Working in one of the world’s most dramatic seascapes along a rugged, pristine coastline, two young men on Tasmania’s north-east coast are reaping the benefits of their crayfishing and seabird charter operation.

Story By Paula Heelan

It’s a sunny, glinting but piercingly cold winter’s day at St Helens on Tasmania’s north-east coast. Along the shoreline, a fresh, southerly wind of 30 knots is blowing and a storm warning has been issued, but the crayfish are better than steady and the local crayfishermen, unloading their rich harvests at sheltered Georges Bay, are eager to quickly return to sea. For Troy Rainbird, 25, and his deckhand, Geoff Goodluck, 27, there’s a delay. Troy’s 17-metre, fast-planing vessel, Nifty 11, has engine trouble. Troy and Geoff are furiously working on the problem but will need to spend the night on land, so they load their craypots onto a trailer for overnight storing. “It’s gearbox trouble,” Troy says. “Hopefully, we’ll be right to get back out tomorrow. This is a high-maintenance vessel and things can go wrong.” Mature beyond his years, Troy has been on or near the ocean since he was born in this small fishing town. Following in his father Greg’s footsteps – a crayfisherman for more than 40 years – Troy has skippered his own vessel since he was 17. A veteran of wild seas, his understanding of the ocean, weather, boat mechanics and the crayfishing industry is immense – a good thing given his livelihood is governed by the elements of nature. During the summer months he runs seabird charters that are popular with birdwatchers from around the world. “We’ve learnt a lot more about seabirds since running trips for birdwatchers,” he says. “We usually see a good variety, including albatross, small petrels, terns, white-bellied sea eagles, Australasian gannets, shearwaters, cormorants, prions and plenty of Pacific gulls. I’m always on the lookout for them now, particularly around the seabird rookeries on rocky islands off the coast.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #62

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2009