Romper Stomper” Stomps, in the ship’s bar that night.

Veronica and Mike watch a cray boat check its pots

When the ship docked in the morning we were dutifully met by the vigilant Commodore Emery and his crew the fair Veronica Steane, (not to be confused with Veronica Emery). After loading our gear and boats we headed straight to Little Musselroe Bay. The drive across north-eastern Tasmania provided our first insight into the paddling ensemble for the coming month. At Little Musselroe Gary loaded his reworked Pittarak expeditioner, Arunas delicately caressed his still virgin and incomplete Arctic Raider, John proudly displayed his ancient and almost sea-worthy ex-Frank Bakker Iceflow whilst the august Commodore Emery and sybaritic Veronica loaded all their worldly possessions into their ex-US Navy aircraft carrier, “Greenlander Double”. We spent a couple of moments on the beach as we waited for the resin in some of Frank’s repairs – from a number of years earlier, to harden. After a couple of hours of packing they reached a jelly-like consistency so we set off to spend our first night on Swan Is. about 5km offs

We had all heard of Bank Strait’s fearsome reputation: these included local accounts of up to 5 knot tides and standing waves up to 20ft high occasionally breaking when very strong winds worked against the swift tidal currents. In the morning we paddled around to the Swan lighthouse where we were hospitably met by the Island’s lessees who operate a small scale holiday retreat – real isolation. The sage-like Commodore, who had circumnavigated Flinders Is some 15 years earlier, demonstrated considerable respect for the 18km crossing. After careful consultation and checking of tide times and ranges, charts, bearings, astral projections and bio-rhythms we set off on our crossing. It proved uneventful due to ideal weather conditions.

After 2.5 hours under a warm sun we arrived at South Head on the southern tip of Clarke Is. The water was very clear and not very cold so we went for the first of our many dives. Within an hour we had enough crayfish and abalone for our modest appetites. We paddled on to picturesque Rebecca Bay where we camped and dined in surrounds which surpassed our cuisine. A pattern repeated for much of the 21 days.

John Stomps rounds Cape Frankland

The next day we headed to Preservation Is., site of the wreck of the “Sydney Cove” with its cargo of rum, then to Cape Barren and Long Islands. It should be noted that the inhabitants of Cape Barren have developed there own system of mathematics which they employ at their only store, the food co-op – be warned. We landed on Beagle and Badger Islands staying on the more remote Goose Is. From Goose we headed to Mt Chappel Is, supposedly dreaded home of the most concentrated tiger snake population in the world.

After an overcast day spent walking around the island and up its two hills, we eventually stumbled upon Terry Schwaner, herpetologist (snake-man). Terry’s initial reaction was one of amazement. Not at our presence, but at the fact that Arunas and Gary were wearing Tevas (sandals) whilst walking through the often dense scrubby growth in which the mutton-birds and tiger snakes were to be found. Before we met Terry the group was wondering if the apparently exaggerated claims about the snake population were merely stories. After we met Terry Arunas and Gary were looking for a piggy-back. Terry spent hours talking about snakes, snake bite victims, fools in sandals and the fine biological balance maintained on this unique island. He demonstrated his technique of catching and tagging the snakes and of determining what they had eaten by forcing the bulges in the bodies out of their mouth before sliding them back along the length of the snake.

After two nights on Mt Chappel Is. we headed to East Kangaroo Is. then on to Prime Seal Is. On the way a tail wind spread the group considerably. Gary got ahead and eventually paddled the eastern side of the island whilst the others paddled the western side. After some initial concern we met up again late that afternoon. The days remained warm and sunny. Paddling north we passed numerous cray boats and islands. We hit Flinders Is. for the first time expecting to camp on a beach but were hospitably put-up by Pat and Roo Blythe. They provided accommodation, water, good company, and, most notably, a warm shower. After an entertaining and informative night we continued our paddle to Killiecrankie. This was to be our furthermost port. We had intended to reach the Outer Sister Is. but two days of very bad weather changed this plan. It might also have been due to apathy, or contentedness. Killiecrankie had a shop with ice creams and chocolate and weather reports so we spent our days out of the rain or walking the local mountains or the route to the shop.

Tasmanians and Victorians at home under sail

Being always conscious of our return trip and the need to have a number of spare days to burn for the return crossing over Banks Strait we decided to head south along the western coast of Flinders Island. We paddled south to the tragic site of a nineteenth century Aboriginal settlement. Wybeleena had been the site of the attempted deportation of, what was then beleived to be, the last Tasmanian Aboriginals. The site of the buildings, chapel and graveyard appeared to offer a very interesting historical perspective. It was a picturesque location which must have hidden the great tragedy inflicted upon the relatively small group who were forcibly transported there. Eventually the very few survivors were returned to mainland Tasmania. As for the cemetery, it boasted only European graves, with the exception of a recent monument in dedication to the scores of unnamed Aboriginal people who perished.

