Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : January 27, 2016 Edition Contents PAGE 10 - THE ADVERTISER, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016
IT’S Phillip Island’s playground: A
680 square kilometre body of water
simply known by locals as “the bay”.
In summer Westernport - one of the
few north facing beaches in southern
Australia - is home to a small army of
recreational boats and tourists.
In winter come the whales.
And throughout the year the bay
hosts ships from around the globe,
with oil production at Hastings; while
on a clear day gunfire can be heard
from the practise range at the military
base HMAS Cerberus on the penin-
Dig a little deeper into the bay’s
history and few realise it was hastily
settled by the British after the French
resolved to establish a settlement in
the area (hence French Island); and
despite being in the east, it was so
named because it was most westerly
charted point at the time George Bass
discovered it in 1797.
Judging by the recent backlash to
State Government proposals for an
international container terminal at
Hastings, Western Port is one of our
most treasured assets, residents de-
termined to fiercely protect it.
Here we speak to the characters and
groups that live, work and play on the
Being on an island, wedged by
ocean and bay, local sailors are spoilt
The Cowes Yacht Club has 300
members and in Newhaven there are
up to 600 which, according to Cowes’
Yacht Club commodore Daryl Hergt,
complement each other perfectly.
“At Cowes, we are an off the beach
club with dinghies and catamarans
and we tend to train sailors in their
younger years,” said Mr Hergt, who is
also a member of the Newhaven Yacht
“Then they get a boat and moor it
at Newhaven, which has larger boats
Cowes club was formed in 1957 and
runs events from the Melbourne Cup
weekend through summer, including
training courses, a catamaran race
around French Island and a race be-
tween the four major yacht clubs of
Westernport, with Somers, Balnar-
ring and Merricks, on the Mornington
The Newhaven squadron was formed
in 1962 and now has 188 berths for
boats from six to 12 metres.
It runs year-round sailing, boating
and fishing competitions, as well as
Daryl says of all the clubs in West-
ernport, Cowes has the best location,
with the club house on Osbourne Av-
enue used for community events and
even the occasional wedding.
“Of course I’m biased but we have a
deep water, sand beach that is north-
facing, whereas all the other clubs
have rocks or limited access.”
Keeping us safe
In 2015 the Volunteer Coast Guard,
based at Hastings, carried out 104
rescues in the Westernport region,
with 72 of those towing boats and 15
And the worst offender? Rhyll,
where there were eight rescues, fol-
lowed by seven in Corinella and two
The Coast Guard attended four
search and rescues, including a Ne-
whaven yachtsman who is still miss-
ing, as well as a cliff fall of two men at
A search on the ocean side of the is-
land ended up being a hoax.
There was one fatality: a fisherman
And just last week they attended a
boat break down off Pyramid Rock.
The Coast Guard’s Jeremy West
said there were 40 voluntary mem-
bers who attended calls every day of
the year and 24 hours a day, covering
Inverloch to Cape Schank.
He said most people in trouble on
the water call Triple Zero, and the po -
lice then task the Coast Guard.
“It can be kayakers stuck in the mud
through to jet skis,” Jeremy said.
“The most important message is for
people to wear life jackets and telling
someone when you’re going out and
when you’re expected back.
“The rest comes down to servicing
your vessel properly. If you don’t use
it in winter and you hit the water in
the warm weather your fuel might be
stale and you need to do basic main-
tenance so a breakdown can be miti-
Parks Victoria is the waterway man-
ager for Westernport, which includes
responsibility for piers, jetties, navi-
gational aids, marine national parks
and sanctuaries, moorings and berths
and a number of land-based parks
along the shoreline. Parks also man-
ages recreational boating behaviour.
The Water Police have a boat moored
at Hastings and patrol most days of
the week in summer and about two
days in winter.
