Bass strait Crossing - March 2024

Adrian Clayton, Richard Barnes, James Johnson and Don Johnstone launched from Port Albert Tue 5 March to paddle across Bass Strait - see the planned route below, although there are likely to be days mid-route when it's not wise to paddle so it may take longer than the illustrated 11 days. Check back regularly to this website for updates including a spot tracker of their whereabouts.

Day 16 - Wed 20 Mar - Swan Island to Little Musselroe Bay (Tassie)

[Ed: arrival photos will be added soon - check back a little later..]

A short paddle across the rest of Banks Strait and then tootling along the coast. What could go wrong? But the weather gods had a sting in the tail for us. Maybe we should have suspected something when Adrian found a scorpion had made a home in his life jacket overnight.

We bid adieu to our luxurious island home and started heading south in relatively calm conditions. After a slow 4km against a headwind and an ebbing tide the skies turned dark when we were less than a km from the Tasmanian mainland, the wind whipped up, the chop increased - with wind against tide, and we were hit by a hailstorm. It became too hard to manoeuvre the boat in any direction so we stopped paddling and tried to shield our faces from the stinging hail pellets. Visibility dropped and it was hard even to maintain sight of other only 50m apart. We were soaked through and fast becoming cold. But we bore it out and eventually the squall passed.

We then had a long deliberation about how we could make it back to civilisation. We opted to go north to Little Musselroe which had the benefit of being 3km closer than this morning's plan of south to Musselroe. We tried calling Nam to let him know - an effort in itself when James had the only working phone and his fingers were wet and numb with cold. But Nam was not on Telstra so couldn't get reception outside of Launceston.

We arrived at Little Musselroe cold and weary but our spirits soon lifted. We'd just hauled the boats up onto dry land when Trevor Waters, a mate of James, drove up. He'd been in Sheffield doing concrete repairs on a luxury house and offered to come and greet us and help out with logistics. We were about to drive around to Musselroe to let Nam know when he also drove up and received a warm welcome. He'd brought a bottle of red and some snacks which made for quite a party. Then a van drove up and out jumped Howard and Beverley Gwatkin - friends of Adrian's from the Astro Paddlers who were holidaying in Tassie and had been following our blog and spot tracker and decided to pop in for a surprise visit. They had brought champagne, crackers and cheese and we soon had set up a table in the parking area with a full spread. Then a couple of locals came to greet us, saying they'd seen a lot of Bass Strait paddlers arriving over the years.

Well fed and grateful for all the support we then went about loading the 4 kayaks on the newly fitted roof racks on my car - thanks Brett. We squeezed all the gear and 6 people into 2 cars and are now on our way to Sheffield to stay at Trevor's client's farm.

Tomorrow we catch the Spirit of Tasmania from Devonport to Geelong and then drive back to Sydney so this marks the end of the blog.

Thanks to all those who have followed us and sent messages of support. It has been the trip of a lifetime. And Adrian, at 79, has become the oldest to ever paddle across Bass Strait - a record that may never be broken. And this wasn't the express route - we clocked up more than 500km and saw a lot of the highlights of the eastern passage. Today's stats 15km in 3 hours and nearly as tough conditions as yesterday.

See you soon back on the water.

Above: Day 16 progress

''Above: Arrival pic. From left Adrian, Don, James, Richard (photo: Nam)

''Above: Car loaded!! (photo: Nam)

Above: Total trip - about 500km paddling distance

''Above: Little Musselroe Bay boat ramp courtesy of Google StreetView (except it's 11 degrees and a hailstorm squall has just gone through)

Day 15 - Tue 19 Mar - Spike Bay (Clarke Island) to Swan Island

What a day! James celebrated his 63rd birthday and it will be one to remember.

The first hour of paddling was straight forward - a final tour of a granite coastline on Clarke Island around to Rebecca Bay.

