Camera at the ready … This photograph is a perfect example of being ready to go, with the camera close by with lens, tripod and everything else prepared. The sun came out for a very short time – only a matter of seconds – early in the morning on an otherwise very dull and overcast day.

Photographer Peter Hendrie captured the stark imagery of the Tasmanian coastline during a ‎sailing circumnavigation aboard his 38ft Lagoon catamaran. By Peter Hendrie

Dolphin delight …We were anchored overnight at Portsea, within sight of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. Shortly after first light I spotted a pod of dolphins leaping and playing in the soft morning light.

It was with some apprehension that I planned this journey, knowing that first we’d have to deal with the notorious conditions of Bass Strait, and then master the potentially huge rolling waves of the Southern Ocean in addition to the winds of the Roaring 40s.

We sailed out of the heads of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay on a glorious summer morning, surrounded by patterns of delicate circles that form on the surface between the tides. On clearing the entrance into Bass Strait, a pod of bottlenose dolphins swam and played alongside the yacht as if to wish us well for our journey across the Strait.

Orcas ahoy …Leaving an overnight anchorage at Cat Bay, near the entrance to Western Port Bay, we saw these orcas. There were three in the pod and I imagine that they were hunting the seals or penguins from Phillip Island. They are magnificent creatures, and quite a surprise when you’re expecting to see dolphins.

We reached Cape Grim on Tasmania’s far north western coast as darkness fell. This is where the freshest air in the world blows, straight from Antarctica, with nothing in its way to taint it.

Tasmania’s west coast is sparsely populated and at times harsh and unforgiving. We spent the night tacking down the coast in almost complete darkness, with the exception of an occasional lighthouse beacon or a surprisingly bright light that we later discovered was a boat fishing for squid. At the first light of morning, we spotted 20 or so holiday houses and shacks – welcome to Granville Harbour, one of few towns on the west coast.

Hell’s Gates

Reflective rivers …The Gordon River is famous for its dark reflective quality, its waters the colour of tea, which is created by the tannin from the button grass growing in the catchment area. I’ve been fascinated by its reflections since I first photographed it 35 years ago. During our time on the river, the weather was calm, the winds light and the reflections simply stunning. We were moored a short way below where the Franklin meets the Gordon at the Sir John Falls jetty, some 30km from the mouth. We explored both rivers up as far as we could in the early mornings and late afternoons, leaving the midday for a bracing swim in the cold, refreshing water.
Davey at dawn …The first time we tried to go up the Davey River we were awake at dawn and, after a quick snack and coffee, were in the inflatable and looking for the river at the top end of Payne Bay (which should be re-named Pain Bay). Believe it or not, we couldn’t find the entrance. Thinking it would be easy, we hadn’t brought along a map, so it was back to the yacht to get the map and try again. Once you find it, the river is quite wide in its lower reaches and as soon as you get protection from the wind, the reflections are beautiful. We went as far as the second gorge and snapped several beautiful images.
Formidable formations …Shortly after leaving the protected waters of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour, we passed these magnificent rocks known as the East Pyramids. There is also a West Pyramid on the other side of the entrance. Sailing past them allowed us to fully appreciate these beautiful natural sculptures formed by the force of waves and wind on rock.
Crayfish on tap …Recherche Bay is the first safe anchorage and a very welcome destination after leaving Port Davey and sailing around South West Cape, across the bottom of Tasmania and around South East Cape. After a full day’s voyage, we were in phone range for the first time since leaving Hell’s Gates. Recherche Bay has only a few little cottages and shacks (a sign on the road says ‘Cockle Creek, population three’) and this little shack must have one of the nicest outlooks. With a cray pot out the front and the rope leading right up to the house, the chances of crayfish omelette for breakfast seem pretty good.
Isolated islands …The granite cliffs and rock formations of the islands of the Kent Group are quite stunning. These lonely, remote and seldom visited islands are the tips of a submerged mountain range that once connected Tasmania to the Australian mainland. With no flights or boat services to the Group and no accommodation, they are only visited by boaties and fishermen. The deactivated lighthouse on Deal Island was built by convicts in 1848 and is, at 305m above sea level, the highest in the Southern Hemisphere. It was quite an accomplishment to finally arrive there, as the first attempt had to be abandoned when we were caught in a gale.
Homeward bound …While any sane person would be tucked into a nice warm bed, this photo was captured somewhere in the middle of Bass Strait shortly after sunrise while I was making my way home after the amazing voyage around Tasmania.

