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Flinders Island 2018

by The Wooden Boat Shop 15 Aug 2018 06:04 UTC
Cruising Flinders Island © The Wooden Boat Shop

This year, we decided to go after the long Australia Day weekend, as it's great to support the SSCBC Three Piers Race, my favourite club passage race, which Sally and I sailed 2 up in Jessamine, coming second across the line to Morning Star.

On the designated departure date, it was definitely too fresh for lay back cruisers like ourselves so it was off to Queenscliff for a relaxing restaurant dinner. Just the two boats, Jane Kerr, Gary Kerr skipper, and Storm Bay. Unlike the Cutty Sark that was anchored off Queenscliff in the 1880's for a few days waiting for a slant (she actually nearly dragged ashore in a southerly gale), we obtained favourable weather the following morning.

Actually, reading the Cutty Sark's log, I see that they caught and cooked up a nice feed of couta outside Port Phillip Heads on this famous ship.

Our first stopover was at Hogan Island, which is halfway between the Prom and the Kent group. For years, the Stackhouse's grazed cattle on this island so I've heard a lot about it but never been in the anchorage or on the island before. It's actually really nice with the anchorage in the image affording reasonably good shelter from the north, clockwise through to the south west quadrant and if it blows from the easterly quadrant, there is safe passage between Long Island and Hogan Island around to the other side.

I was particularly interested to walk up to the weather station here, as when the fronts come through, the wind reading is very high. Later in the trip when we were sheltering at Lady Barron, the wind was constantly reading 50-60 knots here, I think the breeze must compress in Bass Strait to achieve these high readings.

I can report however, that it's well worth a visit and we did land some big Pike, we call them crocodiles!

The next stopover, just about my favourite place in Bass Strait, the wharf at Deal Island with the BBQ area behind. I fell in love with these islands when I first visited in the 1960's and it has been an enduring love affair.

The BBQ area on Deal, it's sheltered, fronting the aqua coloured water, would have to be the best place to have a BBQ I have ever been to, check out the fair... crays, abs, fresh gummies, and salad. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Whilst colourful, but no good, the remains of some net on Deal Island. Problem with abandoned net is that it never stops fishing

Telstra corner on Deal Island, 3 bars I believe? A good spot to check the weather.

The walk on Deal to the lighthouse through the shea oak forest.

The track to Squally Cove just beyond the forest, well worth a visit. When planning a trip to the group, one should allow for 3 or 4 days just to do the walks on the island.

And the lighthouse. The record to run pier to lighthouse is about 20 minutes, by god they must have been fair dinkum runners, I think Sam and Will have done it in about 25 and they are fit athletes, they looked spent.

The view across Murray Pass to Erith Island. The Ida N got trapped on the left-hand rocks in a south easterly gale when the crew could not start the engine, 1930, read more about it later.

Ida N. 58' x 14'4" x 6'5", wrecked 18th January 1930, built by the Neave's brothers, Hobart, and named after their mum, Ida was just 8 months old when she was wrecked on Erith Island in a SE gale after her anchor dragged and the engine wouldn't start. Capt. Peter Busk and the boys landed safely, being picked up about 3 days later, after attention was drawn by a smoke fire. The striking yacht-like resemblance to Storm Bay is because of their shared designer, Alfred Blore, 3 years apart. I've scoured the wreck site many times but have never been able to find any trace of this magnificent vessel.

Then off we go to the Sisters, Jane Kerr and Storm Bay, Inner Sister Island. Interestingly, Gary has taught me to leave the fully battened mizzen up, it helps the boat lay into the breeze. Fishermen call this sail "the mule".

Decayed grown knee off an unknown, and long forgotten wreck, Inner Sister Island, Furneaux Group. Part of our cruising pleasure comes from beachcombing where not a footprint can be found on the beach.

Abandoned sheering shed, Inner Sister Island. One can gaze at these islands for hours on end at their beauty and isolation.

The house on Inner Sister, just like the occupants walked out of it 80 years ago, used by the leasees for occasional overnight accommodation for fishing and shooting purposes.

The valley looking north from the house, stunning views.

No sanitized environment here. The motorbike in the house yard, exactly where it was left years ago, that's the allure of these Bass Strait islands.

The patina of years of the harsh Bass Strait gales lashing the weatherboards on the homestead walls.

I'm sorry to have missed this sale! The inside of the house is wallpapered with old newspapers dating back to the start of the 20th century. One can spend hours reading the old papers.

