27/28 July, ‘85

 Planned to include some night paddling, we met at Bakers Beach mid-afternoon, packed the kayaks, and carried them over the sand dunes on the board walks put in to protect the area. The tide was well out and added a further 100m to go, but the day was calm and we were in no hurry. We hadn’t as yet decided where we were going to camp the night – with Greens Beach and Friends Point being two of the possibilities. From our start to the entrance of the Tamar River are two long beaches broken up by Badger Head half way along, and then West Head before you do a right hand turn. A light easterly was not enough to disturb the surface of the sea unduly, and about halfway along we rafted up while Ian and I swapped boats. I had the SEA LEOPARD for this trip, not fitted with lights but with an almost clear hull and deck through which a torch would shine fairly easily – not good enough for a real night paddle but as this was to be mainly inside the Tamar it would probably do. Ian is a bit shorter than I am and I only just managed to pour myself into his cockpit. The Old Greenlander was certainly different to paddle and after mainly paddling the Longboat and Sea Leopard I seemed to be sitting much closer to the bow than normal. Just before West Head the cramped cockpit got the better of me and we swapped back again. It was now starting to get dark, and we finally decided to camp at Dark Hollow. We had to start about 4.00am in the morning to get the tide up the Tamar to Deviot so the further we went tonight the later we could sleep in.

 The mouth of the Tamar is studded with shallow pebbly type reefs and we touched bottom here or there as we picked our way past some of them. There were almost no waves so it wasn’t at all dangerous, even though it was now totally dark and our lights were on. Once we were a couple of miles past Friend Point we were back in deep water in the channel and followed the channel pylons up and around Garden Island breakwater. It is nights like this that make night paddling so delightful and help to obliviate the feeling of tiredness. We found West Arm and then Dark Hollow without any trouble and soon had a good fire going. Dark Hollow sounds a bit grim but it is a great little place – set up for the teeming boaties in summer. It has a big stone fireplace/BBQ and a few large tables, all on a steeply shelving shore. It is only accessible from the water and in the summer there are always dozens of yachts and power boats anchored nearby. Camping was a little difficult due to the steep slope, and we ended up with one tent pitched on top of the largest table and one person bivvying on another. Actually it is possible to go up the rather steep ground if you wanted a permanent camp for a few days - from here to the mouth of the Tamar would be a good area for a novice group for a few days paddling – West Arm is a fairly deserted area, although possibly not in the middle of summer.

 On Sunday we had to be at Deviot by 8.00am or wait another 6 hours for the tide to change, so we were on the water by about 5.00am, still good and dark – and cold – but of course you expect that in the middle of winter. In actual fact I feel that these mid-winter trips are an excellent chance to try our your gear in bad conditions – if you are not warm and comfortable in our winter then there are going to be times in summer when you are not going to be either.

 It’s surprising how easy it is to be disoriented early in the morning in the dark in an area you haven’t paddled before, and if ever you are in doubt you need to pull out a map and compass and work out a course to start off on, even if it does not seem to be right. This wasn’t necessary in this case as several of us had paddled here before and the lights on the wharf at Sawyers Point were easily distinguished from the numerous other lights in the area. Some of us took the shortest route up the Tamar, cutting corners, while some of us stuck in the deep channel and hopefully the fastest current. The sun rose as we passed the woodchip plant up Long Reach and we met up again to paddle the last few km under the impressive Batman Bridge to Deviot Yacht Club. We had only been there a few minutes when John’s wife Gillian arrived with the transport. And so ended another well organized trip, easy enough as it turned out, but we had anticipated much worse conditions – maybe next time.

Paddlers were:

John Wilde                  North Sea Tourer        Trip leader
Cecily Butorac            Greenlander
Ian McDonald             Greenlander
Jeff Jennings               North Sea Tourer
Laurie Ford                 Sea Leopard

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