There is so much of Tasmania that I had never ventured into before. With no expectations of the South and South West Coast, we were itching to find out whats hiding down there, to disappear out of phone reception, off the grid. This may be as close as I will possibly ever get to an untouched wilderness.
Lets start with the journey there. The D’ Entrecasteaux Channel, a well known body of water for sailing. The region between Bruny Island and the South East of the mainland of Tasmania. It extends between the estuaries of the Derwent and the Huon Rivers. A popular area for sailing, with its sheltered waters, wide span and of plenty depth. A reasonably busy water way for Tassie, with fishing boats, charter boats and yacht owners zipping around. Definitely a destination I want to spend more time sailing around. With lots of interesting little towns along the Channel to visit and bays around Bruny to explore. I can see why this is a popular spot for yachties. We had some awesome sailing conditions for tacking all over the Channel and chasing wind shifts.
In search of surf, after enough time spent on the wharf in Hobart we head down South and find a unique isolated surf break. We are able to anchor in the shelter of Surprise bay. While the boys surf I enjoy some time ashore walking the beach and part of the South coast track. I feel very privileged to be able to be dropped ashore and walk on the beach that others have to spend days of treking to get to. The South Coast Track is a 94 kilometer walk over two mountain ranges in one of the most isolated and inaccessible places on the planet. Here I am; no heavy hiking pack, just had a cooked lunch on the BBQ and showered last night, the boys are surfing... pinching myself again! I walked over Shoe Makers point and from the top was an incredible view over looking Surprise Bay. The aggressive, rugged rocks setting a very dramatic back drop for some footage of the boys getting some South Coast waves. After a perfect summers day, and now the breeze dropping out as the sun goes down there is still a warmth in the air. Its a good evening to sit on the nets with some tunes good company and some pirate rum watching the South Coast sunset. We can see some South Coast Track hikers walking along the beach, probably trying to get to the camp site to set up for the night before the sun goes down.
With just a taste of whats to come as we sail further South, we head back north to get Roam out of the water for a good look over and few boat jobs. Making the most of our surroundings at all times.. there is a rock climb close to Margate that rock climbing guru Andy knows of. We manage to fit in a fun climb and an epic ride up and down the north south track on Mount wellington. With Roam's fresh coat of anti foul and provisions stocked up we are excited to get around the bottom of Tassie.
Adventure into the godforsaken wild yet stunningly Picturesque SOUTH WEST COAST of Tasmanmia
TUESDAY – After anchoring the night in adventure bay Bruny Island we make our move...
3 in morning, sailed West for Spain Bay. Heading south into south Westerly wind and swells building up to 6 metres. I made the mistake of staying in bed at 3 am when the captain said… “you can get some sleep, Andrew and I have got this”. Lying in bed, I was rocked and rolled around as we launched out the swell. Kwells ( sea sick tablets) have since been banned for me….. Just simply sending me into a sleepy state. I was feeling a little rattled when I got up at about 6 am so I thought I would try a sea sick tablet. I am not one to take any sort of medication and it turns out the antihistamine in sea sickness tablets sends me to sleep. The scenery along the South coast is just incredible. As we approached Maatsyker Island the sun came out. The light beaming down onto Maatsyker and the surrounding jagged rocky islands, the greenery and colours of the rocks presenting us with an impressive view. There is a lot of bird life, albatross and sheer water’s busy working the waters. Watching the albatross gliding in the wind drafts and disappearing in between the big stretched out swell, gave perspective to the size of the 6 meter sea's. After being on the move since early hours of the morning we arrive in Spain Bay at around 7 pm. With the wind gone we motor the last few miles. Mick hates motoring but we still managed 115Nm in the day.
We Enter Port Davey, An isolated oceanic inlet located in the South West of Tasmania.
Until a Ecological and hydrological survey was conducted in 1988-1989, very little was know about the Port Davey/Bathurst Harbour estuary. Tucked in behind the Breaksea Islands and surrounded by mountains, when looking in toward the coast line from the southern ocean you would never of thought such a place existed. The biggest estuary in Southern Australia with no road access and without significant human impact. A secluded sanctuary.
