Toby Clark, Laurie Ford and Ian MacDonald, of the Maatsuyker Canoe Club, with Grant Hyland and Kaye Beswick of Emu Bay Canoe Club, were the starters who spent the Friday evening before the trip at Bridport awaiting an early start for Little Musselroe Bay the next morning. After some last minute discussions most were in bed reasonably early, no doubt a little anxious as to what the next few weeks would bring.
Unbeknown to us, our rising time of 4.30am on the 27th December was to become the norm for most paddling days on the trip. After a few last minute checks we were off to Little Musselroe Bay in Toby and Grant's vehicles. A bit of a wait at Gladstone while Grant got on the right track again, then on to the starting point after one more wrong turn.
While Laurie, Toby and Grant were away parking the vehicles, one of the locals turned up and really cheered Kaye and I up as he told us of a Victorian who died many years ago on a return trip from Wilson's Promontory in a kayak and went on to say how strong the currents were out in Banks Strait. Nevertheless, he did admit if he were a younger man he would have liked to be joining us and could see we were well equipped for a long journey.
It was a grey, overcast morning as we headed out towards the western end of Swan Island, which was to be the first stop-over point while we waited on the tide changing for another start at 12.30pm. Both Laurie’s and my memory failed us as we neared the lighthouse along the northern coast of Swan Island as we headed in one bay too soon and made the walk to the houses a bit longer. One thing we did notice was there must have been a new wind sock at the landing strip as the old one seemed to be permanently horizontal when we were last there some 18 months ago. We had been spotted on our approach by the caretaker, his wife and child, who at first thought us to be pelicans until they saw the flashing paddles. They came down and invited us along for a cup of coffee, which we didn't knock back as the wind was quite cold. The lighthouse had been fully automated since our last visit and the island is now leased out to four business-men who employ a caretaker to look after things and who the Bureau of Meteorology pay to report on the weather. We made use of this facility and checked on the wind speed before leaving and found we would be paddling into a 12 knot head-wind. We had lunch on the beach; the first of many monotonous meals, and then set off planning to make Preservation Island for our first night.
As we progressed, the size of the swell and the strength of the wind slowly increased. By the time we were running up the south-western coast of Clarke Island two events happened almost simultaneously. Toby, who has been sea-sick on previous occasions, was sick and accepted a tow from Laurie, while Grant performed the first of his rolls while under sail. At this stage we weren't far out from Rebecca Bay so headed for shelter making fairly heavy going of it as the swells were large off the point and we were going against the current to make the bay. We got around the point and found it sheltered and easy going; after landing and summing up the situation we called it quits for the day.
It was only early in the afternoon, so everyone wandered up to a nearby high-point to look at the change in the sea conditions around us and feel the full force of the wind. This was a good introduction for this trip to the changes in the weather and served to remind us why Banks Strait has such a reputation.
Coming back from this walk we scouted about in a thicket of tea tree and found a sheltered camp-site and an adequate supply of firewood. Here Laurie spent some time teaching Kaye and Grant the finer points of fly erection. That evening Toby surprised us all by sporting a dressing gown and listening to FM radio on his new Walkman. Jeff Jennings has a convert here!
By the following morning the wind had not abated, so four of us decided to walk over to the buildings on the other side of the island and see what was there, while Grant was content to go for a bit of a look around in the water. Knowing most of the islands about here have a snake population didn't make for relaxing walking since much of it was through grassy tussocks. Eventually we got onto a ploughed firebreak which led to a track. All tracks have junctions and we managed to take a wrong turn. After a bit of cross-country and a look at a solid clump of scrub, we decided to return to the junction and follow the other leg. It was near here that Toby had a fairly shocking experience as he straddled an electric fence much to our amusement, but not his! The track took us past the landing strip and on to what was a well established farm yard, where we were amazed to see a monstrous four wheel drive tractor and numerous implements. The farm was inhabited by a fill-in couple who were in the process of cleaning up before the regular farmer returned by plane that afternoon. After a wind-blown two hour walk we were a little disappointed not to be offered a "cuppa" so had to make do with what we had brought with us, and sat down on the jetty. We did discover that the island is leased by Hugh Mills, of Cape Portland Estate, and he is about to begin sheep farming on the island, as well as the cattle which were already there.
