I'd like to say I've had a lifetime messing about in boats, but I haven't. So it sure was nice having Steve Ross, of Riptide Charters to design our perfect boating escape on the Mornington Peninsula.
Blairgowrie Marina - Photo credit S Johnson
We weren't asking for much. I have international visitors staying, so the brief was to take us out for a few hours, show us some sights, a bit of wildlife and a few dolphins!
What we got, was an unforgettable morning cruising on the stunning Port Phillip Bay. We loved the history, the birds and seals galore, with the opportunity to take some great photos!
The Blairgowrie Marina is a great place to start and play that game "when I'm rich and famous I'll buy that yacht there", and oh, how the other half live, as our own private chartered boat is ready and waiting. We clamber aboard and off we sail.
RipTide Charters vessel Photo credit S Johnson
First stop is the picturesque octagonal South Channel Pile Light. Originally built in the 1870's as a lighthouse, with the original drop toilet - a hole in the floor. You read stories of the passenger ferry would deliver the keeper a daily paper. It is now no longer used as a lighthouse and has to be one of the best bird houses around.
Photo credit: S Johnson
We don't stay long as Steve has arranged a packed itinerary, which he sadly notes does not include the fishing option. Looking wistfully at the ships instruments he shows the shadowy outlines of plenty of good fishing to be had; snapper, whiting and squid. We could have had the best BBQ dinner ever had we wanted! Stephen will even do all the prep work for you.
South Channel Fort Jetty Photo credit S Johnson
We're off next to the South Channel Fort. For those of us who have visited Point Nepean National Park know the importance of the area as part of the defence lines for Melbourne. It is fascinating to add to this knowledge by exploring the man-made island, home to the South Channel Fort.
We almost have the island to ourselves, just two other small boats and a hundred million birds! It certainly feels pretty special to be exploring the antiquated gun emplacements tip-toeing amongst the squawking nesting seagulls, who are not best pleased to have their peaceful island invaded.
Even better, when Stephen licensed by Parks Victoria, produces a key and we are able to enter inside the fort through a series of tunnels to explore further. As we motor off, we are pleased we are not in fear of the mines (now thankfully long gone) set to attack ships of yesteryear coming through the Heads.
No time to linger, as we're off to Chinaman's Hat, home to the cutest Australian fur seals ever. Now if you thought the South Channel Pile Light was a great birdhouse, you should see what home the seals have. We are greeted by playful seals swimming around the boat and the odd bit of barking seal fisticuffs, one well placed slap of a flipper and a big seal topples of with a massive belly flop into the water!
Warning! As you circle round and get downwind it is pretty stinky. We could have stayed watching them frolicking for ages, those seals are so cute. But we're on a dolphin hunt and we head off to The Popes Eye.
Photo credit S Johnson
This island is about 5km north east of Portsea, is another artificial construction build for defence purposes. Although never finished, it is now a marine sanctuary and is a great area for swimming, scuba-diving and snorkeling. The shallow approximately one meter deep crystal clear blue waters in and around the horseshoe have large numbers of protected fish. All to soon, we are heading back to land. No dolphins are to been seen, but lots of other 'wows'. The journey back passes the luxurious bay side houses of Portsea and Sorrento. We spot infinity pools, private jetties, sandy beaches and even a helicopter. What a nice way to live.
Thank you to Riptide Charters for a ripper of a day out on the bay!