We drop the anchor at Whalers Point in the Port Davey a magic spot. Mick and Andy take the tender to have a dive, finding a patch of abalone. I explored the shore and caves. The sun is out, with barely a cloud in the sky it sure doesn't feel like we are far South on this day. Warm enough for the cool water to be inviting we jump in for a swim. I could easily spend all day exploring this spot.
Happy with Mick's catch we pull up anchor and sail up the Bathurst Channel. Running out of wind and pushing against current we literally come to a stop. Andy and Mick spot a surf break not to far... we are stopped already no wind for sailing and a fun looking surf break. Back down with the anchor, surf boards loaded onto the tender, anchoring the tender behind the surf break we paddled in. This time I joined the boys, I manage to catch a few waves, get dumped by some and stand up on a couple. Over all well worth stopping for a surf in the Bathurst Channel. check out the footage on episode 7.
Heading further up the Channel looking for a sheltered anchorage for the night. We decide to med moor in Wombat Cove. Between two monohulls a Benateau First 45 "Adere" from Hobart and an aluminium expedition boat "Kamiros", home to a German family who live full time on board and have achieved some impressive sailing miles.
Thursday- A Rainy day, more typical South West Tasmanian weather. Determined not to let the weather stop us Mick and I walk up the mountain behind wombat cove and take in the view over Bathurst Channel. Ducking from a couple of rain squalls, getting wet socks and taking shelter in some bushes was well worth it. All tucked snug in wombat cove, med moored side by side we enjoyed a bit a socialising with our boating neighbours. It's always interesting looking through other peoples boats/homes and seeing how they live on board and hearing of their stories
Friday – I get up early and head back up the mountain to get some shots, some exercise and enjoy the magnificent view again. We need to get to Melaleuca today today to pick up John and Lois, so we say bonvoyage to our Wombat Cove friends and set the sails. In very light breeze we gybe up through the Bathurst Channel. A good opportunity for me to be at the helm and learn a little more about setting the sails and adjusting for all sorts of strange light wind shifts. With very light and fluky conditions as well as narrow sections, shallow spots and dark tannin stained waters, I was a little apprehensive but having fun. Refusing to start the engines, in 0.5 knots of wind at one point, Andy helped us along by holding the Jib out to catch any breeze.
John and Lois touched down at the Melaleuca air strip and after collecting them in the tender we headed for Iola Bay. A sheltered anchorage where we spent the night. It was a pretty special opportunity to have family fly in and join us in this magical place. As sailed into Bathurst Harbour, I was immediately impressed by this incredible spot. Contained within the port Davey/ Bathurst Harbour Marine reserve, and the Southwest National Park, it is part of the Wilderness World Heritage Area. Situated in front of the picturesque Mount Rugby and, the harbor opens up into a large rectangular body of water, much bigger than Sydney Harbor in fact.
Saturday- Port Davey
Up the Davey river, that is the mission on the cards for the day. A bleak grey day. The landscape forever changing with low lying cloud and rain squalls in the rocky hills. We stop to have a snorkel, hoping we can catch some lunch. We were in luck, Michael’s efforts snorkelling around in the bull kelp, rewarded us with ten big abalone and a Cray Fish. Whilst Andy shucked the abs in the dingy I practiced my dingy driving skills. It’s such a privilege to be able to enjoy such fresh sea food that we have caught ourselves, straight from the ocean to our plate. We are not completely self-sustainable, but it is a nice thought to think we could be, catching our own fish, making our own power and sailing with the wind. This is a taste of the incredible freedom that living on board a sailing cat is giving us. As the day went on the mood of the south west coast improved, clouds breaking to expose blue sky’s, green on the hills lighting up in the sun. Time to check out the Davey River. We dropped the tender in, put our wet weathers on and… over loaded the dinghy.
