PaddleNSW has proudly created a new quarterly award – the Recreation Paddling Award.

Nominations can include anything from exciting trips, to clean-up campaigns, to new access points, to simply thanking volunteers who organise and lead recreation paddle activities.

Our inaugural quarterly winner is Morven Flett – nominated by Newy Paddlers. Here is Morven’s Bass Strait Crossing story (strap in – it’s a good read)….

The final team to attempt the Bass Strait crossing was a group of three – me, my sister Sorcha, and the original instigator of the plan, Anna. We originally had six women who were keen for the trip, but the numbers dwindled down as people found out how much training was required!

I picked up a second-hand Mirage 530 sea kayak during lockdown in August 2021 and had many available hours due to COVID to train by myself on the water. Daz helped me with some technique tips, and I bumped into Dean Sorleyy who became my number one training buddy. I wanted to get as many ocean paddles in as possible and I did many gruelling Kooragang 42km loops when Dean wasn’t around.

I started training with a load in the boat as the adventure drew closer – I wanted to be as strong and fit and experienced paddling a heavy kayak as possible. Lucky I was prepared because as we started to think about packing, the pile of essential items grew bigger! We all needed to carry our own food for a month as well as safety gear, tents, water, repair kit, first aid – preparing ourselves for the unknown and any eventuality.

Fitting everything in was one of the many challenges – the daily set up and pack down of camp got easier as we found the best use of space and weight distribution. Sorcha and I dehydrated all our food for the trip and Anna had an array of dehy meals that were also great!

We allowed one month to complete our expedition, but it took us exactly three weeks.

We could see perfect conditions on the horizon before our planned departure, so we all managed to get down to Vic a day earlier than our original start date.

We set out from Tidal River in Wilson’s Promontory on the 15th of February. We had originally planned to launch from Port Welshpool, but tides and conditions favoured departing from Tidal River. This is also a much more scenic paddle around the southern tip of Victoria (The Prom) and into Little Waterloo Bay – a small camp in the bush on the banks of a tea tree-stained creek. It was so great to finally get on the water – test the boats and make sure they floated!!! 28km with a following sea and fresh breeze for the last 10km which had us catching runners and gave us a chance to test our sails with a laden boat – fortunately making the boat more stable.

From Waterloo Bay to Hogan Island was our next day’s adventure. A 50km paddle following our compass bearing and checking in occasionally with the two GPS trackers we had with us. We could not see our destination and Anna had a battery stored on her boat directly below her compass which gave her compass a different reading to Sorcha and I!

We had near perfect conditions for this leg, could just make out land at 25km out. The entrance to Hogan is spectacular – passing through the island and rocky outcrops and into a large, sheltered bay. We followed our map through the bay where a small channel took us to the other side of the island with more sheltered bays and in between the rocky shore a small magical beach appeared! This was camp for the next 3 days as strong winds and high seas buffeted the Bass Strait! On Hogan there is a small fishing shack and a trough with fresh water. We camped right in amongst a Little Penguin colony and the homes of a few pairs of Cape Barron Geese. A lightning show on the horizon on our first night on Hogan lit up an unforgettable phosphorescence display as the waves pounded the rocks. Night two into our adventure and we were really out in the wild!

The forecast showed light winds on the Saturday, so we packed up all non-essential items in anticipation of an early start (if the winds did die as predicted). Sure, enough the weather gods allowed for safe passage!

Hogan Island to Erith Island is a 40km leg. The sea was still messy from the previous days of wind but as we set off, we experienced light winds and 1-1.5m rolling seas – perfect! We got a small help from the sails at 25km out and could see land the whole way which made navigation quite easy! Spectacular cliffs and the Dover rocky island welcomed us to land. The channel of water running between Deal and Erith can be dangerous with strong tidal currents, but we timed it well and cruised into a beautiful sandy sheltered bay which was home for the next 3 days.

Erith is a stunning uninhabited island. It has a small family-owned shack that is open for visitors to use as needed with two water tanks, there is also a sheltered bush camp just up from the water under the acacia trees. For the next 3 days strong winds pounded the island making paddling impossible and giving us plenty of time to explore the island. Animal and bush tracks traverse the island – only a little bush bashing required!

On the Tuesday we saw a small weather window and contemplated leaving from Erith on our next leg to Flinders. We had been warned against this as leaving from Erith would have added another 10-15km on to our longest leg, so we used the beautiful conditions to explore Deal Island instead, making our way slowly around cliff after cliff after picturesque bay and reef to eventually set camp at Winter Cove. Winter Cove to Flinders is a more direct route of 65km.

We stayed tucked up in another amazing bush camp for another 3 days of wild wind and high seas. Winter Cove was my favourite camp spot under acacia trees with a little camp kitchen. The bay is lined with large boulders and rocks and created an amphitheatre for the surf, amazing sun rises and sunsets.

Winter Cover to Killiecrankie at the top of Flinders Is was the longest leg – 65km with strong currents pulling and pushing you off course. We didn’t have the best conditions and the ocean was still messy from the previous days’ weather. We decided with the help and advice from our land crews to venture out with the possibility of turning around at 12:30pm if we hadn’t made it to half-way. On this leg you pass 4 islands along the way so you can kinda track your progress.

We made good time and pushed through to Flinders – the last 25km we were dealing with strong currents. It felt like we were never going to hit land but eventually we pushed the boats onto the beach. No relaxing though – we were immediately attacked by overly- friendly vicious horseflies!

We found Jude’s bush camp and had our first warm shower. We again had rough conditions and had to hang tight and recover from the big paddle! We spent two days at Killiecrankie – fossicked (unsuccessfully) for Killiecrankie diamonds and hired a car for a day’s tour of the island including a pub meal and bakery treats!!!

Our next 42km leg took us to Lilly’s Beach near Wybalenna. We had a magical day on the water – strong winds but from behind meant a speedy trip with our sails and following sea. Gorgeous coastline dotted with small islands, kayaked over reefs and around huge boulders – felt like a real adventure!

From Lilly’s to Trousers Point was another fun 34km paddle. The coastline down Flinders Island was spectacular, small, sheltered bays, clear white sandy beaches and unique rock formations. Trousers Point was another great camp spot. Had our first day of rain and switched disciplines and ran up Mt Strzelecki, hitched into Whitemark for more bakery treats, the locals were very warm and welcoming. We spent some time at Trousers and dived into the cold waters for abalone. Delicious.

From Trousers Point we made our way to Rebecca Bay on lungtalanana/Clarke Island – a 58km paddle and our last camp before Banks Strait. We had read and heard so many stories about this last stretch we were keen to get it over with, I think! We would usually leave at sunrise and give ourselves as much daylight as possible, but we had to time our journey with tides even though we knew 100km/hr winds were coming through that evening!

This section of water is known for being quite treacherous and disorientating as it’s shallow and the currents are strong. Luckily for us we only had a light breeze to contend with, we did get swept around a few times heading in a totally wrong direction but just had to trust the GPS and compass and head back on track even if it felt completely wrong!

We made it to our final landing point 28km later in Little Musselroe Bay. Woohoo! Bubbly and cake on arrival thanks to my amazing family! All up it was 372km and 3 weeks of adventure. 9 paddle days, the rest spent exploring the islands and chilling at camp. What a beautiful part of the world!

From PaddleNSW – congratulations Morven.

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