So I remember hearing about the Bass Strait years ago. I remember looking at it as ‘the everest’ of sea kayaking. Huge open water, strong currents, unpredictable conditions – just downright scary… Over the years I have read a few articles online (from one of which I took the map below 🙂 ) about teams who had paddled the crossing from Wilsons prom via the remote isolated exposed islands of Hogan and Kent group to the friendly island of Flinders and the Furneaux Group to eventually make it to Little Musselroe Bay in Tasmania.
Last June (2014) I remember I got asked to paddle the Bass Strait and I thought, ‘Whoa! I don’t know if I am ready for this sort of trip…’
Since then I have done many more trips along different stretches of the Australian coast training, have studied weather patterns and articles of other groups who have paddled the route. I have broken it all down and it really isn’t all that bad. Now feeling confident and ready to make this expedition.
I connected with Tim Luszczak online while I was in Melbourne in early January. Tim was planning on doing the trip and had booked time off his work to make it happen. We went out for a few paddles in Port Phillip Bay, looked at charts, set the dates and held to it. We have both spent the last few months training and now are here in refuge cove in Wilsons Prom ready to go!
There was a lot of prep that went into this trip but we both managed to borrow nice Mirage 580 kayaks which are the ideal expedition boat for the trip. Thank you so much to Brendan Clarke and Rohan Klopfer!
Wednesday March 25th, 2015
Tidal River to Refuge Cove (32km)
Tim’s brother Matt was kind enough to drive us to the prom on the Tuesday evening of March 24th, 2015. There was a small ridge (high pressure system) expected for Wednesday the 25th then a strong cold front coming in for Thursday/Friday of up to 40kt winds. So we wanted to get out there and get going around the prom ASAP.
We arrived around 11pm at Tidal River and just camped in the day use area as Matt had to quickly turn around and get back to Melbourne. We were up at 6am, took down camp and walked all of our things down to the beach at Norman Bay. It was a long walk with many trips. Somehow we managed to fit all our things into the two kayaks!
The kayaks were heavy as! We saw a surfing student group of year 10 girls who graciously helped us launch and we were going on the water for 11am. We were later than expected and were a little concerned about the current rounding the south end of the prom but it was no problem! We hardly felt the current. We paddled the 32km and made it safe to camp around 5pm.
Weather was Mostly overcast calm winds with a 15-20kt NE headwind for the last few kms before to made it nicely to camp at Refuge Cove. We took lots of pics and vids with go pros so on water pics to come after trip but here are a few shots from the ipad.
We are sitting tight with a solid camp set up hanging with some nice yachties till Saturday March 28th when we hope to make the 50km+ crossing to Hogan Island if the weather allows. It is looking like a solid high pressure system is moving in for Saturday bring light/variable W-SW winds which should be good to cross. For now it looks like this strong cold front will bring heavy wind and rain this afternoon and tonight, we are already feeling the gusts.
We are up top Kersop Peak! A beautiful view!
Friday March 27th:
The strong low pressure system came in at full force Thursday late afternoon. We secured our tents and Campbell, a young solo sailor invited us to his boat. He was sailing down from Byron Bay, NSW to Esperance, WA. Him along with two other sailboats were waiting out the low as well. He was a little nervous about the anchor holding in the storm so was happy to have us stay aboard for the night. We made a nice dinner and it was great to be on a boat again! It was one hell of a storm but the anchor never dragged. The lighthouse at the prom was reading gusts of up to 75kts! It eased a bit overnight and through Friday but it just shifted around from NW to W to SW so we were more protected in Refuge cove but strong gusts and heavy rains still came on and off. Friday we organised our gear, food and did all our calculations for the crossing to Hogan Island. We packed up everything into our kayaks and went to Campbell’s boat for the night again so we could get up early, get right in our boats and go!
Crossing Refuge Cove to Hogan Island (52km)
Saturday March 28th 2015:
Woke up 5:30am on boat got to shore by 6:30am and were paddling off by 7:20am.
We had such a horrible sleep with the rats scampering around our tents and the loud penguins but we managed to get up at 5am with hopes to be on water by 7am. With our tired and sore bodies and significant lack of sleep we made hot tea, hardy breakfast, prepped snacks/lunch, got changed into our wet kayak gear and packed our boats. By this time it was around 8am. Wind reading for hogan island was 18kts NW! Perfect for using the flat earth sail! Unfortunately Tim’s borrowed kayak was not equiped with a sail…. Or we could have really flown across. so we set up a deck mounted line tow and still flew at 7-9km/hr! It was awesome! Can’t believe how much fun kayak sailing is! Lots of photos and video on go pro to come but here are some iPad shot once we arrived! It took 6hrs to paddle/tow sail with breaks, the 42km from Hogan Island to Garden Cove on Deal Island.
Arrival at Deal Island was just amazing!
Tim using his fancy lense to get some shots of Cape barren geese and wallabies at our camp in Garden Cove.
This is the view from our reception hotspot. They even have a desk set up with this amazing view through Erith and Dover Islands. We could see Wilsons Prom way in the distance!
We decided to have a rest day Monday as weather was looking perfect for Tuesday to make big crossing to flinders island. We rested, made pancakes and explored the island.