On the return journey we went to the top of Green Hill and saw as expected, that we were surrounded by a very white and angry sea. It wasn't Toby's day; as he led the way down this hill he did a quick leap to avoid treading on a snake under a tussock. It made us all that much more tentative on the remainder of the return journey.
On listening to the forecast that evening it sounded promising for Monday, so we decided on an early start to have tidal assistance up the side of Clarke and across to the western end of Cape Barren.
All was still on awakening that morning and I was surprised to see the fire burning and Kaye up at the early hour of 4.30am. This was to be the first test of Kaye and Grant's packing up skills for quick starts. Three of us managed to have breakfast and pack in half an hour, the others took a good hour so we now knew how much time to allow. It wasn't till later we found out that Grant still hadn't enough time for breakfast!
Not far from Thunder & Lightning Bay, Kaye was feeling sea-sick so we made for land once more. Had a hot brew here and lazed in the sun for a few hours before the other four tried to sneak off and leave me basking in the sun.
The going was fairly slow as we paddled between Cape Barren and Long Island. We had a quick snack without getting out of the boats, before continuing into the current and wind out to the Doughboy. Had enough of an angle here to use the sails for some assistance and make for tonight’s camp-site on Trousers Point. Grant showed his tenacity again as he did another roll under sail on this crossing.
Just off Trousers Point, the Furneaux Explorer (Bridport) was trawling. It must be one of the first times it's been out of port since launching over 12 months ago. Toby was impressed as one of the passengers told him he was very brave, he nearly corrected that to being very mad, but we did not want to disillusion the woman.
We found a nice sheltered camp-site a little away from the established camp-site, which was overflowing with a cycle tour group from Geelong.
A more leisurely start today as we needed the tide with us as we worked our way up to Whitemark. Stopped here and was introduced to an old friend of Laurie's in the Telephone Exchange. A few phone calls were made before visiting the local take-away for more junk food and refreshment and some of us stocked up on supplies.
Laurie was suffering from a severe headache at this stage so we decided to continue on a bit until we found somewhere sheltered to rest. Blue Rocks was to be the spot so we lunched and lazed here for two hours.
The wind speed had picked up somewhat off shore so we kept in shore to try to avoid the brunt of it. At some stage Grant performed his third and final roll (I think) without any of us knowing till later. As we turned more westerly out towards what we thought was to be Settlement Point Laurie, Toby and I put up sails for a short but furious ride to what was to be our next camp-site. The reason we stopped was the fear of being blown out off the point and not being able to paddle back to shore. It was not till next morning we realised we were in Arthur Bay and could have gone another 6km around the point.
Another calm morning made for another early start, a little disappointed to find we had 6km further to paddle than anticipated to take us round Settlement Point. Initially we aimed for Tanner Bay in the northern end of Marshall Bay, but on approaching the top of this bay we decided we were making good progress as the wind had freshened and we could sail around Cape Frankland as the tide was right also.
The weather soon deteriorated as thunder and lightning began to fill the sky and a few showers of rain fell. Laurie and Toby were in front at this stage and made for and landed on Royden Island, and on walking to the top of the small hill on the island they looked over and saw a westerly change quickly approaching. They raced back to their boats as they realised we would be caught out. On the water just before this time the wind behind us dropped, stopped, and a casual comment about the calm before the storm was made, then the wind blew lightly against us. Fortunately all three of us took our sails down for no sooner than we did a squall hit us that would have ripped the sails out of the boats and most likely blown us over. We just managed to keep hold of our paddles and stay upright and very slowly paddle towards the shelter of Roydon Island. Luckily it was short but not so sweet and we were able to continue on to Killiecrankie without further incident. I think it astonished a few of the locals on our arrival as dinghies had been blown over on the beach and they reported the squall to have lasted some twenty minutes. A colleague of mine from Scottsdale High School, son-in-law of Alf Stackhouse met us on arrival. His wife Virginia and Alf soon arrived and we were invited in for a shower, followed by a coffee.
