With twenty consecutive work days finished, I took a much needed
rest and spent a couple days just staring across the harbor from Tim's
Being an organic farmer myself,
I really enjoyed Tim's backyard garden. Well cared for and not
too big, it rewards him and Deirdre
with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and equally as important, a
connection to the land and the cycles of life.
After spending two full days alternately staring into a mug of coffee
and sleeping, I found the vigor to once again seek out
My partners in crime this day were Greg, Eddie, Tim, and
Starting in Fortescue bay on the west coast of the Tasman
peninsula. We paddled out to five detached offshore islands
as "the Lanterns" the most impressive of which is the incredible
200 ft freestanding dolerite pillar known as the Totem Pole.
Looking very much like California sea lions, the southern fur
seals possessed a much gentler temperament and took little notice of
Heading north along the coast we explored a series of tall arches and
The dolerite gave way to uplifted sand/limestone seabed, which is soft
and is easily carved by the waves.
A creek tumbling into the sea is always special.
After leaving this magnificent cave...
...we passed through this very tall arch...
.and slammed into this very stiff wind! This two foot wave
was generated by a vertical wind
blowing straight down a three hundred foot
cliff. Forecast at 20 knots, the Sou'wester this afternoon
slammed into us at a solid 30 knots gusting to 40, a typical Tassie
weather pattern I've come to realize. Everywhere you paddle
you need to be prepared for winds that dramatically exceed the
forecast, but here you need to expect it. We clung to the
cliffs as long as we could and had
to work a bit to get back to shore when we turned into the wind.
The next morning me and Eddie head out for another trip on the
Tim loans me his kayak but only with the stipulation that I "don't
treat it like I treat my skinboats."
Eddie and I launched at the legendary 18th century
British prison Port Arthur, headed for Tasman Island, the far
southern tip of Tasmania. Criminals, sometimes guilty, some
dissenters on trumped up charges, were sent here to what still feels
like, and in many ways is, then ends of the earth.
We paddled east in heavy refracting seas. I snapped a roll after
a moment of inattention.
A couple hours paddling brought us to the 1000 foot tall sea cliffs of
Tasman Island and the adjacent Cape Pillar. The dolerite
columns here are amazing. Unlike the similar but more friable
basalt of the Pacific coast of the United States where I live, this
dolerite is solid and thousands of unclimbed but very climbable cracks
rifle skyward from the waters edge. It made me miss my days
as a rock climber.
photo Eddie Safarik
Here both Eddie and I were lured into a fun game with the dozens of fur
seals. We would surf the swells next to Tasman island and the
would chase us. Normally I don't like to bother the
wildlife, but in this case, they were bothering us!
We got tired long before the seals but I learned to hold my camera
underwater while they chased.
It took about 400 shots to
get these 2, in case you were wondering.
This decrepit old structure was used to supply the lighthouse
above. The crane and cable hauled supplies to the
There is nowhere else even remotely feasable to
land on Tasman.
Eddie ties up the boats after our seal landing on the rocky
shelf. Tim specifically forbade this sort of activity
loaned me his fiberglass Euro X kayak, sorry Tim! I had to do it!
Home sweet home, complete with a dead seal (top left).
This is what happens when you don't brush your teeth.
This is about as good as real estate gets on lower Tasman island.
We both agreed that the platform look pretty unsafe...
...and we both crept out onto it anyways.
A quick peek over the edge.
Being a mostly pelagic creature, I was happy with our current
altitude. Eddie, however, had other plans.
So began our grueling ascent up the impossibly steep rail that used to
supply the lighthouse. I made sure to complain continuously
the whole way.
A cardio workout later, we stand triumphant adjacent to the substantial
bluffs of Cape Pillar.
The giant winder that must have pulled supplies up the track.
Shouldn't this sign be at the bottom of the island?!
The Tasman island lighthouse is now automatic and sadly needs no
lighthouse keeper. I can't think of a better place in the world
to spend a winter with a huge stack of books and bottle (or two)
of expensive scotch.
We were startled when these two ladies suddenly appeared! It
turrns out that generations of lighthouse keepers and their pets left
behind a feral cat population. These researchers arrived by
helicopter to study the problem.
The long climb back down.
Almost there. If I ran the world, I would make sure there was a
giant slide installed immediately.
I delicately slip Tim's Euro X back into the water. Eddie doesn't
have to be quite so careful in his plastic Nordkapp.
Then.... my camera ran out of batteries, which was sort of a
relief. With the advent of quality, inexpensive waterproof
cameras, we have all become a little crazy. Every trip is like
being chased by the kayak paparazzi and sometimes I see things in my
photos that I don't remember seeing in real life. It's fun to
share the experience, but it's also fun to leave it behind.