We left the sisters and headed for Killiecrankie, mutton birds working, Inner Sister passage. When Matthew Flinders came through Bass Strait, I think his words were "The sky was black for as far as the eye could see." These wonderful migratery birds do an annual loop through the Pacific to Russia, coming back to the same Bass Strait Island nest every year, almost to the day.

I never tire at gazing at these magnificent shy albatrosses.

The fishermen here have made the switch to faster boats, hence, coffing their crays in the Killiecrankie "harbour". The fishing is good but make sure you don't get caught here in a North Westerly gale.

In fresh NW weather, good shelter can be found on the east side of Flinders Island at Babel Island. This year, the weather was scheduled to crack up so after a night we headed off to Lady Barron overnighting at Trousers Bay. That canny cray fisherman Gary found a little patch of cray ground not far away and potted one of the biggest crayfish I've ever seen, we on Storm Bay, had to lower our colours!

The weather forecasting is so good in these modern times that seven day and beyond accurate predictions are obtainable. On the strength of the above one, we nosied our way down to Lady Barron, the road kill pies are very good (just joking).

Johnny Wilkins, who for years lived across the water from here at Punchin Head Island, David's father and my uncle had an expression, "they make the f***ing wind in Franklin Sound".

Sheltering at Lady Barron, when it blows, the breeze tends to funnel in between the main island and Cape barren Island. This day, it was well over 40 knots and for a while it was north of 50 knots.

We took the opportunity to hire a car and did some touring, actually I think one of the locals just lent us their car. That's the kind of hospitality that these Bass Strait islands afford. These are the exquisite shell necklaces the Aboriginal women make at Emita at the Wybalenna settlement. The museum here is well worth a visit.

We drove up to the north of the island, as we'd heard that Barbara and Richard Ham were in residence. Their amazing property is at the end of the road at Killiecrankie, no power, but a nice log fire going, we relieved him of a few bottles of aged red amidst some great stories. Richard and Barb are circumnavigators; originally Richard, as a boy went to sea on the Uitaka III with Spuddo Giles of Melbourne Grammar School fame.

The weather settled down and off we went out to the eastward but not through the pot boil when we're going south, down beside Vansittart Island past the wreck of the Farsund in Franklin Sound and into Armstrong passage. This year we went right up to her for a really good captain cook in the dinghies. Farsund was wrecked on 9th March, 1912.

Chapel Island taken from Badger, picture book landscape. Matthew Flinders named Chapel Island after his wife Ann's family. I often wonder when I'm going past whether the island's main geographical features reminded him of his wife and their long separation?

Storm Bay barrelling along with three reefs down on the way back to Deal Island.

Nothing under 9 knots for a few hours, autopilot on and I'm keeping an occasional look out whilst Sally prepared a cray fish lunch.

Our beautiful Huon Pine clinker tender, Wayne's work of art, drawn up on the Garden Cove beach on Deal Island.

Matthew Flinders introduced this English watercress to Garden Cove when he visited the group during his circumnavigation of Australia in Investigator in 1802/03. Amazingly, it still flourishes here, hence, the name. I'm unsure whether he named this cove but he did however name the Kent group after William Kent, the Commander of the first fleeter, Supply, when he passed the islands in the Francis on the way to rescue the Sydney Cove's crew who were stranded on Preservation Island in February 1798.

Once a shark fisherman, always a shark fisherman, our trusty David dispatching a gummy on Jane Kerr.

Erith Island, looking SE. The little shack is where boatbuilder Jack Lurick lived when he built the craycraft, Mirabooka, about 40', above the high tide mark on the beach. Jack was trying to evade the crazy Australian Government's then sales tax regime, I'm not sure if it did him much good though? Jack Norling told me he used to take the timber and parts of the boat down to Jack when he went past the group on his way to craying at the Sisters. In later years, Stephen Murray-Smith and family "summered" here in January, they generally got around naked, which was quite a shock for a shy 16-year-old in 1968.

Erith looking NW, the far corner is where the Ida N met her demise, I've searched the rocks here for any reminence of wreckage without success. In the foreground, this is all that's left of the St Nicholas, a small steamer converted into a shark boat which came ashore here in the early 60's.

The crays have taken the brunt of the divers' gathering at the Kent group. They were a lot more plentiful when we first potted here in the Storm Bay in 2006.

I am organising a cruise in company to the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, February 2019. Please find accordingly attached the registration link to the wooden boat festival for next year's event. If you care to join us with the fishing boats, you should say you want to be in Victoria Harbour in your registration.

For more information visit

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