We started out on a simple little trip down Freycinet Peninsula to Schouten Island, and ended up portaging for miles and camping about 20 miles from the nearest salt water (well it seemed like 20 miles, carrying fully laden sea touring kayaks - including one double).
It started innocently early Saturday morning when we met at the car-park overlooking Sleepy Bay - on the eastern side of Freycinet. Sleepy Bay conjours up visions of a delightful sheltered little beach with good campsites, away from it all. Actually it is fairly exposed, with high cliffs, and just a few rock shelves where it is possible to seal launch in good weather. The only access is a very steep track straight down from the carpark. After a prolonged session of watching the swells ride up the rocks the rest of them decided they didn't want to scratch their nice new boats and opted for Bluestone Bay, a bit further north along a 4 wheel drive track - despite my claims that it would be a piece of cake to launch from Sleepy Bay. They didn't even hang around to watch as I lugged the loaded Longboat down the track, placed it quickly on a rock ledge and jumped in to ride the swell out to sea before putting my spraydeck on - all perfectly simple. Rather than wait for them to come down the coast I paddled up to Bluestone and found them still trying to cram all their gear in their boats. Eventually we got on the water, at least two hours after our planned starting time, and set out down the coast, hoping to get to Schouten Island to camp. The wind was extremely light, and the low swells did not present any apparent problem. All went well till halfway across Wineglass Bay when Dave turned a peculiar shade of green and started depositing his breakfast over the side. The only surefire cure for sea-sickness is to get off the sea so Andrew rafted up with Dave and we towed them in to the beach.
Twelve months ago when Doug Silke was in Tasmania we went in here, and paddled across the Peninsula in the lagoons, with only a couple of very short portages, and this was now one of the alternatives, or return to Bluestone Bay. As it is virtually impossible to land down the eastern side of Freycinet we decided to go any further was out of the question.
The portage was on.
Using several people to a boat we struggled up the sand-dunes at the back of the beach and down through the ferns on the other side, again and again and again. This year the first lagoon was nearly dry, with not enough water to float the kayaks. It was a strange sight to see a long line of people spread out across the area, straining forward, with the kayaks completely out of sight in the long rushes. Finally we could go no further, we were now faced with normal Tasmanian bush for 4 to 500 yds over a slight rise to the next lagoon. Last year we'd done it with empty boats (only a day trip) but this year they were heavily laden, and we could just manage with four to a single, and all hands to the double (cursed thing). The first boat through blazed a trail past dead trees, over burnt logs, through the ferns till we reached the reeds of the second lagoon, only to stand there stunned - it wasn't even damp underfoot, and the next beach was over 2km away. About 400 yds away a slight rise hid the rest of the lagoon and our fearless leader Cecily went off for a scout around while we went back for the next kayak, and the next one, and the next one. Cec came back with the good news of water just over the rise so we struggled on as the sun sank low in the West, our spirits tending to sink somewhat with it. At the end of the lagoon was a beaut little beach, and plenty of firewood nearby and here we stopped, unable to go another step. Cecily suggested we should at least paddle to the other side of the lagoon before we camped, but only got a lot of alternate suggestions back from us,
Of course the flagging spirits revived somewhat after a bit of tea and liquid refreshment and the humour of the situation became apparent - a sea canoeing trip with not a drop of salt water as far as the eye could see. Did our trip leader receive some sarcastic comments? Anyway it was a beautiful starry night and we sat up watching the occasional satelite flit across the sky; and Suzie made the startling discovery that there are at least half a dozen Southern Crosses - so it no longer matters if the real one is covered by cloud, you can use one of her alternate ones (talk about dumb girl sea canoeists).
The next morning we packed our boats and glided across the open water into the reeds on the other side, about 200 yds, only to find that was as far as we could go. It was out of the boats again, and up to our knees in mud. Slide the boat forward a couple of feet, lift your legs out and move forward a pace, slide the boat again, move another pace etc. - sea canoeing at its best! After a few hundred yards of this we made firmer ground and continued one boat at a time to the foot hills in the distance (my kingdom for some native porters). The final climb over the hill necessitated long trousers as we struggled through prickly bushes before dropping down the other side to the beach - thoroughly exhausted. However we soon cheered up - after 24 hours we had finally found salt water again - and the fleet was on its way south again, to Cooks Corner. It was coming on to rain by this stage and some of the party chose to stay in the hut at Cooks Corner for the night, while the rest of us continued on down to Schouten Island and made use of the hut there. This was suitably furnished with several old arm-chairs and tables and we had an enjoyable night in front of the fire.
Jeff and I started up the outside of Freycinet next morning, the others choosing the calmer western route. However it was fairly unpleasant outside and after an hour we turned back and proceeded to chase the others.
They had collected the two from Cooks Corner and were just finishing the car shuffle when we arrived at Honeymoon Bay to end a very unusual weekend. Anyone contemplating desert sea canoeing should contact our leader for expert advice.
ASSISTANT ASSISTANT TRIP' LEADER.
Jeff Jennings......Bridport..North Sea Tourer
Cecily Butorac....Hobart....North Sea Tourer
Andrew Rust......Hobart.....North Sea Tourer
Kerry Behrens....Hobart....North Sea Tourer
Suzie Bauer........Hobart.....Dean 23' double......Pete Bauer.
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