At the extreme tip of Cape Pillar, a dramatic current swept past as the
East Australia current slams into the hook of the pillar. The
flow looked about 4 knots and this is a low current year. Combine
this current with a sou'wester and the tip of the cape could develop a
fearsome sea state. Eddie and I crawled around the corner, making
progress north only in the back eddies right on the cliff walls, until
we were far enough in that the current lost its sting. As we
headed north from Cape Pillar and finally back to Fortescue Bay, we
explored caves so deep that eventually we could go no further, for fear
of being lost in the blackness. We ran a deep slot cave so narrow
that its ever constricting walls funneled down to literally only inches
wider than the kayak, and the pulse of the swell shot us through this
150 foot slot like a bullet and spit us out into a large dark cave,
that led back out to the ocean on the other side.
Amazing. We explored a cave with a waterfall pouring across
its entrance, the rock covered with bright green lichen, and of course,
we stopped back by the Lanterns and the totem pole. We arrived
back at Fortescue Bay in near darkness, eleven hours after we'd set
out, making this the slowest I have ever paddled 22 miles of
coastline. It was worth savoring.
photo Eddie Safarik
I came to Tasmania for the least romantic of reasons, to make a buck so
I could afford to keep buying greenhouses for my organic farm and
paying for the land it sits on. Everyone has to make a living and
I'm incredibly fortunate that this is mine. Still, I was less
than enthusiastic about leaving my rainy paradise on the northern
Oregon Coast to fly halfway across the planet to a very similar
paradise, except one with venemous snakes, poisionous spiders, stinging
jellyfish, and aggressive sharks; even if it was summer
there. I probably don't deserve such amazing travel
opportunities and when I arrived back home I was happy to see the rain
again. The logistics of teaching kayak building 8000 miles
away were daunting but I had wonderful help and honestly I've had much
harder classes much closer to home. Some people have
accused me of having the best job in the world, but that is hardly
true, as is evidenced
by the two gentlemen I met in the local distillery on my last day in
Professional Single Malt Scotch Tasters
people the scenery
would be the reason to visit Tasmania, though it needs to be treated
with much caution and respect, this truly is one of the worlds most
amazing kayak destinations, rivaling Norway, Scotland, Hawaii, or the
but for me it was the people that I enjoyed the most. I meet so
many amazing people in my job, but the Aussies, and especially the
Tassies have always had a special place in my heart. Brash,
independant, funny, gregarious, and just a little bit crazy, (or a lot
crazy), I relate well to them socially. Up here on the
Oregon Coast, charging hard water in handmade boats, it's easy to feel
a bit lonely at times, so it was refreshing to find a tribe of
people halfway across the world who are still building things
themselves and pushing those things in a challenging
environment. Sea kayaking clubs wax and wane with the
ambitions of the membership and the quality of the leadership, but what
impressed me most was the sense of continuity, the unbroken connection
this group has to it's roots. Several founding members still push
hard on Wednesday nights after thirty years in kayaks, hardware, and
sails that are distinctly Tasmanian in origin. These guys
have a lot to be proud of and I really enjoyed the time I spent down
there. I only wish it wasn't so far away so I could invite them
back to my farm for a beer and a paddle.
I think they'd feel at home here.
I decided before I even made this trip that I'd never travel so far to
teach again, but now I'm not so sure. Thank you so much to
Tom Nicholson for bringing me down to Australia in the first place, and
to Greg and everyone else who made this possible for me. I
do love the long cold rainy nights, I'm strange that way,
still, maybe I should spend at least some of next winter down under....
Seven Australian words defined:
Wallaby: a small nocturnal
suicidal kangaroo whose natural habitat is in the middle of the f***ing
Bogan: an unkempt individual with too many kids who wears flannel
shirts and passes the time slacking off and drinking cheap grog.
ie: Britney Spears.
Mate: A term of endearment for a close buddy, or a grave
accusation leveled just before flattening someone in a pub.
Wanker: A term of endearment for a close buddy, or a grave
accusation leveled just before flattening someone in a pub.
I reckon: an excellent phrase to replace 'I think, or I suppose',
heard constantly in Tassie AND in the best Clint Eastwood movie ever,
The Outlaw Josie Wales
Budgee Smuggler: An especially homoerotic tightly fitting form
of swimwear favored primarily by macho Australian lifeboat
rowers. (a budgee is a small australian bird, the smuggler is a
skin-tight speedo, you get the picture.)
Knackered: The state one finds oneself in after teaching two
consecutive kayak building classes halfway across the planet.