21/22 Sept ‘85


This was another of our two monthly trips and I had gone to some trouble to find out that the Mutton birds arrive at these islands this particular weekend. The idea was to be there to see the hordes blot out the sky as they arrive, and watch the activity in the rookery as they set about clearing out collapsed burrows etc. I planned a 6.00am start Saturday morning to use the high tide to get through Robbins Passage, so we had to be at Stony Point on Friday night, where we completely packed out boats before settling down for the night. Tony and Ian bivvied out, Jeff slept in the back of his vehicle, and Cec and I used a spare tent we’d taken – so it could be bundled straight in the back of the car first thing in the morning.

 There’s a lot to be said for these early morning starts; it’s definitely the best part of the day. What a marvellous feeling to be paddling on a dead still morning watching the sun come up and groups of black swans flying away from our approach. It also means the day’s paddle is over before lunch time and leaves heaps of time for other activities. Even though it was just after high tide we all felt ‘bottom drag’ near the narrowest part of the passage, but it deepened again and we stopped for a requested breakfast stop on the first of the Wallaby Islands.

 From here on it was a case of heading due north to remain near the channel (and the fastest current) till we got into deep water 11km away, and then straight to the northern end of Walker Island. Big Sandy was visited first, arriving just after 10.30am and more food was consumed before having a good look around. The whole island is basically one big sand hill and rookery, but there was no sign of mutton birds yet. The day was still a ripper, no wind and bright sunshine – possibly not your normal weather for this part of the world. Having made the most of Big Sandy we headed across the narrow gap to Walker, across about a 3knot ebb tide. Campsites were not great but this was where the rookery was so we pulled the kayaks up above the high water mark and changed into dry clothes. I wanted to walk to the southern end of the island to Mosquito Inlet about 6km away, and the others joined me. We followed a four wheel drive track all the way to the bush airstrip and then dropped down over the bank to Phil’s place, a beautiful little sheltered campsite that we have used on past trips and is always well worth the effort to get in there. The short grass and sheltered site was still there, but it was very disappointing to find the seats around the BBQ had been destroyed and the door ripped off the shack. I’d never even imagined that this place would ever change but would always be there just as it had been for years, and it was a rude shock to find it like this.

 The tide was right out and the western entrance to the inlet was high and dry as far as you could see, and we walked along the beach to the eastern entrance. This always has water in it and usually large breakers at least 1km out over the numerous sandbars – but today it was flat calm. With a couple of rest stops we walked the full length of Rookery Beach and then across the island to the track back to the kayaks where we all felt a little pooped.

 Tea was cooked and the tents put up, all the while scanning the horizon for the influx of birds, but they were notable by their absence – so we sat around the campfire and held our meeting. All club meetings are held on the Saturday night of all club trips, hence eliminating the ‘armchair canoeist’ from influencing the club. The only major action passed was that Tasmanian canoeists will not be allowed to join in advanced trips without first having done two weekend trips with us. Advanced trips are generally the thing you build up to and plan each year, whether it be a trip to Fiji, to Flinders Island, or Port Davey, and we felt that we don’t want people coming along at the last minute saying “I’d like to do that trip”. They may not be compatible with the rest of the group, their skills may not be up to it, and basically the feeling is that if we’re not good enough to paddle with during the year then we don’t want them just at Christmas time. There has been quite a bit of this sort of thing over the years, people just using your experience and organization for their own selfish purposes. The word Tasmanian was used so as not to exclude known mainland paddlers from joining a trip if they happen to be in the state, although we would still have to be fairly sure of their compatibility and skills. However, the regular sea canoeing fraternity is fairly small and interstate gatherings are bringing them together.

 Anyhow, back on the Walker Island meeting, we also pulled out some maps to look at some aspects of the trip to Maatsuyker Island this Christmas and we also had some preliminary discussion on a trip for the following Christmas, maybe Flinders Island. It was a mild night and Ian and I sat around the fire till 1.00am chatting about the A.C.F. and other aspects of canoeing and eventually decided the birds weren’t coming so went to bed.

 Sunday morning we had another 6.00am start, down the western side of Walker and through Mosquito Inlet. Just as we met the sea gain on the other side we pulled into the beach for a breakfast stop, watching the tide race out through the narrow entrance. The weekend remained calm and sunny as we continued across Ransonnet Bay to Guyton Point for a brief stop. Arriving at Cape Elie the tide was still just flowing out of Robbins Passage so I decided on a long lunch stop to wait for it to turn and sweep us back up to Stony Point. This turned out to be a poor decision but lying on the short grass, with life jackets for pillows, soaking up the sun, it didn’t appear so at the time. Unfortunately just as the tide started coming in again so did the wind – a very stiff westerly which quickly pulls up a good chop and made our passage up the passage very slow indeed. Still, the weekend had been so perfect it didn’t hurt to have a bit of a challenge to finish off with, and I had one good run downwind under sail before clawing my way back upwind again.

 Apart from the dratted birds not keeping their appointment with us it was a glorious trip, and showed the others who hadn’t paddled in this area before the enormous potential for sea canoeing.


Paddlers were:
Cecily Butorac            Greenlander
Ian McDonald             Greenlander
Jeff Jennings               North Sea Tourer
Toby Clarke                North Sea Tourer
Laurie Ford                 Longboat (Trip leader)


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