James Craig Melbourne Trip

14th January – 13th February 2006


The following text is copyright James Parbery, and no part is to be copied without written permission from the author, and with proper acknowledgement of the author and the Sydney Maritime Museum (Sydney Heritage Fleet).

Wednesday 11th – Friday 13th January
The days approaching our departure are a busy time, as with any ship preparing for sea. Work on deck and aloft continues in 33 degrees heat and high humidity. Truck loads of food are loaded on board. Disel tanks and water tanks are filled, charts are corrected, rhumb lines are drawn, and by Thursday only a few jobs remain to be done. More crew mates and their gear arrive the day before departure, totalling 65 souls. Despite the oppresive heat we have a great atmosphere on board, ready for the James Craig’s first visit to Melbourne since 1921.

Saturday 14th January

Latitude 34.30 South
Longitude 151.10 East
Bearing 213 true
Speed 4.0 knots
Wind S 15 knots
Barometer 1022

Observations Cool night
Comments Commenced setting sail in harbour, then all plain sail….until the Southerly hit at 1745hrs.

Sunday 15th January

Latitude 35.74 South
Longitude 150.67 East
Bearing 190 true
Speed 8 knots
Wind SSE 5 knots
Barometer 1026

Observations mild day
Comments Captain Ken is in trouble from the cooks for reducing sail at dinner time! S’ly easing & backing, motor-sailing. Unable to observe meridian passage due to overcast sky.

Monday 16th January

Latitude 37.04 South
Longitude 149.40 East
Bearing 234 true
Speed 0.0 knots
Wind N 10 knots
Barometer 1025

Observations Mild day
Comments A bracing wake up call from Cap’n Ken for the midnight to 4 watch, ‘Wakey Wakey!’ on the loud hailer at 0645 for entry to Eden. Lines are now ashore.

Tuesday 17th January

Latitude 38.27 South
Longitude 149.17 East
Bearing 239 true
Speed 3.5 knots
Wind S by W 20 knots
Barometer 1020

Observations A stiff breeze on the bow
Comments After arriving in Eden, Jenny & Michael O’Malley, and children Liam (aged 7), Joshua (5) and Felix (3) were entertained in the officers’ saloon for lunch. We have a good breeze to blow us South, into Bass Strait, and the ship and crew are loving it. A dozen dolphins weave in and out, under and around the ship, like a Scottish dance. A night of fickle breezes, and the midnight – 4am watch passes quickly, despite the rain, with bracing yards, shifting stays’ls and finally taking in sail to furl, as the wind settles in to head us from the West.

The morning takes us 25 miles South of Point Hicks, the first part of Australia sighted by Captain Cook in 1770. Hightlights include a seal surfacing and gambling in our wake as it feeds on fish scraps and our trusty Radio Officer, Doug Dewey, enjoying a salt water shower in the middle of The Strait, with the sea temp 17.4 degrees and air temp 20 degrees, as Captain Ken announces the state of our diminishing fresh water supply.

After a series of cheeky cartoons were exchanged between the officers and cook, Peter McAdam, on Sunday, the controversy over being late for dinner has escalated. After arriving in Western Port, the Captain and Cook will go on trial before the entire compliment, to settle the matter once and for all. …

Wednesday 18th January

Latitude 39.60 South
Longitude 146.7 East
Bearing 274 true
Speed 6.8 knots
Wind E 25 knots
Barometer 1030

Observations Running Free
Comments Passing Curtis Group.

Thursday 19th January

Latitude 39.1 South
Longitude 145.7 East
Bearing 352 true
Speed 6.2 knots
Wind E by N 28 knots
Barometer 1027

Observations Beam reach
Comments In the dead of night the wind backs to our favour, and hands are sent aloft to loose topsails. Sailors swing through great arcs in the sky, shadows clanking out along the yards. At dawn the higher topgallants are set, and later, the royal sails, 90 feet above the deck. The ship is a cloud of billowing canvas, pitching and rolling across Bass Strait, while the wind backs further to E, then NE, 25 knots and building…

After Alan Edenborough led the successful salvage of James Craig‘s hulk in Recherche Bay in 1973, he was interviewed on ABC TV. Despite his optimism for the wreck’s future, his famous words were, “She’ll make an excellent museum piece, but, of course, she’ll never sail again.” Now he is standing on the quarterdeck, beard streaming sideways in the wind. A wake of white lace streams behind the ship, and white ribbons of foam stream from her bows. “We can’t stop her!” Alan cries.

