James Craig Melbourne Trip

12th January – 10th February 2008


Wednesday 9th – Friday 11th January

The days approaching our departure are a busy time, as with any ship preparing for sea. Work on deck and aloft continues in heat and high humidity. Truck loads of food are loaded on board. Diesel 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. Despite the heat we have a great atmosphere on board, ready for the James Craig’s second visit to Melbourne since 1921.

Saturday 12th January

Latitude 33 50.5 South
Longitude 151 18.4East
Bearing 198 true at 1500 hours
Speed 7.4 knots
Wind NE 15 knots at 1500 hours
Barometer 1003 kpa

Comments Beautiful weather as we departed Wharf 7, waving our good byes to those standing on shore. As we loosened sail, on leaving Darling Harbour, our escort of fellow Fleet vessels joined us to sail in company with us down the length of the Harbour. An impressive departure as we, surrounded by the Fleet, proceeded down that sunny, tourist lined, Harbour; then whistles blowing and horns tooting our fellow Fleeters turned for home as we approached the Heads. One yacht, with Ian Hanson at the helm, sailing single handed, stayed with us in a moderate swell until we had cleared the Heads by several miles. Out into a blue ocean with plenty of sail set and a North Easter to take us down the coast. A quiet night, with some higher squares taken in before dark, and everybody settling into their watches.

Sunday 13th January

Latitude 36 14.8 South
Longitude 150 24.3 East
Bearing 228 true at noon
Speed 8 knots at noon
Wind SE 25 knots by afternoon
Barometer 996 kpa

Observations Swell increasing as wind increased past 35 knots
Comments? The good North Westerly taking us down the coast changed and passed through North before going to the SE and strengthening to over 35 knots by mid afternoon. The seas increasing to 3 m on a 1.5 m swell. The squares were struck and the motors brought into play as we punched our way through the increasingly heavy seas, motor – sailing to windward in a series of tacks. A heavy roll tested everyone’s sea legs as we cut across the seas at 6 knots. A wet day, mostly from sea spray, as rising seas slapped the bow and hull, producing slippery decks and testing footwear. The discomfort diminished as the barometer started to rise again and the wind eased during the night – the need to take shelter in Two Fold Bay receded as the worst of the Southerly passed. Many were glad of the easing conditions, but regretted not visiting the good people of Eden. The sea life increased as we left the push of the south setting warm East Australia Current and entered the cooler waters past Gabo Island; the sea temperature dropping to 16 degrees C well below the temperature of the Current waters.

Monday 14th January

Latitude 37 40 South at noon
Longitude 150 00.7 East

Observations Green Cape and Disaster Bay visible
Comments? Everything aboard safe, with no damage taken in the Southerly, as we turn the corner at Cape Howe, also the State border, and enter Bass Strait. She’s a strong vessel, built for such ocean conditions. Other shipping was more noticeable, with a variety of vessels passing in both directions. Not much sign of commercial fishing around the old fishing port of Eden, as their fleet shrinks yet again – from the old 30 or so trawlers working full time, down to a struggling 12 and now reducing further with the current Federal Government’s ‘buy back’ scheme. The fish are just not there, and some fishing families are looking on the scheme with increasing interest. But the sea mammals remaining are surviving on what is there, as the East Australia Current brings even warmer water farther south and some warm water species of fish come to join their southern cold water cousins. We begin to see some of the Hour Glass Dolphins of the Strait, a small species of dolphin with the characteristic ‘hour glass’ shaped lighter grey marking on their sides, a seal or two and even a small whale. Sails were set in the evening to take advantage of the gentle southerly.

Tuesday 15th January

Latitude 38 58.7 South at noon
Longitude 147 08.6 East
Speed 8.6 knots

Observations Clear, starry night, low seas
Comments? We pass Bass Strait oil rig field at break of day, with one hundred nautical miles to run for Wilsons Promontory; aiming to get to South East Point while still light. We do that after viewing the Hogan Group of islands to the South and passing inside of Rodondo Island so that we stayed in the correct shipping lane. WE viewed the Wilsons Promontory hills and Skull Rock in the evening light – Skull Rock does indeed look like a human skull, with eye sockets in the right places, although some saw it as a croc skull as the view altered and the ‘skull’ lengthened. Another beautiful day with the barometer at 1006 kpa, and the gentle wind turning more easterly to help us on our way towards Western Port bay and our night anchorage there. Day and night sights were taken, by sextant, to check our position and the accuracy of the compass. Bass Strait put on a calm face for our transit, although with some swell arriving to roll us a little. Everybody content, being well fed and rested between watches. Some of the passengers are learning to go aloft in the gentler conditions, and all of them enjoying taking part in the watches and other deck activities.

