In January 1979, paddlers John Brewster and Earle de Blonville set off from Georgetown on a circumnavigation of Tasmania.
Day 1 - January 20, 1979
The day we had been working toward came slowly as we dragged ourselves out of bed after a late night with press and the previous four days of putting out our food caches around Tasmania. We departed the Georgetown Pier just before 1200 hrs after a good send-off from locals and media.
Paddling down the Tamar channel the wind was quartering from the bow making the nose point up, an annoying characteristic we were to have for the whole trip. Heading out well offshore into a five to six foot swell we were soon making good time west. Made camp in a pleasant cove, the only incident for day being when I was bitten by a dog.
Georgetown to Bakers Beach - 18km
Day 2 - January 21, 1979
Got up to a fine day and little wind, the barometer had risen. The sea breeze came in the afternoon and we paddled into it to make 25km for the day. Stayed at the Devonport S.L.S.C.
Bakers Beach to Devonport Surf Lifesaving Club, Mersey Bluff - 29km
Day 3 - January 22, 1979
An early start with a good run with following swells to Ulverstone. Spent the afternoon repairing hatches and a bulkhead on my boat. A good night was had at Carl Clayton's barbeque.
Devonport Surf Lifesaving Club to Ulverstone Surf Lifesaving Club - 15km
Day 4 - January 23, 1979
Found out we'd been reported lost by a radio station, must have been hard up for news. Paddled out of Ulverstone with an ebb tide. Paddled to a moderate sea with a following swell. The sun was out making for a glorious day. With conditions such as this we made 5km in 35 minutes over one section. 33km for the day put us at Somerset S.L.S.C.
Ulverstone Surf Lifesaving Club to Somerset Surf Lifesaving Club - 34km
Day 5 - January 24, 1979
Wind NE and a long moderate swell. Experienced strong rebound off Table Cape. Stood well out as we made for Rocky Cape so as to save distance. From the sea the Cape is very impressive, huge blocks of rock and jagged reefs rearing out of the sea. Coming in close we saw a school of fish. Earle baited up and caught 2 black-backed salmon. Rounded the Cape and landed at the settlement.
Somerset to Rocky Cape - 28km
Day 6 - January 25, 1979
Awoke to strong winds WNW of 20 mph gusting to 30 mph. Decided to lay up for the day.
Day 7 - January 26, 1979
Rolled out early, wind had abated somewhat so pushed off. After a short while we could see it was not going to be much better than yesterday. Heads down, we punched our way around the shore to Stanley. As we passed under the Port Latta loading ramp they clocked the wind at 30 mph.
Rocky Cape to Stanley - 25km
Day 8 - January 27, 1979
Beautiful day which we spent taking part in the Stanley Aquatic Festival and the accompanying festivities, long will we remember the people of Stanley.
Day 9 - January 28, 1979
Took quite a while to pack in all our food for the next jump to Strahan. Set out at 1140 hrs to a bow quartering wind. Did a 16km crossing to Robbins Island then on to Stony Pt.
Stanley to Stony Point - 34km
Day 10 - January 29, 1979
Wind still easterly and freshening, barometer dropping. Caught the tide to Woolnorth Pt. Much of the area between Robbins Island and Woolnorth Pt. dries at low tide. Any boating party should watch the tide unless they want a mud slog. Encountered a strong tidal race at Woolnorth Point. The sea was calm after Woolnorth Pt and made beautiful paddling conditions. We beached opposite the Doughboys on a gravel beach.
Stony Point to Doughboys - 35km
Day 11 - January 30, 1979
The change came through about midnight, blowing from the SW, increasing in strength to force 7. During the day built up to a big swell. No paddling.
Day 12 - January 31, 1979
Wind from the NE still strong. From the cliffs all we could see were big swells, 6 metres or more and whitecaps, decided to wait another day and accept the hospitality of Van Diemen Land Company (VDL Co.).
