Maria Island – Feb, 2007

This was a real adventure, and achievement for the two young paddlers (16 and 15). Last year Elli and I took them across to Maria Island, camped there for two nights, then paddled home again. That was their first time ever in kayaks – see rachdanmaria.htm

It was only during the trip this year that Rachel admitted that last year on the 5km paddle across she had been contemplating getting out and swimming ashore – just to get out of the darned kayak.

This trip was to circumnavigate the whole island.
Day 1 was 8 km
Day 2 was 11.5 km in the morning, and 10.5 km in the afternoon
Day 3 was a rest day due to unsuitable weather.
Day 4 was 22 km.
Day 5 was 16.5 km
Total of 68.5 km.

The outside of Maria Island is not really a place for beginners – 21 km along the northern section without a landing spot unless it is very calm, and then you can land about halfway along in the rocky inlet, Beaching Bay. But these kids were looking for something a little bit adventurous. I spent a week in Launceston prior to the trip, and we paddled for about 2 hours every day – including one day down under the Batman Bridge against a very strong current and headwind. Another day we paddled from Gravelly Beach to Riverside - 4 hours in the kayaks. So although they didn't have any skills to speak about, at least their shoulders and hands were used to long paddling.

Sunday 4th
They were driven down to Dodges Ferry about lunch time. This was after Rachel arriving from Adelaide just before midnight the day before. We waterproofed their gear as well as we could, but with more time could have done a better job.

Then it was a drive to Earlham Estate and on the water paddling by 5pm. There was a stiff NE blowing, and we had to poke up into it slightly as we headed across to the southern part of the island. I'd decided to camp near Robeys Creek, to make the next day's paddle 4.5km shorter than if we went to the normal campsite in Chinamans Bay. It was a cold paddle across, completely overcast. Not that long after the start Daniel managed to capsize the Sea Leopard, but we flipped it back up the right way and he got back in and turned the electric pump on. Lucky it wasn't Rachel as the old Greenlander she was using is not fitted with a pump. In view of the conditions, had there been another capsize I would have run off before the wind and camped down near Cockle Bay Lagoon on the Tassie coast. But we struggled on and 2 hours later were ashore on Robeys Beach, where we wasted no time in changing into dry clothes – then looked for tent sites. There were good spots just above the beach, and 50m further back there was a mown 4WD track we could have used as well. Had a campfire down on the sand on the beach.

                                                                 Crossing Mercury Passage

                                                                            Robeys Beach

Monday 5th
It only took a little bit of rousing to get Rachel and Daniel out of bed at 6.30. We did have a fair way to go if we were to get to Whalers Cove tonight. Packing up took them about an hour and a half every day, so by 8.00am we were gliding along the shoreline with sails up and a light following wind. The forecast was for strong NW, going strong SW later in the afternoon. We rounded Cape Peron inside Pyramid Rock – our first cliffs. Then it was a steady paddle close along the shore towards Haunted Cove. There was a low southerly swell, just too much to look into any sea caves. At the entrance to Haunted Cove you can go through a narrow gap barely wide enough for the kayaks. Rachel asked why we didn't go round – and I told her sea kayakers never go round when they can go through. Her paddle did catch on the rocks going through, and hit her nose.

                                                                 Breakfast at Robeys Beach

                                                              Gentle sailing & inside Pyramid Rock

                           The southern coast of Maria Island & going into Haunted Cove

                                                           Elli practicing in Haunted Cove

Haunted Cove was at its best – a lovely warm sunny day as we rested for 4 hours. Elli took the opportunity to practice getting back into her Greenlander. A fishing boat was anchored nearby in the cove. I was doubtful about going on in view of the forecast. If we went early then we could get a strong NW headwind along the outside, and if we went late we would be out in a strong SW round Cape Maurouard – with rebounding swells off the cliffs. The trouble was that the cove is a great place for a break, but not great for camping.

3 hours later it was still pretty well a dead calm, and I decided we'd go at 3.00pm. Just as Elli and Daniel launched a strong SE came out of nowhere, and was freshening all the time. Rachel and I got away last, and I caught up with Elli and told her to keep going with Daniel, but stay out wide in case of a capsize – so they would have time to do a rescue before blowing onto the cliffs. As the wind freshened Rachel and I went slower and slower, still clawing our way out of the cove – but making headway. I considered towing her, but thought she was doing OK in the conditions. We were finally clear of the cove and easing off  towards the east where we found Daniel and Elli waiting in the shelter of Greater Pyramidal Rock. This was a good move by Elli, particularly as it meant coming in close to the coastline.

As we approached Lesser Pyramidal Rock there was a choice of going way out to sea around it, or slipping through between it and the cliffs. I think the troops were absolutely astounded when they saw me heading for the gap – where the waves looked the size of houses. However, they weren't breaking. I'd had a good long look and although they were lumping up to a huge size, and were very steep, I decided it would be safer than going a long way out and around. The seas were still building up.