Wednesday 16th January

Latitude 38 33.8 South at 1100
Longitude 145 02.2 East
Bearing 308 true
Speed up to 5.9 knots
Wind SW 18 knots
Barometer 1010 kpa

Observations Phillip Island, Point Grant, reached mid morning.
Comments? A SW wind at up to 18 knots allowed us to use our canvas, including t’gallants, to reach Western Port bay by noon.A wait off Point Grant, for a tanker to leave, brought in the wildlife, including some of the colony of seals and most welcome of all a pod of female dolphins, Hour Glass dolphins, with their very small young calves. The vessel was moving only very slowly, so the 10 mothers and babies, with two matriarchs, moved close in around the bow and ship’s sides giving everybody a good view of them and a tremendous photo oportunity. Some of the babies were very small, they seemed little more than a foot long, and played happily around their mothers. This resident pod of dolphins seem to be breeding well. The seals attract a viewing public, as the colony has a camera fixed on the rock and people watch from a cafe across on the point.

We didn’t get a glimpse of any of the Great White Sharks that hang around the colony waiting for an opportunity to prey on young or slow seals. Then we made our way to our overnight anchorage off Cowes in the early afternoon, where we made use of our starboard side Admiralty Anchor. Some passengers made it to shore in the ship’s sea boat, or more quickly in a police launch, as did some crew to replenish the fresh milk supply, but the small township was crowded with summer visitors – the population increases from a few thousand residents to something like 100, 000 people in summer.

Thursday 17th January

Latitude 38 26.38 South
Longitude 145 14.4 East
Speed 10 knots in evening
Wind 15 knots by evening
Barometer 1018 kpa

Observations Leave Cowes anchorage 0645
Comments? We leave the anchorage and proceed to sea at 0645 and then head for Port Phillip. Swell 1.5m with some seas atop. Emergency exercises were carried out aboard, ‘fire’ in engine room, an ‘injury’ requiring pallet and strapping there, and an ‘abandon ship’ – all went well and the engineer/victim, Bill, didn’t sustain any real injury when being strapped in the pallet and carried up the stairs out of the engine room. We met the pilot boat and crossed the Rip, with pilot aboard, at slack tide. Canvas all being furled as we entered Port Phillip, partly while crossing the Rip, and made our way to our second overnight anchorage at Port Arlington surrounded by sightseeing and photo opportunity boats of various types – way up that ‘half degree’, 30 nautical mile long bay of Port Phillip. Unfortunately the motor transmission on the port engine did suffer some injury, just as we were manoeuvring to anchor, it will take days to find out what happened and to assess the damage.

A very large Dutch vessel overtook us as we entered the Port, it was loaded with barges, tug etc, for the dredge work that is, controversially, to take place around the Port. The large vessel is sinkable, so that the smaller vessels can be floated off. Such a vessel would be excellent for carrying old and badly deteriorated heritage vessels to where there’s willing help for restoration – imagine carrying a vessel such as the large barque Passat from Europe to Sydney for restoration to sailing standard. Barbecue on deck this evening, after anchoring in four fathoms depth just off the old port, with part of the ‘Sod’s Opera’ entertainment taking place whereas the late hour at anchoring precluded the full planned program. Windy when anchoring, but the hill behind Port Arlington provided some shelter for the evening’s social event. Crew and passengers happy at refreshment, engineers worried about the heavy repair work ahead.

Friday 18th January

Latitude 37 54.5 South
Longitude 144 53.1 East
Wind NE 10 knots
Barometer 1010 kpa

Observations Arrival at Workshop Pier in Williamstown
Comments? Some rain overnight, but it was fine for the limp to Williamstown on one engine. A good welcome, with a local band playing under cover on the wharf at Workshop Pier, and the dignitaries coming aboard to make their speeches of welcome. In this scribe’s view, it is sad that Melbourne sees a good 19th Century working barque, sitting, deteriorating, in a small flooded dry dock in the city, as a (very) static asset to the new building development along that city side bank of the Yarra. How much more worthwhile to get the old working barque Polly Woodside down river for restoration and ocean sailing once more. But enough of my dreaming.??Sadly our sailing schedule has been put back as we await the outcome of the engineering diagnosis on the port engine transmission, and we will miss a few days of sailing on Port Phillip. Disappointed customers have been down to Workshop Pier to walk over the James Craig, but are keen to experience a day sail.

Saturday 19th – Thursday 7th February

Comments? Open for inspection daily alongside Workshop Pier, Williamstown,1000 to 1700 hours, up until Sunday 3rd February.???The James Craig gearbox repair is progressing well. Planned departure is 9am Thursday 7th February 2008. The Crew dinner to thank everyone for all of the wonderful hospitality in Williamstown will be held on Wednesday night. Thank you to all who have offered support through our recent challenges. Peter Cole (on behalf of the crew). – Tuesday 5th February 2008

Thursday 7th February 2008

Below is the James Craig voyage plan to Sydney. As you probably know, the first stage of the gearbox assembly is complete. It allows the engine to drive ahead only and she will need tugs to leave Port Phillip Bay and on arrival at Port Jackson.