Day 13 - February 1, 1979
Wind from the NE approx. 10mph. Left 0900 hrs. passing between the Doughboys and the mainland the large swells made for a confused sea. We stood well out to escape the influence of the cliff rebound. The swells left from the blow were huge, some would have easily made 10 m. We made for Calm Bay and found it to be a pleasant anchorage after an interesting entrance in the big swells. Landed at Marrawah and on to Mawson Bay paddling into a head wind for the last 14 km. A good day of 47 km.
Doughboys to Mawson Bay - 47km
Day 14 - February 2, 1979
A rolling swell, wind 8 mph. Paddled to Nelson Bay where we were given an excellent lunch by local residents. Pushed on to Couta Rocks, the weather looking bad to the SW.
Mawson Bay to Couta Rocks - 31km approx.
Day 15 - February 3, 1979
Barometer has dropped right away to 995, heavy overcast. Decided to make some time down the coast and got to Gannet Point before we were literally blown off the water. It was here that Earle sent off some flares for a boat swamped in the sea, possibly saving them from a nasty situation.
Couta Rocks to Gannet Point - 19km approx.
Day 16 - February 4, 1979
Still blowing hard. A lay day, helping a shack resident with an extension.
Day 17 - February 5, 1979
Weather cleared, barometer risen. Paddled to Sandy Cape ready for our next big hop. We met the Cindy Hardy, an 84 ft. fishing boat at the Cape and went pulling pots with it. A day of huge swell.
Gannet Point to Sandy Cape - 17km approx.
Day 18 - February 6, 1979
Rose early and set off. The swells were still huge from 5 to 7 metres but rolling. We made a difficult landing in Native Well Bay and then pushed on to the Conicals just south of the Pieman River. The Conicals is a good harbour and landing spot.
Sandy Cape to Conical Rocks - 43km approx.
Day 19 - February 7, 1979
Set off for Trial Harbour, an overcast day with moderate swells. Came in through some big swells to land at Granville Harbour. This entrance hears watching as there is a lift in the middle. The best way in is along the southern side. The size of the swells would make landing at Trial Harbour extremely difficult so we decided to call it a day at Granville.
Conical Rocks to Granville Harbour - 35km approx.
Day 20 - February 8, 1979
A strong southerly blowing. Spent the day at Granville yarning with abalone and cray fishermen.
Day 21 - February 9, 1979
Woke up early, still a good roll up but smaller, barometer high. Set off for Strahan. 10 1/2 hours and 60km later we passed through Hells Gates to put our longest day yet behind us. Because of the difficulty and extra distance involved in landing we had come in a straight line with no landings to Hells Gates. It was two weary paddlers who enjoyed a beer in Strahan that night.
Granville Harbour to Strahan - 70km approx.
Days 22 & 23 - February 10&11, 1979
Lay days Strahan
Day 24 - February 12, 1979
A large low on its way but time to move on. We spent most of the morning packing in our supplies to take us to Hobart. Our kayaks fully loaded now weighed a good 170kg. Rounding Cape Sorell we ran into heavy confused seas, making paddling difficult. We made for Sloop Point finding a good landing behind a rock projection about halfway along the north side of the point. Dark clouds are piling up and the barometer is dropping. We pitched our tent snug on top of a frontal dune, protected by a large rock and dense scrub.
Strahan to Sloop Point - 40km approx.
Days 25 to 28 - February 13 to 16, 1979
The gale proper hit during the first night and blew constantly for the next 4 days, at times gusting to 50 mph. We spent the days writing, reading and exploring. We were later to learn that the gale brought the biggest seas many west coast fishermen could remember.
Day 29 - February 17, 1979
Decided to pull out even though a large sea was still running and continue on our run south. From Cape Sorell to the Diorites there seems to be an especially bad area of foul-bottom where the sea will lift and break over and under sea reef of rock. The sea paddler needs to keep a wary eye for these "lifts", as to be caught by a 6-metre swell breaking over one of these obstructions could well mean disaster. Our day was spent keeping a wary eye out for lifts and coping with rebound from the cliffs. We made a short day of it and landed at the entrance to the Birthday River through a 1.5 metre break.
Sloop Point to Birthday River - 25km approx.
