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CROWDED HOUSE/SPLIT ENZ SHOW - SAT 11 JUNE - TICKETS $25PP
UNIQUE VEHICLE SHOW - SUN 24 JULY - 10am to 3pm
After 30hours of punching through the lumpy remains of a
southerly blow, Garry Kerr’s 20 metre crayboat Eumeralla
crossed Bass Strait from Portland, skirted the low leaden
line of King Island and at midnight found the dark wooded cliffs
of Tasmania’s far north-western coast broad on her port bow.
It was a sobering thought that the nearest land to our west
lay on the far side of the world at Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn
on the uttermost tip of Argentina. The Southern Ocean’s vast
uninterrupted fetch has helped to shape the savage contours of
the entire west coast, enhancing its well-deserved reputation as
the abode of unrelenting gales and mountainous seas. Lying in
the very teeth of the Roaring Forties, the ragged, ironbound coast
is a treacherous lee shore of seething kelp and tumbled rocks.
We were fortunate in having had an uneventful passage and
by the time we sighted Cape Grim the breeze had backed into a
gentle nor’easter blowing cool over a gently heaving swell. My
first grey glimpse of that ancient headland rearing up in the
moonlight, rekindled childhood memories of the dream voyages
into which I had escaped as a boy immersed in the tales of
Kipling and Conrad.
Although I had then pictured myself exploring a romantic
landscape of sublime natural beauty and timeless grandeur, as
a silver-haired septuagenarian I couldn’t help wondering whether
the result of my long anticipated journey into the wilderness
would be reward or bitter disappointment. Was Tasmania’s
World Heritage Listed South West still one of the last truly wild
places on the planet or had packaged tourism and commercial
exploitation made it just another jostling visitor destination?
The answer lay just over the horizon.
This was a journey that I could not have undertaken alone.
In fact, it was only made possible by a generous invitation from
two shipmates with exceptional knowledge and abilities – my
old friend Garry Kerr, a veteran seaman, cray fisherman and
one of Australia’s most distinguished maritime historians and
documentary filmmakers and his life-long mate Ron Morrison,
a key member of the famous west coast pining family and a
Tasmanian bushman without peer.
Ronnie Morrison knows the south west wilderness like the
back of his immensely strong axeman’s hands. It was a personal
and professional privilege for me to be in the company of men
I very much respect and admire.
Alone in the darkened wheelhouse I watched as Eumeralla, 10
miles offshore, made her unwavering auto-piloted way down the
dotted crimson course-line on the illuminated chart plotter, a
garish piece of electronic gadgetry that was no less fantastic than
the figures of the scaly sea-serpents and bare-breasted sirens that
once embellished the hand-drawn charts of the great navigators
like Cook and Flinders, Furneaux, D’Entrecasteaux and Baudin
who commanded ships in these waters over two centuries before.
The skipper had assigned me the graveyard watch, two until
four in the morning and despite the hour I stood at my post
full of wide-eyed anticipation. There is nothing quite like the
responsibility of ship-keeping to heighten the senses, and yet,
as I peered into the grey upon grey of the distant horizon I felt
greatly relieved to see nothing but the vast calm expanse of the
apparently empty Southern Ocean. The sea of course, always
has the power to surprise us and I therefore kept a wary eye on
A serene full moon floated a shimmering golden bridge
from the dark coast, out across the slumbering sea to Eumeralla
heading south by east at eight knots and steady on her course of
135 degrees. I stepped out of the wheelhouse, breathed deeply
of the purest air in the world and looked aloft into the glittering
face of Eternity.
Photo at left: Slipyards at the south-western end of Sarah Island
remain intact and workable, and are the only early 19th century
yard in Australia untouched by later developments. The small slip
on the left hand side comprises 15 Blue Gum logs set at a slight
downward slope. The main slip on the right hand side is a double
platform, almost intact and capable of launching a 300ton vessel.
Stained the colour of Billy
Tea from tannins leeched
from the button grass
plains, the Gordon is a
sinuous brown serpent of
a river, full of twists and
turns and hemmed in on
both sides by the dripping
forest of the South West
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