Monday, September 28, 2015

Messing About On The Ocean In A Tiny Boat: Cape Hauy

Fortescue Bay is beautiful; a crescent moon of white sand backed by a stately eucalpytus forest, a tiny haven on the east side of the Tasman Peninsula where a kayak can land or a fishing boat seek shelter from the wild Tasman Sea which pounds against the dolerite cliffs and towers off the outer coast. We had come to paddle east to Cape Hauy to see the Totem Pole, Mitre Rock and The Lanterns. This coastline is some of the most spectacular in Australia, paddling out into the rolling swell and swirling currents always feels like an adventure. 

 Sheltered and beautiful, Fortescue Bay

Now that spring is creeping over Tasmania, the sun rises early and Doug and I were paddling east from the beach at Fortescue Bay soon after 8 am. It is only four kilometres to Cape Hauy and I was surprised at how soon the really scenic paddling starts. The first kilometre follows a low rocky shoreline, but, at the first headland to the east, the cliffs begin growing taller, our boats began to roll up and down on the swell, the great kelp forests began to spread across the ocean surface, and, on a small sloping rock ledge under dolerite cliffs we came upon our first cluster of resting fur seals. One seal put his (?her) head up and barked a few times, but, overall, they were undisturbed by our presence and lay back down to rest. 

 Doug paddling east towards Cape Hauy

A series of spectacular small islands and isolated rock towers lie off the east end of Cape Hauy, separated by very narrow channels of water where currents and swells collide. Perhaps the most spectacular, at least the most photographed, is the 112 metre high Totem Pole that rises out of a narrow chasm like a giant phallus. This is an amazing place to be in a kayak and we paddled as close in as the swell allowed while another group of fur seals watched from a nearby rock platform. The water is dark, deep, clear, and under the cliffs, appears jet black and forbidding. Right off the tip of Cape Hauy is another rock tower, strangely unnamed, but also stunningly beautiful. The waters around Cape Hauy were rough with two different swells running and a moderate current running down the coast. 

Inky dark sea, striking Totem Pole

From Cape Hauy we paddled northwest for three kilometres in a gently rolling swell to Dolomieu Point and followed the 100 metre cliffs north past the small rocky islet off Thumbs Point towards O'Hara Bluff. A strong ebb current was running along the coast line and the water was bumpy with rebound from the swell and clapotis from the current, so this section was slower paddling. O'Hara Point marks the most southerly point we had reached paddling south from Pirates Bay and we were happy to have now paddled the eastern shore of the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulars from Cape Surville to Cape Hauy. 

 Doug rising on a gentle swell at Cape Hauy

Turning back, we caught the current south and paddled around Dolomieu Point into rocky Bivouac Bay. There is a small campsite tucked into the trees, good for hikers, but not so good for sea kayakers as there is no sandy beach to land on, just a rocky shoreline. We had lunch, and then continued following the northern shoreline of Fortescue Bay all the way to Canoe Bay doing what kayakers do, which is, of course, paddling as close to the cliffs as you dare, but with one eye watchful for a bigger wave which might lead to a capsize. 

Doug edging the rocky shore line

In Canoe Bay, an old steamer was sunk in 1953 to provide a breakwater for fishing boats and it has now become a haven for birds and marine life. We paddled around the wreck before continuing towards the beach. As we neared the beach, we saw a huge splash off the rocks just north of the boat ramp which turned out to be a humpback whale breaching. Of course, we rapidly changed course and paddled out into the bay and were treated to a half dozen spectacular breachings, a lot of fin waving - humpbacks have massive fins - and then some gentle swimming. Doug and I are always amazed at the diversity of life you see while sea kayaking - whales, turtles, sunfish, albatross, tiger sharks, dolphins, seals, penguins, massive schools of fish, rays, and more. There really is no better way to experience the diversity of the ocean than in a sea kayak. 

Wreck in Canoe Bay

Finally, as the humpback whale swam lazily off towards Cape Hauy, we turned our kayaks to shore and landed gently on the sand of Fortescue Bay. Just another day you never want to end messing about on the ocean in a tiny boat. 

 Another day wasted messing about on the ocean in a tiny boat

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