We gallop past the Kent Group Islands, a rugged bastion of cliffs and sloping hills. Beyond that, another collection of rocks, including one with the appearance of a lower mandible. The northern part of Bass Strait sports a rocky island with every appearance of a human skull, and I wonder if the two were once joined….

A large seal tries chasing us, leaping off the face of the waves, but soon admits defeat. The dolphins have better success, taking great delight in darting about our bows, and under our keel.

Sail is reduced, but she refuses to slow down. The ship has a mind of her own, and land will soon be loomng up ahead….

Friday 20th January

Latitude 38.44 South
Longitude 145.23 East
Bearing 080 true
Speed 0 knots
Wind E 6 knots
Barometer 1022

Observations Weather fine, anchored off Cowes
Comments The helmsman is peering for a star between the clouds, as they swarm across the moon. James Craig is still racing along unbridled, heading for an uncharted, unnamed bay. Cape Liptrap Light winks at us from our starboard beam, and a ship is approaching at close quarters. We light up our rig with powerful spotlights to ensure we are clearly seen, and our wind-pressed tops’ls blaze a golden glow in the night. The vessel nearby may well think we’re the legendary ‘Flying Dutchman’!

At 0400 all hands are called to wear ship. The crew are ready at the braces, Natalie Moore (from the barque Polly Woodside) has the wheel, Mr. Hitchman has the deck. “Up helm.” The wheel spins, and the ship turns. “MAIN TOPS’L HAUL!” With shuffles and grunts, and breathy ‘heaves!’ the yards creak around. The wind hauls aft, and a team on the fore deck shift the heads’ls across, along with the maintopmast-stays’l. “LET GO AND HAUL!” The fore yards swing, like a bird turning in the sky. We’re heading South now, away from the land, and at 0530 another gybe to head NW towards Phillip Island.

At the break of dawn, a miraculous moment. The colours and mood of the ship, sea and sky take us right into the well known oil painting by Oswald Brett. That was painted 32 years ago, and the vision has become a vivid reality.
Careful calculation has been made by the navigator to ensure we don’t reach our destination too soon. Sail is gradually taken off her, and then furled, in order for us to meet a pilot at the entrance to Western Port. Pilot John Carroll boards, and he will be staying with us from here to Port Phillip (Melbourne) on Saturday. The ship is a tamed animal at last, marching stately up the Western Channel to Cowes under bare poles. The admiralty anchor is let go in ten fathoms, and the ship is brought up less than half a mile North of Cowes. It feels strange not to have the deck dancing underfoot.

Saturday 21st January

Latitude 38.4 South
Longitude 144.7 East
Bearing Various
Speed 0 knots
Wind S 5 knots
Barometer 1017
Observations Weather fine, anchored off Rye (Mornington Peninsula)
Comments The anchor winch squeals into action at 0555 hrs and away we go, back down the channel towards the open sea. The morning sky glows red…a sailor’s warning. By the time we are rounding into Bass Strait the wind has picked up to 30, then 40 knots (75 km) from the North. The sea is slate grey with spindrift streaking across, and the wind has snapped our flag pole in two, one half wrapped around the main t’gallant brace.

The coast is a desolate place of low scrub and snow white beaches. One would never guess that beyond the dunes is a city of concrete, glass and bitumen, bustling with three million people.

Fortunately the wind has eased considerably before we make our entry to Port Phillip. The dreaded ‘Rip’ is a place littered with shipwrecks, and several of them are marked on the chart. Once safely in the harbour, and making an Easterly course along the Southern Channel with the wind on our port quarter, topsails, topgallants and the flying jib are set.

The anchor is let go half a mile from Rye Jetty, and the ship brought up at 1700 hrs. Our friends ashore are finishing their day at the office, while we prepare for a barbecue on deck and an after-dinner court case. The cook will be tried tonight.

Tuesday 24th January

Latitude 37.8 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Various true
Speed 0 knots
Wind Calm
Barometer Not recorded

Observations Very hot, alongside 21 South, Port Melbourne
Comments ‘We towed up the Yarra past the glass bottle factory at Spotswood, and secured alongside a berth in the swinging basin . . . No sooner were we tied up than word came for’ard that the Craig was to go on to Hobart as a hulk, and she would sail no more.’

