King Island (situated in Bass Strait)

The sun rose over the glassy seas as we had the leads of the harbour insight. We had been seeing bright lights along the North West Coast all night and realised very quickly they were the lights of the cray boats that worked out of Currie Harbour. We followed the 3 sets of leads into the tiny harbour past the rocks and through the numerous moorings to the wharf that was empty, except for one lone trawler.

Note: The 3 sets of leads to guide us through the dangerous rocks in the small harbour, not a harbour to enter except in calm weather, and definitely not one to anchor in!

One of the locals met us and suggested we move to the other side of the wharf and tie well in as the trawlers would be back soon! This was the best advice!

Above: The wharf in Currie Harbour taken from the lighthouse

Before midday they started arriving and the dock was soon full of cray boats, utes on the wharf, and the refrigerated small truck ready and waiting to take the crays. A small number of the fishing trawlers dived for Abalone and set their pots for King Crab.

A short explanation on the unloading of the Cray Boats!

The boats came in, some had been out only a few hours some had been out a few days, it all depends on where/how far away, they have set their pots. When they arrive at the wharf the wholesaler/buyer has their packers board the boats.

The cray boats’ crew unload the crays from the boats holding tanks into tubs that are passed up on the deck to the packers. The packers then swiftly tuck the flapping crayfish into their tubs and secure a lid on top with a few cable ties.

As they are packing they are also quality control, inspecting the crayfish for broken or missing legs or holes in their shells being the most common problem caused by the menacing Octopus. These are then discarded to one side for the fisherman to eat as they are not a sale-able item!!One of the fisherman retold the story of his recent loss of 200kg of crays to Octopus in the last 2 weeks.

The crates are then passed up on the dock to the waiting Wholesaler with the refrigerated truck, doors open with a set of scales at the door. The cray boat owner and the wholesaler view and record the weight of each crate as the workers pass the loaded crates into the truck. Each crate weighs approximately 38 – 45kg! Each boat brings in between 700kg – 900kg each time they return!!! Each craypot has a quota of 105kg per season! Most boats have 50-60 pots! The wholesaler was paying the fisherman $70 per Kg when we were there, and they were retailing for $95 per kg.

Above: Alan holding a 4+ kg Cray. . . .No!! he had to be given back, but whilst we were there we enjoyed several legless Crayfish!

Above: Celebrating everything King Island!!

From the dock they are driven the short distance to the shed on the end of the wharf, it contains large ponds of ocean water with the temperature lowered considerably to restrict their movement. Here the crayfish are unloaded and they stay until the next plane is arranged to take them direct to Melbourne. They are then reloaded into the tubs and transported to the airport, flown to Melbourne, unpacked into more ponds until the auction/sale. They are mostly sold to overseas buyers!

We hired a car for 3 days to explore the island as there wasn’t any public transport. On our first day we dropped off the gas bottles to be filled at the local store, then proceeded south to Grassy where we enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the local club, visited the Kelp Craft store.

They drag the kelp that is washed up by the large seas and mold it into various novelties to sell to tourists. Another couple on the island use the kelp to make health potions/pills! We also visited the local Art Gallery where local artisans display their wares.

On our drive back to Currie we detoured to visit the Calcified Forest – These remains are up to 7000 years old and are all that remain of an ancient forest, revealed when the lime-laden sand, which had covered and preserved the stumps has been exposed over the years from the constant Roaring Forties storms from the Southern Ocean.

Above: Kelp on the western beaches.

Our 2nd day of touring kept us in the central lands of the Island, we had lunch at Berts Cafe at Naracoopa, a quant cafe. It is actually his home and runs the cafe on his front verandah. But the food was superb and the view looking East over the bay was awesome. Next stop I wanted to visit the Alpaca Farm and we were shown around the farm and offered tea before heading back to Currie for the tour of the lighthouse that overlooks Currie Harbour and Opal Lady berthed at the wharf. For dinner that evening we drove back to Naracoopa, and the enjoyed the view from the Nara Glen Restaurant. We made a short stop at a farm selling fresh garlic on the way. Dinner was 5*, view was priceless!

On our 3rd day we prepared ourselves with a picnic as we drove north to the King Island Dairy Co, sat and watched their DVD on history and production, and then had to drag Alan away from their tasting room, so many cheeses to taste. We filled our cooler/esky with a huge amount of cheese, cream and the most delicious yogurt.

Travelling further north we visited the Cape Wickam Light.

After reading the historic ration list, Alan was quite miffed that their Rum ration was more than his!!!

They had 1.2L each to consume a week! His current ration is a 700ml bottle when I provision!!

We weaved our way through the green pastures to Disappointment Bay (Above)

, boy they did it tough!! The supplies were unloaded here for the building of the Lighthouse and transported across the country side. The bay looks as if it lives up to it’s name!! They were disappointed when they realised how hard it was to make it across to the building site!

Our tummies began growling as we entered the National Park containing Penny’s Lagoon but as our luck would have, here the BBQ’s weren’t gas, every one that we had seen to date on the island had been a push button gas one. So, Plan B, enjoy some of the purchased King Island cheeses and the fresh bread that I had made that morning and our thermos of tea. We sat with our deck chairs on the banks of the beautiful Lagoon, Alan had his fly fishing rod and enjoyed having a flick around.

There comes a time in a cruisers life that you dread, a phone call from home to notify the passing of a loved one!!! Whilst we sat at the waters edge of the Penny’s Lagoon, Mum rang, and seventeen days short of my Grandmothers 98th birthday she passed away, with my Mum by her side. She was truly blessed to have lived a full and healthy life without illness.

So with a lot a fast organising I flew out of King Island early the next day leaving Alan with Opal Lady at the wharf in Currie, King Island.

Above: If you look closely, you can just see Cape Wickham Lighthouse.

Above: More visions from the air, Photo of Port Phillip Heads, Victoria from the air!

I was away for a week during which time Wayne, one of the local cray fisherman and his wife, Marg, cooked meals for Alan and generally spoilt him with morning teas, lunches and dinners!! Thank you very much Wayne and Marg for looking after us!

On my return Wayne had lent Alan a car to pick me up from the airport, and, had invited us to their home that night for a final crayfish dinner as we planned on leaving early next morning.

The larder was full of local produce, Legless Crayfish, famous King Island Beef, Cheese, Cream, Yogurt, Honey and Garlic as we made our way out through what was probably the trickiest passage to date! One of the cray boats called on the VHF radio and told us to follow him through the myriad of rocks, no wonder this was so many shipwrecks on this part of the coast!

Above: The west coast shoreline, south of Currie!

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