Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Gordon River - Tasmania

Tuesday 28/01/2014
Up and ready to go at 0600 hours the mouth of the Gordon River was covered in fog, it will take us an hour to get there from Kelly Basin by then the fog may have lifted.
('Rhapsody' heading into the Gordon River, port and starboard markers ahead of them)
(Into the fog)

('Alana Rose' coming out of the fog)

(Fortunately the first section of the river is charted on the electronic charts and are quite accurate but you would not tackle further in the river under fog conditions where it is uncharted.)

We followed 'Rhapsody' as Steve had been in the Gordon before and as he said if he hits bottom I have more power to pull him out than he has to pull me out. These fears were unfounded as there was plenty of depth as long as you follow the usual rules of a river, always stay on the outside of the bends and then go as you imagine the river flows, which is near centre between the leads in to the bends. The first part of the Gordon River about a mile is charted on the chart plotter but after that you have to work it out for yourself. There are also a few lateral markers at the start to lead you in to the river.
(Looking back at the sand spit at Snag Point)

(Heading up the Gordon River)

The sun had risen and some of the fog had started to lift as we got to the entrance but there was still fog in places which actually made it more interesting and beautiful. A few times 'Rhapsody' vanished in the fog as we did with them. With the waters only being disturbed by us there were still waters ahead and the reflections of the land and trees were amazing. We continued up the river heading for the furthest point it is safe to go and that is Sir John Falls, there is a landing there for the falls and if there is no one there we can tie up to the dock as long as we leave enough room for the seaplanes to go alongside on the attached floating pontoon.
(Sir John Falls pontoon us alongside and 'Rhapsody' rafted to us)

At one point 'Rhapsody' slowed they had spotted a dinghy floating along the side of the river with no one in it, Steve picked it up and towed it up river in case that someone was stranded, as we approached the next bend there were two boats, one a large yacht 'Maatsuyker' with Jack and Jude aboard, they are off another yacht named 'Banyandah' that write books on sea travel guides, not Glen's "Banyandah". They were doing some filming on the Gordon River. The dinghy belonged to the other boat a converted fishing boat doing charters and he was going to pick it up on the way back.
(Our meeting with the other boats)

Steve had met Geoff and Judy before so they had a quick chat before we headed on up the river. We negotiated the Snag Point and the shallows near Warners Landing without any problems, the shallows where you keep close to the right side bank was the shallowest water we had come across for the length of our travel which was 3.9 metres.
Sir John Falls is only a short distance from these shallows and Steve suggested I tie up on the dock first and if it was alright for him to raft to us which was alright with us so we did just that.
Once all settled we went for a walk to the falls, which is a very short distance from the landing, apparently there used to be a longer walk where you could go above the falls to where a hut was, where it is believed that the occupants had a piano there, this walk has been closed off by National Parks.
(The walkway to the falls)

(Sir John Falls the colours in the water from the tannin and sunlight over the sand)
(The river from the falls)

Sir John Falls is quite spectacular not only for the falls but the area and its colours. There is a small beach on the far left side and with the stained water from the tannin  shows up as bright orange in the sunlight. During night hours they have the glow worms which we did not see due to our extended sundowners. We had sundowners that ran into dinner but all had a good night.
(Sundowners aboard our boat Kerrin and Nancy)

During the day the planes arrived, they do a flight over the harbour and Hells Gate along the Gordon and Franklin and land here for the falls. This is how we learned that the pilots saw our boat dragging anchor and they had informed the Police, we thanked them for what they did.
We had a chat with the pilots and their passengers who were interested in what we were doing, nice people.
(Up, up and away)
Wednesday - 29/01/2014
Yes a little worse for wear the lot of us I think, but still it was a good night, it was a slow start but eventually we all got moving. Steve and Kerrin headed off in their dinghy to go through the rapids and up to the Franklin River. Nancy did not like the sound of going through the rapids so initially we declined the offer to go with them. However, after they left Nancy was saying we could go and look, so we changed the outboard motor over to the 8hp, more grunt than the 2.5hp. Just as we were getting ready one of the planes arrived so we had a chat and then we headed off. The river is beautiful again as we progressed the water although flowing was like a mirror and each item ashore reflecting on the water. When we reached the rapids I asked Nancy if she wanted to go through, she said we could give it a try, so away we went, I don't know how Steve made it with his 5hp motor but we struggled with the 8hp at times Nancy was saying we are going backwards at other times she had her eyes closed. We wasn't going backwards it was that we had to go sideways or was being pushed side to side with the flow, although near the end I wondered whether we would make it. Once through we looked at the current flow ahead and a second lot of rapids, it was going to be hard going all the way to the Franklin which was still a way to go. Nancy was not feeling comfortable and I must say I think I was pleased we did not continue, we turned and rode the rapids back and it seemed no time at all before we were back at near the boat. The second plane had arrived and we gave a wave to the pilot who waved back and we continued on to Warners Landing.

(Kerrin and Steve heading off up the Gordon River)
(Reflections, the boats at the dock as we return from our little dinghy run)

Warners Landing was the camp where the workers were to commence the work on proposed dam  but it all came to a halt after one of the biggest demonstrations seen in Australia, it was December 1982, people had chained themselves to trees, bull dozers or whatever to stop the construction work, people up in the trees, Police arresting people and news cameras recording the events. I must say I am not a hardcore greenie but I probably thank those that did what they did to stop the dam from going ahead. The way I see it today is that if the dam had gone ahead it would mean two things would happen, there would be less water in the Gordon downstream from the dam therefore it is possible boats would not be able to venture therefore tourist trade would suffer badly and really that is our main business today, the other part would be that there would be more seawater from the sea enter Macquarie Harbour as water finds its own level which would probably affect the shoreline vegetation. Macquarie Harbour is fresh water  with maybe a little seawater mix. Going back in time I think that the concern was that the land around the Franklin River would go under water , I am not sure that in 1982 the two items I mentioned were part of the demonstrators worries, I could be wrong on that matter but I cannot remember it being mentioned.
We live in a wonderful country when one looks at the journey we have had and we see rivers like the Gordon that has the beauty of greenery with its vegetation of trees, bushes and vines, and we look at the rivers north west of the Berkeley and King George that has the rich red rock formations and stunning waterfalls.
We went ashore at Warners Landing and found the clearing above the dock saturated with water that had seeped down from the higher land, I don't think it would have been a great campsite for the workers.
 After getting back in the dinghy we headed back to the boat but waited for the plane to take off before we ventured far. It is something to watch these light seaplanes take off, where they land and take off is a nearly straight part of the river but they have to turn a few slight bends as they go and with little wind to help them lift it is quite a long run.
After returning to the boat we changed the outboard motors back over on the dinghy and then had a short nanna nap. Steve and Kerrin got back mid afternoon and I asked Steve how he managed with the 5hp explaining we did it tough with the 8hp, he said they had to go from side to side gradually working their way up and had to do the same up through the second rapids.

Sundowners was a quiet affair with two beers each and a quiet early night.

(This is a chart that I have made up of the Gordon River, if you use this as a aid to navigation you must realise that it is how it was on the day and situations can change, read the notes on the chart).


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