Then the fun began. After a brief stop on the beach we launched southwards through the white caps with a 15-20 knots or more tailwind. This continued for the next 3 hours as we were swept west by the current - resulting in speeds of up to 13kph - and then east as the tide turned. The swell increased to 3 metres plus and we all had close calls - James nearly cartwheeled after his nose was buried after spearing down a steep wave; Adrian did a very deep bracing stroke with one hand off the paddle - nearly capsizing; I was caught side-on by a wave that led to some impromptu stopper-surfing; and Richard says it was one of the roughest days he can remember paddling in a normal sea kayak - certainly on Bass Strait. Watching the waves crashing into the rocks around the corner of Swan Island and realising that I was on the same wave maybe a hundred metres south is an image that will remain etched in my mind. As will the sense of relief and euphoria when I realised we'd passed the point and the waves were easing.

And then to top it off, when we arrived on Swan Island and walked to the lighthouse we found one of the vacant lighthouse keeper cottages was unlocked so tonight we sat at a table with chairs and emptied our supplies of food for an extended celebratory dinner before reading through some coffee table books and sleeping each in our own room as the rain - the first heavy rain of the trip - provided the background ambiance.

30k in 4:30. A mere 13km on the cards tomorrow with a plan to meet Nam at Musselroe Bay at noon.

Above: Day 15 progress

Above: Speeding....

Day 14 - Mon 18 Mar - Key Island Bay (Cape Barren Island) to Spike Bay (Clarke Island)

The strong winds eventuated and we paddled slowly into a headwind eastwards along the southern coast of Cape Barren Island aiming for Wombat Point. We stopped just short near the start of Reys Bay when our forward progress had nearly ground to a halt. According to Adrian’s anemometer we were battling a 23-24 knot headwind.

A team huddle on the shore and we decided to call it quits as the downwind to Clarke Island was looking decidedly hairy with winds forecast to strengthen. Behind the sand dunes we found a dirt track, a couple of rusty vehicles, a caravan and a hut with a sign saying Danger People Drinking. I spotted a tiger snake basking behind he hut - my 2nd after also seeing one on the climb up Strzelecki.

Richard, Adrian and I decided to work up an appetite for lunch by walking along the beach. James is still nursing a sore foot that was pierced by a stick when he leaped out of bed at Winter Cove to chase away a possum. It turned out the beach was 4km long so it took nearly 2 hours to traverse its length picking up seashells.

After a hard-earned lunch we had another team huddle and decided that the wind and whitecaps had eased enough to make a dash for Clarke. It turned out to be a good call and we had a surprisingly easy crossing. Only Banks Strait to go. We made the most of the tailwind to help us around the corner to Spike Bay past another coastline of spectacular orange granite. Earlier we’d seen a menhir worthy of the great Obelix that was standing on its tip. A lovely sheltered campsite with a sea eagle sentinel and we’re planning to spend tomorrow night on Swan Island.

25km in just over 5 hours.

Above: Day 14 progress

Day 13 - Sun 17 Mar - Whittling Office Bay to Key Island Bay (Cape Barren Island)

Even on a remote beach on the north coast of Cape Barren Island we had night time noises. A fishing trawler decked in lights that would illuminate the SCG decided that 9pm was a good time to start strip mining the fish from our bay, and continued until they had enough to feed the population of the Furneaux.

We had a relatively early start of 9am - the group’s preference being for slow starts and late finishes. Richard opened the last of his shrink-wrapped Weetbix boxes. Adrian limited himself to 2 cups of tea. James bit his now well-bitten tongue.

There was a favourable easterly wind and ebb tide as we paddled a meandering route along the coast with some dolphins to Cape Barren Island township where we disembarked and checked out the impressive school houses, WWI memorial, post office and a restored motor sailor but only the one visible citizen.

We continued on for half an hour for lunch at Old Township Bay. After lunch we passed 4 paddlers from the Victorian Sea Kayak Club who were paddling from Little Musselroe to Roydon Island. At the vast and impressive Thunder and Lightning Bay we ran into a stiff headwind paddling northeast. With some more daylight we continued on to Key Island Bay with a lovely protected campsite.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for 15-20 knot northeasterly winds that strengthen during the day so we plan to paddle east early and then use the tailwind to get across to Clarke Island.

