Trip organiser Robin Boundy invited me to join in his second crossing of Bass Strait, intent on the paddle being a tight pod with group cohesion from start to finish - this sounded like my kind of trip!
Robin’s son Tom (18) along with old sea starter students Neil Brenton and Raia Wall completed the team. Feeling fit after months of training we waited for the right weather window and launched from Port Welshpool. The planned route of 345km included Refuge Bay (The Prom), Hogan Island, Erith Island, Deal Island, Killiecrankie (Flinders Island), Royden Island, Whitemark (Flinders Island), Thunder & Lightning Bay (Cape Barren Island), Preservation Island, Spike Cove (Clarke Island) then Little Musselroe (Tasmania).
Reasonable wind and seas saw some of the most spectacular sunrises and relaxed island living you could imagine. Approaching Hogan Island a bronze whaler had a close look at the stern of Raia’s kayak before diving below. At Winter Cove, the remains of a 10 metre beached whale - whilst a tad on the nose - provided a rare biology lesson. Most nights were like sleeping amongst the Phillip Island penguin parade, cute but noisy. One lay day we clambered up Mount Strezleki on Flinders Island (750m). The longest day on the water was around 11 hours, so a well fitted out boat was essential. We each took enough food for 20 meals and 20 litres of water in case the weather prevented paddling - one previous crossing was held up for 10 days!
Even the roughest day, paddling closely together meant we could communicate and keep an eye on each other. With strong tidal flows, wind, tide and wave bounce off the cliffs there were some challenges, for example the last day was a 4:00am wake up, around 40kms, 15 -20 knots, 2m swell with 1m cross waves. There was not too much time for snacks, let alone lunch until we had knocked over around 30km and were in the lee of Swan Island.
All in all a very special trip as planned well, with gentle landings, beautiful islands, vast stretches of ocean and total freedom from regular city life