The Little Penguins who live at Penguin in northern Tasmania are the smallest of all penguins. But when swimming in the wild waters of Bass Strait they can power through the waves at about forty kilometers an hour.
I suspect the town of Penguin has never experienced a crime wave, mainly because the original goal – built in 1902 and decommissioned in 1962 – is roughly the size of a rural outhouse. Although admittedly outdoor lavatories don’t usually come complete with heavy duty locks and multiple bolts on the outside of the door.
Being devoid of windows, the small goal must have been a ghastly experience, especially in summer heat. And no doubt everyone in the small township would have known exactly who was in there sweating it out.
Getting to Tasmania on the ferry was not easy. For during a wild storm The Spirit of Tasmania 2 chucked a tantrum, slipped free of its moorings, tipped sideways and bashed its arse on Port Melbourne’s Station Pier. Resulting in significant damage to its rear.
The Spirit’s bad behaviour screwed up the sailing schedules. And despite the best efforts of management, I experienced several delays. This resulted in spending over thirteen hours on the ship before disembarking at Davenport around midnight.
Mind you, it is kind of fun slipping into a darkened port, late at night, on a quietly moving ship. Sinister shades of Count Dracula in the film Nosferatu.
Is it possible to lose a tomato-red car on a ship? Yes. And while other passengers started their engines, I ran around the lower decks trying to work out where my bloody vehicle had gone.
It was only when I realized that I was under the baleful gaze of a stack of caged dogs – in the gloomy section signed as Pets – that I realized I’d been doing laps of the wrong deck.
Fortunately with only seconds to spare, I made it to my car. Narrowly avoiding the ignominy of having my car registration announced over the intercom. Very loudly.
Pointed but polite requests were being made that certain folk must return to their cars pronto because they were holding up the disembarkation process. I was aware that those who were impatiently waiting to get off the boat were rolling their eyes and fuming. Understandably so.
So what the hell do people do on a ferry for fourteen hours? They eat.
The dogs languishing in the small cages might not have been so damned pleased to see their owners returning, if they knew that the upper decks are awash in: soft tub chairs, reclining deck chairs, mega kilos of chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto, lamb shanks lolling in red wine and several tons of succulent roast porterhouse. Along with salty potato crisps, premium ice-cream, meat pies and more sauced-up sausage rolls than you could possibly poke a stick at.
During dinner service, an elderly lady was losing control of her laden dinner tray when a young bloke stepped up, gallantly took hold of her tray and offered to conduct her back to her seat. A sweet smile lit up her face as they wended their way through the crowded deck. Small acts of genuine kindness never fail to cheer.
The Spirit is the perfect place to get oiled, ossified or embalmed. A lot can be achieved in thirteen hours. You can’t take alcohol on-board but the top deck bar caters to even the most dedicated drinker.
One burly, red-faced bloke was having a swell time drinking the boat dry. He must have been a seasoned sailor as I noticed he was the only passenger not staggering like a drunk when we hit the rough patches and the entire boat shuddered dramatically. And like everyone else I found myself clutching at the furniture and smiling nervously.
I took the photograph at sunrise in Penguin on the north coast of Tasmania.