Our next port of call was the largest city on Flinders Is., Whitemark. It is a small town on a very shallow bay. Get the tides right or walk your boat! Whitemark allowed reprovisioning from its bakery and hotel. South of Whitemark we camped at Trouser Point. So named because either a box of trousers once washed ashore or a survivor of a local shipwreck ran ashore without any. We dived and swam in the intense heat and the following day ascended Mt Strezlecki, the highest landform on the island. The strenuous walk was rewarded with showers and mist.

We decided to take an alternative course back to Rebecca Bay so we entered Franklin Sound and ran its currents to Great Dog Island. A night paddle led us across to the Lady Barron Pub for some dinner. Fortunately happy hour co-incided with our arbitrary visit. Returning to our camp at night across the 2-3 knot tide proved less challenging to those who had imbibed. Even if you are inebriated, trust your own sense of navigation. During the night Gary’s therma-rest was punctured. He recommends Gaffa tape for longer trips.

Arunas passing the granite boulders of Long Island

The channels between the islands were open to substantial tidal movements. Heading to the wreck of the “Farsund” on the sand shoals off Vansitart Is. we were paddling currents and eddies which resembled mild white water. The “Farsund” an early insurance job, was guarded by some large waves. It was too rough to board, but it cut a haunting image on a rather bleak day in the breaking waves.

Bad weather again forced us into our tents to re-read our various materials. Royal Commissions get boring after a while, and chocolate only lasts so long when its your easiest escape. Arunas and Gary decided that for the return trip to Rebecca Bay they would part company with the others and paddle the more challenging east coast. So into a mild wind and a large ground swell Arunas and I left the camp whilst the others waited to catch the incoming tide and rising wind, which eventually took them back down a serene west coast in very good time.

From Vansitart Is. there are sand shoals extending kilometres and producing an extensive series of breaking waves. Added to the 2-3m swell occasionally breaking over a kilometre out to sea, was a drifting sea mist, rain and an on shore wind pushing us into the break-zone. We paddled about 1km offshore but occasionally had to go much further out to detour around reefs. It wasn’t time to be running gauntlets. We had had our share of action with the occasional steeper swell breaking. At one stage Arunas was capsized but much to the relief of Gary and himself was upright almost instantaneously. The paddling was consistent but demanding. As we rounded Cape Barren we could see the waves standing up and some very rough water as wind met tide. We paddled around the Cape timorously but soon discovered that the water movement looked much worse than it was. it was entertaining being thrown around in large swell which didn’t break. It occasionally pushed the whole boat underwater up to our armpits!

Rounding the Cape we put in to a tranquil bay and ate and rested until the tide turned. We rode the tide and wind making the next 14km in an hour. When we arrived at the dreaded Sea Lion Narrows which has a reputed flow of up to 12 knots we observed very unusual water movements. There were dead flat areas next to 1-2m clapotis and large swirling whirlpools. This was shortly after the tide had turned. We camped on Forsyth Is. and the next day met up with the others at the bottom of Clarke Is.

We waited for two days on Clark before we had weather amenable to all the paddlers. We set off and slightly misjudged our speed and the tide forcing a demanding paddle for an hour or so to maintain some vestige of our course. We rested on Little Swan Is. and observed the young pelicans being raised there.

With the mainland only 5 km away we paddled with great relish. We arrived into the estuary at Little Musselroe against the tide and slowly paddled up to the boat ramp. The slow process of unpacking, and the journey back began as our paddling adventure closed. We had had over three weeks of exploring the islands and each other: an experience for which everyone felt much richer.

It would be inappropriate to conclude without sharing some reflections on group interactions on longer trips. We suggest that where the group consists of competent paddlers they should utilise some negotiation strategy once the broader aims have been determined. Honesty and accommodation are the most useful elements to reaching some acceptable consensus. Employing such strategies allows a good deal of diversity and enjoyment. Also don’t be too concerned about breaking the group up on occasions to maximise various paddlers’ adventure and satisfaction.

Finally, we thank the Tasmanian Sea Canoeing Club for their great company, hospitality and friendship. They are great people and any members down that way should not refrain from saying G’day.

Fact Box
Boat: Greenlander Double, Iceflow, Arctic Raider, Pittarak
Paddles: Assorted, 3 spare
Stove: Trangias, 2l fuel each
Water: on average 8L, sometimes 12. John – 27L?
Travel: Tasmania – ferry; Little Musselroe – friends

Flotsam and Jetsam [24]

Dear Sir,

I would like to express outrage at the article ‘Waiting for Godot’ published in the March issue of this august publication. On finishing the article, I was aghast by the realisation that it contained only three words that I had not seen in print before. Mr Edmond’s previous article, the epic ‘Sinking of the Estuary Plus’, contained no less than 27 words either unknown to me or impossible to pronounce. World class writing indeed! Whilst I concede that ‘Estuary Plus’ set an impossibly high standard, the sudden 89% reduction in exciting new words with ‘Godot’ is simply not acceptable. What’s even more galling is, despite the simple prose, I remain bewildered as to the actual point of the article!

How can the kayaking fraternity hope to improve it’s collective vocabulary with this meagre offering. Come on Mr Edmond, lift your game!

Yours perapetaciously
Mark Pearson