38km in 6:15

Above: Day 13 progress

Day 12 - Sat 16 Mar - Lady Barron (Flinders Island) to Whittling Office Bay (Cape Barren Island)

We slept through an unloading of the main trading ship starting 1am just few hundred metres away. Then walked a lap of Lady Barron township including the Furneaux Islands’ 2nd shop.

We then launched off the rock shelf and paddled past Little Green Island and south to Vanisittart. Just north of Vansittart was a reef and a tide race which led to Richard’s highlight of the day - showing off his downriver slalom skills in paddling against a 7kph tidal current, navigating eddies, boils and swirls to appear on the other side of the reef where the water was a good few inches higher.

We then paddled down the west coast of Vansittart and along its southern shore until we got a good view of a wreck, but we weren’t able to get closer because of the currents. Instead we turned and benefited from the currents and a north easterly to paddle / sail along the coast of Cape Barren Island, stopping for a late lunch on a jetty. We continued for a couple of hours until we found a sheltered beach where we set up camp.

32km in 5:45. Sunday we’re aiming for Thunder and Lightning Bay

Above: Day 12 progress

Day 11 - Fri 15 Mar - Trousers Pt to Lady Barron (Flinders Island)

A lovely sunny morning so I walked to Fotheringate Beach - another of Tasmania’s 60 Great Walks as well as Strzelecki. Beautiful views of the coast we paddled yesterday.

Then back in the boats and a leisurely paddle along the coast checking out all the coves and doing some rock gardening. We saw pelicans, stingrays, a huge number of red-beaked, white wing-tipped black swans, sea eagles, black-faced cormorants. We stopped on one of many pristine beaches for lunch.

The wind never picked up to what was forecast though there were some ripping tidal flows against us as Bass Strait filled like a bath tub. The only real challenge was the landing at Lady Baron after passing Samphire and Fisher Islands. There was no beach so just east of the pier James leaped overboard and waded to the rocky shore and sussed out a nearby camp spot. We then carefully lifted the kayaks onto a rock shelf unloaded some of the heavy gear and waded ashore with it then carried up the lightened boats.

A special treat at tonight’s amenities is a hot shower - our first in 12 days. And now we’re off for another pub dinner which a local says serves a chicken parmie you can’t jump over.

28km in 5:20. Still planning the next few days.

Above: Day 11 progress

Day 10 - Thu 14 Mar - Whitemark to Trousers Pt, & Mt Strzelecki (Flinders Island)

We walked into town and bought a few supplies from the IGA when it opened at 9, and refilled our water at the pub.

The tide was well out and conditions glassy so after a couple of refills of Adrian’s vanilla chai tea and making use of the best amenities we’ve yet encountered, we paddled at chatting pace out to Big Green Island. The wind had picked up so we then had a bit of a slog back to the headland off the south end of Fotheringate beach and along the granite coast to a lovely campground at Trousers Point. 15k in 3 hours.

Richard and I then walked along the road and I followed the mountain goat, panting, up the steep track to Mt Strzelecki. We had fantastic 360 degree views and some celebratory sardines then scampered down in half the time and back to camp for a gourmet dinner prepared by Adrian and his pancake flipping assistant James. 15km in 4:45 walking - and we saw 3 of the fastest moving wombats around.

We’ve yet to decide on tomorrow’s plans but we have a few cryptic clues from Ian queued up to keep us on our toes.

Above: Day 10 progress

Day 9 - Wed 13 Mar - Emita to Whitemark (Flinders Island)

It rained during the night at Allports so we had the extra challenge of keeping our gear dry on land as well as at sea. We walked a few km to Wyballena where there’s a restored chapel and graveyard and a mid-restoration commandant’s house where Adrian saw a wombat.

