Ever since I saw the Rip at Point Nepean, shortly after we arrived, I really wanted to see a big ship come through the Rip. I have been to both headlands on either side of the Rip several times and I’ve made 2 ferry trips near the mouth of the bay but there were never any big ships moving through.
Port Philip Bay is basically a large circular bay with Melbourne at the north end. Two peninsulas arc around to form the curved shape of the bay the the points of these peninsulas leave an opening of about 2.5k at the south end. Because of the volume of water in the bay and the narrow opening, the tides coming in and out create a treacherous rip tide for ships of all sizes. Add to that, there is an 800-meter wide channel in that opening, through which the ships must navigate or risk crashing on the shallow rocks and reefs.
Point Nepean is on the east side and Point Lonsdale is on the west and that was my destination today.
I packed up my knitting and my Kindle, prepared to wait all day to see a ship if I had to! I had an hour and forty minute drive, arriving at the Rip Lookout car park around 10:30 AM. I was super excited when I got out of the car and saw a huge ship out in the ocean (actually the Bass Strait), heading for the Rip and the bay!
This is what I came to see and it was Show Time! I raced along the cliff path to the Point Lonsdale Pier and power walked my way to the end to get as close as I could. And I was not disappointed! The ship moved through the rip at a much faster rate than I thought it would, but I think the tide was coming in. And I got a real sense of the enormity of these cargo vessels and the power that they possess!
After the first ship passed and headed for Melbourne another ship appeared in the bay, heading out. Wow! I was a happy camper!
There was a pilot boat following this outbound ship and once this ship cleared the Rip, I watched in amazement as the pilot boat pulled close to the ship and the pilot descended from the ship back onto the pilot boat. A pilot is a person who is an expert on the harbor and the Rip and boards ships as they enter or leave the Rip to navigate the ship safely in or out of the harbor.
A short time later another ship left the bay, and once again the pilot boat was there to collect the pilot.
Three ships in an hour and a half and none on the horizon so I headed into the town of Point Lonsdale for a lovely lunch at a local cafe. I made a return trip to the Rip Overlook but saw no more ships on the horizon so I decided to move on.
The town of Queenscliff is on the bay and has a long history of assisting ships as they enter and leave the bay and of rescuing ships that find themselves in trouble in and around the bay and the Rip. Queenscliff is about 8k away from Point Lonsdale and had a maritime museum that sounded interesting, so off I went.
The Queenscliff Maritime Museum was well-worth the $6.00 entry fee. I learned about the various vessels that were used as lifesaving boats. There was also an exhibit about the history of pilot boats and the men that have made this their career, and I found this to be most engaging! There was a short video showing a day in the life of a pilot and it was interesting from start to finish.
After the museum, I was able to drive towards the wharf/marina area. I walked to where three pilot boats were moored, waiting for the next ship that needed an escort.
The weather was about as variable as it can get. Rain, sun, sometimes both at the same time. The wind was a constant and it was cooler than it has been with a high about 13 degrees C. (55 F.).
Seeing the ships up close was on my list of things to do before we left and I could not have asked for a better experience!
Here are a few other photos from the day.
Click HERE to see a video I shot of a ship heading out of the bay. It is not the most exciting video, but it was thrilling in person!