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Commercial shipping and the water ballast systems aboard large ships have long been identified as responsible for the spread of marine pests that can wreak havoc on our marine ecosystems. As home to the port of Melbourne – Australia’s busiest container port – and to the Port of Geelong, it’s therefore no surprise that Port Phillip Bay is riddled with marine pests.
The most common of these is the highly invasive and predatory Northern Pacific Seastar, Asterias amurensis. Parks Victoria’s State-wide Leader – Marine and Coasts Mark Rodrigue describes the seastars as ‘voracious’. ‘They will eat essentially anything that’s not bolted down,’ say’s Mark. And, horrifyingly, at their peak there was a greater mass of the seastars than fish in the bay. Other invasive species, such as Wakame, Undaria pinnatifida, are also thriving and competing with native algae for habitat.
Wakame growing on a boat in Port Phillip Bay.
Roellen Gillmore, Marine Communications Officer for Parks Victoria and a keen sailor, only recently realised the extent of the problem, and what she describes an ‘opportunity to contain the marine pests’. ‘As sailors, we just aren’t aware,’ says Roe. ‘We don’t really think about what’s going on below, but there’s a whole new world under our keels.’
She explains that Wakame, Northern Pacific Seastars and their microscopic offspring can easily become attached to boats and marine equipment and spread to new waterways. While Roe jokes that she now has an environmental incentive for washing her boat down, she’s deadly serious when she says that she wouldn’t want to be the person who causes the spread. ‘Once they become established, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,’ say’s Roe. ‘The best management option is to prevent the spread, and it’s the human factor that we all can control.’
A Northern Pacific Seastar found by Marine Ranger Chris Hayward in Tidal River in late 2017.
Thankfully these marine pests have, to date, been largely contained to Port Phillip. While some natural dispersal is unavoidable as it occurs with the tidal movements, in Victoria, New Zealand, and across the world, there is an increasing recognition that there is a danger of all vessels, including travelling boaties, unintentionally spreading pests. Past outbreaks of pests at Apollo Bay and Wilsons Promontory indicate we’re only just keeping a grip on the issue.
So while there’s already plenty on our minds as we prepare to set off through Port Phillip Heads or travel to another waterway or coastline, we also need to ensure we’re not taking dangerous stowaways with us. Here are the key things we need to do to avoid spreading marine pests;
1. Use fresh water to wash all equipment. Everything from kayaks, fishing equipment, diving gear, fenders, and anchor chain.
2. Ensure that all equipment, including sails and lines are dried as microscopic offspring can survive for long periods in the damp.
3. Yacht owners should ensure that their antifoul is kept up to date and that hulls are checked for attached marine life.
4. Sewage and bilge water should be emptied at an approved facility, and any saltwater systems on board should be flushed out or treated regularly.
5. Keep your eyes out for these pests beyond Port Phillip Bay and report sightings to email@example.com.
Parks Victoria divers removing Wakame at Popes Eye, Port Phillip Bay.
While any opinions expressed by the author are absolutely her own, this article has been produced in collaboration with Parks Victoria. For more information on how boaties can prevent the spread of marine pests and to report any sightings, please see Parks Victoria’s website.
1996, August; Lake Macquarie: I've had the pleasure of testing several of Larry Wiltshire's Spacecraft fishing boats over the last couple of years, and have always come away impressed with their strength and practical design. Larry makes a point of understanding the use to which his boats are being put, and invests extra effort to accommodate the everyday, real-world demands of those uses in each boat.
Spacecraft boats are good looking in a serious sort of way, with a high quality (but not overly flash) finish. The hulls are built up to their gun'ls in a jig for accuracy, and then Larry finishes the cabin and interior as required for the owner's purpose. Larry designs all his own boats, and construction is carried out in his factory at Toronto south of Newcastle.
On a grey and rainy day, Larry took me for a test run in this 5.2 metre Spacecraft and, despite the weather (or even perhaps because of it), we had a great time as I put the boat through its paces and waited in vain for the sun to emerge so that the photos could do justice.
Spacecraft boats are built more strongly than most, and Larry used very solid 5 mm plate for the undersides of this 5.2, with 4 mm in the hull sides and 3 mm for the cabin. That helps explain what at first appears to be a quite heavy bare-hull weight of 650 kilograms, and it also explains the rock-steady stability of the boat in the water. For even further stability, Larry can build the boat with a centre tunnel that floods at rest. The bottom carries a constant 17 degree deadrise over the aft third or so of the hull, with a 650 mm wide planing plank to help get the craft quickly running over the surface.
On board, the cuddy cabin has a recessed footwell for extra leg room, and is fitted with upholstered seats and storage to each side. The helm position is reasonably forward to make possible a larger cockpit area, and is covered by a very well secured hardtop. Clears bridge the gap between the hardtop and the screen, and that was just as well on the day, as they kept us quite dry despite the rain all around. Two swivelling chairs with arm rests and pleasantly padded upholstery made Larry and I feel securely comfortable, and were positioned so that driving was just as good whether standing or seated.
The cockpit featured a huge insulated kill tank (or a monstrous cooler if you wanted to cater for a party on board) with a padded seat on top. Under the floor in front of the transom was a big live bait tank, and storage pockets ran down each side of the boat. Also under the aft floor were the oil containers for the two Evinrude 70s, while the batteries were properly mounted in their own boxes to either side at the transom. Not to waste any of that underfloor area, forward of the kill tank were two 150 litre fuel tanks.