We enjoyed this hospitality before returning to the kayaks for lunch, and then surveyed the nearby campsite area. We were not overly impressed with this so decided not to rush things. Laurie and Grant put up tent flys by their boats to relax while Toby and I walked around to see the arch-way at Stackies Bight.
Around tea time we saw the forecast and found there was going to be a north-east change midday tomorrow. On that Laurie suggested we go at 1l.00pm that evening to which Toby and I countered with an 8.00pm start as we reasoned we would not sleep before setting off anyway as we were all keyed up. We then packed before going back to Alf's to confirm things on the next television weather map at 7.30 pm.
During the afternoon Kaye was battling with the decision as to whether to go to Wilsons Prom or stay with Grant and paddle back early. Her mind was made up for her when Laurie said "We're not leaving here without you kid". So that was it, four of us to tackle the rest of the 'Strait'.
Off we paddled into the sunset, so to speak, with very slight assistance from a weak westerly. After the first hourly stop Toby decided he didn't like it, we were just getting too far away from land and the night was fast descending upon us. Laurie immediately turned his boat around and started heading back, on seeing this Toby didn't want to jeopardise the trip for everyone else so had a quick rethink and decided to go on. At that point in time none of us would have minded one little bit heading back to Killiecrankie. I took my sail down soon after this, deciding it was more hindrance than help at that stage so just paddled along at the tail of the group following the silhouette of sails and the red lights.
The light on Craggy Island took forever to pass by, and Deal was just a speck of light for a long time. All we seemed to do was count the chocolate stops on each hour. Each of us seemed to suffer a bad spot some time during the night where we really struggled to keep awake and at times some of us had hallucinations - Toby distinctly remembers having to duck under low tree branches stretched across in front of him.
Some time before dawn we heard the waves breaking upon, then later saw Wrights Rock, a very bad sign for although we were on course it meant we were only two-thirds of the way after nine hours paddling. At about the same time Deal Island disappeared into mist and cloud. There was nothing to do but continue on the compass bearing and hope the island appeared before we passed it. A few hours after dawn a dark image arose amongst the clouds in the distance in front, our objective at last but still hours away. Everyone was tiring but no point stopping out here, those last few hours were painfully slow. As we approached Murray Pass between Deal Island and Dover & Erith Islands the sea was very confused, no one wanted to fall out in this lumpy stuff at this stage. To make matters worse we were going against the tide in the pass so had to keep close to the cliffs to avoid the full effect.
Eventually after 13.5 hours paddling and 25 hours since sleep there appeared a fishing boat anchored in a small bay with a sheltered beach and jetty at one end. I was surprised that the legs still worked as I dragged the boat up the beach and waited on the others arriving. Food and drink were the first thoughts. Laurie passed around the cans for us to have a celebratory drink. We had just paddled 32 nautical miles, most of it in darkness, on New Years Eve - how did you spend New Years Eve? A quick snack while the Lightkeepers wife was rung from the phone on the jetty. The lightkeepers soon drove down as they were going out to check their pots - we could have a lift up the hill upon their return. Three of us lay down on the road and slept while Laurie moved the kayaks further up the beach and walked up to the lightkeepers houses. I am sure we all must have looked and did feel like zombies so I hate to think what the keepers thought when they saw us, the word 'mad' was used once or twice though, The saying 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' started about now.
We woke just before the keepers returned empty handed and were driven to the head keeper's house to be treated to cups of hot coffee and a shower for Kaye. Preparations were under way here for the annual New Years Day barbecue at the beach with the people holidaying on Erith Island and any yachties in the vicinity. We were offered the use of the back yard to rest in peace and quiet which we all took up and slept for varying lengths of time before going back down to the beach to witness the Murray Pass Crayfish Crawl which was a fairly cut throat swimming race with inflatable craft, just off the beach. Toby made a valiant effort on our behalf and is keen to return next year and compete after having had a good nights sleep first. All the while Kaye slept/rested under the jetty oblivious to it all.