It rained again as we packed up camp. Then onto he water and down the coast checking out all the coves. Bird Island near Settlement Point challenged my understanding of the smallest outcrop that is eligible to be called an island. Max diameter maybe 100m.

We saw a couple of pelicans and had some fun finding paths through the coastal boulders as we followed the coastline. I even tried paddling with my eyes closed for 100 strokes and didn’t veer too far off course. And seeing how low I could get my heart rate while still paddling - into the 60s.

The heart sprung into action when we turned the point to head east for Whitemark - battling 15-20 knot headwinds and whitecaps for the final 6km.

We were much relieved to find a beautiful sheltered camp spot just behind the beach and then tucked into a hearty pub meal at the Interstate Hotel.

28km in 5:45. Day 8 was 27k in 5:20. Day 7 was 38k in 7 hours

Today we have a short paddle to Trousers Point then a hike up Mt Strzelecki. Conditions this morning are glassy but 10-15 knot headwinds are forecast

Above: Day 9 progress

Above: Wyballena

Day 8 - Tue 12 Mar - Roydon Island to Emita (Flinders Island)

The favourable conditions continued late yesterday for the paddle from Killiecrankie to Roydon and all bar James had a night in the hut. We chatted with some local fishermen moored off Roydon who were keen to hear about our travels and to follow our blog.

This morning we met a kayak tour group from Roaring 40s who had paddled over from mainland Flinders. Then we set off south past some dolphins then North Pasco, Mid Pasco and South Pasco Islands then to Prime Seal Island on a pristine beach for lunch. The wind had kicked in so we had sizeable - maybe 2m? waves to paddle into.

Then we paddled east to Wyballena Island then along the coast to Emita beach. All bar Adrian walked up the hill to check out the impressive Furneuax Museum including a tribute to some local aborigines, many associated with nearby Wyballena in the 1830s-40s. There were also some impressive sea anchors from the many nearby shipwrecks, and a cottage dedicated to the mutton birding industry.

Adrian had sussed out a good campsite behind nearby Allports beach but he didn’t fancy getting back into wet paddling clothes so we got out the tow roe and I towed his boat around the corner.

Tomorrow we’re aiming for a pub meal at Whitemark.

Above: Day 8 progress

Day 7 - Mon 11 Mar - Inner Sister Island to Roydon Island

A leisurely start and in the daylight we found a flat sheltered area where we had breakie - on the road from the hut - a much improved campsite… Oh well.

We paddled south to Flinders Island and around the coast to Palana. Saw a few youths frolicking at the beach and a few houses but no shops - the only one being at Whitemark.

On around the corner checking out the coves and some passing dolphins then across to Old Man’s Head on the shore side of Mount Killiecrankie. After a photo of Adrian in front of his namesake we paddled across to Killiecrankie township for a late lunch. We met some Sydney-siders and used the toilet and I found that by unplugging the pump for the toilet block I could steal some charge for my phone - hence the bonus update. I’m giving the guys a 10 minute start and will chase them down on the way to Roydon

Above: Day 7 progress

Above: Adrian relaxing on Inner Sister Island

Day 6 - Sun 10 Mar - The big crossing from Deal Island to Inner Sister Island

Up at 4am and on the water at 6:20 when it was just light enough to negotiate the shore break which we all did successfully. Then our bearing of 102 allowed us to fully appreciate a magnificent deep red sunrise.

The conditions were even better than forecast and after a light tailwind for the first 2 hours which the sailors enjoyed, there was minimal wind for the rest of the day.

We lingered at Wright Rock for half an hour, fascinated by the frolicking of a thousand seals. An hour later we were visited by a phalanx of shearwaters who seemed to line up in almost single file from a long way off to do a water-skimming fly past.

Then mid way between Wright Rock and Craggy Island we went for a ceremonial dip in the refreshing waters of Bass Strait. We still had an English Channel to go so decided to remount and keep paddling rather than continuing to swim.

A few more seals at Craggy Island then a final 20k leg to Inner Sister. The only paddling challenge of the day was the cross current as we approached from an ebbing tide which reached 3.7 kph. We took a wide line and then made it around the south side of Inner Sister and were rewarded with an easy beach landing. 61km in 10 hours.

