Flinders Island – January 2016
(A Laurie Ford Training trip to Trousers Point)

After the trip to Flinders Island last year I expected to do another one this year. Toby built a brand new Greenlander for it, and his friend Pete built one as well. John said he would do it again provided the weather was better. But in the end for various valid reasons there were no paddlers available.

I went off to Hawaii for a couple of months last year and did very little paddling there – just drifted around on a sit-on for a few days – awful things. When I arrived back in Tassie The Girl was having an operation on her knee and couldn't paddle for a while so I went out 3 times on my own – nothing more than 2 1/2  hours each time. I have great difficulty in forcing myself to paddle for long distances just for training, and walking is similar. I'll walk up Mt Wellington because it is a beautiful place to walk and there is always a destination to aim for – totally different to just walking round the streets or along a beach and back.

I had heard that 9 Victorians were coming over to paddle to Flinders Island and would be starting on the 13th January. I figured I might go up and paddle on the same day but not with them, but maybe camp with them now and then. Once I got on the water up there I would be forced to paddle long distances whether I wanted to or not. I was not actually looking forward to it particularly, because paddling and camping on my own is not a lot of fun.

Tuesday 12th
Looking at the forecast for the 13th it didn't look very good but the 12th was brilliant so I went up on the 11th to Little Musselroe Bay and unloaded the car and left everything on the banks near the boat ramp. Couldn't load the kayak till next morning because I had to carry it down to the water first so as not to drag it over rocks or concrete. I slept on the verandah of the nearest shack, Liz said the owners had just gone home this morning. Left before sunrise on the 12th.

                                                            Ready for an early start the next morning.

                                              It did rain during the night so this was a good choice.

The tide should help me all the way to Trousers Point, and the wind as well if it happened as predicted – supposed to be a good east to south easterly most of the day. However there was not a breath of wind till after I'd slugged my way for 3 1/2  hours across to Spike Bay on Clarke Island where I could have landed. But kept going as the wind did start to blow from the east and I cruised past Preservation Island mid morning. Nobody staying there so was quite tempting to stay for a couple of days and then return to Tassie but I kept going along to Cape Sir John and up the side of Cape Barren Island to Long Island, where the easterly was now a big head wind along through Long Island Passage. I had sailed from Spike Bay to here. Battling through the passage I considered my options – Old Township Cove was exposed to the north where I was expecting strong winds from the next day or so, Ned's Point was closest but would be a head wind all the way. Trousers Point was much further away but could maybe do it under sail after rounding Long Island. I'd been paddling nearly 8 hours by now without landing anywhere.

The wind dropped just as I rounded Long Island and I thought I was in for a tiring paddle across to Trousers Point but it got up again and I sped across there with both sails. The Longboat was very difficult to steer as it kept rounding into the wind to the right and as I got very close to Trousers Point I could not turn the kayak to the left at all. I was heading at top speed for the rocks and just managed to get both sails down about 20 metres before I ran into them. It felt as though a rudder wire may have broken and as I was at the end of the beach that goes south of Trousers Point I landed to look into it. Nothing was broken but it had every appearance of the left side stainless steel wire having stretched. I was pretty surprised that this could have happened but re-adjusted it and went the last km or so to the camp site – 10 hours from Little Musselroe Bay. I wouldn't have had any trouble of continuing on to Whitemark if there had been any over-riding reason to do so. I considered that a pretty good effort as I'd only had wind assistance for half of that time, and had no trouble unloading the kayak and carrying all the camping gear up the steep stairs from the beach. It took a few trips. There were no other campers there. Put the tent fly up in a sheltered spot and dragged the kayak up and tied it to a tree root at the back of the beach.

                                                                             Very protected spot.

                                        Nightly visitor

Although I had felt a bit tired when I reached Spike Bay after 3 1/2  hours I still found that I could just keep paddling on and on – and later on at home I worked out the distance (36 nautical miles) and therefore my speed and it was 3.6 knots which was very acceptable for anyone over that time and distance.

Had a lot of trouble getting to sleep due to sore shoulders but mainly because of very badly aching biceps (they felt like they'd been hit with a big hammer) – took 3 aspirin about 1am.

