The Word From the Foredeck
I’ve had lots of opportunities to observe the coastline between Blinking Billy Point and the Alum Cliffs. It’s a scenic kayak trip from Short Beach to Kingston and when there’s barely a ripple on the water it’s lovely to idle in time and on tide and simply float a while, mind empty, just lost in the beauty of the estuary and its shoreline. A cormorant dives, a fish jumps and occasionally a beetle on its back, its legs flailing disconsolately, might require rescuing.
The breeze is my friend if I’m sailing but I’m less keen on it when I’m bashing into white caps when kayaking – although surfing waves with a following wind (always more gentle) is a lot of fun. The Derwent’s water is cold and I know my limitations; it would snap freeze me if I fell in and hopping back into a sea kayak after a capsize is not easy at all. When the wind strengthens I’m ready to head for the closest beach. My focus contracts to the wind and the waves and the shoreline barely gets a second glance.
The landmarks I pick as waypoints when I’m sailing or kayaking are known features and this is what I was remarking on to my friend as we sailed home one day after a weekend down the channel. The skipper wasn’t calling for a sail change. The mains’l didn’t need tweaking and so we were chatting about the Taroona-Sandy Bay coastline we were sailing past. There were the cliffs topped by houses. There was an occasional set of steps, a sundeck or a boatshed but mostly it was sombre rock and remnant forest higher up and I couldn’t have named any spots along there. My friend didn’t exactly agree with me about the shoreline’s inaccessibility though.
‘It’s not really,’ she said. ‘If the tide is right you can walk it. In fact, you should. It’s worth it.’
‘You should, it’s worth it,’ I was to discover, was an enormous understatement but for a long time I did nothing with this information. It was only once I’d decided to write this blog and to include the river that I acted.
I went to Taroona and I explored the roads closest to the shore looking for access points to the river. I’d like to say I studied the chart and the maps but I didn’t. I looked at them in the most cursory fashion and they never made it into my backpack. But one Friday night before going to bed I did pick up the tide table. I wanted the moon and sun to be in alignment for a very low tide – ideally a Proxigean spring tide. There would be supermoons in August and September but this was June and I didn’t want to wait that long. Hobart doesn’t have a big tidal range – the maximum is 1.32m but on a narrow, rocky coastline that’s still significant.
To see what the tides might be on any particular day I’ve always done it the easy way – just clicked on the tide app on my phone and so I wasn’t too sure I was interpreting the paper tide table across the year correctly, particularly as it seemed to me that the next day looked like it would be pretty damned good regardless of the lack of a spring tide. It was June and actually, it was quite close to the winter solstice. If I’d known more about beaches at the time I would have known that winter isn’t actually the best time to find the beaches all stretched out but at that point I hadn’t encountered Lena Lencek and she had a few things to tell me that the geologist had not.
And so I set the alarm for Very Early, pretty excited about this walk. It was either going to be stunning or it was going to end with me against a cliff, the dark water rising.