The tide is just starting to come in on Boxing Day morning, in time for a paddle from Ricketts Point at Beaumaris, north to Black Rock. Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary is another of the Bay’s little surprises. Through clear turquoise water, algae, rocky reefs, fish and sea grass combine in a display of colour and texture invisible from the flat, sandy beach only metres away.
Looking across the Bay to the south, smears of distant showers and a smudgy grey sky and the diffuse grey green sea are precursors of the cool change predicted for around midday. Still further, the granite You Yangs squat above the flat volcanic plains north-east of Geelong.
Still, there’s still time to paddle toward Black Rock and beat the weather. Occasionally, the wake from a speed boat disturbs the mild swell and current of the incoming tide but otherwise conditions are pleasant and the paddle is reasonably easy work under the cliffs along the beach which shelter the coastline from the north wind.
The Spirit of Tasmania, momentarily caught in the pre-storm light, heads out toward Bass Strait, then on to Devonport. Otherwise, there are surprisingly few craft out, possibly because of the threat of unsettled weather. Thankfully though, there are no jet skis.
Rounding the orange calcarenite cliffs of Half Moon Bay, the wreck of the HMVS Cerberus comes into view. It’s closer in to shore than I had imagined and much smaller, since the rising tide conceals part of the hull.
The wreck receives considerable attention from volunteers, Heritage Victoria and others. This includes Federal Government funding of $500,000, probably well in excess of Parks Victoria’s budget to manage the Bay’s marine parks and reserves. The HMVS Cerberus website lists ways that the public can help: everything from making general suggestions, to joining the navy.
The Cerberus has a number of claims to fame, which to fully appreciate, some knowledge of maritime history is needed. That counts me out. I find it a little hard to believe that the wreck “is important as evidence of the development of Australia as a nation and as part of the British Empire…a period in Australia’s history when the colonies were thought vulnerable to coastal attack and invasion. This was especially felt by Victoria, the wealthiest colony, and from which, a significant amount of the wealth from the goldfields was exported” (http://www.cerberus.com.au/nhlist_values.pdf).
The Cerberus is, however, the only remaining breastwork monitor class warship…
On the way home, I stop at Sandringham to have a look around. The modern yacht club building dominates the beach but moored along the older jetty, away from the marina, are a number of small old-fashioned sailboats, with their own place in the history of the Bay.
The paddle, an easy 7 km, return.