Wednesday 13th
I decided on at least 2 rest days before heading back, and the weather was so windy I wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway, clouds of spray were lifting off the water. I replaced the left hand rudder wire. Mid morning a couple came into the camp area and walked to look down at the beach and saw the kayak. They came over to talk to me sitting in the shade and told me about meeting kayakers on Three Hummock Island many years ago and that one of them was from southern Tasmania and they were told that he balanced his kayak with cans of Coke. They were trying hard to remember his name but couldn't so I finally asked was it Laurie Ford – yes that's who it was. I said that was me and then the woman (Helen Maguire) wanted a photo of the two of us so sat next to me on the rock with my arm around her shoulders while her husband Neale took the photo with her smart phone.

At the time I couldn't remember that meeting  but I could remember meeting her years before that on Hunter Island in 1980 when she was riding a horse with friends, she was 16 years old. It was trip at Easter including Susie and Pete Bauer and Cec and her daughter Pam and Bruce Davies.

Later on I started to think it may have been the trip with Ian Johnson and Phil Barratt and after I got home a few days later I looked it up and it was. This is part of that trip report.

14/2/98 - 19/2/98

“It was with tense anticipation I turned into Laurie Fords driveway on the afternoon of Saturday 14/2/98 for an eight night trip in the islands off the northwest tip of our lovely Tasmania.

In reply to my knock on the door I heard Laurie's familiar tones beckoning me inside where I met Phil Barratt and Laurie stretching out on the sofa sipping on a coffee and coke and nibbling scones in a scene not out of place on A Country Practice.

I declined their generous offer to join in and after pleasantries excused myself to pack and steel myself for our coming endeavours to reach the elusive Albatross Island.

We were on the water at Denium Hill, Montague, at 3.30pm for our evening paddle to Mosquito passage between Robbins and Walker Islands. Those of us fortuitous to have a sail (or better still two sails) could enjoy the light westerly breeze as we scooted along the western side of Robbins Island. Laurie decided to give a lazy black swan a chase across the waters whilst I was concentrating on spotting the large black rays which could explode under your boat at the most unexpected times.

We arrived at the sheltered campsite at 6pm as the tide was falling fast. Laurie proudly showed us the canoe club sticker on the old club shed and soon after we enjoyed our respective teas, being periwinkle soup, scones and coke, or beef wellington with sauté runner beans.

As we slumbered off to sleep in our shed we could hear the surf crashing on the far side of Hunter Island some 15km away.

The next day we arose at first light to catch the tide and were paddling in glassy conditions out through the mouth and along Rookery Beach to Cape Bauche, the northern point of Walker Island, climbing up to inspect a sea eagles nest on an outcrop on the way.

At 10.55am the tide was right for us to head across to Three Hummock Island in light winds and we pulled into Five Sisters Beach just north of the homestead at 4pm. The blue boat we passed en-route was returning to Stanley with 11 birdwatchers who had been staying in the Alliston's cabin over the weekend.

Phil and I whiled away an hour trying to catch a fish and some abalone for dinner but to no avail.

The campsites were quite limited at Five Sisters and I chose to camp in a dry hollow adjacent to the beach only to be driven bananas by the frenzied bleating of penguins as they came ashore after dark. The makeshift solution of wrapping clothes round my head was defeated by their din, and so about 11pm I packed up my tent and gear and marched off up the track in search of solitude.

Monday was a sunny but brisk morning and we met the former Hunter Island resident Helen Maguire with her husband Neale and toddler Georgina who were on the island from Smithton for a weeks holiday. We chatted for a while then they wandered off down the beach leaving Phil and I the opportunity to get some abalone from the rocks, which we shared with the Alliston's carer family (Allison and her three kids from Marrawah), as well as Helen and Neale.

The wind had picked up significantly as I sat down to enjoy some wonderful hospitality and curried sausages with Helen and Neale in their cabin. By the time I was into my third round of coffee and homemade Smithton biscuits the windows confirmed that the fresh winds had now developed into rain squalls (fortunately the wood-fires stove kept the house piping hot).

