Southern Ocean, Speedboats and Spew: Bruny Island, Tasmania.

Something hilarious seems to be wrong with everyone’s hearing on this trip. For example:

Mum: Where are we going? Salmonella Park?

Me: Salamanca Market Mum.

Me: Look, there’s a Shetland pony and alpacas.

Justine: They shot a Shetland pony and the alpacas??

The Sunday morning after our Cradle Mountain adventure we headed to Bruny Island, about half an hour south of Hobart, for an ocean cruise adventure! We’d discovered the cruise by chance the day before while trolling the Salamanca Markets in Hobart… It was like a gift from the universe – we’d all been wanting to do something adventurous together but walks and most tours weren’t suitable. This was perfect: Dad especially loved boats and the ocean, it’s adventurous but not strenuous, at 3 hours it wasn’t too long, and the ferry at Kettering wasn’t far from where we were staying. SWEET! Since arriving on the southeast coast we’d enjoyed days of howling gales straight off the ocean but today we were lucky – arriving in Adventure Bay it was sunny and warm (well, warmish) with only a few cirrus clouds swept across a clear blue sky.

Bruny Island Cruise, Tasmania
Image borrowed from Rob Pennicott Journeys.

Half the crowd boarded Storm Petrel with us (Stormy for short) and the other half loaded onto Albatross (possibly aka “Batty”, “Albatross outta Hell” or “Albatross-shit crazy”). These girls were badasses. Purpose-built, at only 12.5m from bow to stern they weren’t very big but they both had three 4-stroke outboards; nine hundred horsepower each. It wasn’t because our skipper, Andree, was a revhead, it’s because that’s the kind of manoeuvring power it takes to go out in all weather on this coast. Even in summer storms can blow up out of nowhere; Tasmanian waters lie entirely between the latitudes of 40° and 50° south, long called ‘The Roaring Forties’, where ridiculously strong westerlies can either help you circumnavigate the globe or cook up heaving seas that’ll smash your boat to pieces.

In an extract from One Of Those Days, author Jeremy Wilshire recounts the 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race disaster.
In an extract from One Of Those Days, author Jeremy Wilshire recounts the 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race disaster.

We weren’t worried though – it was a beautiful day in the bay, and if anything did go pear-shaped, the girls were stuffed full of lifejackets, liferings, great big F. Off liferafts, and EPIRBs (no that didn’t worry me at all. Not in the slightest. Nah. Nope)…we were going 4WDing on the Southern Ocean and we weren’t taking any chances. We sat down the back, right behind Andree and his 2IC, Ido, who were enthusiastic and friendly and entertaining in the way of quality guides everywhere. Andree was instantly familiar; he reminded me of a younger version of my Mum’s brother Herman… even sounded like him! Further investigation revealed their hometowns were spitting distance apart on opposite sides of the border; him in western Germany and Mum’s mob in the south of the Netherlands. Then we learned he’d got his coxswain’s ticket on our friend’s boat! The one we were staying with. Wow, when that stuff happens the world feels like a really small place, and Tassie seems miniscule.

But then you venture out into some large scale wilderness and you feel all tiny and insignificant again. I find that feeling oddly reassuring.

breathing rock, Bruny Island

Due to the high winds of the past few days the swell was still up around 5 metres, and it bumped us around as we headed south, dwarfed by the massive 270m high cliffs at the edge of South Bruny National Park. Andree manoeuvred Stormy so we all got the best view at each spot, while educating and entertaining us with stories that I couldn’t believe I’d never heard before. For example, passing an area with noticeably thinner forest we learned that in 1967 there’d been a firestorm which wiped out two-thirds of Tasmania in less than 24 hours and came to within 2km of the Hobart CBD. Embers started three fires on Bruny; what we were seeing was over 45 years’ worth of regrowth. In another 40 to 50 years it should be back to how it was before.

He showed us a natural archway covered with beautiful orange and golden lichen. Guess the local nickname for it.

I'll have
I’ll have a quarter pounder with cheese, thanks. ‘Maccas drive through’ aka Bridge Rock.

(Justine, look! Some bugger’s been splashing the rocks with orange paint again!! Blimmin’ vandals!!!)

I knew from the brochure there was a hairy bit coming up but it still caught me by surprise when Andree aimed us at the cliff and opened up the throttle; we roared through the narrow gap between a sea stack and the cliff, seemingly so close to the rocks we could touch them.

It used to be a cave but apparently 'Andree 900' hit it too many times.
It used to be a cave but apparently ‘Andree 900’ hit it too many times.

Another favourite bit was Breathing Rock which, thanks to the big swell, was in particularly explosive form today. I personally think a more accurate name for it might be ‘Sneezing Rock’, because no one breathes like that unless they have some serious health issues.

First pic obviously stolen borrowed from a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys brochure, and also obviously taken on a much calmer day than ours.
First pic obviously stolen borrowed from a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys brochure, and also obviously taken on a much calmer day than ours.