Compound at Deal Island establishments. Tom and Lynn from the USA were keeping the ground for a 3 month period and they were really friendly and gave us keys to go up lighthouse.
View from top of lighthouse!
We could even go right inside the old light! It was pretty cool!
Tuesday March 31st, 2015
Crossing: Garden Cove, Deal Island to Killiecrankie Bay, Flinders Island (62km)
We woke up at 4am and were on the water by 6:30am. The morning sunrise was unreal! Our forecast was perfect! Light NW winds becoming calm! not enough to sail but it was great conditions and we took lots of break with our legs out of our kayaks. 62km paddle should have taken us less time but with all our breaks it took 13hrs 45min. Left in the dark and arrived in the dark! Longest day on the water ever for both of us!
A few albatross came to say hi. This route gets enough traffic I imagine these guys are used to kayaks and have been fed by them before… It was still damn cool to see them this close!
Wright rock is full of seals and birds 1/3 of the way! Cool spot well worth the effort to line our bearing to cross paths with!
We made it all the way to Craggy Island and tried really hard to find safe landing but even in the flat seas it was too sketchy for our delicate borrowed fibreglass kayaks so we just took an extended lounge in the kayaks
Craggy Island slowly disappearing in the distance… We were pretty tired at this pt but we made it in safe to a place called the docks just north of Killiecrankie Bay. We had to navigate through numerous rock gardens in the dark but we made it to camp in a nice little beach, went for a swim to wash off all the sunscreen, had a feed, fire and and went straight to sleep.
Wednesday April 1st, 2015
The Docks beaches to Killiecrankie (6km)
We had a chill day relaxing and leisurely paddling around these awesome granite headlands! Amazing rock climbing opportunities here!
My couchsurfing friend Tim from my previous adventures at Flinders recommended us to stay with his aunt Julie in Killiecrankie. Great place! We had hot showers, laundry electronic charging and we made a nice meal together while Julie was making crazy amounts of Easter chocolates for her family and friends!
Thursday April 2nd, 2015
Lots of wind 30kts in Killiecrankie Bay so we went to Whitemark with Julie and have been driving here ute around the island!
Tim and I at 40deg South!
Patriarch Lookout over Babel Island on East Coast!
Nice Chalet available to use pretty sweet spot!
Tim photographing wildlife
Friday April 3rd, 2015
We had a beautiful sunny day. Just exceptional! Light E-SE winds that turned calm. We paddling down south of Cape Franklin and checked out the beautiful Royden Island
The hut here was just fantastic and would have been great to stay but weather was good so we kept going
We had some snacks and kept heading south for this sweet little slot beach we spotted on Google earth on the tiny Wybelenna Island off Settlement Pt. (29km)
It was truly Such a nice day! We leisurely paddled across Marshall Bay
This beach was wild, beautiful and nicely protected from the light easterly breeze.
Saturday April 4th, 2015
We had penguins once again making noise all night on and off but we managed to sleep pretty good. We had an easterly wind 10-15kts today but we hugged the beautiful beaches along the south coast of Settlement pt.
Eventually we made it to the back of Arthur’s Bay North of Whitemark.
From here the wind was at our side so I was able to set sail and we cruised on a beam reach in tow all the way down to Trousers Pt (32km)
We managed to make it to Trousers pt and organize a ride to a Mutton Bird BBQ at Lady Barron.
Monday April 5th, 2015
We had a rainy day so spent it relaxed and read then went to Tim’s place in Lady Barron for the night. Zack met Tim through Couchsurfing network on his previous visit to Flinders Island back in Feb.
Tim and Torbin trying out the kayaks at Trousers Pt
Our camp for a few days waiting out wind
Lots of time to Re-organize our food
Weather finally cleared and we continued on
Stopped in briefly at Cape Barren Island met the school Principle Rob Williams who really wanted to paddle with us!
Sunset off preservation island
Stayed with Ricki at Clarke Island who runs a centre for troubled aboriginal youth
We made it safely across to little Musselroe Bay where We arranged for Tasmanian kayak sailing legend Jeff Jennings to pick us up.
325km – 17 days
All the best,
Tim and Zack
Good luck on your trip and a fantastic report. I look forward to the final write up
Have a wonderful trip! We live on Three Hummock Island on the other side of Bass Strait. Enjoy! Beverley and John.
Nice article. Hope all goes well and looking forward to ur pictures and further articles about this trip. How good are mirage sea kayak.
Hope ur well … head down bite the teath and go go go
Loved reading your report & looking at the photo’s..Thanks for sharing them. Have been to Flinders a few times ( family history there).. amazing rocks & beautiful beaches.. enjoy Well done & stay safe :).
An excellent trip report. Your preparations really seemed to have paid off. The best for you during the remainder of your trip.
I love viewing Zack’s photos on Flickr of his journeys. I view a lot of wilderness sea kayaking journeys on line. I always turn to these photos for some of the best and inspiring photos about sea kayaking shorelines. The spirit, depth and creativity and the shear numbers of locations visited
creates a wonderful virtual experience to help appreciate the wonders and beauty of shorelines
and sea kayaking as mode of travel to experience them.
Great photos. Makes me think about doing the crossing again but I dont think wife Robyn wants to paddle it again.
Great job lads. Thanks for posting