|s/y Nine of Cups
Bass Strait Islands, Tasmania
February 2012 & January-February 2013
|The Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland, specifically the
state of Victoria. The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bass Strait as:
|The strait was named after George Bass after he and Matthew Flinders passed through it while
circumnavigating Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in the Norfolk in 1798–99. At Flinders' recommendation in
1800, the Governor of New South Wales named the stretch of water between the mainland and Tasmania
"Basses Strait". Later it became known as Bass Strait.
|Note: The above Expedia map shows the Indian Ocean extending
into the South Australian Bight meeting with the Pacific, but ALL
Australian maps show this area as the Southern Ocean!
Approximately 240 km wide at its narrowest point and generally around 50 metres deep, the Strait contains
over 50 islands, the largest of which are:
Three Hummock Island
|On the recommendation of many previous visitors and especially after our
visit to the Gippsland Lakes, we headed towards Tasmania with a planned
stop at Deal Island along the way. The lighthouse/island caretakers on Deal
Island, David & Mary Nicholson, are good friends to many Raymond
Islanders and by extension, became our friends. We phoned in advance to
determine what, if any, supplies they needed. Fresh lemons, oranges and a
few grocery items were on the list and we loaded them aboard Nine of
Cups. We headed out Lakes Entrance to Deal Island about 100 miles
S/SW with good winds to carry us.
|In 1978, one of the most famous UFO incidents in Australian history occurred over Bass
Strait. Frederick Valentich was flying a small airplane over the strait when he reported to
personnel at a local airport that a strange object was buzzing his plane. He then claimed
that the object had moved directly in front of his plane. Reportedly, the airport personnel
then heard a metallic "scraping" sound, followed by silence. Valentich and his plane
subsequently vanished and neither Valentich nor his plane was ever seen again.
|Many vessels, some quite large, have disappeared without trace, or left
scant evidence of their passing. Despite myths and legends of piracy,
wrecking and alleged supernatural phenomena akin to those of the Bermuda
Triangle, such disappearances can be invariably ascribed to treacherous
combinations of wind and sea conditions, and the numerous
semi-submerged rocks and reefs within the Straits.
|Foundations of the old buildings viewed
from the top of the lighthouse.
|Kent Group National Park anchorages:
Deal Island, East Cove - 39S28.34 / 147E18.637
Erith Island, West Cove - 39S27.35 / 147E17.91
Deal Island, Winter Cove - 39S28.30 / 147E20.976
|Our main anchorage was East Cove, actually
on the west side of Deal Island, but the east
side of Murray Channel.
|We thought we saw wallabies on shore as
we were anchoring, but weren't sure.
Once ashore, they were literally
everywhere. Above, one sits on the hill
behind a picnic table and chairs
apparently waiting for yachties to arrive.
|In the aerial view of Deal Island above,
you can barely make out the lighthouse.
|A welcome sign outlines the exclusion areas
for the Kent Group which means no fishing/
shelling and also notes shipwreck locations.
|The long cement road to the top of the
hill afforded many photo opps for our
first encounter with wallabies.
|For the next few months, the Caretaker's Residence is
home to David & Mary Nicholson, the current caretakers
of Deal Island and its lighthouse. The brick caretaker's
house was built in 1962 and previously used as a keepers
residence. It is neat, tidy, sturdy and comfortable.
|The "Telstra Bench" provides a clear line of sight
to Wilson's Promontory on the mainland and is
usually a good spot to get an internet signal.
|Deal Island's area is about 1,450 hectares (3,635 acres), consisting of
granite cliffs rising to 260 metres on the southern side, gradually
descending over the island northwards in rolling hills and grasslands to
several white sandy beaches. The interior of the island consists of
limestone layers with a thin layer of top soil on the upper reaches.
|Our approach at dawn gave us a great view of the Murray Channel separating Deal Island
to the left and Erith Island to the right.The Deal Island Lighthouse rises in the distance.
|Threading our way through the oil
platforms in the middle of the Bass
Strait was reminiscent of sailing
through the Gulf of Mexico on our
first offshore passage back in 2000.
|A long pier extends from a cement wharf, but
it was rough and the tidal swing so great, we
just beached the dinghy on the sand beach.
|Climbing the steep hill to the compound above
afforded us lots of beautiful views of Cups at anchor.
|We noticed snails that clung to the tall
blades of tussock grass that line the path.
|Our first foray on the island
was to climb up to the
lighthouse, some 3.5km
away from the compound
on a steep track. The Deal
Island Light was first
opened in 1848 and
manned through 1992,
when it was closed.