There was one unfortunate incident en route when Adrian lost his day hatch - the cord attaching it to his boat snapped. James was on hand to coordinate a temporary fix by covering the hole with a canvas carry bag but it was not enough to save Adrian’s phone which got overexposed to moisture.

Richard and I decided to make the most of the conditions and paddled on around the coves of southern Inner Sister then across to Outer Sister where we didn’t spot any suitable landing. We did spot a couple of sea eagles and a pod of dolphins on our return around the north side of Inner Sister to cap off an 81km day in 13:15 - arriving just as the sun was setting.

As soon as we landed a strong easterly wind picked up and made it very hard for James to cook dinner. There was no protection and the beachside bushes were full of thorns. The rusty hut had no entrance apart from a nailed shut door and there were dead animals around it and beer bottles so we camped and dined on the beach. Pitching the tent meant weighing it down with gear so it wouldn’t blow away.

Not the best night’s sleep but at least we weren’t disturbed by the animals- last night James woke to a possum gnawing through his dry bag to get to food and I woke to gentle possum feet over my feet but luckily it was on the outside of my tent. A possum also gnawed a hole in the pocket of Adrian’s life jacket and ate all the food he’d prepacked - which is why he was yanking his spare food out of his day hatch which snapped the hatch cord and wet his phone.

We’ve broken the back of the Bass Strait crossing now and are looking forward to exploring the north and west coast of Flinders for a few days.

Above: Day 6 progress

Above: Inner Sister Island looking west. They're in the Bay on the left side of the photo. Photo by Graeme Bartlett - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, wiki

Day 5 - Sat 9 Mar 2024 - Rest Day on Deal Island

We woke to the rumbling of the surf and a strong breeze and were glad of yesterday’s decision to delay our departure. A leisurely breakie including pancakes. And a morning constitutional that wouldn’t normally rate a mention but a wallaby was so hungry that it had started eating it almost before I’d finished.

We wandered up to see the caretakers- Maddie and Stu - who are 6 days into their 3 month stint. Last night on the way back from the lighthouse they asked us in for a cup of tea and some popcorn. Today they opened up the museum for us and provided charge for our phones.

Some bad news on that score though. I’m on the 4th of my 4 Ryobi batteries. 2 drained themselves without allowing me to use any of their charge. So correspondence may soon cease. I’m hoping we’ll be able to recharge in Whitemark in maybe 4 days.

Above: Day 5 Rest Day - showing key locations from report

Above: Adrian on Deal Island overlooking Winter Cove

Another trip highlight for me was walking down to Garden Cove for a beautifully refreshing swim with Richard and Adrian then back via the airstrip.

Day 4 - Fri 8 Mar 2024 - West Cove on Erith Island to Winter Cove on Deal Island

A short but interesting paddle from our campsite to East Cove on Deal Island via the Washaway between Erith and Dover. We were greeted on Deal by some potaroos and Cape Barren geese and chatted to a couple of young women who were sailing around Tasmania.

We walked up to the lighthouse keepers' cottage but they weren't home so back to the boats and around the south end of Deal to Winter Cove. There was a stiff easterly so once we passed South Bluff it was a bit challenging. I scooted ahead to suss out the best landing spot and was the only one to duff my landing.

After setting up camp and a late lunch, Richard, James and I walked back over Deal to the lighthouse keepers' cottage but again vacant so we continued on up to the lighthouse. 17km paddling in 3 hours then 13km walking in 3 hours. The weather forecast for tomorrow is windy so we’re staying put on Deal for another day.

Above: Day 4 progress

Day 3 - Thu 7 Mar 2024 - Hogan to Erith

[Ed: A 5 min video of their launch/departure has been added to the Flickr album link above - scroll through to Day 1 in the Flickr album]

From Don: A deliberately leisurely start due to the forecast for winds easing. This meant there was time for a double serve of Weetbix and 2 mugs of Sustagen.

