James Craig Hobart Trip

1st February – 1st March 2005


24th January

Wharf 7 Pyrmont (Sydney).
Lots more varnish and paint work over the last few days, before the rain set in. Work continues on passenger accommodation, and in generally getting the ship ready for this voyage.

2nd February

NE Swell.
7.5 nautical miles NE of Montague Island towards Eden.
Traveling at 7 knots on a bearing of 178.
8:00pm? Arrived at Eden.
Anchoring in Twofold Bay to avoid storm activity overnight.

3rd February

Clearing Eden harbour.
Weather’s fine with a northeast swell of 2 metres.
Traveling at 8 knots.

4th February

Partly cloudy and fine with following mod seas and swell.
The Craig is relishing the fresh following winds and we are making making great progress down the coast.?Expect to be on the same latitude with the northern end of Flinders Is by Noon. Given our current progress we are anticipating going into Triabuna  AM Sat 5th Feb. (All Subject to weather conditions of course)

We will then have several days to take in the sights of Wineglass bay etc etc before our final short hop into Hobart by the 11th. Overall the moral is high with the reasonably comfortable and exhilarating sail. Essentially the ship is doing what she was built for and everybody is loving the experience.
It is a credit to all who have been involved.

5th February

Rain Showers.
Mist on the Hazards.
NE Swell 0.5m
Anchored in spectacular Wine Glass Bay on the first return of James Craig to Tasmania since her salvage 32 years ago. A minute’s silence was observed in honour of all those who voyaged aboard James Craig during her working life and to those members of the Sydney Maritime Museum who worked for the restoration of James Craig but who passed away before this voyage.
Today’s crew were proud to be able to tribute to all those who contributed so much to the restoration and continued operation of the ship.

6th February

A brief stop in Wineglass Bay, named for her shape and for the Merlot colour back in the whaling days. After inspecting the propellers for kelp, our divers Drew and Bruce returned in the boat at the call of “Anchor aweigh!”

They solved the mystery of the two white ‘fins’ we saw rising and falling in the swell just off the rocks at the S entrance to the Bay. We had guessed it might be a dead whale, but in fact it was a sunken yacht.

A local we met on the beach confirmed it had only been wrecked 3 days ago, with the loss of one life.
It seems we have luckily (cleverly?) dodged some cruel weather.  Last night a cruise ship reported 90 kts (yes, ninety knots) of wind in Bass Strait, and a pan pan message was received from a dismasted yacht near Wilsons Prom. (too far for us to be of help).  Someone’s looking after us, and we’ve received good advice from our weather gurus ashore, thank you!

Our Tassie pilot, Martin North, took us South through Schouten Passage, around Isle de Phoques and into Mercury Passage at a  rate of knots in driving rain.  Radar and GPS fixes, with course updates and ETAs every five minutes, and a team of navigators were firing on all cylinders!  Our mission was to get alongside Spring Bay wharf before nightfall to fill the freshwater tanks; and Captain Ken declared showers and beer all round upon arrival. Most chose to shower with the water.

7th February

Strong winds have kept us pinned alongside Spring Bay Wharf today, but the ship was a hive of activity, and artist Ian Hansen painted the name of the ship on the wharf, next to a silhouette of her at anchor.

For lunch, crayfish and abalone, followed by a concert by The James Craig Reeelers.
At 1730 tugs Kiera & Sydney Cove prepared to heave us off.  The latter vessel towed The Craig from Recherche Bay to Hobart after her salvage in 1973, and in keeping with tradition they offered their service free.  We couldn’t have done it without them, as the wind was blowing 35 knots, gusting at 40. The tugs came at very short notice, so ship’s company had to snap into routine, and the ship was under way. We proceeded down Mercury Passage, making 15 degrees leeway, despite the wind having eased to 20 kts. Rugged scenery became shrouded by night, and the Milky Way scored a path for us across the sky.

Tasman Island was doubled soon after midnight, bringing a sudden change to the ship.  From a pleasant cruise down the coast, suddenly the ship was battling heavy rolling, then pitching to a short, sharp swell.  Rod & Deb copped a beauty over the bow, and Rusty the dog found safety in the arms of Sybil in her hammock, and they almost became airborne together!??It was a brief battle.