Built on a promontory, it is
the highest lighthouse in
Australia, standing 320
metres above sea level,
even though the lighthouse
itself is only 20 metres tall!
It was so tall that 30% of
the time, its light was
obscured by fog and clouds.
|Not only could we climb
up the steep spiral stairs
inside the lighthouse, we
climbed inside the lens!
Deal Island David took
our photos of us inside,
outside and around the
lighthouse. We definitely
gave it a thorough
|Unlike many lighthouses, Deal Island Light allows
visitors inside for an up close and personal look.
|As anticipated, the views from the top were fantastic.
|Standing out on the balcony of the lighthouse,
the wind and the views took our breath away.
|Hamming it up standing outside the lens
for a distorted, refractive mug shot.
|The two Davids manually rotate the
|Deal Island has the best group of Georgian-style lightstation
buildings still extant in Australia. The original Superintendent's
cottage with its yard sheds and privy is the oldest surviving
lightkeeper's dwelling in Australia. Now used as the island's
museum, it, too, is open to visitors.
|Marcie and her little friend pose on the museum
steps. For the most part, the wallabies inside the
main building compound were pretty tolerant of us
humans and barely noticed when we walked past.
|The caretaker's garden looked lush and productive. Each
caretaker couple plants and maintains a garden for the benefit
of the next couple to arrive so there are always fresh veggies
and herbs available. A supply boat comes once every 3 months.
|Mary returns from weedwhacking one of
the many island paths.
|The two Davids in the compound workshop
trying to repair a non-working chainsaw.
|A flame robin perched atop the direction sign was
obviously offering tourist information if required. At
right, a wallaby stands guard at the museum entrance.
|An old spigot drips constantly providing the wallabies and Cape Barren geese with fresh drinking water.
We noted they tolerated each other's company quite well and took turns getting their drinks.
|A honeyeater enjoys the agapanthus
blooming in the flower garden.
|Each day, we chose another track to follow at David & Mary's suggestion. From left, the Dragon's Tail; Little Squally Bay; the "whim", an animal-
powered winching system to bring cargo up from the loading dock; a skull at Garden Cove, a reminder of the cattle which once grazed on the island.
|We were concerned that we wouldn't see very many wallabies, but no worries. They were literally...everywhere. The wallabies here are Bennett's wallabies and most adults are
probably about 1 meter tall. They loll around during the day, finding shade under trees or near buildings in the compound. They're grazers and feed on the island grasses.
|The Kent Group was proclaimed
a Tasmanian national park in
|The waters around the Kent Group have the highest fish diversity
of any location in Tasmania.
|The Kent Group was named by Matthew Flinders in
1798 after the captain of the first fleet vessel Supply.
|Brushtail possum are nocturnal critters. They vied for our attention as we watched the
penguins. They're cheeky little guys, not afraid of humans and always looking for a handout.
|The island tracks are well-kept and
diverse, each offering a different view
of the island, its flora and fauna.
|Huge Pacific gulls roamed the beaches
and floated near the boat asking for snacks.
|According to the Nicholsons, there are ~200 little penguins that return to the island each evening at dusk to their mates, nests and
babies and leave again each morning at dawn. Little penguins are also known as blue penguins or fairy penguins. One night, we joined
David & Mary ashore and watched the penguins' arduous journey from the shore, up the steep hill to their nests in the grass and rocks.
|Butterflies were abundant. Above, a
geitoneura klugi ( we think ).
|The island has over 300 recorded plant species
including two species endemic to Tasmania and
eight species considered to be threatened. Sea
spurge (right) is an invasive species which
threatens native vegetation.
|There are several graves on the island. Above one
marked simply "Baby".
|Over 100 different bird species
have been recorded on the island
including the Beautiful Firetail, a
finch, pictured above.
|Barn Hill offered particularly great vistas especially
of the compound buildings far below with just a bit
of East Cove peeking through.
|This vantage point above the whim, shows the
Erith Island and its attachment to Dover Island
at low tide as well as Hogan Island in the
distance. At left, David adds "our" rock to the
cairn on the top of Barn Hill.
|Mary & David Nicholson
|In January 2012, we headed from Deal Island to the west coast of Tasmania. It
was a wild ride to Macquarie Harbour through Hell's Gates to Strahan and up the
Gordon River. Then Port Davey, around Southeast Cap (another of the World's Five
Great Southern Capes) and up Tasmania's East Coast.