Day 30 - February 18, 1979
Found such a magnificent campsite we spent a day resting and exploring.
Day 31 - February 19, 1979
Set off for the Mainwaring River 0930 hrs. Getting through the dumpers required some judgement and luck not to get wet. The best method seems to be to move out in the shore wash, wait for the big ones to break and paddle like fury out over their wash, and make it out the back before the next big set move in. We usually seemed to make it over a big one just as it was peaking and so it was this morning.
A moderate long swell was running at about 5m and the day was quiet. Varna Bay was quite spectacular with its many lifts and sea rocks. We met a fishing boat, the "Georges Bay", and stopped for a chat. Most of the fishing boats would report our position into Hobart when they saw us. Although we had not asked for this, we appreciated this act of friendliness, as the ABC reports let our families know where we were. An afternoon sea breeze blew up quite strongly causing a considerable cross swell making the going hard and slowing us right down.
We were off Christmas Cove (Wanderer River mouth) about 1500 hrs and decided to pull in for a break until the wind died. We found the south end of the cove to be a delightful place with protected waters and sea caves to explore; we forgot our aches and pains in the exploring of the caves, some of which you can right into.
After a brew, we headed out for the Mainwaring River, a further 14km on, a little late but figuring we could probably land if needed. We ran out of daylight unable to find a place that we were prepared to risk a landing. We were then faced with two choices, either stay at sea for the night or paddle back to Christmas Cove, as we felt we could feel our way back in there.
Staying out would have meant sitting in the same place as the area had a lot of lifts. We opted for paddling back the 9km. After donning life jackets and lighting our cyalume tubes we headed back, keeping well out to avoid lifts. The night was moonless and features and lifts were hard to distinguish, with the added difficulty of judging night distance. It was a tense 3 hours later that we beached amongst rocks and gravel and crashed for a much-needed sleep.
Birthday Creek to 'almost Mainwaring Inlet' and back to Christmas Cove - 80 km approx.
Day 32 - February 20, 1979
Woke early and headed out toward the Mainwaring River. The coast between Christmas Cove and the Mainwaring is generally rocky and steep and does not afford good landing sites with a sea running. We found the entrance to the Mainwaring difficult to locate, it being well concealed.
Bypassing the Mainwaring we landed at the Diorites, a picturesque area of jagged rock islands and reef. There are good landing sites and water in this area. Earle did some fishing in the deep gutters that run between the reefs in this area, and we relaxed on the beach roasting fish over a fire, still feeling wrung out from the previous night. Paddling down to Low Rocky Point we pulled in for the night in a small bay immediately north of the point. There is no water at this point.
Christmas Cove to Low Rocky Point - 37km approx.
Day 33 - February 21, 1979
What a day, sunshine and calm seas, the expected low was holding off and it looked like best paddling conditions yet. Keeping well out to reduce distance we came on a sleeping seal rocking in the swell. We saw quite a few seals sleeping I this manner, usually alone.
Off Nye Bay Earle's paddle loom gave way with fatigue. I paddled slowly on to be confronted by a huge fin, like something out of "Jaws", breaking the surface some 150 metres in front of me. It submerged, to re-appear again inshore of me, to reveal a killer or pilot whale approximately 10 metres long. It was certainly the heart starter for the day.
Met up with the F/V Denalis off Mulcahy Bay, who provided a screw for Earle's paddle and a welcome beer. Went ashore here for about 3 hours while Earle re-glassed his paddle. We pulled in for the night at Wreck Bay, a very agreeable campsite. The wreck of the Svenor lies here, a great rusting hulk washed by the surf and still retaining an air of majesty from the days of sail.
Low Rocky Point to Wreck Bay - 43km approx.
Day 34 - February 22, 1979
Clear skies and a calm sea, a fitting day to paddle past rearing pyramids and sea cliffs to Port Davey. There is a reef that runs from the mainland north of Trumpeter islets to beyond the west side of the islets. We could see the lifts as we headed toward the passage between Trumpeter and the mainland. In bad weather or a heavy swell, you would be ill advised to cross these reefs. The south of Trumpeter and Southeast of Hobbs (Green Is.) both have pebble beaches on which a kayakist could land. We called by the pyramids to explore.