By 0400 we rounded Dead Man’s Island and into the peaceful anchorage of Carnarven Bay. Salt-caked sailors woke to the picturesque scenery of Port Arthur, enveloped in dark history, but as pretty as a post card.?Our old girl was cleaned fore & aft, and Jocelyn Nettlefold from ABC TV clambered aboard to interview Captain Ken and Alan Edenborough. Look out for us on the ABC 7:30 Report, Wednesday or Thursday night this week!
8th February

Carnarvon Bay (Port Arthur) is such a delightful place we decided to anchor here twice!  The first time at 0400 with the stockless anchor, then later in the day we heaved up and anchored nearby with the 1.5 ton admiralty pattern. It’s the first time we have done so, as it is such a beast!  Credit goes principally to Bosun Steve Robinson, who established the order of things for getting it safely over the side.  Various work goes on, including adjustments to the whisker poles, supporting the jib boom.

A sunny, calm day, but there’s some nasty weather about, and it’s better for us to stay here for the time being.  The barometer has fallen 14 Hp in as many hours, confirming the weather forecasts, and there’s no point putting our ship at risk so close to the finish line.

Various other activities continue, including the launching of a kayak by parbuckling. (You might have to check your dictionaries!) The Mate, Peter Petroff, is making a cat o’nine tails, much to the concern of anyone with a guilty conscience, but the specific reason for this show of craftsmanship remains a mystery…
The afternoon was highlighted by the arrival of tops’l schooner One & All to a hearty three cheers, and she anchored a cable away (1/10 of a nautical mile, or 185 metres).  She completes the pretty picture of this idyllic anchorage, and a boat was soon sent across to us with her bosun, Jenia, (who helped Peter Ripley make JCs sails some years ago.) One & All promptly challenged us to a cricket match, scheduled for tomorrow.

9th February

Crew from the One & All were entertained aboard in the fore noon, and as the weather was favourable for an easterly course, they decided to sail to Wineglass Bay, forfeiting the cricket game.  That was their excuse, anyway, but it may be that after seeing our formidable crew, they decided to back down!  They graciously declared James Craig the winners, at any rate, and we look forward to a rematch at the first possibility.

After lunch Bruce Hitchman, 2nd Mate, (and relief Master), gave a talk on ‘Tacking a Barque’ to all the crew and passage crew upon the main hatch, received with eager interest by all who want to learn or refine the art.  Bruce is an authority on the subject, having sailed 3 years in the 4-masted barque, Pamir from 1944-47.  Pamir was one of the last of the ocean’s cargo ships operating purely under sail, and after his apprenticeship Bruce spent his entire career in the merchant navy, rising to the rank of Ship Master.  It is a privelege to have that great maritime tradition passed down to us first-hand.
Speaking of great traditions, the cat o’ nine tails has been completed, and the main mast has been chosen as the best place to administer punishment…but on whom?.

And it is about time that we paid tribute to SailMail without whose support you would not be reading this log; SailMail allows email to be sent from ships at sea via HF radio and is a boon to many mariners. Look for more information on the internet.
10th February

“Anchor aweigh!” is the cry, and our 1.5 tonne anchor is hauled to the cathead by 5 men & 1 woman on the capstan singing “Paddy lay back!” A wistful farewell to Carnarvon Bay, and all plain sail is cracked on as soon as we get out to sea.  Gentle, wooded slopes give way to the rugged, vertical cliffs which mark the Southern face of Van Diemen’s Land.  We keep a good offing, as the thought of meeting with those walls of stone are enough to chill any sailor’s heart.

A good, stiff breeze from the SW, perfect for tacking, so we put her through her paces.  Hitchman’s lessons are not in vain, and she “tacks like a yacht”, as the late Alan Villiers promised us.  Villiers sailed in James Craig from Sydney to Hobart in 1922, and later worked for the famous Hobart newspaper, ‘The Argus’. He became one of the great writers of the sea, and in his book ‘The Set of the Sail’, dedicates a chapter to his time in the Craig, describing her as ‘a particularly lovely vessel.’