Fast forward to January 2013 which found us heading from Hobart further up
Tasmania's East Coast with visits to Bruny Island, Port Arthur and Maria Island.
Finally, we headed back to the Bass Strait completing our circumnavigation of
Tasmania. We spent precious little time in Furneaux Island Group. Weather and time
precluded a longer stay, but here's a glimpse of what we missed.
|A volunteer caretaker program to maintain a residential presence on the island has
operated successfully since 2000. The volunteers are selected based on their ability to
live in an isolated location and their skill sets necessary to undertake the various
programs required to manage the island. They are asked to stay for 3-month stints. At
the Management Authority's expense, they are provided with transport to and from the
island and reside in the former headkeeper's house. Power is generated by a large solar
panel array with a diesel generator for backup. They must buy their own provisions and
they receive no compensation. There's a waiting list of candidates. Mary & David
completed one tour and then were asked to do another...and another.
Beyond wallabies and penguins, natural beauty and vistas, our visit to Deal Island would
have been much less rewarding without the recommendations and help provided by its
caretakers, David & Mary Nicholson. Their overwhelming hospitality and caring attitude
about Deal Island was outstanding and remains a vital part of our Deal Island memories.
|Cups at anchor East Cove
|We moved from East Cove on Deal Island to
West Cove on Erith Island in hopes of sitting out
a big westerly blow. The holding was not as good
as we'd hoped and the notch in the hills allow
wind blasts of 50 kts to pommel us. We left hours
after anchoring and headed to Winter Cove on
Deal Island's east coast...a much better option.
|From our anchorage, we could see the
rough shack of the Erith Island Mob, as
they're known. The Murray-Smith family
has been coming to Erith Island and caring
for it for the past 50 years.
|A view of the anchorage and Murray
Channel during a near-50 kt blast of wind.
Coupled with the heavy rain, it was not the
most pleasant venue.
|Okay...it wasn't 50 kts...only 49.1
|When we returned to East Cove after the
blow, more boats had arrived to our surprise
and we were invited to a BBQ at the wharf.
|Marcie promised haircuts for the
Davids and Mary. They all
commented it was the most beautiful
haircut venue ever.
|We weren't the only ones with a beach
party in mind...a Caspian tern mingles with
the local gulls.
|We joined about 15 people at the
BBQ/picnic area on the wharf where a
wood-fired BBQ grill served us well.
|This little brushtail possum didn't wait for an
invitation nor did he wait till it was dark. The
alluring smell of food was too much of a draw for
him and out he crept.
|Inner Sister Island - Furneaux Island Group - 39S42.07 / 147E54.76
|A little Tassie trivia: During the ice age, a land bridge joined Tasmania to the
Australian mainland through the Furneaux Island Group.
|The moderate south winds forecast for our passage north turned out to be gale force winds with gusts clocked at 56 knots. The ocean changed from peaceful and bird-rich,
to tumultuous and angry with big following seas. We missed our opportunity to call in at Lady Barron port on Flinders Island (center) because of the weather and seas.
Instead, we dropped the anchor in a little notch on the south side of Inner Sister Island for the night. The swell drove us out early the next morning.
|Return to Deal Island - East Cove - 39S28.335 / 147E18.675
|The return to Deal Island was wonderful. Though the island has the lighthouse and lots of maritime history associated with
it, it's still the animals that get our attention. Wallabies and birds are everywhere. Above, a wallaby chomping on some
tussock grass and a firetail. To the far right, Cups lies at anchor while a wallaby munches peacefully near the beach.
|Erith Island - West Cove - 39S27.39 / 147E17.91
|Just across the Murray Channel from Deal Island, lies Erith Island. The last time we visited, we gave it short shrift...not enough time. This time, we motored across and anchored off
Erith to do a little exploration. The Murray-Smiths aka the Erith Mob is a family that has been visiting and taking care of the island since the 1960s. They visit intermittently and stay
in this basic hut/shack which, when they're not in residence, is open to visitors.
|There are several tracks on the island that all seem to lead "up". Cleared campsites and a bush kitchen have been set up in various locations not far from the hut. Dense bush and trees
prevail closer to the beach, but as we climbed in altitude, the bush gave way to fields of tussock and grasses. The ground felt cushioned, like walking on tundra.
|There are no wallabies on Erith. We saw Cape Barren Geese, brown quail, a brown falcon and lots of smaller bush birds, all too quick for the camera. The views from the top were
splendid and the internet signal was four bars strong!
|King Island - Grassy - 40S03.88 / 141E03.78
|The trip from Deal Island to King Island was
outstanding. We had a great weather window,
plenty of wind and the seas were reasonable.
