How long do you think it would take to kayak from Wilsons Prom to Tasmania?
Some people - professional tour guides, with good weather - reckon about 12 or 14 days, max.
For Ballarat's Ben Wilkie and his crew, it took 25 days, with a two-week layover on Erith Island waiting for the weather to clear.
Mr Wilkie said the boys got very good at bocce in that time, after they each took a ball in their kayaks - "when you get back to work, two weeks just flies by, but when you're stuck on island doing nothing except play bocce, two weeks feels like a month," he said, laughing.
The six-man Strait Yakers team - Mr Wilkie, Fred Coleridge, Richard Martin, Michael Zippel and Kieran Paton, with Rob Hays - decided to complete the journey during the second Melbourne lockdown, to raise money for charity.
Mr Wilkie's friend Bek had died recently from a rare cancer, Acinar Cell Carcinoma, and so chose to raise money for Rare Cancers Australia.
"We were originally raising money to get treatment for her, and unfortunately in October last year she took a turn for the worse and passed away," he said.
"(Her partner) Jeremy said late in her battle she discovered this charity, Rare Cancers Australia, and while they didn't work directly with Bek, they supported people who'd had similar cancers - the more common cancers do have a lot of funding through the government and charities, but this cancer she had was one in a million, maybe more.
"There's just not as much knowledge out there in the community, or funding for those cancers, so Jeremy said she'd love it if it went to help people battling cancers like she was."
The target was to raise $10,000, which would be split 50-50 with another local charity, Wheels in Motion, which supports people living with a disability.
They ended up raising more than $32,000, a massive effort.
But first, they had to complete the challenge - and while the seas aren't too hectic in early autumn, when they set off, Mr Wilkie said the team kept an eye on the long-range forecasts.
The first part of the journey wasn't too bad, but then shifting weather left them stuck about halfway.
To get off Erith Island, he said, they'd need a good 16 to 20 hour window of good weather in daylight to get them to Flinders Island and its supermarket.
"It was a 10-12 hour kayak, our biggest day, 72km in one day - we got advice to make sure the weather is good for four hours after you're meant to get off the water, because often it comes in early," he said.
"You can't get out there, six hours into a 12 hour kayak, and think 'ah, we'll turn around', that's when stuff gets really dangerous."
Luckily, after two weeks of hanging out and dealing with horrific weather, they caught a break.
The rest of the journey was reasonably peaceful, Mr Wilkie said, with opportunities for the Strait Yakers Bocce Club to play a few tournaments on each island.
"On a typical day, you'd head off and the first few hours was always a bit nerve-wracking, you always had a few butterflies in your stomach, especially when you could only just see the island you were heading to," he said.
"It was a bit eerie, but we'd break at lunchtime, just bobbing around about 5-7km an hour, that was our average pace.
"We'd stick together in the groups, there were six of us, but if it was a windy or choppy day we'd get separated - but we always stayed in pairs, our paddle mate.
"There was a lot of tunes to listen to, and a lot of the time we were just enjoying the serenity, but we'd listen to podcasts as well, and audiobooks, or you just listen to the ocean, it was peaceful kayaking along.
"The hours would all just blend together if you got deep into thought - an hour or two would pass quite easily."
After their journey, four of the crew sold their boats on the beach in Tasmania, Mr Wilkie added.
"We put them on Facebook marketplace in Tasmania - kayaking's not really my thing," he said.
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"I'm glad I did it, no regrets at all - I've hiked to Mount Everest base camp with some mates, and this was better because it was more of a challenge.
"I'd encourage others to do it, it's a fun trip and it's not dangerous if you make good decisions."
To find out more about the trip, and donate to Rare Cancers Australia or Wheels in Motion, check out the GoFundMe page.
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