Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Secrets Of The Sea: Pirates Bay to O'Hara Bluff

Unloading the boats at the small boat ramp at the south end of Pirates Bay we were confronted with a cold and disconcertingly strong NNW wind. The temperature had been below zero when we left our house-sit and now, by the coast, had warmed up to just a few degrees above zero. The sun was clear of clouds, but, near the solstice, low in the sky and not really putting out too much in the way of heat, and, there was that wind, and those waves. Still, we had driven over an hour to launch the boats and were not about to waste that painful time by wimping out. In true mountaineering fashion we said to each other, “lets just go take a look.” 

 Paddling south from Pirates Bay

Doug is having a bit of a seat issue, as in his seat pops out every time he moves in the boat, so there was some faffing about on the water whilst we got blown onto the rocks as I tried to fix it for him, but, eventually, the seat was back, the deck cover on, and we were off. 

Passing a smaller sea cave

Fossil Island is no longer an island and is connected to the mainland with a low string of rocks, so we paddled out around the north end into the lonely Tasman Sea. It was a wee bit bumpy coming out of Pirates Bay and I had my usual pre-paddle anxiety that is prominent in windy conditions when the air and water is very cold. A tumble into the water at any point would quickly lead to hypothermia, which could quickly lead to incapacity, and on, and on, my mind wandered. 

 Patersons Arch

As usual, however, I was quickly so engrossed in the scenery, which is particularly breathtaking on the east side of the Tasman Peninsula, that I immediately forgot all about the risks of sea kayaking in the middle of a Tasmanian winter and just started exploring. 

 Tasman Arch

And, there is much to explore along this section of the coast. We quickly reached the “Blowhole” - Australia has dozens and dozens of blowholes. This one is a narrow tunnel that runs through the limestone cliffs and opens out into a bigger roofless cavern behind. At higher tides and with less swell, you could paddle right in, but we contented ourselves with just poking into the opening. These tunnels all constrict abruptly inside quickly transforming a metre swell into something much larger. 

 Caves, pillars, cliffs

Next we reached Tasman Arch, and, we poked our way inside to marvel at the huge roof over this cavern. We could look up and see the tourist lookout through the back of the arch. A little further on, is Devils Kitchen, but the tide was too low to poke much into that narrow gulch. Limestone cliffs reach up to 100 metres above wave washed rock platforms – the paddling is fantastic. At Patersons Arch, another big tunnel leads right through the cliffs, and, doglegs through to the other side. There is also a second smaller tunnel that leads in under the arch. I photographed Doug as he backed his kayak inside. 

 Paddling into Waterfall Bay

Waterfall Bay is a semi-sheltered amphitheater ringed by high limestone cliffs. There are more sea caves, arches, and towers standing on narrow rock platforms, and a waterfall cascades down into the sea. Continuing on past Waterfall Bay we paddled between rocky islets and over long streamers of kelp. There is a prominent white cliff at O'Hara Bluff which we made our turn around point. 

 Waterfall Bay

But, before that, the ever present question, for females paddling coastlines where landing is not possible, arose, “how to take a leak?” Just inside O'Hara Bluff, at low tide, there is a small strip of steep rocky beach. From a distance, landing appeared possible. As I approached however, the landing began to look increasingly difficult, but, it was all too late as the stern of the kayak rose on a wave, which broke over my back, and I was jumping out of the boat, and trying to pull it up the rolling rocks as a larger set of waves came it and threatened to pull the boat back out to sea. 

 Patersons Arch

Somehow, I managed the deed, and, with difficulty rotated the boat around so the bow was pointing out to sea, and the entire boat was balanced precariously on steep slippery rocks stacked up beyond their angle of repose. Somehow, by pressing into the boat, I managed to stay on land while I put my spray deck on, then, releasing my weight, the kayak slid quickly down into the ocean, a few quick hard strokes and I was back out, swearing, as I always do, that I would limit my coffee before these paddle trips. 

Looking out from Tasman Arch

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