Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gordon River to Sarah Island

Thursday - 30/01/2014
Our plan today was leave the Gordon River at around 0900 hours, Steve and Kerrin were staying for extra time the going down to Heritage Landing where the tourist boats go, our plan was to go to Sarah Island and anchor off and dinghy ashore then head up to Double Cove for the night being closer to head out tomorrow to Port Davey and overnight run.
First I had to repair the mainsail baton that had come apart where it had a joiner so I mixed up some fibreglass to do the repair. We then said our goodbyes to Steve and Kerrin and we parted company. Going out of a place is always easier we just follow the track we made coming in on the chart plotter, so it is more relaxing for me at the helm,  plus having noted all the depths on the way in on the chart I knew there were only a couple of places that we needed to take more care.
It was a pleasant sunny day which made it a magic trip down the river as we approached Heritage Landing one of the big tourist catamarans was alongside we continued on and it was not long before it was approaching us from behind as we neared the next bend the other tourist catamaran was coming up the river but there is plenty of room to pass each other.
(Going down the Gordon River, this is the Marble Cliffs and its reflection)
(The sand spit at Snag Point)
(Perfect reflections)
(great reflections and Mt Sorell in the background)
(One of the two tourist cats at Heritage Landing, they go out to Hells Gate, Sarah Island and to here for the forest walk)

(A calm day Sarah Island on the left and Grummet Island  to the right. Can you imagine people living on that Grummet Island that those days was called Small Island, it is steep the beach goes under water at high tide or when rough seas occur)
(Grummet Island from another angle)
(It is hard to see in this photo but we had the start of heavy 40 knot winds and waves crashed on these islands)

We arrived at the anchorage at Sarah Island and dropped the anchor then we lowered the dinghy and headed for the jetty. The last time we were here was on one of the tourist cats in 1998 and I must say that I think it was better then than it is now. Today they have made it like a tourist attraction with wooden walkways and wide pathways, the grounds are kept in good order  and they have erected tarp covers in one place with a few bench seats  where they probably tell the story of the island, the modern day of occupational health and safety has ruined many a natural place that was taken over by National Parks to keep it natural and then erected all this. In 1998 there was one jetty and a pathway which was made by people just walking the same path continuously, it looked like the ruins then of a place that had been a terrible place to be in its day and it was, it would have been a horror of a place to be. Some prisoners were housed or should I say camped on Grummet Island a short distance north of Sarah Island, then known as Small Island in an overcrowded building where each man had an area of 700mm by 700mm (6ft 3inches), and most times had to jump overboard from the boat to get ashore so their clothes were wet that they had to stay in. The only comfort they had was that the cook had a meal for them and a fire was burning to warm them. They also had to wade out to the boat the next morning to go to their work unless the waters were calm and then had to stay in wet clothes, Tasmania is not a warm place. Many of the prisoners were sent there for very little crimes. Authorities wanted people to fear being sent to Macquarie Harbour and fear they did and should.
These islands on a good day look beautiful in the harbour but on bad weather days they would have been hell. When we came down the harbour the other day we had winds of 40 knots, the wind waves were picking up and water was blowing off the tops of the waves, these islands being rather small and not very high are lashed by the winds and sea. When it was a penal colony one Commandant ordered   a timber wall to be erected on the shore to give some protection, there are still small remains of the wall there today.
A book I am reading at the moment tells the story, "Closing Hell's Gates"  by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. On the back of the book reads," For twelve long years between 1822 and 1834, Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour  was the most feared place in Australia - a place so remote that those sent there as punishment felt condemned to an underworld. Clinging to the shores of the wild west coast of Tasmania and hemmed in on all sides by vast, mountainous landscape, the environment itself formed the prison walls. While some chose death or were driven mad by the brutal conditions, others clung , against all odds, to the hope of escape through the rugged uncharted wilderness".
It paints a picture of what things were like one man was sent there for three years for taking two pieces of paper, some others were let go by the courts due to lack of evidence or the prosecutor did not show up, but Lieutenant Governor Arthur sent them to Macquarie Harbour for three or seven years punishment, he was above the law.
(The way it was)

 (There is not much left of these cottages today but this gives the history)

A little bit of a contrast to prison today and the court systems.
Some prisoners did escape, some got caught, some died and some were never seen again. Some that escaped turned to cannibalism to survive as they had no food. Prisoners were sent to the place of work without food for the day as a precaution that they could not use the food to escape, they only had the two meals a day under hard labour wet and cold conditions.

(Above the ruins below what it was like)

The beauty we see here today was a horror story in its past.
Well we left Sarah Island the wind was picking up so we did not visit Grummet Island we ventured north to Double Cove navigating around the fish farms to get there. We anchored in the southern anchorage which is not good for north winds  but good for the SW that we had today.

It is a pretty anchorage and very peaceful. We had a quiet night, I refitted the repaired baton in the mainsail whilst calm conditions and got things ready to sail tomorrow.

It is no wonder why the Australian way is to knock authority because this as in Port Arthur and other penal colonies was the foundation of this country.



  1. Just saying, an album of the best photos from your trip along with the anchorage and trip notes would be worth buying, awesome photos.

  2. Thanks Andrew for your comments, maybe when I settle on my next venture I may have time to do that.