The west pyramid rises, sheer rock to its apex, patches of pigface clinging on where it can. As we ran into Port Davey we were hit by a wind coming down from Davey Head. Here, and east to South West Cape, are prime places for katabatic winds. We paddled on to Bond Bay where we took advantage of a bath and copper the fishermen have there.
Wreck Bay to Bond Bay - 35km approx.
Days 35 & 36 - February 23 & 24, 1979
Spent in Bond Bay resting and exploring. Here we met the F/V Denalis again and a pleasure launch, the Mascarin III. Port Davey was very impressive and must be the jewel in the crown of the south west.
Day 37 - February 25, 1979
Paddling by 0830, barometer 1019mb, wind slight and day overcast. With a slight roll on the sea we made good time with the outgoing current. The day deteriorated into overcast blackish skies and drizzle. We landed at Window Pane Bay and headed out to McKays Gulch. McKays Gulch is a good refuge with a small pebble beach and water but no decent place to pitch a tent. The cloud layer had dropped to 400m and the drizzle was constant. It was in these conditions we rounded South West Cape. Fitting really, as it added to the air of this rock spine, running sheer to its extreme. Even though this Cape is not the southern most point (that right belongs to South East Cape) it was the most impressive single point on the whole trip for me. Leaving the Cape behind, we ran 10km with our first following swell to Ketchem Bay. A very satisfying day with 54 km behind us.
Bond Bay to Ketchem Bay - 54km
Day 38 - February 26, 1979
Barometer 1012 mb and rising, day completely overcast with a constant drizzle. Visibility down. Made up to 9km an hour with the wind and swell behind us. Chased in by a stiff blow, we arrived at Deadmans Bay at 1500 hrs in drizzle, an excellent landing spot. Found a slab ironbark shelter. A little bit of dryness in an otherwise soaked world.
Ketchem Bay to Deadmans Bay - 34km approx.
Day 39 - February 27, 1979
We had a large breakfast of muesli, honey, pancakes and fruit to build the energy and stem the cold. A complete cloud cover as we set off. Once out of the protection of the bay we were in a moderate and frustrating cross swell, added to by a beam wind. In this manner we were washed & paddled on our way.
Off Rocky Boat Harbour in these uncertain conditions with another 30km before we could land, we decided to put in. In these conditions, swell breaks right across Rocky Boat Harbour so a fair degree of judgement is needed to get in and out. At one stage we glanced around to see almost a 5m wall of water behind us. The method we used was to get in with the big ones. Chase the last one in and brace on any white water that may catch you.
Deadmans Bay to Rocky Boat Harbour - 11km approx.
Day 40 - February 28, 1979
Barometer 1030 mb. a scud over DeWitt, a grey day but it looked stable and on the improve so we pushed off. A confused sea with quite a big swell running. We experienced a lot of rebound off the cliffs in this section. Off South East Cape at 1707 hrs. Earle did a celebration roll. We pointed ourselves east again. The sun joined us in celebration and came out for the first time in days. Arrived in Mouldy Hole, glad to get out of our boats and stretch, had our first cup of tea with milk since Port Davey.
Pushed on to Southport arriving in the dusky twilight. We were escorted the last 2km by bottle nosed dolphins leaping between our boats, a fitting end to the south west. 57km for the day.
Rocky Boat Harbour to Southport - 57km
Day 41 - March 1, 1979
Pushed off for Kettering. Head winds most of the way up the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. We saw our first highway with trucks and cars, a strange feeling. Arrived Kettering just on dark, the mornings wind had died to a breeze later in the day.
Southport to Kettering - 53km approx.
Day 42 - March 2, 1979
Hobart today, slight swell a good paddling day. The only problem was the current being against us as we paddled up the River Derwent to Sandy Bay and the Derwent Sailing Squadron. A reception by the media and friends and family, it was good to see them again.
Kettering to Hobart - 31km approx.
Day 43 to 46, March 3 to 6, 1979
Days spent relaxing, eating, talking and a minimum of sightseeing.