Storm Bay paves the way to Hobart, flanked by sloping shores, dotted with charming cottages assuring us city-worn Sydney-siders that a civilised world does exist!  The prettiest vessel I ever saw sails out to meet us as we begin to reduce sail and furl the royals. Two of our crew, Sybil & Drew Edwards seem particularly excited to see it; their sister Wendy and husband Mike are aboard their wooden ketch, Madoc.

As the last tops’l is furled we let go in Snug Bay, only 14 nautical miles from Hobart. We’re almost ‘home’, and it feels like the night before a wedding…
11th February

Every manner of craft is out to meet us as we make our final reach into Hobart, and a warm welcome is gathered on Macquarie Wharf. The gangway is shipped, and Lord Mayor, Rob Valentine, steps aboard. He is resplendent in ceremonial robes, ready to make his official welcoming speech. “As wonderful as it is to see the James Craig back in Tasmanian waters, there is one serious matter which must be addressed…”

The Bailiff, in scarlet uniform, steps forward to pronounce the writ,
“Captain Edwards, Master of the sailing ship James Craig. It is hereby alleged that this vessel was illegally removed from its previous resting place in Tasmanian waters, contra to the Marine Hulks Act of 1854. The said vessel was designated the property of the Government of Tasmania when it was abandoned in Recherche Bay.

“Section 37, paragraph 2 (a) of the Marine Hulks Act of 1854 states:
“No designated hulk or wreak can be removed from Tasmanian waters without the written permission of the Tasmanian Government and only after payment of the requisite fee of 5 guineas and any other costs incurred by the Tasmanian Government in the preservation or upkeep of the said wreck or hulk.”

“There being no evidence of any such payment being made to the Tasmanian Government upon the removal of the James Craig from Tasmania to New South Wales, I hereby impound the ship. Sergeant, present the charges and the order to Captain Edwards.”

A somewhat ruffled Captain Edwards receives the writ from the sheriff, and the Bailiff continues,
“This writ requires that the sailing vessel James Craig remains impounded in the Port of Hobart until such time as the outstanding fee of Five Guineas and associated costs and interest, amounting to Thirty-Seven Pounds, fourteen shillings and five pence ha’penny, has been paid. As surety for such payment, one of your crew will be held in the Hobart Gaol. Sergeant, select a crew member. That one will do.”

One of our young, female crew is handcuffed.

Stepping out from a contemplative mood, the Lord Mayor intervenes.
“Hold it there, Sergeant. I have a better idea. For too many years the people of Tasmania have been denied access to the James Craig. If Captain Edwards is prepared to allow the people of Tasmania access to this magnificent vessel, for an appropriate fee ofcourse, then I will waive any outstanding debt, and you and your crew are welcome to enjoy the delights of this fine city.”

12th February First day in Hobart

Under a sunny southern sky the Australian Wooden Boat Show is launched into full swing. Despite her iron hull James Craig is the queen of the show, and thousands are swarming aboard her timber decks. Many have stories of when they used to fish or swim off the wreck in Recherche Bay, and it is more than curiosity that is bringing people to the ship. Many have emotional attachments to her, childhood memories, and this is a dream fulfilled. The front page headlines of the Hobart Mercury cry “WELCOME HOME JAMES”, and at the bottom of the page, “Charles to wed Camilla”. Not many can admit to being treated better than royalty!

Meanwhile, crowds are gathering for the “Quick & Dirty” competition. Competitors are supplied with raw materials, and must build a boat within 3 hours, then race it. Preferably without sinking. Our intrepid bosun, Steve Robinson and ship’s carpenter Dave Lovett have taken on the challenge, but unfortunately, there has been a mix up, their application form was not received. There are no materials for them. The competition begins, a flurry of activity with saws, and hammers and bits of rope. Steve and Dave trek off in search for a hardware store. They return 3/4 of an hour later with everything they hope they’ll need. Others have half finished their boats, as Steve and Dave begin. There’s no panic. They just get on with it, working together like only two sailors that have crossed the seas know how. Before our very eyes, a miniature Viking ship is formed. Time is up, and the work is finished just in time, our Viking ship is complete with mast, sail and oars! An additional day is allowed to all the competitors to decorate the vessels. None other than Ian Hanson, ship’s artist, takes on the task. She is chistened Vikingeskibet J.C. meaning Viking ship J.C., and is a beautiful mini replica of the full-scale replica nearby.