The entrance to Macquarie Harbour on the central west coast is notoriously shallow, narrow and tricky to manoeuvre. It was named Hell’s Gates by convicts aboard ships transporting them to the penal colony of Sarah Island located in the harbour. We passed through on an appropriately cold and cloudy morning at sunrise, eager to get to Risby Cove near the charming town of Strahan.

After a hearty meal at the local pub and replenishing our supplies, we motored 30km up the Gordon River to the Sir John Falls. For the next few days, we enjoyed almost exclusive use of the landing there and explored the upper reaches of the Gordon and Franklin Rivers. At night, the silence was only broken by the occasional distant birdcall. The mornings were misty and cold, clearing to reveal magnificent reflections on the water.

Continuing from Macquarie Harbour down the mountainous south-west coast, we anchored in Port Davey, near the Davey River entrance in the World Heritage Area. Here, we motored in the inflatable up the Davey to the spectacular first and second gorges, at times having to lift the tender over the shallows that separate them. Our only travel companions were flocks of black swans that would take flight at the first sight of us.

We also spent a few days exploring Bathurst Channel and Harbour, Melaleuca and Moulters Inlets and went for a trip up Old River. The landscape here is dominated by Mount Rugby and reminded me of the Scottish Highlands.

Leaving several days later before dawn, we passed the East Pyramids, headed into the Southern Ocean and rounded Southwest Cape by breakfast time. Sailing along the southern-most tip of Tasmania with a large 3-4m swell and a gentle breeze behind us, we passed between islands with Dutch names like Maatsuyker and De Witt. By late afternoon, we had rounded South East Cape and anchored in the protected waters of Recherche Bay.

For us, the highlights of the south-east coast were the beautiful D’Entrecasteaux Channel, with its numerous protected bays, the west coast of Bruny Island and the little towns of Southport, Dover and Kettering.

We experienced the wild and rugged coast from Cape Raoul to Port Arthur on Tasman Island, then sailed north past Fortescue Bay and some of the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere. There was a magical moment near Maria Island in which we were accompanied by dozens of dolphins and a flock of shearwaters – a flock so large that it took 20 minutes for them to pass over us. From there, we sailed to the fabulous Freycinet Peninsula and Schouten Island, where we anchored in the incomparably pristine waters of Wineglass Bay. This area offers truly one of Australia’s great sailing experiences.

On the last leg of our journey around the Apple Isle, we sailed up the east coast past Bay of Fires and on through Banks Strait.

As we sailed once again into Bass Strait, the forecast changed from fine to strong and then to gale force. After nearly being washed ashore at Trousers Point on the south-west coast of Flinders Island, we took refuge at sheltered Killiecrankie Bay further north on the island. Running low on fresh water, but with a 3kg crayfish and our supply of wine holding up, we waited for the gale-force winds to pass before re-stocking our supplies, including some wallaby and scallop pies from the local bakery.

The beautiful and isolated Kent Group of islands is located between Flinders Island, to the north-east of Tasmania, and Wilsons Promontory on the southernmost point of the Australian mainland. Rising 300m out of the water, the Kent Group is the tip of a range of mountains from a long-submerged land bridge to Tasmania. Deal Island, one of the three main islands in the group, has the highest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere, although it was deactivated in 1992.

The journey from the Kent Group to the entrance of Port Phillip Bay presented one last challenge: the mouth of the bay at Queenscliff. Here, one must navigate the forceful rolling waves by surfing them down and across before entering the calm and safe waters of the bay.


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