Mon March 2
Course: Wombat Cove, Bathurst Channel – Carvers Point, Port Davey – Cassilda Cove, Bathurst Channel
Wind: 15-20 knots
We set off after breakfast for a brisk sail across Port Davey where we anchored in the shallow head of the port at Carvers Point. Here we readied our packed lunch and supplies for the day, and headed off in the dinghy for the trip up the Davey River to explore its gorges. This is a fast-flowing river, like its cousin the Franklin. Add to the current a northerly headwind and it was a struggle for our little 3hp outboard. We meandered slowly up the lower reaches, and were disappointed to discover that a fire had completely burned out the river-valley in recent years. Another party had gone ahead of us and we met them on their way back down. One of the two blokes said the fire had gone through about two and a half years ago, and he was surprised at the slowness of the recovery. Here and there were a few pockets of unburned bush, but the vast majority of tea-tree, scrub and forest were gone, nothing more than bleached trunks. The usually heath-covered hillsides were bare, exposing barren white quartz. In this area a fire will often burn for a long time in the peat soil itself, leaving little to sustain new growth.
Eventually we reached the lower gorge, with high quartz cliffs either side of the tannin-stained water, which swirled around jagged rocks.
Before the first set of rapids we encountered a tight channel, where the river was concentrated between two large rocks. Even on maximum revs we couldn’t make any further progress, so we coasted into the bank where we found a convenient picnic spot. This was as far as we were going today.
We lunched amongst mosses, lichens and tiny plants, under a niche of unburned bush, then headed back downriver, quietly drifting and paddling back through the magic of the gorge. As the river widened our progress slowed and we motored the rest of the way, our return much faster than our upriver journey had been. On the way we passed flocks of black swans, which took off as we approached, flying overhead, their white under-wing feathers flashing. We grounded once in the sluggish reaches, and on the sandbar at the entrance, but were easily able to pole off with the oars. Fortunately we didn’t break the shear-pin on the propeller else we would have had to do a lot of paddling.
Exhausted from hours of cramped ‘economy style seating’ in the dinghy we took a welcome cup of tea before setting off to investigate Bond Bay. This anchorage is surrounded by low hills with low vegetation, offering little shelter from westerly weather, though it seems well sheltered from the waves. However the whole bay is very shallow and our anchorage guide says boats can bump on the bottom during a heavy storm surge – the reason Clyde Clayton moved his house from here to Claytons Corner at the eastern end of the Bathurst Channel. With westerly weather on the way and already blowing around twenty knots we quickly decided to move on, motoring back into the Bathurst Channel. Returning to Wombat Cove we found it subject to squalls from every direction – this was not the place to be either.
We motored further east, to Cassilda Cove, a tiny niche near the mouth of Horseshoe Inlet. We had anchored here during our last visit. We came around the tight corner to find a boat already here, tied bow to the shore with a stern anchor. The gentlemen, two we had earlier met in Wombat Cove, kindly helped us place a stern anchor using their aluminium dinghy (our inflatable being rather unsuitable for the task). I rowed lines ashore, having practiced tying my bowlines before doing it for real onto two trees. We spent a long time laying and adjusting lines, then reheated lasagne for dinner. When we looked at the clock after washing up it was after nine. I turned in for an early night.