The race begins. Many of the boats sink before they have gone 5 yards. Steve and Dave, disguised in Viking helmets and long rope-yarn hair, paddle furiously, and shoot into the lead. The judges promptly order them to sail the next leg, backwards. There is little wind, and they are beaten by Woodships not Woodchips, paddling all the way. However, their boat is the only one not to take in a drop of water, and they go on to win the ‘best boat’! I wonder if my credibility as a writer may suffer from this story; it’s hard to believe, and yet it is true. There were many witnesses.

13th – 21st February
Summary of remaining days in Hobart:

Sun 13th – Reeelers perform live on ABC Radio with Don Burrows, later perform on stage at Wooden Boat Show and that evening at the Customs House Hotel?Steve R & Dave L. take sailing lessons from real Viking ship . . . then go on to beat them!

Monday 14th – St. Valentine’s Day. Reeelers’ debut album launch at Irish Murphy’s Tavern. ?Hobart Port Authority function aboard.

Tues15th – Villiers family visit the ship ??Wed 16th Day Sail 2-6pm ??Thurs 17th Parbuckle interviewed ABC Radio Day sail 2-6pm

Fri 18th – Day sail 2-6pm ??Sat 19th Day sail 8-2pm 5pm Wedding on board

Sun 20th – Day sail 9-3pm?Crew dinner ashore ?7-9:30 Reeelers performance on board with Sifonke Choir

Mon 21st – Rest Day

22nd February

Having received a very warm welcome in Hobart and spending ten busy days there, we are now retracing our wake towards Sydney.  A calm and sunny morning makes for an easy departure with engines and a couple of staysails.  A gathering on Macquarie Wharf gives a heart felt farewell at 0900, while Alan Edenborough’s morning interview on ABC radio goes to air with a song from The Reeelers.  It’s a pleasure to be returning to the routines of shipboard life, but it is not without some sorrow that we are leaving this beautiful harbour city, and many ashore and aboard are wishing for a speedy return.

Our rounding of Tasman Island is dramatically different to our experience of two weeks ago.  Instead of darkness and violent seas we have a sparkling sunny day to view the pinaccle.  The Tasman Island Light rises 900 feet above us, and a railway track leads up the slope to it from the wharf at 45 degrees angle.  I’m sure many prayers would have been uttered from those tracks as the lighthouse keepers and their families ascended and descended.  The lighthouse is no longer manned, but a helicopter delivers people to the island occassionally.

Nearby Cathedral Rock rises up from the sea like great organ pipes or fluted columns from the late gothic style.  A colony of seals worship nearby, flippers raised to heaven as they float in the swell.

The middle watch (midnight to 0400) gives us a golden moon to steer by and a four-hour long display of phosphorescence sparkling around the hull.  Rather than wait for a fair wind, we must press on, to be anchored off the township of Bicheno on the NE coast of Tasmania for a special welcome and celebrations at daylight…

23rd February

Officers & crew of James Craig were today granted, in the historic town of Bicheno, “…the rights of freedom from servitude & the right to enter and march through the streets on ceremonial occasions, free from lawful challenge, with swords drawn, ensign flying, banners uncased and bands playing.”

After anchoring in Waub’s Bay at 0818 hrs, most crew members were ferried ashore by local fishermen to be greeted by the township.  The occasion was to receive, on behalf of the Australian Merchant Navy, the honour of Freedom of Entry, and to pay our respects to lost mariners.

Children of Bicheno Primary School, guardians of a new memorial to the Australian Merchant Navy, greeted the crew, and Captain Kenneth Edwards laid a wreath of seaweed (the seaman’s wreath of the sea) in memory of the thousands of merchant seamen who have died in peace and in war.

Captain Edwards then laid a wreath at the grave of a local Aboriginal heroine, Waubadabar, who assisted local seamen in peril, and died at sea in 1832. Captain Edwards saluted her grave and paused there while the crew and townsfolk bowed their heads in respect.  Waub’s Bay is named after her.

The crew were later entertained with songs from the town choir, as a strange sea mist enveloped the bay and hamlet.  The ship, rolling heavily at anchor and with spanker set to keep her head to wind, disappeared in the mist, and the picturesque town was shrouded in white.  As quickly as it appeared, the mist evaporated to reveal a bright and sunny day before James Craig weighed anchor for New South Wales.