So reads Alan Villiers’ account of James Craig’s last visit to Melbourne, in 1921*. Today’s arrival is a much happier account, beginning with a bright morning and the promise of a very hot day. At 0930 guests are received from M.V. Nepean and anchor is weighed for the march up the bay. Our 120 guests are from The Children Cancer Centre Foundation or ‘Myroom’, as they are also known. Not an easy day for them, with a merciless sun and not a breath of wind. Sailing is not an option.

Melbourne’s own tops’l schooner, Enterprize, is out to meet us. She is a particularly lovely little wooden ship, a faithful replica of the first vessel to bring settlers to Melbourne, in 1835. The flotilla of boats that have come to join us grows, and by the time we enter the Yarra River a very large and colourful fleet surrounds us.
The mouth and throat of the Yarra is an industrial area; nothing glamorous about it, and nothing pretentious. With our tall masts, the furthest we can travel is to the new Bolte Bridge, where we make a turn and berth alongside at 21 South Wharf.

We are greeted by parties from The National Trust of Victoria and the 1885 barque Polly Woodside, plus friends and family of our crew, with a banner, ‘Melbourne welcomes James Craig, back after 85 years’. All are invited aboard, and speeches are promptly made. Diane Weidner, Chairman of The National Trust (Victoria), presents us with a fine pair of crystal glasses; the names Polly Woodside and James Craig inscribed on the rims. James and Polly are very similar ships, although Polly is yet to be restored to the same glorious sea-going condition that James is in. We hope that Victorians will one day enjoy the same delights that we have, and they are challenged to a race, once their beautiful barque is set free to sail again.

The crew are off to dinner, and The James Craig Reeelers are rushed to the ABC Studios to talk to ‘The Coodabeens’ about their adventures, and to sing a few songs, live on national radio. Back on board we are treated to the strange sight of the Volvo 70 boats being tipped on their side to fit under the bridge, followed by a spectacular display of fireworks. So concludes a successful passage to Melbourne. We have a very busy time ahead whilst here, of which a summary will be sent. On 7th February we are due to depart for our return to Sydney.
*Alan Villiers, born in Melbourne in 1903, went to sea in James Craig in 1920-21. He went on to become a well-known author, and an account of his time in the Craig can be seen in his book, ‘The Set of the Sails’, and here.

Wednesday 25th January

Latitude 38.9 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Various true
Speed 0 knots
Wind SSE 20 knots
Barometer 1025

Observations Williamstown Day Sail
Comments The morning following our arrival at Port Melbourne, we returned down the river to Williamstown, and boarded passengers at the Workshop Pier. An excellent day for a sail on Port Phillip, with a 25 knot Northerly. Sail was piled on for a cracking sail, followed by several others on the following days. Port Phillip Bay is an excellent ground for day sails; plenty of room to run or beat, and flat water, so people of all ages can experience it without fear of having green gills!

Williamstown is a lovely, historic area, and our ship feels very much at home there; not that we intend to stay forever, though. On Thursday we’ll be sailing to Geelong, returning to Williamstown on Monday for more day sails. There are still some berths available for the Geelong day sails this Sunday.

Friday 27th January

Latitude 38.1 South
Longitude 144.4 East
Bearing Alongside
Speed 0 knots
Wind E 5 knots
Barometer 1019

Observations Williamstown – Geelong
Comments A very hot Australia day, and a good 35 knot Northerly to blow us to Geelong. We have 120 teenagers aboard, most have never been aboard a sailing vessel of any kind, so this is an incredible experience for them… in fact, it’s an incredible experience for all of us, even the old salts! With a stiff breeze in the tops’ls and the fore mast lifting her skirt, every sailor is glad to be alive. We are surrounded by the Skandia yachts of all sizes, racing with us to Corio Bay.

Our tugs have failed to make a show, so Captain Edwards decides to bring her in without one. Mr. Hitchman has prayed for the wind to ease…and sure enough, it has, just in time. There is no doubt about how blessed we are. Upon arrival we are welcomed by the mayor of Geelong, and the crew head off to explore the delights of the city.

Sunday 29th January

Latitude 38.1 South
Longitude 144.4 East
Bearing Various true
Speed 0 knots
Wind E 5 knots
Barometer 1018

Observations Geelong Alongside
Comments Our first visit to Geelong is well received. The locals are very interested in our ship, and are pouring through it. Enterprize is taking people on 1 hour sails, including our own crew, and firing shots at us at close quarters from her swivel gun.