We socialised a little with some of the yachties who stayed ashore for another barbecue for tea then put up the flys on the bank above the beach and retired for a well earned and deep sleep.
A late and leisurely start to a cool overcast day, after breakfast we walked a few km up to the lighthouse, only to find it locked - seen one lighthouse seen them all was the attitude as we were not about to go back for the key. Visited the museum on our return, quite interesting information on the island and wrecks nearby.
After lunch we paddled over to Erith Island where we planned having another few days R & R. Upon our arrival we were met by Stephen and Nita Murray-Smith who have been holidaying on the island every Christmas for 25 years and who bring a number of friends, young and old, to stay also. Drinks were followed by a guided tour of established camp-sites behind the beach and we were made to feel most welcome, particularly as the young females did their bit on the beach. An invitation was extended to us to join them for a banquet that evening. What a treat, crayfish, trevalla, fresh salad, seaweed salad, and fruit salad for desert - who would want to go back to sea after this sort of treatment? It was at this dinner that Laurie stopped proceedings to present Kaye with her beard to make her an official club member, and present Toby with a Colouring-In book as he told his wife this will be his last Christmas trip and will need the book so he wont be bored at home next year.(Editor’s Note: The Maatsuyker Canoe Club is not sexist, but all members must wear beards.)
A cooked breakfast with Stephen and Nita in the shack made up for the fact that it was cold and wet outside. A fairly casual day today just wandering about, before an evening of Poker and Trivial Pursuit in the shack.
Feeling a little more energetic today so we explored some of the island but failed to reach the island's cave as the tide was in and the swell prevented us clambering around the rocks to it. We were wined and dined by the younger generation on Erith tonight, again another great sea-foody meal, but early to bed as we planned on heading off early in the morning.
We were by now a few days behind schedule and were keen to make progress once more as we headed off into the mist on the 5th of January. A bit of confused sea as we headed north out of Murray Pass then into a low swell and about three hours of paddling in a mist just following along behind Laurie, the trip navigator. Back to counting chocolate stops today but at least this was only a mere 23 nautical mile crossing.
The mist and cloud lifted to reveal a much larger island than I was expecting off in the distance. Some four hours later we approached the bare hills of Hogan Island only to see the surf crashing in the small bay in front of the hut. Toby was in front at this stage and stopped in his tracks no doubt somewhat disheartened. Laurie paddled in for a closer inspection and could see the surf flattened out after passing through a narrow gap. Anxious to land we paddled tentatively through, looking over our shoulders, and were relieved to beach in calm conditions in front of Brian Stackhouse's hut.
After lunch some much needed washing was done in a nearby cattle trough while others basked in the sun and swatted what must have been the largest March flies we had ever seen.
A little more leisurely start to today’s final long hall to Refuge Cove in calm seas. By now Kaye was suffering from blisters on both hands and now paddled with taped hands which were to cause concern over the next few weeks. The Prom was visible right from the start 27 nautical miles away under a layer of dark cloud. 9.5 hours later Laurie's memory served him well as he navigated us right into Refuge Cove after an absence of 22 years since last entering here from the sea on a winning yacht on a Queenscliff to Devonport race.
Sirocco, a yacht and crew we were familiar with from Deal Island had only just arrived here after a disappointing trip to Flinders Island where the weather was far from amenable to them, and obliged us by relaying to Coast Guard Loch Sport of our arrival. Another yacht crew were just having afternoon tea so Toby and Kaye made the most of their tea and home-made cakes
Upon arrival on the beach a ranger came down and said he was expecting us as the Deal Island Lightkeeper had passed on a message that we were on our way and was awaiting a reply to let the people on Erith know of our safe arrival.
Arrival here gave various feelings to each of us, despite this being the aim of the trip it was in my opinion something of an anticlimax, as here we were on another beach on another island about to set up camp again, and have another un-exciting meal not even cooked on an open fire as a total fire ban was in force.