 Day Date Time Location Hrs Mls Spd Crse
Run Run Run Next
Thur 7 0900 Williamstown Pier 0 0 var
Thur 7 1500 222 Pt Lonsdale Lt 7 40 6.5 222
Fri 8 1400 222 Citadel Is Lt 23 115 5 042
Fri 8 1600 224 South East Point Lt 2 10 5 302
Sat 9 1000 Bass St Oil Field Sep Zn 18 90 5 272
Sun 10 0700 120 Gabo Lt 8M 21 105 5 252
Tue 12 0500 090 Ben Buckler 5M 46 230 5 234
Tue 12 0700 Pyrmont Wharf 7 2 10 5 197
Totals 120 600

Thursday 7th February

Latitude 38 18.34 South
Longitude 144 43.7 East at 1900
Wind Currently 35 gusting 45 knots

Observations At anchor in Port Phillip Bay near Portsea waiting for the sea state and wind to drop outside the Rip
Comments ?Currently 35 gusting 45 with seas 4.5m reported by incoming ships. Intend waiting overnight and proceeding with turn of tide around midday tomorrow, Friday. All are well – Sausages for dinner.

Friday 8th February

Comments? 6pm – Departed Port Phillip anchorage at 1500 Fri8Feb08. Weather eased to 3.5m SW swell with 15 knots SSW wind. Motor sailing at 7.7 knots across swell to Wilsons Prom to make up time. RIP transit without event. Brigantine Windward Bound departed from nearby anchorage for Hobart. Brigantine Enterprise returned from King Island early because of surge in harbour. Engineering repairs functioning well. Tuna Salad for lunch.

Saturday 9th February

Comments? 12pm – 30 miles east of Wilsons Promotory. Motor sailing at 5 knots in choppy seas towards Oil Rig Separation Zone. South east swell and 20 knots of SE breeze and rain. Uncomfortable night for crew but moderate for the ship which is proceeding well. Deckhead surveys have become popular offwatch activity.

9pm – Greetings Everyone. This report finds us 20 miles west of the Bass Strait Oil Rig Traffic Separation Zone. We are now regaining the planned track after shaking out the squares and sailing slightly north of our course all afternoon. Sadly, the SE winds have stayed in at about 20 knots, making our progress slow. The ship’s motion is so much better under sail than motor sailing and some crew have suggested that we go to Sydney ” the long way round” … A brief stop in Eden on Monday 12Feb is becoming likely to enable our New York passenger to meet his planned flight out of Sydney. Best Wishes from us all.

Sunday 10th February

Comments ?12pm – 40 miles South of Point Hicks with 55 Miles to Gabo Island. Wind SW 5 knots Swell 2.5 meters SE, fine sunny day. Motor sailing with square sails set making 5 knots. ETA Eden to land 2 passengers 0600 Monday 11th February. NE winds 15 to 25 knots forecast for Monday and Tuesday, so progress close up the coast will be slow. ETA Sydney at this stage Wednesday morning. Leek and potato soup and fruit for lunch – tough but someone’s got to do it.

Monday 11th February

Comments? 3am – Position 5 miles SE of Green Cape. ETA Twofold Bay 0600 Monday 11th February. Wind NE 10 knots. Low SE swell slight seas. After setting ashore our New York passenger, we intend to take the opportunity to purchase some additional fresh supplies and depart for Sydney before midday. Engines (and gearboxes) running well. Crew in good spirits and looking forward to a brief view of Eden. Brilliant night sky with streaking falling stars. ???   Speed 030 knots?   Wind 4 knots?   Observations Clear Weather, location 10 miles NE Narooma

Comments? 9pm – Eden visit from 0600 to 0900 included passenger transfer, chef supplies, calls on local agent and a crew swim. Passage north has been slow as expected against the wind and East Australian current. Inshore route, including passage west of Montague Is was selected to minimise impediments. Southerly change is expected late Tuesday with the possibility of sailing the last leg of the voyage. Southern coastline, with seals and dolphins as scenic as ever. Current ETA Sydney 1000 Wednesday 13th February 2008. Looking forward to Sydney.

Tuesday 12th February

Speed 2 to 5 knots

Comments? 1am – Position 30 miles south of Sydney Heads. This is the final update before James Craig arrives to Sydney. We have worked up the NSW coast against the East Australia Current and strong northerly winds. Speeds of 2 to 5 knots have been all that the ship could make because of the windage of the rig and strength of the current. Anyway, the weather has been clear, temperatures rising and views of the NSW South Coast interesting. Small beaches and rolling hills have encouraged some of us to plan raod trips back to explore. A pod of dolphins, about five miles across, came in from the east today. They were all busy chasing fish and paid no attention to us – the wide area of spashing business was quite a sight. We hope to have the gearbox failure analysed to ensure that it cannot be repeated. The loss of two weeks of income has been hard to live with, but the operation of the ship and the performance of her crew remains at a very high professional standard. Thank you for for your support in following our succesful but challenging voyage.

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