The Bass Strait story……how it all started

Wilson's Prom 2013
Wilson’s Prom 2013

About 10 years ago I stumbled across a website article about a small group that paddled across Bass Strait in sea kayaks. These weren’t elite athletes with corporate sponsorship and a support team in a helicopter….these were just normal everyday people with a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors. The more I looked into it I realised it was quite do-able for your average aussie battler. Sure Bass Strait has a nasty reputation as one of the roughest stretches of open water in the world – but not everyone knows there is a string of small islands along the way that enable sea kayakers to island hop from Wilson’s Prom in Victoria to Cape Portland in north-east Tasmania. The general program is to paddle all day, camp on an island overnight and keep going the next day subject to favourable weather conditions. If a big storm comes through….you explore these remote islands, drink casked wine and talk to the penguins.

I got quite excited about the idea and decided to look into it further. There was only a few issues I had to overcome:
1. I had never paddled a sea kayak before
2. I had no money to buy a sea kayak
3. I didn’t know anyone else who was into sea kayaking
4. I had no one to go with
5. I wasn’t fit enough to paddle 30km – let alone 300km
6. I couldn’t find a sea kayak that had a seat wide to accommodate my large rear end

Reality soon kicked in and my dreams of adventure on the high seas slowly faded away….

Fast forward 8 years and not much had changed except I no longer had to buy my pants at High and Mighty – so I thought there was a good chance I would fit in a sea kayak.

I bounced the idea of crossing Bass Strait past the not-so supportive Mrs Bretto who said: “sure…..as long as you can find someone else to go with you”. Obviously she didn’t think anyone else would be interested so Mrs B was quite surprised when 2 of my friends G-Man and Stiffo signed up for the trip.

I should point out that I have a special talent when it comes to talking people in to doing things. Whether it be a 24 hour Bear Gryll’s style survival challenge in the Victorian High Country or crossing the Simpson Desert – I can normally find some like-minded people to share the good times (and the bad).

So at that point I came up with a 2 year plan for Bass Strait which included:
1. Buy a sea kayak
2. Get all the other gear you need (and there is plenty)
3. Learn how to sea kayak (in all conditions)
4. Get fit and harden up
5. Work out exactly where to go
6. Work out the best time to do it
7. Work out what to do if things go bad

I figured that 2 years was a reasonable time to gain the required skills and experience and mitigate any potential risks to an acceptable level. And none of us are getting any younger!

[Although I had no sea kayaking experience I should state that I am not a novice paddler. I was a competent whitewater paddler 20 years ago. In fact the older I get the better I used to be].

Unfortunately Stiffo has recently pulled out but the trip must go on! G-Man is getting his long overdue sea kayak today! Hope he can find some room in the garage between his ocean ski and K1 racing kayak.

Keep an eye out for more posts where I will go through some details of the gear and planning for a trip like this.