First we checked out the alternative camping spot on Hogan across the cove where there was a hut and supposedly a lot of penguins which would have been nice to see but may have kept us awake all night with their mating noises.

Then we made a detour to North East Island which is the only land border between Tasmania and Victoria. It also hosts a colony of seals - which was a highlight of the trip - being greeted by a bustle of activity on the previously serene rocky outcrop and then a rush for the communal slippery dip and soon after there were dozens of seal heads bobbing around in an adoring mosh pit. Much the same happened all around the island - supplemented by the grunts of a bull seal and the waft of seal smell - not for the faint hearted.

Finally around 11am we decided to farewell the seals and head on a bearing of 130 for the Kent Group (not the Furneaux Group- they come later). Not that we needed a bearing as the conglomerate profile of the 3 main islands loomed large. I really hadn’t expected such calm seas - which stayed with us all day. Adrian had the assistance of a sail almost all day though sometimes he would have been becalmed if he’d stopped paddling.

It wasn’t always fast paddling with tidal flows of 2kph against us around the north end of Erith where we slowed to admire the granite cliffs and what might become great sea caves in a few thousand years.

Then as we arrived in West Cove we were greeted by 4 frolicking dolphins who swam under and around us.

As we were setting up camp a group of 5 youths walked along the beach and stopped for a chat. They had just started a week’s rock climbing. And after offloading their packs onto a tender they swam out to the yacht where they were sleeping.

James’s turn to cook and no one went hungry - a meal for the ages. And then a sound night’s sleep- though the wind tested the tent pegs - and up to scout out some reception- which I eventually found by traversing to the west coast of Erith. 46km in 9 hours. Today (Friday) we explore Deal.

Above: Day 3 progress

Above: Erith Island campsite

Day 2 - Wed 6 Mar 2024 - Sealers Cove to Hogan Island

From Don: A good night’s sleep and a leisurely start from a lovely campground. On the water at 9 and a bearing of 102 for 55km and nearly 10 hours. Seems straight forward?

Well we managed to add a bit of excitement. Winds started mild at 5-10 knots but picked up to maybe 15. Out came the sails for James and Adrian. A bit of bump too, with what seemed like 2 swells from different directions. And my steering deteriorated to the extent that I couldn’t turn right, so did a few 360s - which allowed me to check out the disappearing profiles of Cathedral Rock, the peaks of Wilson’s Prom, Rodondo Island, Monceur and East Monceur Islands. We were 30km from Hogan when Richard spotted it on the horizon- and earned himself the joy of licking the pot after dinner. Soon after we were visited by quite a lot of curious albatross who enjoyed swooping close and skimming the water.

With 3km to Hogan it was quite choppy and I wasn’t easily able to prevent myself being side-on, so eventually succumbed and capsized. No big drama. Richard was on hand and I had a relatively quick remount, though had taken on a lot of water and the battery operated pump decided to go on strike - so I used the hand pump.

A short but challenging paddle around the north tip of Hogan, just inside the Twin Islets, and into a calm, protected bay where I mixed myself a bottle of protein powder and donned some warm clothes, which led to a speedy recovery.

My turn to cook, and no reception at the campsite- hence it’s only this morning that I’m sending an update. I trekked up the nearest peak and was disappointed to get no reception - but a beautiful view - including of the Furneaux Islands- our destination for Thursday. The forecast is for 15-20 knot crosswinds at 8am easing to 5-10 in the afternoon so we’re in no rush to get away.

Above: Day 2 progress

Above: View from Hogan towards Deal Group

Above: Hogan Island from the air (source: youtube)

Day 1 - Tue 5 Mar 2024 - Port Albert to Sealers Cove

[Ed: Note the link to the Spot Tracker URL is right up the top of this page. Also the link up above to Flickr pix - about 30 pix from the departure this morning have been loaded up...]

From Don: Perfect weather on Day 1. Delayed our start until 10:27 so we could benefit from the outgoing tide which meant we were paddling at 11kph past Dog Island near Port Albert.

