Exploring Tasmania’s Tinderbox coastline: Passage Point

With a Dark and Stormy in one Hand and a Pencil in the Other

PASSAGE POINT

Passage Point is a notable promontary at the mouth of the Derwent Estuary and is both lovely from the water and green and pleasant from the road – a rolling hillside, a rustic shed, an abrupt cliff line carved by the waters of the Derwent, the D’Entrecasteaux and Storm Bay.

Signage
Map from the Kingborough Council Signage at the start of the Tinderbox Hills track:  nomenclature is thinly used.  Passage Point, Piersons Point and Tinderbox Beach,  all important landmarks, are not noted. (Passage Point is to the left of Mount Louis.)

Having finally decided that ‘not the real Fishermans Haul’ was in fact the real Fishermans Haul (see last blog post), we went to Passage Point to see if there was some way we could access the little cobbled beach I’d noticed.  There wasn’t.  We had to make do with expansive views but as these were superlative and so vast in scope we could hardly complain.  Mount Louis, Tinderbox’s highest point and forested in eucalypts rose behind us.

Birngana long distance race off Tinderbox
Birngana off Passage  Point

My guess on how Passage Point got its name was all tied up with waypoints, landmarks and the ocean because if you’re heading off in your yacht on a trip of any distance, it pays to sit down and plan your passage.  With a ‘dark and stormy’* in one hand, and a pencil in the other, take a careful note of the tides, currents and potential hazards.  Become familiar with the landmarks you’ll pass, navigational signs you’ll encounter, channels or reefs you may need to negotiate and choose your waypoints.  Make Meteye your new best friend and despite being in love with your chartplotter, tuck the paper version into your nav table too because it’s less likely to let you down.  Departing the Derwent at this point to head out across Storm Bay is always a bit of a passage into the unknown because the bay is notorious for conjuring tempests up out of the most benign conditions.

Because  this familiar promontary is just there where the waters of Storm Bay, the Derwent and the D’Entrecasteaux merge, it’s symbolic of passages about to begin and passages almost completed.  So it goes without saying that this is how it got its name, right?

Wrong.

I checked Placenames Tasmania and found some unverified information. A boat called the Fancy was one of ‘the few remaining trading boats called passage boats.’ Back in slower more leisurely days these boats used to ply the Derwent and the Channel.  In doing so, they had to round Passage Point and in so doing, they gave the point its name.

This information in the database comes from a boating article in the Saturday Mercury, Jan 2002 where it’s also noted that ‘most features on coasts were named by mariners and seeking reasons for names means looking at it [sic] from a mariner’s point of view.  Thus Passage Point was a marker for south-bound boats of the entrance of ‘the passage’ or the Channel.’

Exploring the sweep of shoreline from Sandy Bay to Tinderbox had triggered my curiosity about the way places were named but I had not considered that mariners had a big hand in the names of the places I was exploring.  This was an unforgiveable oversight because it’s obvious that many major features first got their names from the early voyages of discovery.  My impression of the western shoreline of the Derwent was that places were usually named after the early landowner’s or overlooked in the naming process altogether but I could see that in a tiny colony at the end of the world there’d be a sense of familiarity and homeliness for locals who plied these waterways in naming the places they were passing by the names of the people they knew. On dark and stormy nights in particular, the ability to recognise familiar landmarks and tick off waypoints is comforting and engenders hope when you’re toughing out rugged conditions.

We paused here to savour the view.  Passage Point felt extremely evocative for me:  I had walked out one wintery morning and followed the Sandy Bay Rivulet down to its mouth.  I had turned right and wandered the shoreline from there to here, a distance of some 35  kilometres, give or take a few and although I had done this as an urban explorer, little bit by little bit, it had been fun, it had changed the way I related to the coast as well as dramatically expanding my knowledge of the city I live in.

And then we continued on our ‘way ‘ – a word itself entangled with ‘passage’, and like ‘passage’ one with an evocative history.  I liked the definition from the Free Dictionary best:  ‘a. A road, path, or highway affording passage from one place to another. b. An opening affording passage’.

  • Dark and Stormy: rum and Coke / ginger beer or ale; a drink that’s popular with sailors.  The link is to one version, but there are many.

 

 

 

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s