Breathtaking West Coast

There is something momentous about sailing down the West coast of Tasmania. It is committal as there are not many places to hide. You feel a little on edge, a little excited too. The movement of the boat is different. It is not Bass Strait anymore with its confused chop.  It is the Southern Ocean with defined swell lines, even if they were not big for this part of our voyage.

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Cape Grim, the start of the West Coast

We were lucky we had several days of easterly weather, so we were able to break the 120 mile trip from the Hunter Group of Islands to Macquarie Harbour and do it all in daylight, apart from a couple of hours of pre-dawn starts. We sailed part way to Sandy Cape on Wednesday 7 March, even flying past Cape Grim under spinnaker for the start of our West coast descent.  We motor-sailed the last three hours when the wind switched to the southeast, thus on our nose. We stayed at Venables Corner, Sandy Cape the next day to explore ashore, while the southeast was blowing, then took advantage of a light and variable day to get to Macquarie Harbour, again motor-sailing.

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Ann and Greg enjoying the sail!

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TIE anchored at Sandy Cape

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Venables Corner, Sandy Cape

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Exploring ashore at Sandy Cape

What an experience! This is a very sparsely populated coast, with just a few frontier like settlements. The dawns at sea were colorful, the albatrosses were out soaring, and dolphins were escorting us in large numbers. And then there were the varied shapes and textures of the coast: sand dunes around Sandy Cape, and spectacular granite tors, like Neolithic sites, around the Pieman River Entrance. With the soft morning light and backdrop of the mountains emerging from the sea mist, the seascape looked like Chinese watercolours. It was just breathtaking and we experienced all this at the rhythm of the rolling swell – unforgettable!

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Sunrise like a watercolou!r – Sailors’ warning!

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Shy Albatross

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How determined is this stunning albatross?

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We had dozens of dolphins escorting us for a while!

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Granite Tors near the Pieman River Entrance

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Like a Neolithic Site!

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More granite tors along the coast

The highlight was of course reaching Hells Gates, which marks the entrance of Macquarie Harbour. The name is ominous and daunting… not so hellish for us sailors, particularly in the calm conditions we enjoyed, but in the 1800s the entrance was so named to describe the gates to a life of hell that awaited the convicts transported here.

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Hells Gates, entrance to Macquarie Harbour

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Totally calm at Hells Gates!

We are now half way down the coast and will be exploring Macquarie Harbour for a few days. It is a 20 mile long and 3 to 4 mile wide waterway, with the village of Strahan at one end and the iconic Gordon River at the other. It is lovely being in sedate and reasonably protected waters.

20 thoughts on “Breathtaking West Coast

  1. I’m very impressed with such beautiful views. The waters of Hell Gates are just like a swimming pool, so placid. You have sailed a lot of distance quickly, that’s pretty good! Enjoy the Harbor… 🙂

    • Hi HJ – yes you don’t laze around too much on the West Coast as it is not normally very forgiving. But we have enjoyed great conditions so far. We will take our time exploring around here before being brave again for the next big passage!

    • Thanks John. The albatross came so close to our boat, it was a great chance to zoom in! The number of them along this part of the coast is amazing. Such a treat!

    • Yes once we get the weather we just go! We will be in Macquarie Harbour for a few days to have a good explore, then when the wind is right we’ll head down to Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour. It has been good despite the motor sailing for this part of the trip. The wildlife is fantastic and the seascape really beautiful.

  2. Looks like a stunning place to cruise – we’ve had so many people recommend Tassie over the years… have to go someday. Though those place names are just a wee bit off-putting, no? Cape Grim, Hell’s Gate…
    Loved the albatross pictures, btw!

    • Hi Ellen – yes we love Tassie and first time down the West coast is a bit scary but going well. And yes those two spots are named like this for a reason, but we had great weather so did not live the tales of woe!

  3. What a journey you are all having, scenery spectacular with those fantastic and dangerous rocks. would have been daunting for the early sailors as they all went that way as Bass Str, was not available then.Loved the sunrises and of course the albatross, he does look determined. I saw you have left Macquarie, enjoy the next leg and stay safe with good seas & winds

    • Hi Sue – we are in and out of service but it was good to get your comment. We are still in Macquarie Harbour for at least a week if not more… locked in with the weather but using the time to explore as we are unlikely to come back here for a while. We just left Strahan two days ago and are meandering between anchorages. It is a dramatic, moody place.

      • It is a shame that the harbour seabed is being destroyed by the salmon farmers overfishing and overfeeding within their nets. Big issue with Safcol and they are expanding to a lovely bay on the east coast now. I wish industry would get their act together environmentally and not just go after big profits,

      • Hi Sue – yes you should see the size of the set up here – the length of Macquarie harbour in the centre is occupied by fish farms. Very extensive!

  4. Heads up if you don’t know already. A big cold front is coming through this weekend. You will not get out of any harbours on the west coast until Wednesday 21 March. Cold enough to bring snow over highest peaks as well by next Mon or Tues. Big wind fetch will also mean large swells.

    • Hi Phil – yes we were aware and went hiding up the Gordon River. Plenty to tell about that little adventure. Stay tuned for that post! Whenever you get the urge to give us weather warnings, we are grateful ! Will be out of internet coverage for several weeks when we leave Macquarie Harbour probably on Thursday or Friday!

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