Anyway here we were eleven days later on the 6th of January some 150 nautical miles from our starting point all quite pleased with ourselves to some extent or another, and prepared to forget all about the return journey for at least another three days.
An l9.5km walk to Tidal River via Sealers Cove awaited us today so we were off early to enable us spend the maximum time there making phone calls, eating heaps of junk food and having hot showers. Even Laurie, who did not succumb to the elegant offerings on Erith Island, lashed out on cheeseburgers and thickshakes.
Fortunately a doctor works a few hours a day here so Kaye visited him only to be told she had infected blisters and was put on a course of antibiotics to try and reduce the very considerable swelling before we set off again in a few days time.(Her hands were now so bad she could not bend them to grasp her paddle.)
We returned after buying stores to replenish our larders and Toby was able to stock up on more fresh veggies, a commodity he had been living well on each night, while it was Sao's or tins or dehyds for the rest of us. All we could say was that Agnese his wife has him trained better than he likes to admit.
Toby and I were a little disgruntled as Laurie and Kaye got a lift to the carpark at the start of the walk which saved them 3km of the 19.5 km return journey back to camp.
Again this evening there were mumblings of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time!’ There was no disagreement as we vowed to have a relaxing day around camp tomorrow.
Laurie's absence was noted as we arose about mid morning, it was not until he returned some time later we discovered he had been busy carving the club and our names for posterity on the boards provided for yachts to put their names on, rather than paint them on the rocks about the cove as had been the practice. After a very relaxing day we decided on another 40km foray into Tidal River tomorrow - those hamburgers were just too good.
(This photo taken in 2016)
Another start on daybreak, this time going via Waterloo Bay and a further 3km added to the trip, but we felt the variety was worth it. About 4.5 hours later and no offer of a lift down from the carpark we were back in the coffee shop just in time for a morning-tea break. Were we really mad or not? - the doubts were beginning to form a bit stronger now. Another visit to the doctor for Kaye and more tablets as the hands showed no sign of improvement yet.
Again Laurie and Kaye got a lift and fortunately there was room for Toby and I as they caught up to us. The lift was appreciated even more as it was drizzling. A somewhat slower return via Sealers Cove and then another early night.
Another lazy day about Refuge Cove, we were wanting to make a move again but Kaye's hands were slow in improving. Laurie spent part of the day with his small monocular to his eye studying the topless figure out on Beverlee, at least he was amused.
Toby and Laurie decided on an even earlier start on Sunday for what would hopefully be the last trip into Tidal River. I made use of Toby's therma rest and had a comfy lie in for a few more hours, while Kaye started to get things organised for a start on the return journey tomorrow. Much to our amazement the two hikers were back by 2.30pm, so had gone straight in and out today, they were mad. Apparently they had met Kaye's doctor as he jogged into Sealers Cove and back before surgery opening hours, and were able to get a ride the last bit of the way if they jogged to the carpark. After a quick morning tea and a phone call they also got a lift back to the carpark which convinced Toby that it was Laurie that people took pity on as Toby had not had any luck when hitching with Kaye.
After listening to the forecast and checking out Kaye's hand (the swelling had gone down enough so that she could now bend her fingers round the paddle) the boats were packed in readiness for a 6.30am start next morning, then to bed early once more.
Set off in fine conditions with a following sea and a very slight tail wind. After a six day rest we found paddling took a bit of getting used to again, particularly to start off on a long crossing. Eight uneventful hours later, apart from a few suggestions that we might give Hogan Island a miss and go straight to Deal, we landed on Hogan in dead calm conditions in the sheltered bay in front of the hut once more.
Laurie spent his afternoon messing about with the radio as he could only receive on the marine radio using the whip aerial, and not call out, and decided to put up a long barbed-wire aerial and try his luck. Much to everyones surprise he got through easily and reported to Loch Sport that we were planning to be on Deal Island the following day.
A bit more washing done and lazing in the sun or hut was the way to spend the remainder of the afternoon.