Five in the Tender with our bags and wet weathers/PFD's on, it was a snug ride. The Dark tannin stained waters make it difficult to see the depth. As we explored further up the river the waters just got glassier, the air felt warm and the bird life emerged. Black swans stirred taking flight from the calm waters. We are the only other activity in the stillness of the wilderness. A big Wedge Tail Eagle put on a show for us also. Just before we entered a big rock gully… Bang a submerged rock hiding in the dark water claimed our prop, lucky for us nothing major and we carried on a little further. Glad to get back on board Roam after a bumpy wet ride back, up with the hook and off we sail to Bramble cove just under Mount Misery.
What a place to wake up. The South West wilderness, tucked under the... in my opinion not the slightest bit miserable Mount Misery. The Early Morning sun leaving a bright orange reflection on the glassy water. A perfect morning to hike Mount Misery. The hike 371m above sea level, taking us a couple of hours return. The spectacular view was well worth the walk. From the top we watched as our German friends on Kamiros sailed out to sea, we gave them a quick radio call on the hand held to wish them safe travels as they head for Hobart and onwards to New Zealand. I have been told it is not so often that the South West coast gets sunny warm weather…. We are definitely beating the odds today.
Perfect conditions for a fun race around Bathurst Harbor with our other neighbors from Wombat Cove, a sailing family from Hobart with a Beneteau First 45. The Bathurst harbor is a beautiful sight, bigger than the Sydney harbor and lying right beneath Mount Rugby. Exciting sailing, getting up to 16 knots and we dodged around the harbor. John and Lois helping crew Roam as we enjoyed a couple of close tacks up wind in slicing our way through the water across "Adere". Another day drawing to an end, happy with our blast around Bathurst, we dropped the sails and anchored up for the evening. Anchored just outside Clayton's Cove, we took the opportunity to check out some local history. Clyde and Winsome’s house still standing, now a world heritage site. The “Kings” Jetty ( the Jetty leading to the old house) just a short ride in the tender. What a spectacular place to build a house. Our last night with John and Lois on board, the evening still warm enough for a BBQ dinner, with another beautiful view, this time with Mount Rugby towering over us.
We could easily spend weeks on end exploring the rugged, secluded waterways and barely touched wilderness of the South West Coast, but today looks like a good weather window to make our move North up the West coast. The water is like glass, the reflection of Mount Rugby and Roam looks like an oil painting. John and Lois fly out of Melaleuca today, after 3 nights staying on board with us, It was really nice to have them join us. Mick and I got up before breakfast for a paddle board back to Clyde and Win's house to do a book swap from the book shelf in the old house. Paddle boarding around on the deadly still, dark water, with the only stir on the water being us was pretty magical… another one of those pinch myself moments. Most people have to fly or walk into the South West Wilderness of Tasmania to experience the natural beauty of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. Here we are sailing our home, Roam in and exploring little nooks and hidden treasures, for me this feels like freedom. After saying our bon voyage to John and Lois we said our goodbyes to Bathurst Harbour. With no wind we motored our way out. A beautiful sunny warm day yet again, The South West Coast has been kind to us and we took some awesome footage we put together in Episode 8.
Next we Make our way to Strahan on the West Coast to explore the grounds of historic convicts, sail up the Gordon River and take the Tender way up the Franklin where Roam can not venture. We had a really nice sail up the coast to Strahan. It’s nice to be able to get into a groove, sailing along comfortably and going about our business. I spent the time writing, and thinking about future plans and passage provisioning, making lists and ideas for storage of food. The isolation of the South West coast had us thinking and living accordingly, with no: reception, access to top up our diesel tanks, water tanks or food provisions or to get rid of garbage waste. We were only isolated for a week, the German worldly cruising family of four we met in wombat cove, gave me a little insight into long term boat life. At times they would spend periods of 6 weeks at sea during ocean passages… pretty inspirational stuff. I like the thought of being self-sustainable. We made it to the infamous Hells Gates in good time. My brother Kaidan and niece Lara joined us also in Strahan. A small town with a quirky, arty feel and a rich convict history. Old buildings still along the water front main street, maintain the historic feel. The wharf, a working fishing wharf, the area rich in, Cray fish, Abalone and of course the salmon farms. Well known for its past timber industry, and beautiful Tasmanian timbers, Strahan still has a working sawmill and local wood workers who create some beautiful timber products. Many tourists explore the Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River daily, not so many get to anchor off Sarah Island for the night and take a self-guided tour of the Convict Island, a fun and spooky experience. The Sarah Island Historic Site is Tasmania's oldest convict settlement, operating from 1822 to 1833. The Island was known as a "place of banishment and security for the worst description of convicts" and as such developed the reputation as one of the severest of the penal settlements.