One distinguished guest is the Welsh rigger, George Herbert, 92 years old, who went to sea in sail at the age of 13. He has worked in many sailing ships since, including Cutty Sark when she was still afloat, and has helped train the new generation of sailors, including some of our own. With his critical eye upon our rig, he says the James Craig is “perfection plus”, and as for one of our crew, Katie Vandestadt; “a trim little craft”. He has a keen eye, and a keen mind, full of wonderful stories of his adventurous life. He hasn’t seen Captain Edwards for many years, “I’ve drifted to leeward since I’ve seen ye, Ken.” In fact he’s in great shape, and sharp as a tack…and still happily married after sixty-six years!

Sunday 5 February

Latitude 37.9 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Various true
Speed 0 knots
Wind S 15 knots
Barometer 1019

Observations Williamstown Day Sail
Comments After a fantastic sail from Geelong yesterday, we’re back in Williamstown, and out for another day sail. Again, it’s a good breeze for the Craig, and one could be no happier than the 84-year-old Finn, Thor Lindquist, who is enjoying his first trick on the wheel of a sailing ship for sixty-one years.

Thor went to sea in the three-masted schooner Alf in 1936, aged 15, then joined the four-masted barque, Passat, the following year. He made two circumnavigations of the globe in her, taking timber to Cape Town, and wheat from South Australia to Europe by way of Cape Horn. He then joined the four-masted barque, Lawhill, and stayed in her for 5 years. It was a tough and brutal life, and many crew deserted – some preferring to go to war, which had now broken out in Europe and in the South Pacific. Thor had risen to the rank of able seaman in the Passat, and became sailmaker in Lawhill. He doubled the Horn six times, and signed off in Cape Town in May 1945. He then worked in steam ships, and later emigrated to Australia in 1955. From 1958 he worked in trading ketches all around our coast, and finally left the sea in 1976. He was then employed to rig the Irish barque, Polly Woodside (b.1885), in Melbourne, where he still volunteers to this day, at the Melbourne Maritime Museum.

It’s a great privilege to have these men from the great days of sail aboard our ship. There are not many of them left, but their skills and traditions are being passed on to the new generation of sailors.

Sunday 5th February

Latitude 37.8 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Stationary
Speed 0 knots
Wind S 18 knots
Barometer Not recorded

Observations Williamstown Maritime Festival
Comments The annual Williamstown Maritime Festival has attracted over four thousand people today. It’s a colourful event with an impressive marine art exhibition, an antique print dealer, a steam driven truck, a barrel organ, live music at every quarter, day sails aboard the tops’l schooner, Enterprise, pirates firing real cannon at the end of the wharf, the oldest yacht in Australia Zephyr, (1873) tied up at the pier, and our own barque, James Craig (1874) swarming with visitors.

The well known folk musician, Danny Spooner, is singing shanties and playing his button accordion, and at 1500 hrs he joins Jimmy Parbuckle and The James Craig Reeelers for a performance at the Pirates Tavern.
In the evening, a thankyou party aboard ship for the crew and many other people who have helped make this Melbourne visit such a roaring success. Performing with The Reeelers on the main hatch is David Isson, who formed The Bushwackers in the early 1970s, inspiring an Australian Folk revival. One of the great things about sailing in James Craig is the wonderful characters we meet. The ship attracts interesting people from all walks of life.

Monday 6th February

Latitude 37.8 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Various true
Speed 0 knots
Wind S 18 knots
Barometer 1029

Observations Volvo In-port Race
Comments Pirates of the Caribbean, with a great skull-and cross-bone spinnaker, has crossed the finish line just minutes behind ABN Anbro 1. They’re now clearing a path amongst the spectator craft at terrific speed, unable to slow down. Our crew are wide-eyed, and waiting for a crash which, fortunately, doesn’t come.

James Craig has the honour of being the official starting vessel, and our anchorage between Williamstown and St. Kilda gives us an excellent view of the Volvo In-port race. It’s a sparkling, sunny day, with a good 20 knot Southerly, punctuated by the shock of our cannon, and the thup-thup-thup of the helicopters chasing after the yachts.
The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race Circumnavigation will commence off Station Pier, Port Melbourne, at 1300 hrs on Sunday 12 February, by which time James Craig should be heading North, towards Port Jackson.

Monday 6th February

Latitude 37.8 South
Longitude 144.9 East
Bearing Stationary
Speed 0 knots
Wind SW 25 knots
Barometer Not recorded

Observations Preparing for Sea
Comments It’s our last day in Melbourne, and we’re preparing for sea. The ship is cleaned from stem to stern, the rig is thoroughly checked, rhumb lines are drawn on the charts, stores are loaded, and our twelve passage crew join the ship and settle into their new quarters.

