D'entrecasteaux Channel - Easter 2009

Scribe: Laurie Ford

This was a very pleasant easy 6 day trip - nothing mind blowing (apart from the sea eagles, seals etc), no dramas. Elli was about to return to the USA and we wanted to go for a last paddle somewhere. We had been thinking about a  Bruny Island circumnavigation for some time but decided in view of the lack of paddling lately this wasn't the right time. So the Wednesday before Easter we parked our car at a friends' place at Conningham and loaded up the kayaks, getting in the water about the middle of the day. This was new territory for Elli, and I have to admit I hadn't paddled here for about 20 years or so. D'Entrecasteaux Channel runs between Bruny Island and Tasmania.

Leaving NW Bay we skirted around the Atlantic Salmon farms in mid channel and crossed over to Bruny Island and cruised along close to the shore. At Barnes Bay we paddled part way into the bay then cut across to the ferry terminal where we went ashore for a lunch break, and I made use of the public facilities there. Further along the coast we went ashore right in the top end of Apollo Bay for a short break before continuing on to Snake Island. We found quite a good camp site with short grass and put up the tent, and made a fire down on the rocky foreshore below the high water mark. Then as Elli went off for a stroll around the island she found a much bigger and better campsite right in the middle of the island so we shifted the tent to there. There was a poor sort of fire-place there so we kept our fire down on the foreshore, and had a very pleasant evening there with the help of some largish driftwood.

The forecast for Friday was for a bit of wind and rain so we decided to head for Jetty Beach in Great Taylor bay for two nights and let it blow over. The first day to Snake Island had been 19.5 kilometres and had left us a little tired, but the paddle down to Jetty beach was 39.5 km which left us even more tired - it was a struggle to carry the gear up to the National Park campground there. But the coastline had been good and interesting - including a part of the old floating Hobart bridge sunk at Alonnah to make a breakwater for a marina. There was at least one sea eagle along here, and we also surprised a seal sunning on the rocks. Even after he spotted us very close to him he wasn't in any sort of hurry to rush away.

Friday was a bit wet and slightly miserable under the tent fly, but we did sally forth between showers and found enough decent firewood for a fire that evening. In fact our campfire seemed to be going long after most of the others had gone to bed - being Easter the place was crowded. It fined up in the evening and we could see the full moon rising as we sipped our port in front of the fire.

Saturday I had in mind to look for a good camp site along the coast back on the other side of the channel, a place I had used 20 years ago when on a paddle from Dover to Southport and return. Along the coast of Labillardiere Peninsula a sea eagle swooped down a short distance in front of us and caught a fish and went back up to the same branch to tear it apart. It didn't seem to care as we drifted right in under the branch to watch. After a few minutes it flew along the shore and settled in another tree that already had a sea eagle in it. These are mighty birds to see up close.

At the end of the peninsula we went ashore on Butlers Beach and mingled with the crowd off the boats anchored there. Then it was across to the nearby Partridge Island which we thought might have been a possible campsite. However it has been trashed by the boaties, with smashed bottles in all the numerous fire places, and cartons of empty bottles lying about, and plastic bags with fishbones and other rubbish. We continued on across the channel to somewhere near Dalco Creek, and then followed the coast north to Port Esperance, being entertained by a couple of seals for ten minutes on the way. We checked out Hope Island for camping but thought it was a bit exposed, so kept looking for a better place as we followed the southern shoreline. Eventually we were close to Rabbit Island and a friendly fisherman said lots of people camp on it - so we went and had a look. This was much more like it - plenty of cleared sites, and a lot of firewood chainsawed round a communal type fire place. We settled in for the night with the usual glass of port, and watched the full moon rising again. This is an excellent campsite, and during the afternoon and evening a fair number of boats came into the bay to anchor just off shore.

As the weather looked like it was going to get windy and wet in a day or so we decided to head for home, so on Sunday we got away a little earlier than usual and just cruised along all day. At Huon Point we crossed over inside Huon Island (had a bit of a sail across here) and then up the channel towards Middleton. There are a couple of good foreshore campgrounds along here but they were fairly full of easter campers so we kept going, not sure where we were going to end up. Then we noticed smoke from a small fire, and a car parked right on the waters edge at Flowerpot - and found a couple there just having a glass of red wine before going home. This was the Flowerpot Public Reserve and we had it to ourselves - once we lifted the kayaks 2 metres up the bank. The picnickers did give us a hand with this just before they left. This was another excellent campsite and we found plenty of firewood up the road under lots of big gum trees. More port and the moon rising again.

Lying in the tent the next morning we could hear a 'wave' rushing along the shore, as though a big vessel had just gone past. But there hadn't been any traffic at all that early, and upon opening the front of the tent were mildly astonished to see hundreds of Cormorants landing and then taking off again - a huge flock of them making their way south. We could still see them ten minutes later along the coast - must have been chasing a good school of fish.

Monday was a leisurely paddle past Kettering where the local kayak outfitter had various groups on the water. Just short of Conningham I had a long talk with another sea kayaker - Mark Broadley - as we discussed the coming documentary 'Solo' about Andrew McAuley's paddle to New Zealand. I hadn't yet seen the Coroner's report so Mark offered to email it to me when he got back to work. Then we were at Sue's place and loading up the vehicle to head home after a very satisfying 6 days.

The daily distances were:
Wednesday (to Snake Island) - 19.5 km
Thursday (to Jetty Beach)   -     39.5 km
Friday (still at jetty Beach)
Saturday (to Rabbit Island) -     25.5 km
Sunday (to Flowerpot)    -         34.5 km
Monday (to Conningham)   -     21.0 km
                                               140.0 km


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