King Island Tourists

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Grassy Harbour, King Island

There was some serious rain over night, causing me to finally shut my cabin deck-hatch completely.  The 5mm gap of the “small-air-space-partial-setting” was letting in just too many sprinkles, making it hard to sleep.

The rain was still off-and-on around 8:00am when we all made our way ashore for a hot shower at the public toilets that are attached to the end of the Boat Club. 

The promise of a hot shower – not together you understand – can cause people to do some funny things. Here we are between (cold) rain showers, before taking our turns.
The cargo vessel, King Islander docked while we were there to offload and pick up goods … mostly truck loads of cattle it seemed.
Chimere on her mooring, just off the Grassy Boat Club

Whilst we DO have a hot shower on board Chimere, these onshore ones had the obvious attraction of using someone else’s water and enabling you to stay under longer without getting a guilty conscience.   

Being bore water, the others said it smelt of sulphur.  My sense of smell isn’t good enough to detect that, but the brown colour did bring back memories of Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour.

Hot showers complete, Isabel and I managed to secure the promised lift with Marie across the island to Currie.  Marie turned up around 11:15am with her four-year-old grandson Tyson in the front seat and we chatted freely for the half an hour drive across the island.  To support Russell’s fishing income, Marie does cleaning and catering jobs, while also taking care of Tyson for several days a week. It didn’t take much reading between the lines to appreciate that grandma-Marie, (and grandpa Russell), were doing some heavy lifting in the “family support” department; all without a word of complaint or regret.

The car turned out to be a Rav-4 and before driving away Isabel and I received the usual pre-hire talk from the friendly co-owner, Anna … including … “no driving on beaches”, and “careful about wildlife that tends to jump out in front of the car”. Anna highlighted some of the key sights and places of interest, plus an amusing, if not pejorative  reference to the town of Grassy as being  “aesthetically challenged”.  To Isabel’s questions about the “calcified forest” and whether it was “worth seeing”, Anna answered that is was “geologically interesting”. An answer that was accurate as well as diplomatic.  (I’d been there before and I’d need to be studying geology or pre-history to want to go again)

Couldn’t help stopping and taking a picture of these dogs – there were five of them – and the wooden chainsaw sculptured dog behind. They looked friendly, and probably would be if proper protocols were observed, but there was a audible growl as we opened the car door to take a shot
The roar of the surf on the west coast of King Island seemed relentless

In our absence, John and Ray went for a walk out on the Grassy Harbour breakwater and discovered that the many penguins that lived there make noisy chirping noises,  even during the day – worthy of a return visit tonight perhaps.

The time was around 2:00pm before we were all in the car heading back in the direction of Currie once more, although it would have been 20 minutes earlier if I hadn’t taken a wrong turn on the way back to the Harbour.  A wrong turn?  There’s only a few main roads on the island!  And without realising it Isabel and I were doing a grand circle BACK to Currie.

Hunger, and a desire to support local enterprise, saw us pull into a local farmhouse that had established a place called “Brewers Café”, way out in the boon-docks.  They’d done so by enclosing a back porch off the kitchen.  “Who would ever visit?” I thought, as we made our way down the private driveway, noticing that they also sold potted plants and other things … very resourceful.

Spot the birds … notoriously tricky to photograph on the run, but there were wild turkeys, peacocks, pheasants and quail

Apart from being given flack for wanting tomato sauce on my sausage roll and meat pie, which included being handed the actual sauce bottle when I asked for a bit more than the small red dollop in the small white plate that I was issued … I’d say it was a really good café.  It really was a great place for travellers to drop in at, along with the local mothers and kids who simply wanted to socialise over a coffee without making the trek to Currie – and the coffee was very good !

Our hunger satisfied, (for now) we completed the drive into Currie, where we visited the local museum and light house. 

John managed to take a quick shot of a local fishing boat entering the Currie Harbour through the surf … not for the faint-hearted
The harbour of Currie would seem the best place to have your boat, just down the hill from the main town, but it provides little shelter from the prevailing west winds and is full of shallow patches, rocks and obstacles. Most serious shipping is conducted from the sheltered Grassy Harbour 30 kilometres away on the east side of the island
The Currie museum is well worth a visit … these “Rules For Teachers” from 1872 certainly speak of a different era, although some rules just don’t go out of date!

We also marvelled at the force of the crashing waves on the rocky shore, plus the rocky reef a mile further out.  This truly was a dangerous place for shipping, as the 100 or more wrecks testify.  One of these wrecks, the Cataraqui, in 1845, still holding the tragic record for loss of life in the one peacetime event – over 400 deaths.

There have been dozens of wrecks around the King Island coastline, many suffering massive loss of life. What a captain would have given for a GPS position and a chartplotter on a dark winters night!

It was then onto Cape Wickham at the top of the island, along the way seeing the profusion of wild life, particularly wallabies and would you believe it … flocks of turkeys (yes, like Christmas turkeys) peacocks, pheasants and quails

The Cape Wickham lighthouse was stunning and while we were there we also dropped into the Cape Wickam Golf Course for a coffee – apparently voted the 24th best golf course in the world by some authoritative source somewhere.

Million dollar views … approximately 16 million when it last changed hands, if the newspapers are to be believed
Built in 1861 to reduce the number of ship wrecks and loss of life, the Cape Wickham light, at 48 metres tall, is a grand sight, not to mention Australia’s highest.
During preparations for the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse, it was discovered that it had never been officially opened. To rectify this oversight, Australian Governor-GeneralQuentin Bryce officially opened the lighthouse in a ceremony on 5 November 2011.
That’s John demonstrating just how thick the walls are at the base of the Wickham lighthouse – about 3 metres thick
It’s a stunning structure, simple in its form and function.
This was on the wall of the cafe at the Cape Wickham Golf Links … no need for translation here

On the way back to the boat we stopped off for dinner at the King Island pub, where three of us had fish and chips … no doubt caught by our new fisherman friend Russell who had kindly organised our mooring in the Grassy Harbour.

Before going back to the boat for a night-cap and sleep, we decided to stick around onshore for the arrival of the penguins. This time we made our way out onto the Grassy Harbour breakwater where numbers appeared to be greater.

With the car due back tomorrow around 12:00 noon we planned to make the most of it, specifically by checking out the Cheese Factory, just out of town, and the Kelp Centre.

There was also the matter of sailing the final 125 miles north to Hastings and assessing the weather forecast for the best time – taking in to account wind speed, direction and sea conditions.  The “Sailing Plan” talked about arriving home on Saturday, but with little more to do in the way of exploring and adventuring, there was no reason why we couldn’t return ASAP if possible. Our sights were looking homeward.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and King Island Tourists.

Rob Latimer


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