A Bass Strait Crossing 2001

A 4.30am start saw us paddling down Murray Passage in the dark. We agreed to skirt around the southern end of Deal Island before following our compass bearing to Killiecrankie 67km away. We planned to be well out to the east with an outgoing tide before being brought back by the flooding tide at the end of the journey. There was a light breeze blowing giving us a bit of assistance.

In the dark the group got split up but as daylight appeared we regrouped. Its amazing how close you can be but still not see anyone in the dark. I had switched on my flashing light but unfortunately no one else had thought to keep a light handy. We weren't expecting to have to paddle for long in the dark. They had known exactly where we were but we had no way of seeing them.

This little episode triggered some discussion and we agreed from then on to paddle Matt's compass bearing ( for some reason we all kept to the same compass bearing but were actually diverging) and stop on the hour to keep together. The sea conditions were quite moderate though currents against wind produced some sloppy seas.

We passed Wrights Rock well to the west of where we wnated to be and realized that the flooding tide was either stronger than expected or it had started earlier than anticipated. Fortunately a favourable wind from the SW allowed us to recover some lost ground . As we passed Craggy Island the current was quite powerful and we understood how a previous group had missed Killiecrankie altogether and ended up around Cape Frankland on Royden Island.

About half way between Craggy Is and Killicrankie I thought back to an earlier crossing by the Matsuyker Club when at this point the group had been out in a 45+knt gale for 11 hours. Laurie Ford yelled to the group " I don't think we are going to make it", meaning get into Killicrankie because of the tide. Toby Clarke understood this to mean they were doomed and set off hell bent to get to Kiilicrankie. They didn't meet up again until the next day when the rest of the group paddled into Killiecrankie.

We cruised into the bay with all sails up. There was distinct feeling of achievement at this point. For some of us this was home territory as we had visited this part of Flinders Island a number of times. From now on we knew what was infront of us. Visit the Flinders Island Trip web site to see details of those trips.

The relief showed on everyone's face as we congratulated each other on thecompletion of this 67km leg in a little over 71/2 hours. We hadn't seen any of the other paddlers who had set off from Winter Cove at about the same time as we left Erith Island.

About 3/4's of an hour after we landed a solitary NSW paddler rounded the corner from the west and pulled up on the beach alongside us. We casually asked where the others were, expecting him to say, just around the corner. However to our amazement he said " I don't know". When asking when had he seen them last he said about 5.00am that morning!!

A little later out in the bay to the east we saw a couple of sails. The others recounted later how at that stage they were discussing who was going to ring up and tell Rod's wife they had lost him in Bass Strait! Apparently in the dark that morning Rod had left his paddling gloves behind and gone back to get them while the others waited. In the ensuing mix up they had separated and kept paddling thinking they would catch up with the the rest of the group. They did catch up, at Killiecrankie.

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