Day 47 - March 7, 1979
A midday start from Hobart, we made good time against a head swell and pushed our way to Nubeena arriving 1939 hrs on dark.
Hobart to Nubeena - 51km approx.
Day 48 - March 8, 1979
Up for an early start around Cape Raoul. 20 knot winds were forecast but will be in the lee of cliffs most of the way, so there should not be much trouble. The rock formations and cliffs in this area are very impressive flutes cliffs and the pillars of Cape Raoul. A little rebound from the cliffs on rounding Cape Raoul, the sun was shining and the sea a smooth swell. Where were the 20 knot winds? We didn't know, but no one was complaining. Pulled into Crescent Bay for the night and kayak repairs. Earle's boat had worn a hole just forward of the directional skeg, mine was showing signs of wear, so we patched both.
Nubeena - Crescent Bay - 36km approx.
Day 49 - March 9, 1979
A clear day with moderate swells. We were making for Eaglehawk Neck. Between Port Arthur entrance and Tasman Island we experienced 11 km of the most consistently confused water we had paddled in to date, a lot of cliff rebound mixed with the current. On passing between Tasman Is and Cape Pillar the sea smoothed off. We struck straight across Munro Bight to the Lanterns, masses of rock and pillars that soar straight up out of the ocean. Arrived Eaglehawk Neck 1700 hrs.
Crescent Bay to Eaglehawk Neck - 40km approx.
Day 50 - March 10, 1979
Followed the coast to Cape Frederick Hendrick, landed at Visscher Island and struck straight across the Hellfire Bluff. We were close to Orford, our next food pickup, so we pushed on. The last 17km were exhausting, punching into a fair wind slop. Arrived in the dark at 1940 hrs. It felt good to get in a long day but we were both very weary.
Eaglehawk Neck to Orford - 60km approx.
Day 51 - March 11, 1979
Calm and glassy in the morning but due to a late start we came in for 20 knot head winds pushing up abut a 1.5 metre swell. We pulled into Okehampton, and after a scotch aboard the Ben Hur, decided to relax for the rest of the day, giving our bodies a rest from the previous days push.
Orford to Okehampton - 12km approx.
Day 52 - March 12, 1979
A good run to Seaford Point pursued by a very black bank of clouds across from Schouten Is. A violent thunderstorm hit early that evening.
Okehampton to Seaford Point - 29km approx.
Day 53 to 56 - March 13 to 16, 1979
Days of wind and rain sitting across from Schouten Island, itching to get going but needing better weather for the crossing.
Day 57 - March 17, 1979
A still, misty morning fog and cloud had reduced everything to dark blurs after 1km. At least it wasn't blowing half a gale. Setting our compasses, we paddled into the greyness. The sea had a low swell up and an oily texture, an occasional gannet would drift by giving us a close inspection as we paddled along in our dome of grey. We took 1/2-hour stints in keeping to the bearing. After 2 hours a breeze blew up giving us a glimpse of the Schouten Passage. Not to be let off, the wind blew up to give us steep swell and 15 - 20 mph winds for our last pull into the old house on Schouten Island. We lit a fire, warmed up a bite to eat, and had a sleep.
The sky cleared about 1400 hrs and we pushed off for Wineglass Bay into what could only be described as a berserk roller coaster. At the eastern end of Schouten Passage the swell was jumping up and breaking off all over. There followed 15km and 2 hours of the roughest weather for the trip all the way to Half Lemon Rock. All this section is cliff, and the sea provides no rest. Two tired paddlers beached at Wineglass Bay.
Seaford Point to Wineglass Bay - 44km approx.
Day 58 - March 18, 1979
A following wind and swell, paddled a straight 35km to Bicheno. We met Bryan and Shirley Winspear of Bicheno Holiday Village who opened their larder to us. They later commented to a paper that we had eaten everything but the table-cloth, which was a pretty fair summation.
Wineglass Bay to Bicheno - 41km approx.
Day 59 - March 19, 1979
A light NW breeze which, after an hour, settled into a consistent 10 - 15 mph head wind. Arrived at Falmouth at dusk. A long and tiring day.