We then meandered through the islands / sand bars near Sunday Island and tried going out through the waves at Port Albert Entrance but decided it was a bit rough. We caught some fun runners heading back past Clonmel Island and after studying the maps on an unmarked sandbar, we managed to get through a shallow channel on the south side of Snake Island then set a straight course for Rabbit Island.

Part way to Rabbit we ran into some waves and all bar James copped a wave in the face.

Adrian and I went ashore on Rabbit for a stretch and then it was 2.5 hours to Sealers Cove where we landed at 7:30.

9 hours, 56 km. Boats unloaded; tents up; Adrian’s cooking up a 3 course meal.

Above: Day 1 progress

Above: Port Albert departure point

Above: Sealers Cove

Day 0 - Mon 4 Mar 2024

A long day's drive. I left home at 6:15, picked up James, and drove via Canberra to Port Albert arriving 8:30. Richard and Adrian drove down the coast from Jervis Bay where they had been at the NSW sea kayak club’s annual Rock ‘n Roll get-together. Amazingly we converged on Cann River within 2 minutes of each other - see photo.

Lovely welcoming hosts Diane and Brian Parsonage (9 time veterans of the Murray marathon in a C2 relay where they met Richard) had a feast ready for us of freshly caught flake and salmon.

The weather is looking favourable so we’re planning to rise at 6am tomorrow and launch about 8:30 then 8 hours paddling to Refuge Cove.

Above: from left to right - Adrian, James, Richard, Don

Training - Neutral bay to Royal National Park 20-21 Jan 2024

by Don Johnstone
Early Saturday morning, 4 intrepid paddlers - Mark Hancock, James Johnson, Richard Barnes and myself - gathered at Anderson Park, Neutral Bay with sea kayaks and car loads of gear that was soon swallowed up by those kayaks. The latter 3 of us were using the weekend as a practice paddle before our upcoming jaunt across Bass Strait in March. Our 4th companion across the Strait, Adrian Clayton, came down to see us off - a late withdrawal from the practice trip due to being mauled by a dog who took a liking to the metal plate in his knee, resulting in surgery to try to prevent infection. Adrian was in good spirits though, and was sorry to be missing both the paddling and the banter.

My gear included 17 litres of water (which is what I'm hoping will be enough for the Strait), a tent, sleeping bag, camp chair and enough methylated spirits to start a raging bushfire. I wanted to get the feel of paddling a fully-laden Mirage 580 Sport, kindly lent to me by our own John Duffy.

After paddling out of the Heads, we were fortunate to get some wind assistance on our trip down the coastline to Royal National Park. I was thrilled to make it to Bondi - having only ever made it as far as The Gap on previous expeditions. And to celebrate, we were welcomed by a lone piper on the headland of North Bondi, as well as by a gaggle of ocean swimmers who had ventured a long way from the beach. We then had a most enjoyable paddle past a lot of familiar and not-so-familiar beaches and cliffs that reminded me of the cliffs on the Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales for which our state is named. I caught a few runners, hitting speeds of 17kph towards Maroubra, which was quite a blast when our average speed for the weekend was a more miserly 6kph.

One down-side of having so much fun on the runners was that I got separated from the rest of the group - which was a good chance for us to revisit our risk management and emergency procedures - a discussion that lasted long into the night - trawling through the anally-retentive 21 page Bass Strait trip plan that I'd prepared. Another hazard that I put to the test - for the sake of the team of course - was a capsize drill - just off Jibbon Head near Bundeena. We passed both these tests with flying colours and are now pumped for the even bigger upcoming adventure.

We camped at a lovely spot behind Little Marley beach (above), and had repeated the trip in reverse on the Sunday - taking 1.5 hours longer due to the current and less favourable winds. For a total of 17 hours paddling and 100km over 2 days. Lots of little learnings about how to pack and prepare better for Bass Strait (note to self - wear more sunscreen!!), but overall it was a great success.