Deal Island, Tasmania, Australia: Dale Stott says he can’t wait to return to secluded Deal Island – a tiny and remote Bass Strait outpost at the southern tip of Australia and the largest of seven islands in Tasmania’s Kent Group … where tales of shipwrecked sailors are brought to life with a vast range of relics and, of course, a great deal of relish.
A first-time Riviera owner, Dale purchased his 4700 Sport Yacht YOLO in October last year and immediately started planning to skip across the Strait to Deal Island from his base at Metung in the East Gippsland region of Victoria.
With wife Kristie and three boys – Jonty (15), Logan (13) and Jaymen (10) – aboard, Dale was fortunate to have timed his 250 nm round-trip with great weather and relatively calm water for a stretch of sea with a fearsome reputation for its wild conditions, numerous submerged rocks and sharp reefs.
“We had no worries,” says Dale. “YOLO handled really well despite the fact there was a reasonable amount of sea … but we just shifted into cruise control and away we went.”
Deal Island has the highest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere, standing 305m (990ft) above sea level and it is sometimes visible at night from Wilsons Promontory 80 kilometres (50 miles) away. The lighthouse was built in 1848 and was deactivated in 1992 – it was never really effective in low cloud conditions.
The island is inhabited only by two volunteer museum caretakers at a time, who are a world away from modern life and are required to be self-sufficient for the duration of their three-month stints.
But visitors are always welcome at this remote cruising ground, known for its secure, peaceful and uncrowded anchorages of which there are a number to choose from depending on wind conditions, gin-clear water and superior diving. The Stott family seized the opportunity to head ashore and take the short walk up the hill to the caretakers’ residence and museum. There they collected a key from the caretakers and walked some 45 minutes up to the lighthouse with it’s amazing views of the surrounding islands throughout Bass Strait. Dale says it really is a ‘hidden gem’ off the Victorian coastline … ‘the Whitsundays of Victoria’.
The island’s abundant wildlife which includes Little Penguin, Cape Barron Geese, Pacific Gull, red-necked wallabies, brush-tail possum, sooty oyster catchers and European rabbits, the latter of which were introduced so shipwrecked sailors would not starve. (There are about 20 wrecks in the Kent Group).
“There is one bay the caretakers call ‘Bunnings’,” says Dale, “where just about everything that washes into the Strait ends up – our three boys had a great afternoon retrieving things there from buoys to old plugs … all sorts of trinkets.”
There’s also a World War II memorial on the island – on 26 April 1943 an RAAF Beaufort aircraft crashed killing all four crewmen. Eyewitness accounts say the plane flew low over a ship which was actually a wreck, and then failed to regain enough height before hitting an island cliff. The aircraft wreck and the graves of the airmen are about 15 metres (50ft) apart at the bottom of the cliff.
“After spending two days anchored at Deal Island we headed across to Refuge Cove at the bottom of Wilsons Promontory to catch up with some other friends who had travelled down from Port Welshpool,” says Dale. “After spending an evening anchored telling tales of Deal Island over dinner and wine we made the 100nM return trip to Metung via Lakes Entrance.”
Dale has had a number of power boats since he was aged 18 and has slowly stepped up to the 4700SY. “I looked at plenty of boats before buying, but this one ticked all the boxes for our family,” he says. “It has good fuel range and coming back we were running down the face of 2.5m (8ft) waves … and I always felt like I was in control.”
If there was one thing Dale could do on his next trip to Deal Island? “It would be to go back and spend some more time exploring the island and diving for the abundant southern rock lobster,” he says. “In the meantime we have her anchored at Sovereign Islands on the Gold Coast, ready for our next adventure to the Whitsundays (Queensland, Australia).”
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