Just as I was contemplating another gourmet delight who should turn up but the old party pooper himself informing me that as the sou-wester was due to swing nor-west that night, we needed to get across Hope Channel to the shelter of Hunter Island, and to catch the slack tide we needed to be paddling in 40 minutes time.

Risking indigestion I scoffed down what was on my plate and bade my kind hosts farewell and trotted back to our main camp in the rain. We were punching through the one metre shore break at 2.20pm and paddling into a fierce 25 - 30 knot wind with a 1.5 metre white-horse chop as we edged our way across the channel and reached the shelter of Shepherds Bay at 4pm. There were seven yachts anchored in the bay en-route for their Tall Ships circumnavigation of Tasmania.

That night we talked to some of the yachties who came ashore including Lionel Jensen who was a local nature film-maker, and his Texan companion, both it seemed were thankful for a break away from their grumpy skipper.

(Ian Johnson.)”

And this is part of the 1980 trip report.

Hunter Island - Easter trip, 1980.

Scribe Suzie Bauer
Cecily Butorac . North Sea Tourer
Pamela Butorac . North Sea Tourer
Suzie Bauer . Greenlander
Peter Bauer . North Sea Tourer
Bruce Davies . Greenlander
Laurie Ford . Splinter

“Saturday 5th
Friday night it became quite windy and the noise of the surf seemed incredibly loud from our tents - especially considering that Laurie had sworn we would not encounter any surf on this trip. Saturday morning was very windy and there was still some surf.

After breakky we decided to look around the island a bit. We walked to the end of the beach where there is a jetty and a boat on a slip. We followed a track up to the homestead. There is only one family living on this island and they only do so for part of the year now. We wandered into the homestead and the lady of the house didn't seem at all surprised. She invited us in and we chatted for ages and drank coffee and helped her empty her cake tins. They are very interesting friendly people and she and her husband and the children who were home for Easter told us a lot about the island - including some very funny tales. They brought up their six children on Hunter Island and hardly ever went over to the mainland (Tas) since they did not own a boat at that stage. They relied on fishermen to bring them supplies, mail etc, and their children learnt by Correspondence.

They now own a barge type boat which they can winch up onto the slip to load their cattle.

The youngest daughter - who had passed us on horseback as we came up the track - arrived back and wanted to know where our boat was. They were quite surprised to learn we had come by canoe.

We reluctantly set off from this warm, friendly atmosphere to go to a large cave around the coast from the jetty. The weather was still blustery and it was trying to rain. Since the tide was low we were able to follow the coast around to the cave. There is a track over the bluff but we had been warned that it was hard to find. I found myself doing a bit of rock hopping - and I was not overjoyed since surf and heights are presently two of my pet aversions.”

I spent the rest of the day at Trousers Point mainly resting, and finding a spot where I got good phone reception so I could send emails, but more so I could look at the forecasts. The Marine VHF reception is very poor with a hand-held radio in a lot of the Furneaux group. I was using a small tablet and my 4G device to access the Internet. I'd been sending emails to The Girl about where I was and mentioned I'd met Helen and got this reply from her.
Please please - if you see her again, give her my regards!!
I have heaps of great memories of her from my Smithton days - she is a great woman!!!!

Thursday 14th
Lazed around all day and decided the forecast sounded good for getting back to Preservation Island on Friday afternoon when a fresh SW in the morning was supposed to go light and variable. I was not looking forward to the paddle back across to Long Island – it always seems such a long drag.

                                                                         One of the rest days

Friday 15th
I had the kayak halfway to the water packed and ready to go mid morning but still big whitecaps blowing straight across from Long Island. By 11 they had all but gone so I set off with no wind and it was a drag paddling across there as I had anticipated. Thought I'd drift with the current once round Long Island as it was still flooding but just as I got round the eastern end the wind got up and it was a real battle against it across to the shore on the other side near the township. I then had some shelter along here and finally went ashore in Old Township Cove where I rested for 1 1/2  hours to wait for the tide to change. Very pleasant wait there.

                                                                       Waiting for the wind to abate

                                                                        View from Old Township Cove

Almost no wind when I left and paddled all the way to Preservation Island where I made myself at home in the house there (no longer a shack). The forecast for the next day was for west to north westerly wind 10 to 15 so that sounded pretty good for crossing to Cape Portland in the afternoon when the tide would be best.

