Relief at End of Bass Strait [52]

Vince Browning’s Solo Bass Strait Kayak Adventure

By Michael Stedman (The Examiner Newspaper, Tasmania)

Vince Browning likes adventure, but he admits that crossing Bass Strait solo in a kayak was a challenge that almost beat him. A weary but content Mr Browning paddled on to a beach in the remote North-East yesterday to meet his relieved wife.

The Sydney man embarked on his journey on December 31, just a year after he began sea kayaking.

Though the crossing has been done before, beating the notoriously rough strait is no easy feat.

Like Homer’s Ulysses, Mr Browning embarked on not just a crossing but a battle with the seas in wits and determination.

“The first day of paddling was relatively easy-going. I got on to Hogan Island, I looked out and said, “Bass Strait, is that the best you’ve got?”” It was a challenge that Mr Browning regretted as the strait was only too happy to unleash its power.

After he set off from Hogan Island, Mr Browning had a 45 km stretch to paddle between Hogan and Deal islands, and along the way, Bass Strait let loose its fury.

“I was battling 6 metre waves and 40-knot winds, my mind was going a million miles an hour and I was mentally and physically drained.

“Then I saw this thing cutting down the back of the waves. My one phobia is of sharks. I looked away and thought “I don’t need this,” and I saw this grey and white thing go under my boat. It came out the other side and I saw it was two dolphins. They freaked me out until I saw what they were.

“They say that where there are dolphins you won’t see sharks. It is probably an old wives’ tale but it comforted me.”

The huge seas also took their toll on the boat. “I didn’t have too many problems but out in those big waves the bracket that held my rudder pedals broke from all the force I was putting on it. Also, my GPS wouldn’t get a reading, perhaps because I was so far down in the swells all the time,” he said.

“At the beginning of the trip I was writing these little notes to myself for encouragement and one said, “I like being scared, I like a challenge.”

“I have clarified that now I like being scared, not terrified.”

After the drama of the Hogan-Deal stretch, Mr Browning admits that it was tempting to go home but he pushed on, encouraged by the thought that he had won a battle with the seas.

So relieved was he to reach the Tasmanian coast that he made for the wrong beach, and his wife Debbie, who had been waiting at Little Musselroe Bay for three hours, was left shouting and whistling fruitlessly, only to have to drive around to meet him.

“I think I will let Deb pick the next holiday,” he said, sipping from the bottle of champagne she had brought him.

Mr Browning said now he was looking forward to going back across the strait on the Spirit of Tasmania.

“I want to see Bass Strait let loose,” he said.