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Letter from Huw Kingston on his way Melbourne to Hobart : crossing Bass Strait

Thursday, 8 April - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Hello All,

The window is open for a short period so you go while you can, knowing the wind will bang it shut very soon. I'm now in Tasmania having enjoyed a magnificent crossing of Bass Strait with Rohan, Greg and Lippy. We arrived at Little Musselroe Bay on the NE tip of Tassie on Sunday 4 April, completing the final crossing of the notorious Banks Strait in interesting conditions to be greeted on the beach by Wendy, Marie Clare and Jenny with champagne, garlands and a strip of red carpet!

It had taken us 5 days of paddling from Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory then 16 days to get across Bass Strait. A total of just over 500km of paddling. The paddle to the Prom was interesting in it's own right. It started with a 3 metre White Pointer being pulled onto the boat ramp at Stony Point 5 minutes before we put on the water. Then that 'easy' planned day turned into an 11hour 60km paddle as we were unable to get in anywhere due to huge pounding surf (well you can always get in somewhere but getting out again the next day?). We were starting to contemplate a night rafting up together at sea when just on dark we weaved a route thru some sizeable bombies to land behind a headland. The trip was on!

For 7 years I knew that Bass Strait was the key that opened the opportunity to continue onto Hobart. It did not disappoint as a journey. What soon became apparent was that if you missed an opportunity, a window, you might not move for days or weeks. There were never 2 days of good paddling weather together. Indeed if we had not paddled from Deal Island to Flinders Island 2 weeks ago we'd no doubt still be there today. With a number of 50 to 60km open crossings you couldn't afford to go in iffy weather.

So we crept across the Strait with a day here and a day there, sometimes cheating the forecast. Fo example, the day after we arrived at Whitemark, the 'capital' of Flinders Island, it was forecast to be 25knot winds. We had spent 7 hours in our first and only pub of the crossing, certain it would be followed by a lazy day or 2 to fix any hangovers. At 4am I woke to mirror calm. Should we go? Of course. So with certain members nursing sore heads and emptied stomachs (not from seasickness) we were away in the company of a pod of 10 dolphins across Franklin Sound, in the only millpond conditions of the trip. We made it to Preservation Island, 40km away, before the storm hit and pinned us down for nearly 4 days.

Indeed, whilst it would have been 'good' to have had settled weather and an easy passage, I'm so glad we got 'stuck' on the islands. t gave an opportunity to explore the stunning landscapes of the Bass Strait islands - soaring cliffs, sloping granite slabs, tiny white lighthouses, penguins keeping you awake all night, tame wallabies and seabirds of all varieties. So in the end we paddled 8 days and were stuck for 8.

It was slightly frustrating on Preservation Island being only 30km from the end of the paddle. But as 45knot winds swept across the 4km long island we coolsed ourselves with the thought of the survivors if the Sydney Cove, wrecked on Preservation in 1797 with its cargo of rum from India bound for the new settlement of Sydney. They were stuck for 6months before a heroic rescue. We found no rum but did find a hut that made our stay more pleasurable.

Having arrived in Tassie some days late Jenny and I rode hard on a slightly more direct route to Cradle Valley and the start of the Overland Track, on a couple of nights catching up with my paddling companions as well as Wendy and MC for further celebrations. We rode thru Perth en route which now meant I have gone from Melbourne2Perth - not on the original <mailto:City@City>City2City plan!!)

Today I set off down the track. Last night was the final bed for 40 days or more - the mountains and the Franklin river await......

Have Fun, Cheers, Huw 

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Huw's Perth to Darwin:

Letter 1: Perth to Carnarvon

Letter 2: Carnarvon to Broome

Letter 3: Update from Drysdale River Homestead

Letter 4: Farewell to Western Australia