The next Morning we set off for our own version of the Gordon River cruisers. I had been up the Gordon River once before as a child. This time we were exploring and taking our home, I have a whole new appreciation for this special area now. Exploring the river system in Tasmania’s summer we were presented with calm clear days and mostly sunshine… without any breeze however we may have been a little over ambitious trying to sail our way up the Gordon, but we were not going to give up even if at times we were doing zero knots or going back down stream in the current. This craziness may have sent the guys a little crazy too check out the footage of the Roam crew pirating around.
Our Navigation charts only guide us a little way up the Gordon, the rest we are relying on a paper drawn chart that we picked up in Strahan from a local Trevor Norton (Trevor takes tours up the river on his yacht Storm Breaker). We stopped at Heritage Landing for another self-guided tour, this time through the landing walk. A short walk amongst the forest and some really old trees. Much of the Huon Pine was logged in the past, this slow growing tree was prized boat building material for the early settlers. From the water we could still spot a lot of Huon Pine among the trees along the river banks. The Gordon and Franklin rivers are surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks, spectacular gorges meandering through the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness. It is no wonder this special place in part of Tasmania's World Heritage Area, with natural history like the ancient Huon Pines that grow to an age of over 3000 years.
There is only so far up the Gordon we were willing to take Roam, however with the tender were able venture even further up the into the Franklin River. For a little extra fun we towed Kaidan's double kayak behind the tender too allowing us to potentially continue up the river where the tender could not go. After walking the tender through a section of the river with shallow exposed river rocks and some fun little white water kayaking we stopped for lunch. Taking in the impressive surroundings. Much of the Wild Rivers landscape has been shaped by ancient glaciers. The Rocky River banks carved out from hundreds of years of water flow corrosion made some spectacular shapes and we could see where floods had been through wedging logs high up in the rock faces above us. We are so lucky to still have this natural river with a wealth of history and I am really happy we took the time to appreciate its beauty. The Franklin was at the heart of the largest conservation battles in Australian history when environmentalists fought to save the river from being dammed. The issue dominated Tasmanian politics throughout the late 70s and early 80s and caused great rifts between those who supported the construction of the dam and those who sought the preservation of the wilderness.
Hells Gates were kind to us coming into Strahan and thankfully we had calm cruising out of the gates also as we starting our journey up the rest of the west coast headed for Beauty point. However I was not so lucky once out the gates the unruly west coast waters introduced me to my first real experience of sea sickness. Spending two days of our2 night trip to Beauty Point via Banks Strait not being able to keep any food down, I have now learnt do not attempt to clean the head while departing for an ocean passage… Check out Episode 9 for the Gordon River film clip.
Once at Beauty point we waited until a suitable weather window to get around to St Helens and complete out circumnavigation of Tas. Mick had to head back to work so it was up to Andy and I to get Roam around the top of Tasmania through the woeful Banks Strait and down the East coast. Andy’s friend Ben joined us for the 2 day passage and we stopped a night on the north east coast at stumpys (a popular camping spot on the NE coast). With the conditions fine on the bar way at St Helens, we cruised into the Bay. Feeling accomplished with our trip it was time to go back to work couple of months and prepare for our next Roam adventure chapter. Sailing around Tasmania was an experience I will never forget with so many special places visited. The next three months of work, study, clinical practice and preparing Roam flys by. Excited to start our next voyage out of Australia waters.
Another chapter dedicate to my grandma's who requested a book Nanny Joy and Nanny Marie xx