The Sea Canoeist, Vol 1 1979
Butorac (North Sea Tourer), Laurie Ford
(Longboat), Richard Holmes (KW7), Paul Davis (North Sea Tourer), Les
(KW7), Ron Rainbow (Greenlander), Tony Gaiswinkler
Having placed an order with Huey for a perfect day with high temperature and glassy conditions, Sunday morning was somewhat of a let down. Having met at Eastlands Shopping Centre we organized ourselves and travelled south towards Port Arthur. It was agreed that we would set off from the Port Arthur end of Safety Cove. From this spot the 300 metre high basaltic cliffs of Tasman Island could be seen in the distance jutting defiantly out of the Tasman Sea. This sight alone was enough to start the adrenalin pumping.
After packing lunch and changing into our paddling gear we set off in the direction of Budget Head. In the bay itself the wind was quite strong. Having rounded Budget Head we paddled along the cliff lined coast inspecting the sea caves and many inlets. Since the wind had been blowing north westerly for the previous week there was barely a trace of the moderate south westerly swell forecast by our trusty Weather Bureau. Backwash from the cliff face was almost non existent, the swell being too low even to allow some surfing out of the sea caves. We inspected Haines Bight and made our way past Black Head.
From Budget Head to Black Head the conditions were like glass, the giant cliffs protecting us from the wind. Once past Black Head and the lee of the land the tailwind provided some excitement. Laurie and Dick, having seen how close we were to our destination, broke away from the field and within ten minutes were some 300 metres ahead. Not being in the mood for a race we stopped for “morning tea” and shared chocolate. After our rest we continued and made our way past Resolution Point.
At this point the view was unbelievable. The cliffs rising several hundred metres out of the sea created a photographers dream. Tony quickly made use of his NIKONOS. The conditions were perfect. We were completely protected from the wind by the majestic cliffs and for almost 15 minutes we enjoyed the glassy blue sea reflecting the formidable coastline while the sun peeked its head through a gap in the cloud covered sky.
From this point we were within 800 metres of Tasman Island paddling towards Tasman Passage. This 500 metre wide, 50-60 metre deep passage separates Tasman Island from the mainland. On entering it we were quickly subjected to strong winds and a confused sea generated by the south westerly swell which was now quite noticeable, forcing itself through the Passage against oncoming waves whipped up by the wind.
Dick’s original intention was for us to circumnavigate the island. However, on seeing what was ahead we decided to cross the Passage and find a spot on the western face to land. Knowing that landing spots on the island were almost non-existent, we were quite fortunate in finding a small ledge large enough for all of our canoes. The ledge itself was about 1.5 metres above water lever, but with a good swell, all except Laurie decided to surf onto the ledge. Tony and Dick went first and were able to drag the rest of us to safety. We lunched while Laurie paddled in the direction of Cape Pillar, strong headwinds and a confused sea.
When paddling towards the island we had noticed a great deal of smoke coming from the northern tip. After lunch we decided to climb to the top and investigate. Access to the top was less hazardous at this site. Les, Dick and Paul led the way with the rest of us following. Two thirds of the way up to the top I managed to dislodge a large boulder while supporting myself, which subsequently fell 50 metres to the rocks and water below. With heart in mouth I decided to return to the ledge – discretion being the better part of valour. Laurie had returned from his solo venture to Cape Pillar. After seal launching, I joined him and waited in Tasman Passage until the others returned. The smoke on the island resulted from a burning off operation being conducted by the National Parks and Wildlife Dept. in an effort to rid the island of feral cats which had been killing off the bird life.
When the others returned they seal launched one by one off the ledge. Unfortunately Tony, not quite seated in his North Sea Tourer decided to take advantage of a swell, paddled too late, and nose dived into the kelp below. Dick quickly went to his rescue.
By the time we decided to start the return trip the wind had increased considerably. Laurie set his sail and with great speed temporarily disappeared in the distance. We followed on, leaning very much into the wind and paddling low to prevent us from being blown over. It was in these conditions that one really appreciated the use of a rudder. We paddled on past Resolution Point and on to Black Head hoping to get out of the wind. At this point the wind was almost non existent. However the swell had increased slightly, creating some excitement for a few paddlers in some of the inlets.
We followed the coastline closely until Budget Head. The final stretch involved an uneventful paddle across the bay and into Safety Cove where we surfed a small wave onto the beach. After changing into some warm clothes and loading our canoes onto the cars we headed off to the 19th Hole Hotel at Cambridge where we reviewed the day over a quiet drink before returning home.