Two friends paddling across the Bass Strait to shine a light on mental health issues have successfully completed the first leg of the trip.
Albury residents Stuart Baker and Matt Flower left Victoria’s South Gippsland coast on Monday and paddled more than 50 kilometres to Hogan Island, which took about six and a half hours.
Today they are back in the water tackling another 42-kilometre stretch to Deal Island, in Bass Strait’s north.
Mr Baker’s son Henri is following his father’s epic journey and said the pair were facing tough conditions, with 10-knot winds forecast.
“It is an incredible feat to be taking on,” Henri said.
“So, we are wishing them all the best and hoping it is a successful day, because it is one of the key segments of the crossing — so fingers crossed for them.”
The trip is expected to take the long-time friends about eight days to complete in their kayak, but that will depend on the weather.
“They are completely under their own steam, so there is no support crew or anything like that,” Henri said.
“They are carrying all their own supplies including food and water, so it is certainly a heavily laden boat for the first couple of parts of this journey.
“I think the weather was due to take a turn today and potentially they were looking to wait it out on Deal Island for a couple of days while the poorer weather passed and before it became clear again to take the next part of the crossing.”
Henri said despite the undesirable weather forecast, they men were in high spirits when he last spoke with them.
“All positive so far, I haven’t heard any reports about the water temperature so hopefully that means they’re staying pretty dry,” he said.
For Stuart Baker the trip across the Bass Strait is the latest act in a decade-long effort to raise awareness about suicide and mental health.
His daughter Mary took her own life10 years ago and since then Mr Baker and his wife Annette have dedicated their time to advocating for greater awareness.
The Bakers co-founded the annual Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice in 2013 and funds raised by this paddle will go towards supporting this year’s event.
Before he left, Mr Baker told ABC Goulburn Murray the ongoing support from the Border community had been incredible.
“We are just hopeful that some of the generous community support that we usually receive for that might be able to be channelled towards this crossing,” he said.
Proceeds will also go toward support advocacy group Australians For Mental Health.
“Our community here is amazing and support these things and because of that they’ve got a far better understanding than perhaps other communities around Australia,” Mr Baker said.
He admitted he was initially apprehensive about the 260km trek when he was approached by Mr Flower.
“It’s not something I’ve ever thought about doing or have even contemplated,” he said.
“I thought about it for a few weeks and he kept saying, ‘Will you do it?’
Describing it as “daunting, but not insurmountable or impossible” Mr Baker said the plan was to be patient and not head out in dangerous conditions.
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