24th February

Tasmania has diminished to a pale blue shape on the SW horizon and Bass Strait lays before us.  There is little wind, so we press on with the ‘iron spanker’ pushing us along. By nightfall the land is only a luminous shape on the radar screen, and by midnight the radar is an empty screen.

The morning brings a flat horizon and a flat sea.  All that may change with the dramatic arrival of a bank of crisp white cloud extending right across the SW horizon.  We square the yards and prepare to lay aloft, but the clouds are a false promise, and pass over with little effect.

At midday, a sunny calm day in ‘the paddock’, as Bass Strait is called by the locals.  The hatches are opened to air the crew’s quarters while painting, splicing, writing and hammock repairs go on around the deck.  From our keel down to the ocean bed is a distance of 4 kilometres (about 2000 fathoms) while infinity spreads above and all around us.  Whales, dolphins and a ten foot shark are seen.  The evening brings a perfectly full moon and a copper sky, and our old iron frames rattle to the hum of two propellor shafts while the masts stand bare.

25th February

‘Crack it on’ Hitchman doesn’t wait for a following breeze.  One 0’Clock in the morning and the wind backs from N to NNW; crack on the fore & main topmast and mizzen staysails. 0130 hrs, NW; crack on the inner jib. 0230 WNW; crack on lower & upper topsails while a quiet shanty is sung in the dead of night and halyards creak. “Get a crack on!” says the shadow on the quarterdeck, distinguished by a white naval cap glowing beneath the moon. “Crack it on!”

The following watch inherits a mission: to crack on more sail! The wind backs further to W by S and the spanker is set, followed by the fores’l, the mains’l, and at first light the fore topgallant. (Some would argue it should have been the main t’gallant.)

At last, this rattle-weary vessel becomes a ship again, gliding effortlessly across the pond, and the first golden glint of morning sun presents Mother Ocean a sight worthy of Her Majesty.  First light also presents our first sight of Mother Earth as Victoria rises on the port bow. Even Rusty the Dog has a kick in his step, and celebrates with a little brown parcel for the Afterguard.

The mutton birds are all around, some flying, others riding the ocean wave. Also, a couple of albatross. There used to be hundreds, but long-line fishing has killed all but a few of those magnificent birds.

The ship glides along at six-and-a-half knots, and at this rate we’ll be in Sydney sooner than we’d like. The cure is a call into Eden, so a berth is secured and the ship ties up alongside in Snug Cove. A perfect excuse to “Crack open a beer”, says Mr. Hitchman.

26th February

Eden is a little paradise nestled around Twofold Bay. The main industries are fishing, tourism and timber, and it has a particularly interesting history of the whaling industry.  Whaling began here in the early 1800s when men risked their lives in small boats using hand-held harpoons to catch the great beasts.  In the 1920s whalers were assisted by ‘Old Tom’ and his pod,  killer whales who would lead the fishermen to the humpback and sperm whales as they cruised past on their way up the coast.  Old Tom would even grab the boat’s painter (rope) and tow them out to the whales if he didn’t think they were rowing fast enough! Tom and his mates’ reward was the tongue and lips of the whale. The tongue of a sperm whale could weigh up to 4 tons.

When Old Tom died in 1931 his skeleton was preserved and is now on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum. You can see for yourself where Tom’s teeth are worn from towing the boat’s painter. With his death the whaling industry in the district also died, and whaling was made illegal in Australia in 1978. Their numbers are rising again now, and every October Eden holds a ‘Whale Festival’ with live music and numerous other activities to coincide with the migration of whales along the coast, which can be clearly seen from the cliff tops.

After a night on the town and a lazy morning, we set sail at 1400. The locals gave us three cheers and invited James Craig to return in October for the Whale Festival. We now make our way north with the promise of a fair wind from our friends in the weather bureau.

27th February

A fair and gentle breeze is taking us north, along the coast of New South Wales. At 0215 the engines are shut down and by 0630 all plain sail is set. The navigators are taking advantage of prominant landmarks such as Pigeon House Mountain and Point Perpendicular, and the chip log is streamed to measure 4 knots exactly.