Then Stormy moved away from the protection of the cliffs and we started to pitch and toss a bit more.

Up. Down. Downupdown. Sideways roll. Up, up, down, DOWN, roll, UPDOWN…up… downnnn… urgh.

The first guy to blow chunks did so from the nearest railing, which meant he was throwing up into the wind. Like all of us he was wearing the provided full length raincoat – and I mean FULL length, down to the floor (or in shortarse Justine’s case, well beyond) – so presumably even his shoes were safe. Dad was just downwind from him; we looked over to check how he was doing and cracked up laughing to see him, practical as always, sitting with his jacket hood pulled up and his back turned… brilliant! Those all-weather waterproofs were great; ideal for shielding you from rain, freezing wind, flying spray and spew! They should put that on the brochure.

Soon after that we neared the large island of rocks called The Friars where a small colony of Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals were basking in the sun. A few seconds after we got downwind of them, a couple more people quickly made their way to the nearest railing.


Who f*ckin’ farted??

It was him - that seal there. He's trying to pretend it was the one next to him but I'm not fooled.
It was him – that seal there. He’s trying to pretend it was the one next to him but I’m not fooled.

We idled in the churning surf, watching them watching us and seeing the odd furry torpedo zoom around the boat. Andree suddenly squinted up past the Friars and yelled a heads up for a big wave heading our way. I looked over but couldn’t see anything.

Andree, are you sure…?

Loved that, it was amazing! And slightly terrifying to realise it was puny compared to what’s been experienced just a bit further out. According to our map there’s shipwrecks all over the place, including one just the other side of The Friars, the James Lucas, sunk in 1829. I have new respect for the ships’ captains of old, and am amazed anyone ever got anywhere in one piece. Some very famous ones have sailed this stretch of coast actually – looking at the map again it’s a history and geography lesson rolled into one; 

Abel Tasman (Tasmania, Tasman Sea)

Tobias Furneaux (Furneaux islands in Bass Strait)

Admiral Bruni d’Entrecasteaux (a national park in Western Australia)

Captain James Cook (towns, pubs, universities, mountains, monuments, space shuttles, you name it, all over Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i, the Cook Islands…)

Captain William Bligh (… er, breadfruit, loads of books and movies, former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh).

… they’ve all been here, all in Adventure Bay. Adventure Bay was actually named after Furneaux’ ship the HMS Adventure, which came by in 1773 looking for Captain Cook on the Resolution. (They’d been separated in a fog.) And here I’d assumed it was named after an adventure cruise company.

Headed further out to sea, looking for albatrosses, whales and dolphins, but if they were around we didn’t see them today.

I FEEL THE NEED… the need... to spew.
I FEEL THE NEED… the need… to spew.

I closed my eyes and rocked back and forth, relaxing with the motion of the boat. Andree thought it hilarious – by this stage there were several people hurling over the side but I was apparently so bored I was nearly falling sleep. In all truthfulness however, I wasn’t; I was surreptitiously fighting my own battle with nausea. I have to face it, I now get sick on boats. Chewing a goddamn ginger tablet at the start of the trip did not help; I think I was only half listening to Andree, temporarily being too distracted taking photos out the side, and instead of hearing “DON’T chew the tablet” I heard “chew the tablet”. About a quarter of a teaspoon’s worth of pure ginger root powder. Rack it up to one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done with food, which includes swallowing a Malteser whole on a dare. (I don’t recommend that either). I almost wished I would barf, at least it might scour the godawful taste of super strong ginger out of my mouth.

Note the disclaimer 'nearly'.
Note the disclaimer ‘nearly’.

I beg to differ Actual Advice Mallard, you quack; I can quite easily vomit while humming. Or talking. Have even been known to puke while laughing. (It didn’t make throwing up more fun though – for me at any rate.) I make an involuntary noise right before I spew, kind of the typical “HUUUUUUEEERRRGGGHHHH!!!”, and I find it segues quite naturally. It certainly makes for a surprise ending to a conversation.

Anyway my lunch remained below, and by 3pm we were back in Adventure Bay. A brilliant day. If you’re ever in Tassie, do it! Oh, and just in case you do;

Helpful Information That You’d Best Pay Attention To:

  • Dress warmly! Thermal layer, warm jumpers, warm socks, enclosed shoes, beanie, scarf, the lot. Don’t think a t shirt and the provided jacket will be sufficient and DON’T think that because it’s nice in Adventure Bay you won’t freeze your arse off the second you hit that Antarctic headwind around the corner.
  • Don’t bring anything that’ll get ruined by water. Even on a relatively calm day with no rain there’s lots of sea spray flying around. Not to mention spew.
  •  DON’T chew the ginger tablet. For the love of God.

Actually on second thought, go ahead and chew the tablet. I double dare you.

– Michelle

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