Volunteer crew, Sheryl Thornthwaite, has painted Australia’s two barques on the concrete wharf; James Craig under full sail, and Polly Woodside, standing bare. The two ships face each other, and between them is a love heart, inscribed ‘James 4 Polly’. The sea and ships inspire romance, and this voyage is no exception.
In the evening, the crew enjoy a civilised meal at the RoyalYacht Club of Victoria. The RYCV have been excellent hosts to us during our stay in Williamstown.

Tuesday 7th February

Latitude 38.9 South
Longitude 145.4 East
Bearing 122 true
Speed 5.8 knots
Wind SE 8 knots
Barometer 1031

Observations Departing Melbourne
Comments There’s not much time to be wistful about leaving Melbourne. The ship is a flurry of activity, and at 0900 sharp our berthing ropes are heaved aboard, and, for the last time, the tug Vital and workboat Kopan heave us off the Workshop Jetty and into Hobson’s Bay.

On board are Pilot John Carroll and one of our passage crew, David Wharington, who is an Extra Master and a licensed compass adjuster. They have kindly offered to improve the accuracy and steadiness of the compass. While the ship spins a ‘doughnut’ in the middle of Port Phillip Bay, bearings and transits are taken from the distinctive Bolte Bridge, Faulkner Beacon, the elevator tower East of Sandringham, and the You Yang Mountains to the West. By moving and adding magnets in the binnacle, the accuracy of the compass has been improved from up to four degrees deviation to a maximum of one degree at every quarter.

Our forty mile passage down the bay then continues. In the afternoon we enter The Rip on an outgoing tide, against a head wind, which has churned up a maelstrom of frothing, white water. Suddenly our peaceful, sunny, jaunt along the Mornington Peninsular has become a white-water rafting experience, with our one thousand tonne ship slewing and pitching violently. Bass Strait rises to greet us with several tonnes of salt water over the bow, and half the watch are drenched to the skin. It’s met with good humour, and mostly laughter can be heard, even amongst the victims!
At 2000 hrs we are waved farewell by dozens of fairy penguins ten miles SW of Phillip Island, and our journey continues, into the night.

Thursday 9th February

Latitude 39.0 South
Longitude 147.7 East
Bearing 064 true
Speed 5.8 knots
Wind NE 12 knots
Barometer 1018

Observations Doubling Wilson’s Promontory
Comments Doubling Wilson’s Promontory and heading into the shipping lane, we are surrounded by distinctive islands, including the aptly named ‘Skull Rock’ (Cleft Island) and the dramatic, 350 metre (1256 feet) high cone of Rodondo Island, shadowed by the faint blue mountains of Victoria, behind. To the South is the Curtis Group and Crocodile Rock (1 metre high), distinguished only by the waves crashing over it. Only God would know how many ships have found grief amongst these rocks.

At 1030 hrs we alter course to the NE and find ourselves half way between Skull Rock and Devil’s Tower; a natural, Gothic fortress rising up from the brine.

A slight alteration of course at 1500 hrs results in a mysterious 10 degrees deviation of the compass. It is decided that another check should be made, and the compass is swung again; i.e. the ship makes a full circle, while bearings are taken from the Eastern edge of the Hogan Group of islands. No significant error is found, and the temporary 10 degrees deviation remains a mystery.

Thursday 9th February

Latitude 37.7 South
Longitude 150.1 East
Bearing 039 true
Speed 11.3 knots
Wind SW 35 knots
Barometer 1017

Observations Rounding Gabo in a Gale
Comments Our perfect wind has finally arrived. 35 knots from the SW is sending us round Gabo Island (the SE corner of mainland Australia). We’ve covered 21 nautical miles in the last two hours, which is an average of 10= knots (20 km/h). For a ship pushing one thousand tonnes of water aside at every moment, by force of the wind alone, that is fast! Now she’s topping 11.3 knots, the fastest we have had her since her restoration.

Jon Simpson, General Manager of The Sydney Heritage Fleet, has joined us as a crew member on this passage. Despite having a maritime background, this is his first time in a sailing ship. I ask him, “How does it feel to be General Manager of THIS?” He stands on the quarter deck, wind in his hair, a very content look on his face. “Bleedin’ marvellous” he answers. “It’s not your every-day job, is it?!!”