At 1630 the boat is launched so that the cameraman, Barry Nichols, can get some film of James Craig under full sail.  Barry has been with us since before we left Sydney and has captured many magic moments. He’s become one of the crew, and when he doesn’t have a camera attached to his head he’ll help us furl sails or haul on halyards. He’s making a documentary called ‘Shipmates’ which will be available for world-wide release.

The wind has been backing and veering on our starboard quarter, and as it veers to S by E the mains’l is scandalised to allow air to flow to the head yards. At 2015 hrs the Moon with Jupiter rises on our starboard beam, the lights of Kiama pass by to port, and the ‘Global Steel Challenge’ yachts race past on both sides on their way to Cape Town. (Luckily we’re on a starboard tack!) By midnight we’re 18 miles south of Botany Bay.

28th February

It seems odd to be sailing straight past our destination, but at first light we will pass the entrance to Sydney’s harbour at 5 miles distance. In 1770 James Cook sailed past at a similar range, noting the entrance and offering the name, ‘Port Jackson’. He was never to know what a magnificent harbour lay beyond that cliff-faced entrance.

Our destination for now is Broken Bay, 16 miles to the north, where we will anchor, and hope to take advantage of the predicted Nelys tomorrow, to blow us back to Sydney.

Before serving breakfast our Chief Steward, Kathe Swales, calls her husband, so he can enjoy the elegant sight of us sailing by from his beach-side residence. He may be wondering if we had missed the entrance… She assures him all is well.

By 1100 hrs the sails have been furled and the anchor is resting in thick mud. Broken Bay appears virtually unchanged since Europeans reached our shores. We might even imagine we are the first to ever visit the place. A handful of crew are swimming around the ship, some are learning new knots, and quite a few are planning tonight’s entertainment…

‘Sod’s Opera’ is a chance for the crew to let their hair down and be silly…and to take the mickey out of us poor, unsuspecting officers. There are many hilarious moments, and no holds are barred. Over a dozen performances, put on by various groups of our 65 crew. One of the side-splitting acts is Nick Papageorgiou dressed up as a ‘Health & Safety Officer’, demonstrating the way of the future for heaving-line throwers: Bright orange over-alls, safety-harness, life-jacket, steel-capped boots, safety-goggles, gloves and helmet. To back him up is Dr. Hein Vandenburg, ready to offer psychological counseling should he suffer the public humiliation of missing the wharf. It’s a rather apt description of the modern world, to which we must return tomorrow.

1st March

There is nothing quite like hearing the sound of a winch grinding in the anchor-chain at four o’clock in the morning, while lying in your hammock and knowing you can (probably) stay there ’til breakfast while the other watch does all the work!

There’s hardly a breath of wind, so little work for sailors anyway. The engineers have all but made us redundant. As we thunder back down the coast to Sydney, Captain Edwards is interviewed over the phone for Angela Catterns’ Breakfast Show (ABC Radio), and an invitation is extended to Jimmy Parbuckle & The James Craig Reeelers to perform live in the studio upon return.

The majestic sand stone cliffs pass either side, as we make our way into Port Jackson. When Governor Arthur Phillip arrived here in 1788 with the First Fleet, he described it as “the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may anchor in perfect security.”

Rusty, the ship’s dog, is chasing his tail again, and seems excited. He knows he’s almost home. Rusty is a delightful little dog, a white, patchy terrier (amongst other breeds). Watch leader Paul Harvey saved him from the needle when he discovered him in a pound a few years ago.

James Craig rumbles past the Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge, and hard a port into Darling Harbour. A small gathering is on the wharf, and a rousing cheer erupts when the first heaving line finds its mark. Forty sweaty sailors heave on berthing ropes, and a thousand ton of ship swans gently into Wharf 7, Pyrmont.

Captain Ken Edward’s charming wife, Valerie, is there to meet him, with their own little dog, ‘Miffy’. Miffy is a gorgeous bundle of fluff, the kind of thing you would buy in a toy shop, and a feminine version of ‘Rusty’. Rusty is the first ashore, (as is the tradition), and bolts down the wharf to make his acquaintance. A romance has begun, as James Craig‘s historic journey comes to an end.

James Parbery.

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