A fairly casual start in fine weather again today with a little assistance from the wind later in the morning. Not far off Deal Island we were swooped down upon by a curious helicopter pilot who no doubt knew of our presence in the vicinity through the lightkeeper.
We were given a very friendly welcome upon our arrival on Erith Island by Michelle and Kate and then by Stephen and Nita and a few others as they heard of our return. Laurie called Michelle's bluff when he went swimming in the altogether with her. I made minor repairs to my rudder while the rest enjoyed the sunshine, sights, and cool drinks.
The forecast for tomorrow was strengthening north-westerly winds off Victoria, and a strong wind warning for northern Tasmania. We decided we were in between and would make the most of the winds to drive us to Flinders Island. At this stage everyone was keen to make progress, so caution was thrown to the wind. After coffee at Stephen and Nita's shack that evening we said our final farewells as it was to be another of those early starts in the morning.
A rather miserable overcast and windy morning unfolded as our departure time neared. Progress with Kaye was slow out through Murray Pass, then it was sails up and follow Laurie once more. As the wind and swell picked up so did our nervousness as it was apparent there was to be no turning back as progress was rapid in the desired direction.
Unfortunately, Kaye soon went for two swims with her sail up and couldn't handle the conditions, so we all took the sails down and paddled on, still making good time, with the wind and sea still increasing in strength. Had we made the right decision in setting off? We weren't even stopping for chocolate as stopping to raft up was none too pleasant.
The fun began a few hours later when we saw the bottom of Laurie's boat for the first time; a most unusual sight, particularly as he swam after the capsize. He was quickly back in and off again. Soon after it was my turn for a roll, then two more swims by Laurie.
It was Toby's turn to be sea-sick, but fortunately - and to our great relief - he just kept going with a big grin "just keep on paddling".
With these events going on all around her, Kaye was starting to ask the questions "are we all going to die", or "will we make it to land” numerous times before our eventual landing.
Not far off Old Mans Head, under Mt Killiecrankie, both Kaye and I were tumbled by a monstrous wave; luckily we both rolled and on looking around saw Laurie in the distance pointing back up the coast. As we weren't making much progress against the tide and were being blown inshore it was time to retreat, so we paddled back out to sea through some more big, big waves. Just about the time Kaye and I were rolling over, Laurie made the comment to Toby that he “didn't think we were going to make it”, meaning make Killiecrankie against the tide. Toby took it the wrong way (thinking he meant we were all going to die), put his head down and said to himself he was going to make it, and took off for Killiecrankie. We met up with Toby a few hours later fortunately safe and sound; in these conditions there was definitely safety in numbers.
Laurie, Kaye and I made rapid, if not comfortable progress around Blythe Point, even if Kaye did have two more swims in the process. Then at last - relief was in sight as we saw shacks and vehicles and a sheltered corner of the beach. Laurie and I were soon on the beach to be met by Henry von Bibra who told us that Toby had arrived safely at Killiecrankie and was concerned about Kaye's safety; he wasn't concerned about ours. Kaye had one last swim in waist-high water as she approached the beach, pretty well exhausted.
We were invited up to the von Bibra's weekend house for a hot drink, 11 hours after leaving Erith Island and having had very little chocolate or drink on the way.
Toby was driven round by Virginia later for a visit and we compared notes on the latter part of the trip. Toby decided sea canoeing is far better than river canoeing now as you can have 11 hours of excitement and adrenalin-pumping action compared with 30 seconds or so at a time as you go down a rapid.
We were later to hear that the strong wind warning had been upgraded to a gale warning through the day. We all agreed we didn't have any desire to be out in big seas that size again nor winds that strong for so long again. Back to the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” comments.
Three of us returned to our kayaks to set up camp nearby while Toby was to return to Killiecrankie and be pampered the following day.
The wind and sea moderated slowly the next day as we lazed around and let our bodies and minds recover from the ordeal. By 5.00pm the sea was quite settled and the wind was of little consequence so we packed and were off by 8.00pm to obtain the benefit of the incoming tide taking us down to Killiecrankie,
Once here it was back to AIf's great hospitality with hot showers, drinks, food and even a bed for each of us.