The self-draining cockpit is quite deep so you'd feel secure even when lifting a big one over the side, and there are hand rails down each sidedeck along with rod holders and, in each stern quarter, good-sized bollards. Vertical grab rails come down from the back of the hardtop, and they are just where you'd want them to hang on whilst running offshore through lumpy waters. An eight-pack rocket launcher runs across the back of the hardtop, so there's no shortage of spots to keep the rods.
A baitboard is mounted at a practical working height above the transom. There is a boarding platform on the starboard side of the transom and a burley bucket to port. Between these were mounted the two Evinrude 70 outboards looking, like all twin-rigs, very serious and offering safety through resilience. Up front, the foredeck has its own rails and a nicely sized anchor locker in the forepeak.
The helm position suited me, with gauges clearly displayed to starboard of the wheel, and a very workmanlike relationship between the latter, the seat, and the throttle/shift controls on the side of the boat. There's a big flat area behind the screen where you can put all your electronics, with this boat having a Raytheon EchoStar 790 GPS Navigator Echo Sounder. This, together with a GME 27 Mhz radio and a Codan 8121 marine transceiver that were mounted in the side of the companionway into the cabin, showed the owner of the Spacecraft was quite serious about his navigation and communication facilities. It was pleasing, but not surprising in one of Larry's boats, to find a strong grab rail across the port side of the cabin top so the first mate could get a good grip.
At the wheel, you have the classic alternative of looking through the screen while sitting, or over the top of it when standing. The screen itself has a substantial frame, with toughened glass in the front panels and acrylic in the sides.
The owner had just re-rigged his Spacecraft with the two Evinrudes, replacing a pair of 50 hp engines. Larry recommends a minimum of a single 90 on the boat, but the design can take up to twin 90s if you want the extra grunt to haul big loads back home after each fishing expedition. The Evinrudes were still tight and running standard 17 inch props, but they quickly ran the 5.2 metre boat on plane and cruised with relaxed style. The Spacecraft swept through the wind-blown chop with a soft and predictable ride. Turns were smooth and as quick as you like, and the twins as usual made low speed twisting and backing very easy. Top speeds range from around 56 kph with a single 90 through 70 kph with twin 70s up to around 74 kph with two 90s on the back.
The only thing I didn't like at the helm was the trim button for the starboard Evinrude which, in the top of its throttle arm, was too close to the side of the boat for easy operation. Actually, I'd suggest wiring both trims through the port button so using it alone would get the outboards to the angle you want, then the starboard button could be used only if needed to correct any slight trim misalignment between the two engines.
Larry has a range of Spacecraft from 2.9 through 8 metres, and he can supply each craft at any stage from bare unpainted hull through to a fully finished, rigged, sea-trialed and ready-to-go boat. The 5.2 is more or less mid-range and typifies the style of boat that Larry produces. Strong and practical with sweet-handling performance, the 5.2 gave me a pleasurable run and that big kill tank in the cockpit personified the great fishing you could have on board.
Length: 5.2 metres
Beam: 2.1 metres
Weight (approx): 650 kilograms boat only
Power as tested: Twin Evinrude 70 hp
Top Speed: 74 kph
After many years of preparation, endless challenges (including a dismasting in the depths of the Southern Ocean) and 104 days at sea, Lisa last week arrived back in Albany, becoming the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, below 45 degrees. I can’t wait to hear her story in more detail, but for now, here are the 10 most pressing questions I had for Lisa:
Lisa: Surfing waves in the Southern Ocean, and finishing.
Jess: In that order?
Lisa: A lot of people would probably think the dismasting, but I actually think that it was the container ship collision [as they attempted to transfer fuel to Lisa after the dismasting, see Lisa’s blog about the incident here]. It just simply shouldn’t have happened. That would probably be the lowest lowlight.
Jess: What about the voyage surprised you?
Lisa: The amount of time that I would spend inside the boat. I thought I’d spend on deck but given the cold, I was indoors about 23 hours a day, I’d spend maybe an hour on deck, and that was broken up. I was surprised by how much my world shrunk to about 10 square meters.
Jess: At what point did you feel the coldest?
Lisa: When I sailed across the demisting track after the repairs had been completed in Cape Town, I got hit with a blizzard. I had about 2 inches of snow on the deck in a couple of minutes.
Jess: Was there anything you’d wished you’d packed?
Lisa: For the first half of the trip, a hard drive with all the DVDs that were left behind in Albany. That would have been really, really nice. I wish I’d had more variety in the meals I liked. Then just a few spares for the boat such as electrical switches, some heat shrink, electrical tape; I wish I’d packed more of stuff like that.
Jess: What was your favorite food while at sea?
Lisa: A freeze-dried dinner which was a bare burrito, and porridge. Love porridge; the way to my heart it through a nice hot bowl of porridge.
Jess: What did you crave most while at sea?
Lisa: I use to get really excited when I’d do radio interviews and things like that because I’d have a conversation with someone new. Good conversation was the biggest thing I craved. It really makes you aware of how much you rely on conversation.
Jess: What will you miss most about life at sea?
Lisa: Just the peace, even in a storm; sailing in the middle of nowhere, in the open ocean, on your own is a peaceful experience.
Jess: Would you do it again?
Lisa: In a heartbeat.
Lisa will be speaking at the Sydney International Boat Show this weekend, so make sure you head along to ask any questions of your own.
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