Water Police Acting Sergeant Ben
Penrose said their biggest focus was
on ensuring fishing boats complied
with safety laws, followed by jet skis
motoring too close to shore and
swimmers and finally kayakers that
“There’s an upward trend in jet skis
because they’ve become so popular
and kayaks too,” said Acting Sgt Pen-
In 2015 the Water Police attended
255 marine incidents in Westernport,
including broken down boats and two
About 150 ships and boats enter
Westernport each year, which require
the assistance of the Harbour Mas-
ter’s pilot boats to ensure their safe
navigation and the unloading and
loading of passengers and cargo.
The larger tanker ships depart with
exports of crude oil.
For years there was an oil refinery
at Hastings, but now it is cheaper to
send crude oil overseas and import it
back refined as petroleum or diesel.
Ships also carry gas for export, and
import and export steel.
Islanders will remember a time that
passenger ships arrived in the bay for
These ships are set to arrive in the
If passenger ships are unable to
dock in Mornington, they will instead
offload passengers at Hastings.
Aside from ships, the bay also hosts
oil rigs, that stay in the bay for repairs
or for time out between jobs.
While recreational fishing boats are
allowed in the channel to fish, they
aren’t allowed to anchor.
So significant is Westernport’s en-
vironment, it is recognised as an in-
ternational RAMSAR Wetland, and
has been declared a United Nations
The biggest threat to the bay’s en-
vironment has been the loss of sea-
grasses, which – according to the
Western Port Seagrass Partnership -
has been recognised as an ecological
disaster by the United Nations Envi-
The Western Port Seagrass Partner-
ship is a not-for-profit organisation
looking after the bay’s seagrasses,
which in some areas around the Co-
rinella to Tooradin zone have disap-
peared up to 70 per cent since the
“Seagrass is important because they
are the base of the food chain,” said
the partnership’s chairman Ian Ste-
“It’s where fish and organisms feed
and breed. They bind the sediments
and protect from erosion.”
In 2015 the partnership planted out
4500 mangrove seeds and seedlings
around the north east of the bay, with
mangroves encouraging the natural
growth of seagrasses.
And in 2016 4500 more will be
Phillip Island is the centrepiece of
Westernport, alongside the larger
French and smaller Churchill islands.
But there are about 10 other islands
that dot the waters, not all mudflats
some are home to wildlife such as
Quail, Chinaman or Joe islands.
A couple are even exclusive hide-
Sandstone and Elizabeth islands
are even currently for sale.
Sandstone, on the Hastings side of
the bay, is on 55 acres with a two-sto-
Elizabeth is 65 acres with a three
bedroom home, with its own jetty, and
owned by Anne Tillig since 1996.
Both are asking $5 million plus.
Dolphins and whales
The resident dolphin population
is considerably smaller than that of
neighbouring Port Phillip Bay, accord-
ing to the Dolphin Research Insti-
tute’s Sue Mason, who has a holiday
house at Ventnor.
“Port Phillip has a resident commu-
nity of about 120 and Westernport’s is
much, much smaller than that,” said
Sue, a researcher.
The main population resides near
the western entrance to the bay, while
there is also a group at the eastern
end, with the occasional transient dol-
phins popping by.
“Westernport has a smaller carrying
capacity because there’s more preda-
tors with the resident seal population,
as well as available prey (food),” Sue
The institute, based at Hastings,
conducts the occasional fin identifi-
cation count, along with reports by
island dolphin spotters, which identi-
fies individuals, number of calves and
health, with the dolphins in Western-
port generally healthy.
Sue also helped set up the Two Bays
Whale Project on Facebook, with a
member of Wildlife Coast Cruises,
monitoring humpback and southern
right whale movements through the
middle of the year, as well as orcas.
“There was even an orca passing by
Phillip Island on December 27,” Sue
“They’re a transient population
which predate on seal pups so are
generally found around January/Feb-
ruary and May-July, but can be seen
all year round. They cover huge dis-
tances, from as far north as Jervis
Bay down to Tasmania.”
Our beautiful bay
Westernport Bay: its characters,
curiosities and creatures
Links Archive January 20 2016 February 3, 2016 Edition Navigation Previous Page Next Page