A casual 7.00am start to be with the tide again on Friday the 18th. Alf saw us off and wished us well, we anticipated seeing him again later that day in the Alcheringa as he was to bring it round from Lady Barron.
Sails were up right from the start as we had a light north-westerly. Once round Cape Frankland the wind was picking up nicely so off we went across Marshall Bay. We soon noticed Kaye was lagging behind so took the sails down to wait for her, on seeing this she took hers down and headed back to shore - thinking we had decided it was too hard. Much mumbling under breaths as we chased after her, Toby was first to catch her and sort things out and away we went again.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Settlement Point knowing that we should take full advantage of the wind and tide, Whitemark was the next stop for some fish & chips and a few phone calls. This was another quick stop as we ambitiously decided to attempt to make Preservation Island today.
Once back in the kayaks we were flying and everything looked set for a record day. Our bubble was burst just north of Trousers Point as the wind turned westerly and a sudden squall hit us. We hastily took sails down and made for the southern side of Trousers Point. At this time Alf, in his 50 foot two master, was heading for cover back into Lady Barron. We were more than happy with our 32 nautical mile progress, which we had planned on taking two days to cover.
As we listened to the forecast that evening we were all convinced we would be having another lay-day here tomorrow,
This wasn't the case for although the sea was covered with whitecaps on our rising for the day, the wind had moderated slightly. We left at 10.00am as we again had to work with the tides. The tide was taking us towards the west and the wind was countering by blowing us east. In these conditions progress was slow but we didn't mind as progress was progress and our homes were getting closer.
While lunching on the eastern end of Long Island, Laurie spotted a two-master which he took to be Alcheringa, back in his kayak and out to meet it. Alf did slow down but only just, so Laurie called to him to put his radio on, then returned to the beach to set up our radio and have a chat. Alf was amazed that we were where we were and had weathered yesterdays squall as he estimated it to be 80 knots - we thought this to be a bit of an exaggeration - probably only 50.
We had to paddle against the tide and wind till rounding Cape Sir John and had to keep well out to prevent being swept onto rocks dotting that part of the coast. Once round here we had the wind and the sea with us again as we made for Preservation Island.
Grant had spent a week on Preservation Island waiting for us and had only yesterday accepted a lift on a yacht back to Bridport, and after we arrived and heard the forecast we felt we may be here for a few days ourselves.
Wrong again - we were anxious - the 6am forecast was for north-westerly winds increasing and with squalls in Banks Strait that afternoon. Laurie casually went outside and checked the wind direction before returning and telling us if he were on his own he'd leave in 10 minutes. We're a bit slower than he is and took 30 minutes to get on the water. Laurie must have been feeling pleased with himself as he had finally got us all to leave without breakfast, a small sacrifice if we could get back today.
It was soon apparent that we'd make good time today as the nearby coast of Cape Barren was slipping by. We were going for broke, a compass bearing for Cape Portland, the wind was strong enough to counter the tide which would be against us for the last hour or so.
The sea was picking up to the extent where Kaye took her sail down about half an hour from home, however she found paddling against the current too slow. As her own sail was coming apart she borrowed Laurie’s second sail and much to his surprise he could no longer keep up with her. Toby and I decided that since we'd taken our sails down we'd finish the trip as we'd started, so were content to paddle.
The trip finished with a few more interesting moments as we were off the point at Little Musselroe with a strong wind against strong tide situation. Although progress was slow it was entertaining but we eventually passed through this and ended up in flat water to finish the trip just after 11.00am, a rate of 4 knots this morning, equaling our run from Killiecrankie to Trousers Point on Friday.
Twenty-three days and 600km later we were back where we started, much wiser, wearier and lighter than when we left.
My thanks to those who participated, in particular to Laurie, for without him it simply wouldn't have happened.
The four paddlers at a reunion at Devonport in August 2023.
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