Instead of four cylinders, we have four topsailsdriving us along. One cannot help but wonder at the marvellous strength of our rigging, to stand up against this gale. The sea is roaring and crashing around us, but the deck is remarkably stable – as long as the helmsman remains on course! 5 or 10 degrees off will bring waves crashing into the side, sending sailors into the scuppers, and dinner sliding across the tables below.

Saturday 11th February

Latitude 37.6 South
Longitude 150.6 East
Bearing 029 true
Speed 5.9 knots
Wind E 5 knots
Barometer 1023

Observations Batemans Bay
Comments As we make our way North, along the coast of New South Wales, the wind and sea have eased, the temperature has risen, and with the coming of the dawn, more sails are piled on. By lunch time we are carrying 18 sails, and the Craig is a very fine sight indeed.

The crew love being up in the rigging, swaying gently through the sky, looking down on layers upon layers of billowing canvas, peeping through the rigging at the shore, and down to the deck, far below.

Scurrying around the deck is ship’s dog, Rusty, while the passage crew enjoy the sun, read books or coil ropes, and the officers on the quarter deck discuss the finer points of trimming the sails and reducing weather helm.

Saturday 11th February

Latitude 34.3 South
Longitude 151.2 East
Bearing 033 true
Speed 3.4 knots
Wind NE 15 knots
Barometer 1025

Observations Kiama-Wollongong, fine weather
Comments The wind and tide are against us, so we have to motor against it, using just fore-and-aft sails to steady the roll. It’s a fine, clear day, and Captain Edwards decides to close the coast for a better look and to escape the adverse current. The distinctive elevations of Coolangatta and Saddleback Mountains offer the navigators some good bearings, and the pretty township of Kiama hoves in to view.

Assistant Watchleader David Kemp has discovered some tears in the fore upper tops’l, so Bosun Steven Robinson decides to send it down for immediate repair. No fewer than five tears are found, all developed in the last day or so. A team with palms and needles set to work, and by mid afternoon the sail is being sent back up (using the capstan), and the sail is bent on, ready for use. We have an efficient team.

Meanwhile, down in the bowels of the engine room, 2nd Engineer Paddy O’Sullivan (from Ireland) is trying to top up a tank with water. Most of it is spilling over the sides, as the ship rolls heavily in the swell. Not much of it is going into the tank. Chief Engineer Martyn Low (from Scotland, as are most marine engineers) has a bright idea. “Pretend you’re decanting whisky into a bottle, Paddy!” From then on he doesn’t spill a drop.

Sunday 12th February

Latitude 33.9 South
Longitude 151.2 East
Bearing 199 true
Speed 0 knots
Wind NE 18 knots
Barometer 1020

Observations Alongside Pyrmont #7 – Sydney
Comments We’re ten miles east of Port Jackson, under full sail, full and by. We’ve just worn ship, and about to take in the royals. It’s a perfect day, with 20 knots from the NE, and we’re trotting along at seven knots. Now we’ve brought her onto a starboard tack for the final run into Sydney, due at Pyrmont at 1500 hrs.

Even at this distance the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge arches above the horizon, and as we near closer, the sandstone cliffs of Sydney Heads stand high, above our masts. The harbour is a hive of activity, yachts reefed down, commercial ships plodding their way down the main channels, and our own steam yacht, Lady Hopetown (1902) and the gentleman’s schooner Boomerang (1903) have come to greet us. All three of us are flying the distinctive Sydney Heritage Fleet house flag; the Southern Cross upon a blue cross on white, with a golden ship in the canton. The flag is adapted from Australia’s first national flag, designed in 1824.

It’s all sixty-six hands on deck for the regular bracing of yards and the shifting of fore-and-afters at every turn. It’s a seven mile sail up the harbour, and we’re still carrying ten sails, which makes it an exhilarating experience for all. The only one sleeping is Rusty the dog, who has scampered off to avoid being trampled on.

The Spirit of Tasmania is leaving port, Kerry Packer’s twenty million dollar yacht is anchored in Athol Bay, and as we approach the lee of Kirribilli, all square sails are taken in for the final run under the bridge and around to Pyrmont Bay. Hands are laying aloft to furl, berthing ropes are being faked (flaked) on deck, the Sydney Opera House gleams white in the brilliant sunshine, and we are almost home.

They say that all good things must come to an end, but few endings are as good as this.

James Parbery.

Back to James Craig Voyage Reports main page