                                                          On the east side of South Maria Island

                                                                            Whalers Cove

So Elli and Daniel came through flat out side by side, their hearts in their mouths. Days later Elli was still waking in the middle of the night, not believing she'd been through. Rachel was some distance back and I sat there the other side of the gap waiting to do a rescue if necessary – in fact I completely forgot to get any photos. As she came past me unscathed I yelled at her that “now she'd done some real sea kayaking.” One estimate was “4 metres”, another “as big as a two storey house.”
It was now cold and overcast again, as we headed straight up the coast with the wind almost behind us. We cut straight across Riedle Bay to Whalers Cove, and were all cold when we got there. Whalers Cove is a delightful camping spot and we were soon in dry clothes around a good camp fire, our wet gear strung up on a clothes line to dry.

Tuesday 6th
I had warned everybody that we should be up at 6.00am if we were going to have time to get round to Darlington before the sea breeze gets up around 11.00am. But it had been blowing all night, still basically south to southeasterly – but a bit hard to tell when you are in the shelter of Whalers. We probably could have run up the coast before it, but not been able to get in close to the cliffs and caves – so I let them sleep in.

                                                                        The Damper chefs

Rachel and Daniel had brought fishing rods with them and tried them out during the day, without any success. It was a lazy day, warm if you were out of the wind, which seemed to be easing all day. During the day we had found two penguin chicks in a very shallow hole half way up a slope and I thought if we went round after dark we'd be able to watch the parents feeding them. However, our presence there obviously disturbed them and the adults stayed near the water till it was pitch black. So we gave it up after 2 hours, and the kids cooked damper over the fire. This was a first for Elli, not something that is big in the USA.

Wednesday 7th
Once we cleared Whalers Cove we found a headwind – not strong, but not that light either. We went in and out of every little bay and point to get shelter. Then once around Mistaken Cape it died away to nothing, the seas flattened off, and we had a pleasant cruise north. Halfway to Beaching Bay we found a small natural harbour formed by long rocks parallel to the shore, and had a chocolate break. Just before Beaching Bay is one of the better caves, and conditions were ideal to go into it. All four of us were in there together, and once right in there you can see where there is a low exit out into a another cave, and back out to sea, which is what we did – great fun, and noisy with the sound of the waves in the back of the caves.

                                      Daniel's paddle just showing & the cave near Beaching Bay

                       The other way out

                                                        The other way out & under Bishop and Clerk

We could have landed in Beaching Bay quite easily, but didn't. The sea breeze just began to come in as we turned the corner under the peaks of Bishop & Clerk. Here we briefly went into the big cave there, before a slow pleasant sail across Fossil Bay and round to Darlington. One thing we had mentioned to Rachel while in Whalers Cove was that there were hot showers at Darlington, and I think that had a lot to do with the ease with which we got them up this morning – and the fact that they paddled all the way without a break ashore.

                        The big cave under Bishop and Clerk & Daniel sailing across Fossil Bay

                                                                          Daniel & Rachel


Ashore at Darlington we carried the kayaks across the beach and into the creek to paddle up towards the camp so it was not so far to carry gear. Rachel and Daniel headed straight for the showers while Elli and I went to secure a campsite. But we needn't have bothered – I've never seen Maria Island so deserted. There were probably only five or six other tents there. After the showers there was quite a bit of lying in the sun sleeping for a while.

Thursday 8th
I had told them yesterday that we would leave at 11.00am this morning – hoping for a sunny day and a sea breeze to blow us home. However the morning forecast was for moderate southerlies. Very early in the morning it was a flat calm and would have been ideal for an easy trip back, but I decided that a moderate southerly wouldn't slow us down much, and would let everyone know they'd done some paddling

                                       Under the trees up the creek & passing the Painted Cliffs

                                                                          Four Mile Beach

                                              Approaching the finish & the finish at Earlham

We hugged the coast looking for shelter where ever we could as we headed south along the shoreline, and landed briefly on Four Mile Beach for a lunch stop. About this time the wind seemed to be going more south easterly and after we paddled round the shoreline of Booming Bay to Point Lesueur the conditions were ideal for a sail all the way across to Earlham Estate and the cars. And in fact Rachel went all the way without paddling, and didn't arrive that far behind us, we were paddling as well. Again we were feeling the cold upon landing, and quickly changed into dry clothes and loaded the two cars and headed for my place where Rachel's parents were to pick her and Daniel up for the trip back to Launceston.

I have to admit we were extremely lucky with the weather overall, and lucky not to have any capsizes between Haunted Cove and Whalers Cove in the reasonably big seas that afternoon.

Where to next year??????

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