While filming for The Captain, Nick Wood voyages to the edgeof the world, well, Tasmania, in a fleet of seriously specced-out Stabis. Despite encountering his worst seas ever, he is keen to prove his mettle.
My first introduction to The Captain and his adventures came several years ago, inspired by a trip he made to these very waters in Tasmania. At the time, I said I could do a better job of filming — me and my big mouth. Well, my day of reckoning soon came. The Captain told me the plan was simple: fly down to Eaglehawk Neck in Tassie, meet up with fatherson duo Mark and Matt Hateley — then go and catch a swordfish.
“OK, so just the one swordfish then?” I sarcastically responded, before packing my tripod and camera gear and heading south on a no-frills, red-eye Virgin flight.
EDGE OF THE WORLD
The geography of the south-east Tasmanian coastline is well documented, but for the
uninitiated, it looks like volcanic rock has been pushed out from the seabed via an icing bag. Large, straight limestone columns stand proud, creating a wonderful backdrop for some worldclass tuna fishing, accessible to just about anyone with a boat. On our trip we’d be lording it up on Mark’s Stabicraft 2400 Supercab. Along for the ride was Hadley Deegan. No stranger to boaties on the Apple Isle, he owns Deegan Marine and his dad, Matt, even has a matching 2400. Deegan Marine is located on the north coast of Tassie, just about where your left front tooth would be if you took a bite out of the Apple state, and is the only Stabicraft dealership on the island. It’s no country for virgin skippers, but fortunately Hadley always has a firm hand on the helm and one eye on the sea. As we were to discover — he’d need it.
Before we had a chance to fish the Neck, it was decided we’d meet up with a couple of highly regarded sword gurus. They’d flown over from New Zealand especially to catch one. They suggested we head north to St Helens, a small town on the east coast where solid reports of sword bites were coming in. You don’t have to go far to catch swords in Tassie. In fact, you can usually see land from the fishing grounds, which for any Australian sword fisherman is rather novel.
Hadley brought along the 2400SC’s little bro, the 2100SC, which would become my home for the next few days. The sea off St Helens was as calm as a world yoga conference, but we had technical problems. The Kiwis were using phone apps to pinpoint deep channels and undersea mountains. Unfortunately, the topology didn’t match the sounder diagnostics, leading to general confusion. Dropping for swordfish in deep water needs pinpoint positioning, and we were all getting a bit frustrated. We came up short, but got to know each other bobbing around the ocean in our Stabi fleet. The weather in Tassie changes quicker than an Australian prime minister, so we reverted to the original plan, heading down to Eaglehawk Neck.
Mark Hately is a consummate outdoorsman — hunter, diver and, best of all, keen trout fisherman (anyone who waves a trout rod rises a notch in my eyes). He and Matt have a typical father-son relationship. They bicker like fishwives on market day, but underneath there’s a raw affection, which is on show during long days at sea. Food is a common bond — the catering aboard Mark’s boat rivaled the MCG on a winter’s day — hot coffee at regular intervals and a steady supply of hot dogs and pies emerging from the galley. We spent the next day dropping stitched squid into the murky depths then watched the rod tips nod up and down like a Texan oil derrick. The banter was good and the smallgoods kept coming from the cabin. Alas, there was no sword bite. Thankfully, it was only a short journey back to the ramp.
Over the next few days, our target species changed and so did the weather. Oily seas and epic sunrises were replaced with grey brooding skies and walls of water crashing across our bows. Fortunately, the Stabicraft is built for this kind of pounding — and I’m not just saying that because The Captain’s crew plied me with rum (they often do, but that’s instead of actually paying me). Nope, I’ve been on all kinds of boats — from Cootacrafts to Haines Hunters — and I’m just as happy working out of a Stabicraft as any vessel I’ve been
in. The stability is a given, but the versatility and ergonomics are unparalleled. Everything just fits, which is important when you’re packing more lenses than a Ted’s Camera warehouse into every nook and cranny (see Nick’s three favourite rigs hereabouts).
The weather was brewing into a horrid tempest, and it gave us hope the tuna would come on the bite. Waves towered over the Stabis as we skulked up and down the coast, lurking beneath the limestone cliffs as 40-knot winds blew over the top. I was in the 2100 with Hadley at the helm. After a few hours, we got a call from Mark on the 2400 — “We’ve got a tight line!”
I fired up the video camera and peered out of the solid cab — all that stood between us and the 4m waves crashing over the bow. Watch the video if you don’t believe me. The weather was atrocious and we could barely see Mark in his Supercab, but there he was, braving it out in some of the worst weather I’ve experienced at sea. A flock of gannets circled in the distance while his Stabi disappeared for 15 seconds at a time behind huge walls of water, only to reappear on the crest of a wave, bow pointing skyward. We could see the school getting closer, Mark and Matt on the radio urging us along. When we finally hooked a 10kg school fish, the conditions were chaotic, but Jack from The Captain’s crew made one of the best gaff shots I’ve ever seen. I filmed it all from the comfort of the cabin.
Job done, we headed back to the protection of Tasman Island to see how Mark and Matt had faired. They were soaked and freezing, but holding up a couple of nice bluefin. They weren’t trophy fish, but we all savoured the flesh that had demanded balls of steel to procure from the ocean.
Mark’s boat has been set up perfectly for his style of fishing. There’s no live bait tank at the back. Tasmanians don’t generally fish livebait, sticking to trolling or bait. This gives more space at the stern with a cutting board and storage underneath where most tanks are installed. There’s a 300L fuel tank and a 250HP Evinrude E-TEC Gen2, which is a little noisy, but very efficient at trolling speeds of five knots, burning approximately 6.8 litres an hour. Mounted in the dash is a Simrad NSS12 Evo2 with radar, 1k/W EMR transducer boosted with a BSM-3 unit to give it better clarity in deeper water. The boys are into their cray fishing so there’s also a pot hauler that can be dropped onto the gunwale. It comes in handy, as Mark’s 72-year-old dad finds pulling pots in a bit of a grind. It also has detachable outriggers and the pie warmer, naturally.
This is the fifth Stabicraft to enter the Hately fleet. It started with a 609, then the 659 — two, in fact. Then along came a pair of 2400s. And there are plans for more, with a 2600 on order. If that doesn’t entitle the Hately family to a $100 gift voucher in the Stabicraft canteen in Invercargill, NZ, we don’t know what does. Hopefully, when The Captain sights the video of this trip, he’ll sling me a food voucher for my next Virgin flight.
102 Eastland Drive, Ulverstone, Tasmania.
(03) 6425 2238.
345 Bluff Road, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand.
+64 (3) 211 1828.