The best part though was the escort of dolphins
which accompanied us for hours.
|We anchored in Grassy Port behind the breakwater. It's a dicey entrance with reefs and rocks all around, but
the leading lines led us into the calm of the harbor and a local fisherman offered us a mooring. King Island beef is
renowned throughout Australia and the cattle lots (which we could hear as well as smell) were nearby for
loading the small freighters that visit frequently.
|King Island, part of the state of
Tasmania, is located in the Roaring
Forties of the Bass Strait. It was
named after Governor King of New
South Wales, whose territory at the
time included what is now Tasmania.
The population is ~2,000 hardy
people. Life is slow here. Lots of
dairy farming, fishing and kelp
harvesting. There is some tourist
industry, but most Aussies we've
spoken to have never visited. Airfare
is expensive and the island just isn't
easy to get to.
There's not much in Grassy Harbour
and the tiny village of Grassy is a
healthy walk away, but after a
passage, a long walk is always a
|King Island was discovered by Captain Reed, hunting seals in the schooner Martha in 1799.
|Check out our daily blog for more
on our visit to King Island ...
|The highlights of Grassy were the cool sign on the highway as you're coming into the village and the
Kelp Art Shop which did wonderful designs with kelp. Who would have thought kelp could be so
very versatile? We bought one of these kelp seahorses, by the way. Just couldn't resist the Nine of
Cups logo in such an unique medium.
|We rented a car in Currie, the commercial center,
on the other side of the island and paid a little extra
to have them deliver to us. We immediately had a
flat tire in the parking lot.
|In two full days, we were able to travel most all of the roads on the island (primarily dirt/gravel) and see a great deal.
We began in Currie. The town is small, but has two supermarkets, a few restaurants and some souvenir type shops,a
gas station, car rental, accommodation and generally whatever you might need in the way of basics. Above, the Currie
Island Light isn't that picturesque in the traditional lighthouse sense, but it does its job. We went to a small arts and
crafts exhibit in the Community Center. Among the more unique offerings were feral cat skins for sale.
|After the quick walk-around in Currie, we chose to drive to the south part of the island. We had picked up brochures and maps at the iStation (visitor's info) and set out to see
everything we could. From left, we took a quick tour of the Kelp Factory. It didn't take long, but it did provide key kelp information like there's kelp caviar and Toyota wants to
build a car out of seaweed. We rather enjoyed watching cows eating kelp on the rugged south coast. I love this pic and in fact, I sold it to a company which paid for the cost of
renting the car, so I could take the picture. Hmmm ... not sure if we're ahead on that one. We really didn't need a reminder that we were still in the Roaring 40's!
|If you go, here are some things to
look for as takeaways ...
|Beyond the typical tourist sites, I guess the most impressive part of King Island for us was its pastoral nature and the number of wild animals we saw. Raptors definitely were in
great numbers especially nankeen kestrels. Our approach in a car did little to deter the kestrel at far left feasting on wallaby roadkill. We saw lots of wallabies, turkeys, peacocks
(obvious not native, but running around wild in the bush nonetheless), a blue-tongued lizard and an echidna. There was something to see at every turn in the road. It was well
worth the expense and time to drive around the island.
|We stopped along the way for various leg-stretching hikes in the bush, always with views of the surrounding ocean not far away. Throughout our trip, somber reminders of the
shipwrecks that occurred in these waters are marked. Because of its location situated in the center of the western entrance to Bass Strait, King Island has been the location of
over 60 known shipwrecks, involving the loss of over 2,000 lives. Many King Islanders are descendants of shipwreck survivors. Looking at the rugged, rock-strewn beauty of
this area, the number of shipwrecks is understandable, especially without adequate charts, marked hazards or GPS.
|The northern part of the island was more bucolic with rolling hills and pastoral scenes. We stopped at the King Island Dairy
fromagerie for cheese samples and bought an inordinate amount to take home. We traveled to the far north to see Cape
Wickham Lighthouse. Built in 1861, the 48 m tall Cape Wickham Lighthouse is Australia's, and the Southern Hemisphere's,
|Now, we're heading back to mainland Australia
after a year in Tasmanian waters. Come with us
to Portland, Victoria for a tour of the
|Want more King Island photos and information? Visit our daily blog site
JustALittleFurther.com to read our day-to-day experiences while we were
anchored at King Island.