Bicheno to Falmouth - 45km approx.
Day 60 - March 20, 1979
Another day of head winds. We made for Binalong Bay, our next food cache. Our only tip for the whole trip occurred on this section where I was capsized and rolled up, quite an exhilarating feeling. Coming out through dumpers I was end-for-ended backwards, which made two rolls in the space of one hour. Off St Helens entrance the wind gusted to about 25 mph, and forward progress slowed to a crawl. Arrived Binalong Bay 1500 hrs and stayed put.
Falmouth to Binalong Bay - 35km approx.
Day 61 - March 21, 1979
Winds to 30 mph recorded, 50mph at Eddystone. Spent the day with new friends.
Day 62 - March 22, 1979
A beautiful day, clear water, rocks and white beaches. We made Eddystone Point in good time and pushed further north. The area north of Eddystone Earle referred to as Tropicana because of the crystal-clear water and white beaches. Towards Cape Portland the tide runs very powerfully. The beaches of Musselroe Bay are scalloped by tide and eddy action. Camped at Little Musselroe making a day of 65km, the longest day for the whole expedition.
Binalong Bay to Little Musselroe Bay - 74km approx.
Day 63 - March 23, 1979
A day of strong head winds to 20mph. We rounded Cape Portland near the tide change. Even so at Cape Portland itself I passed through a 200-metre section of standing waves to 2 metres. Landed on a small island (Maclean Island) then slogged around Ringarooma Bay to Tomahawk where we vainly searched for a phone. Finally called it a day just inside Waterhouse Point where we spent a pleasant night at Corfu Castle.
Little Musselroe Bay to Waterhouse Point - 48km approx.
Day 64 - March 24, 1979
Out of bed at 0400 hrs after not much sleep. We pushed around Waterhouse and Croppies Point. Feeling fatigued and cold I settled for a 2-hour sleep on the beach. Head winds were the order of the day and we slogged around Anderson Bay to Bridport. Earle's coccyx needed a rest, as he felt as if it was protruding through the bottom of the boat. After a long rest and feed we made it another 8km to Sandy Point.
Waterhouse Point to Sandy Point - 48km approx.
Day 65 - March 25, 1979
The finish getting closer we battled head winds for another day making Beechford. We were met on the beach by GTV9, who evidently had been chasing up and down the coast looking for us.
Sandy Point to Beechford - 37km approx.
Day 66 - March 26, 1979
Last day, our first pleasant day since Eddystone Point, hardly any wind and plenty of time. We lazed along savouring the weather and the paddling, talking over parts of the trip. I don't think either of us felt excited. I was looking forward to seeing Lyn. But I think we were both aware that a sometimes tiring and annoying, but overall a rewarding, exhilarating phase of our lives, we had been engaged in for the last 66 days, would soon finish.
We hauled up the Tamar against the tide to the Georgetown Pier to be met by a large crowd of locals and media. I could see Lyn very excited up on the pier as we paddled in.
Beechford to Georgetown - 23km approx.
It would be fair to say that both of us felt a great sense of personal accomplishment on achieving the end to all our planning and the experiences contained in those 66 days. We found most people positive and helpful. As for our critics, they were definitely in the minority, and for various reasons they voiced their disapproval. I would say if you are going to take on a project of this magnitude, then your preparation becomes meticulous. It is a shame that criticism is not carried out with such care, as it would greatly reduce it. To all of you who may contemplate similar expeditions, then take a lot of care, common sense, build your skill levels and go ahead. For it is only with this attitude as individuals and a nation that we will progress.
There is a part of the expedition that stands out in my mind and that is the quality of that area of land called the South West. We saw areas as spectacular in part along other parts of the coast, but they had entirely different feelings. The South West had a soul retained because of its isolation. It is a soul we can have an affinity with when we strive to venture there. This feeling is a much-needed spiritual resource for modern man. I would urge everyone to make sure this precious resource is not squandered by alienating its status as wilderness. We are surely rich enough as a people and nation to ensure this.