A couple of years ago Sue and I did this crossing and we just missed getting ashore on Cape Portland and ended up on Swan Island briefly while the tide dropped a bit and then had an easy paddle back across to Little Musselroe Bay, where Liz Ponting said she has never seen the tide so low. (This would be significant to me after I got home, see my thoughts here).

Saturday 16th
While I was waiting to leave Preservation Island I just happened to turn one of the light switches on, not sure why. The lights came on. They had been available all the time and I'd been wandering round in the dark with my headlamp. I suspect they may have been on when Toby and Richard and John and I were here last year.

So this time I left an hour earlier thinking I would be almost ashore on Cape Portland before the tide swept me away as it had done with Sue and I. It was a tight sail across here with the westerly but after 3 hours I was very close and could see the beaches and would have seen people on them if there'd been any. I was congratulating myself for getting it right this time – but then found I wasn't getting any closer. I'd blown it again and was being swept out towards Swan Island again. I turned and headed for it and realised that it was going to be touch and go to actually land on Swan, and not be swept past that as well. Right near the lighthouse I could see a fishing boat heading towards me from out to the east of Swan Island, just as I encountered a huge tide race and overfalls off the corner. I very quickly took the front sail down as I raced into this turbulence – bouncing all over the place. I was out the other side in a few minutes and put the front sail up again as the fishing boat got quite close. I gave them a wave and then sat there having a drink from a large Coke bottle so I guess they got the idea that I wasn't in any trouble and they turned away and headed back out to where they had been. It was nice to know that they would have been there if there'd been a problem and I was kicking myself later for forgetting I had the marine VHF radio which I could have turned on and talked to them.

                    There was a little bit of hard paddling to make sure I was going to get inside Swan Island

I went west along the north shore of Swan Island against the strong current and landed where we all camped last year near the end of the airstrip. We had found a sit-on kayak there last year that looked as though it has washed up on the beach – and it had because Liz Ponting had seen our trip report where Toby and John had each gone for a paddle on it. It had blown off the beach at Little Musselroe Bay – it was her grandsons. It wasn't still there and I guess the owners would have found it in the 12 months since we were there. There had been a big tractor down on the beach today judging by the huge tyre marks on the wet sand.

I really needed to wait for a couple of hours for slack water before crossing over to Little Musselroe Bay so paddled to the western end of the island to wait on the very last small beach. I had an hour or so there and then left slightly early so as to get across in daylight. About halfway across the sun went down, and a fishing boat crossed in front of me. I was pushed south by the last of the tide but knew this was going to happen, and then it was just a matter of following the long beach north to Little Musselroe Bay – in the dark.

There was only a few cms of water at the entrance (significant) so I had to get out and walk and towed the kayak into the bay. I paddled a couple of times, and had to get out and walk a couple more time – but eventually made the boat ramp by about 9.35pm – pitch black (video). Unloaded everything out of the kayak and then dragged it up over the relative smooth rocks and pushed it up on the bank before getting into dry clothes and getting the car from Liz's place. Couldn't see any lights on at her place.

Drove home via Anson's road and St Helens, where I filled up with petrol right on midnight and had a pie at the 24 hour service station. On the Little Musselroe Bay road some largish animal has crashed into the driver's side mudguard but surprising didn't leave a mark. There was an abundance of wildlife on the dirt road to St Helens but I didn't hit a single one. But down the highway I killed 3 animals – one was either a cat or a rabbit at Scamander and I didn't much care which it was. Then later I swerved to the left to give a smallish Potoroo type animal a good birth but it jumped right under my wheels. And later a largish wallaby came out of nowhere and landed right smack in front of the car and went underneath it. I had a couple of other very near misses.

Got home to Dodges Ferry at 3.15am Sunday morning and was in bed by 3.20am.

Sunday 17th
Spent the day taking it easy but unloaded all the gear and kayak and washed everything and put everything away. Took the footrest out of the Longboat, smashing it to do so. I wanted to see if there was anything there that may have slipped to make the rudder wire so loose as I got to Trousers Point but it was fine – so it was the wire stretching. I ended up with a totally different foot-rest back in the Longboat.

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