Across Banks Strait

We crossed Banks Strait yesterday, a stretch of sea that can be nasty! We are now in the Furneaux Group.


All sails out for a run high into wind!

A huge amount of the waters of Bass Strait gets channeled with each tidal sequence through Banks Strait, a narrow and shallow passage of 12 to 16 miles between NE Tasmania and the islands of Clarke and Cape Barren. Depths there vary between 10 or 12 meters to 50; the bottom is very uneven and the quick moving tidal flow is strong, running at up to 3 knots. All this causes angry streaks of white foam and spume, eddies and choppy waters, particularly when wind and tide are heading in opposite directions. So it pays to wait for the right conditions: ebbing stream with Westerly winds, or flooding tide with light Easterlies. The latter is what we used.

We remember reading somewhere the warning of a fisherman: “So you have crossed big mean Bass Strait and think you are all done. But then you start going across Banks Strait and get a slap on the backside, just to remind you who is boss. Don’t relax too early!” We always exercise caution with this body of water.


With the strong tidal flow and 15 knots easterlies, we were close into wind and had all three sails out so as not to drift west too much. We started out wanting to go as much east as we could so we set George, the autopilot, to steer 40 degrees to the apparent wind. We initially were hoping to come into Spike Cove on Clarke Island, then thought Preservation Island might be the go… But in the end the best we could do was Key Island Bay on Cape Barren Island. Not a bad effort, given it is one of our all times favourite anchorages.

We will be island hopping around these parts till the end of the month. There are many familiar anchorages to revisit, and new ones to  explore. So expect quite a few posts about the Furneaux, as there is a lot to see.


21 thoughts on “Across Banks Strait

  1. It sounds like you are having such a great time, so different to the posts 12 months ago. Looking forward to seeing you when you get back and hearing more.

  2. Glad you waited for good winds to do the crossing, it sounds a challenge and dangerous with the wrong conditions. Enjoy, great sunset.

    • Yes Banks Strait can be treacherous but we do these things in calm conditions as you know. The sunset at Key Island was breathtaking and lasted a long time, just changing colours… one of the things we love about this anchorage facing west!

  3. Nothing more disconcerting than not being able to find one’s bum. Glad you found yours.

  4. Reading your articles makes me very aware that you have to be in constant touch with nature and your environment to sail those waters all I can say is wowa

    • Hi Gary – you are right, it pays to keep a close eye on the weather. It dictates where you go, where you should anchor… and you can’t fixate on a particular destination. You have to go with the flow. The Banks Strait crossing was a prime example: we wanted to sail across to the Furneaux but were not too fussed about where we would end up. We could have washed up at Badger Island opposite the Franklin Sound!

  5. Not sure how I Stumbled on this site, however you look like you are having a great time. I was just fishing at Metung however your journey looks a little rockier than mine was. Enjoy your journey and stay safe.

    • Yes, one of the explorers around these parts! It has been really fascinating to read a book by Rob Mundle recommended by another yachty: “Flinders, the man who mapped Australia.” Flinders and George Bass had discovered and mapped the Furneaux and Kent Groups before discovering Bass Strait! And it was the speed of the flow at Banks Strait that gave them a hint this body of water must have been more than an inlet… They discovered and followed the northern coast of Tassie, right up to Albatross Island, where we have been, to confirm there indeed was a strait and a shortcut to get from India to Sydney. Until then ships were going around the South of Tasmania – a much longer route. We really love the history of all these places. It is easy enough to navigate these days around the many islands and rocks, but imagine sailing there for the first time and charting them… no wonder there has been so many wrecks in the Furneaux. Even now, yachties are reluctant to explore and go straight from Northern Tasmania to the mainland on the east side of these islands.

      • That looks like an excellent book and an e-book version is now safely stowed on my iPad for an upcoming trip to the Caribbean where we expect to have a lot of R&R time. I’m in accord with your feeling about learnning the history of an area. We did quite a lot of advance reading on the NW Passage and it helped a lot to appreciate what we were seeing and (as you said) to try and imagine what it must have been like back then when you sailed into unknown waters.

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