Save time and money, book your ultimate Tasmanian holiday now!
In this Section
TREVOR Norton is at the helm as Stormbreaker eases away from the jetty at Sir John Falls.
Sir John Falls are a short stroll away on a boarded track, a verdant reward for any yachties who make it this far up the Gordon. A 10-minute walk along a river bank-hugging track will also bring a campers' hut, toilet building and inviting beach into view. Our rafting guides had warned that the tarpaulin-alternative was a snake-riddled shanty, but it must have had recent work because the hut and surrounds were in good nick when we arrived late in the afternoon.
When I returned, rafters in my group were standing on the jetty, staring
along the river bank where a platypus was at play. We snacked on pan pizza and various dips as the early autumn evening surrendered its light.
It was dark when Stormbreaker arrived, ferrying visitors and family
members of two of our group. The ketch tied up and passengers slept in cabin comfort while rafters embraced their final night under a tarpaulin.
Next day, we awaken to the sound of pop tenor Andrea Bocelli from
Stormbreaker's PA system. We pack and board and are under the jurisdiction of charismatic master and commander, Trevor Norton.
Norton says that Stormbreaker was built in the 1970s by a group of
idealistic Sydney investors who were going to sail away and earn money from salvage operations around the world.
The name is no idle boast. This is a solid steel vessel with masts designed to be strong enough to act as salvage derricks for lifting heavy gear.
We ease down the river under motor as the morning toggles between light rain and mist. There's a temptation to huddle inside with a warm cuppa after a week of rafting the Franklin, but the view is good enough to make out some important sites - Marble Cliffs, Butlers Island and the site of the Franklin River protest blockade.
"We want people who come up to spend some time and ask questions,'' says Norton. "We seem to get people (on his charters) who look further than 'Google - Gordon River' .''
Norton started charter services out of Strahan in the early 1990s and is a goldmine of information about Macquarie Harbour. The West Coasters have just had a warm summer, with harbour water temperatures peaking near 24 degrees compared with the late-March 16.6 we are cruising over in the Gordon.
The former architect turned his skills to cartography to make and sell his own marine charts of Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River.
As we leave the latter and enter the former, Norton is at the wheel
explaining several instruments and pointing out on a depth gauge where the layer of salt water meets the layer of fresh.
It's in this discussion of temperatures that a sense of Stormbreaker as a fun boat emerges. Activities such as swimming, kayaking, climbing the main mast, fishing and watching dolphins are all part of Stormbreaker's summer mix.
"There's nothing in the harbour that can eat, bite or sting you,'' says
Norton, before tempering his enthusiasm with a warning about the sea's ability to punish the careless.
But here is a man who loves people enjoying his boat. We have been on the water for five hours and are nearly back in Strahan when I ask permission to scale the mast.
Norton quickly produces a safety harness and sends me on my way.
There, a dozen metres above Stormbreaker's deck, there is a fabulous view of mighty Macquarie Harbour and the buzzing, burgeoning hamlet of Strahan.
NEXT WEEK: Parking meters in Strahan.
IF YOU GO: For a Franklin River rafting trip, including a cruise on
Stormbreaker, see www.raftingtasmania.com
For information on Stormbreaker, see www.westcoastyachtcharters.com.au
or call 6471 7422.