Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tall Ships

We had a 'visitor' ship in over the past few days.  In addition to the stream of huge cruise ships, that is. The James Craig. It is something of a 'home-coming' as she spent quite some time sitting on a beach in Tasmania many years ago.

Built in 1874 in Sunderland, England, by Bartram, Haswell, & Co., she was originally named Clan Macleod. She was employed carrying cargo around the world, and rounded Cape Horn 23 times in 26 years. In 1900 she was acquired by Mr J J Craig, renamed James Craig in 1905, and began to operate between New Zealand and Australia until 1911.

Unable to compete profitably with freight cargo, in later years James Craig was used as a collier. Like many other sailing ships of her vintage, she fell victim to the advance of steamships, and was first laid up, then used as a hulk, until eventually being abandoned at Recherche Bay in Tasmania. In 1932 she was sunk by fishermen who blasted a 3-metre hole in her stern.

Restoration of James Craig began in 1972, when volunteers from the 'Lady Hopetoun and Port Jackson Marine Steam Museum' (now the Sydney Heritage Fleet) refloated her and towed her to Hobart for initial repairs. Brought back to Sydney under tow in 1981, her hull was placed on a submersible pontoon to allow work on the hull restoration to proceed. 

Over twenty-five years, the vessel was restored, repaired by both paid craftspeople and volunteers and relaunched in 1997. In 2001 restoration work was completed and she now goes to sea again. A DVD on her restoration has been produced and available from the Sydney Heritage Fleet.

It is a true 'Tall Ship' and is like a big brother to the Hobart-based ones that are somewhere smaller but which do daily sailings around the waters here.

We have the Lady Nelson, for instance. It is a 'replica', but just look at its size. Imagine its day. 

His Majesty's Armed Survey Vessel Lady Nelson was commissioned in 1799 to survey the coast of Australia. At the time large parts of the Australian coast were unmapped and Britain had claimed only part of the continent. The British Government were concerned that, in the event of settlers of another European power becoming established in Australia, any future conflict in Europe would lead to a widening of the conflict into the southern hemisphere to the detriment of the trade that Britain sought to develop. It was against this background that Lady Nelson was chosen to survey and establish sovereignty over strategic parts of the continent.

It's design was based on an armed cutter, the Trial, built in Plymouth in 1789 to a design developed by Captain (later Admiral) John Schanck. It was unusual in that it was fitted with three sliding keels, or centre-boards, that could be raised or lowered individually.

Philip Gidley King, who was in England in 1799, was aware of the lack of vessels in New South Wales, and lobbied for Lady Nelson to be taken over for use in the Colony. The cost to the government was said to be £890.

He personally inspected the vessel on 8 October 1799, whilst it was being fitted-out at Deptford, and suggested that: ""as few seamen know anything about the management of a cutter, her being constructed into a brig would make her more manageable to the generality of seamen."".

Schanck agreed with this change and the Commissioners of Transport were directed to rig the vessel as a brig, and not as a cutter like the Trial as had been intended.

Lady Nelson left Portsmouth on 18 March 1800 and arrived at Sydney on 16 December 1800 after having been the first vessel to reach the east coast of Australia via Bass Strait. Prior to that date all vessels had sailed around the southern tip of Tasmania to reach their destination.

Lady Nelson's survey work commenced shortly after her arrival at Sydney, initially in the Bass Strait area. She was involved in the discovery of Port Phillip, on the coast of Victoria, in establishing settlements on the River Derwent and at Port Dalrymple in Tasmania, at Newcastle and Port Macquarie in New South Wales, and on Melville Island off the north coast of the continent.

Just how the men of those days managed to do such phenomenal work from such a small ship from the other side of the world, is the stuff of legend and heroism.

Another favourite of mine that sails past my cave regularly, sails being blown even in a light breeze is The Windeward Bound.  It too is not an 'original'.

Windeward Bound is a two masted brigantine-rigged vessel based in Hobart. The vessel is named after Lewis Winde, the builder of an 1848 Boston schooner on which Windeward Bound was modelled. It is constructed almost entirely of Tasmanian eucalypt, huon pine and Oregon pine, recycled from old boats and buildings. The hull is constructed of 5 cm hardwood strip planks, over epoxy-laminated douglas fir frames, spaced 38 cm (15 inches) apart. The stem, sternpost and keel are of epoxy-laminated Tasmanian blue gum and the decks are of huon and New Zealand kauri pines.

Windeward Bound is rigged with four square sails, three headsails, three staysails between the masts, a gaff mainsail and gaff topsail, totalling 12 sails in all. The total sail area is 402 m2 and the windage lever of the sails from the centre of lateral resistance8 is 9.87 m.

She is commonly used for training youth (of any age) to sail, offering training and voyages that last from anywhere between an hour or two to many weeks. 

In 2002-2003, the ship and her crew embarked on a successful circumnavigation voyage around Australia to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the first circumnavigation, charting and naming of the continent of Australia by Matthew Flinders. During this voyage, the crew docked in most Australian ports and coastal communities, with the help of Coastcare, to spread the message for individuals and organisations to become actively involved in ground works to protect and manage coastal and marine environments.

The ship was also able to connect with local schools and community groups by performing a play recounting the adventures of Flinders in his circumnavigation through the play Roundabout, written by Les Winspear and performed by Theatre Alfresco.

On 3 June, 2004 Windeward Bound was subject to knockdown about 30 miles south of Gabo Island off the Victorian coast when a gust of near-hurricane force wind heeled the vessel about 68 degrees to starboard.

I admit I rather enjoy seeing the big cruise ships come by with 2500 passengers aboard but to me there is very little 'romance' in them apart from what goes on in them. The sailing ships have far fewer passengers and most are put to work hauling sheets instead of romping between them.

'Tis summertime and the view from my small deck does not leave me pooped !



  1. All fine sailing vessels, the sails on James Craig are wonderful :-) One of the holidays on my wish list is cruising around the Dalmatian coast on a craft such as these. I have recently found a suitable tour company that does this (after the possibility not being available for many years) :-)

    In my sitting room I have some prints of sail ships by the talented photographer, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.

    1. They do have an air about them. The two 'local' ones do daily trips that anyone can book onto, and occasional longer sorties down the coast for overnight or longer stays. One is expected to 'work' the ship though and I am getting quite past that. :)


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..