To the North and Home Again

The Trip North

March 30th – April 13th, 2009

Monday, March 30th: The Lady cast off at 0900 hrs, with the 13 crew excited about the forthcoming trip. All crew except cook Vivienne and Master Brian were divided into 3 watches with watch keepers Mal, Sam and Mick R to stand 3 hrs on, 6 hrs off for the next three long days. Down the river, the crew settled in, carried out the routine safety muster, then some running repairs on the ratlines, allowing a Steve and Monica to learn some new maintenance skills. As we approach the Iron Pot and Storm Bay the swells started increasing and many crew dived for their seasick tablets, if they have not taken them already. We motor-sailed with a few fore and afts set, passing spectacular Cape Raoul, then heading through the slot between Tasman Island and Cape Pillar. With Brian at the helm, Lindsay had the unenviable task of rough furling the fisherman as we rocked and rolled our way across the confused swells. Everone was on deck gazing in awe at the stunning cliffs on both sides. Few seals remained on the rocks at the base of Tasman Is because of the big swells.

As we head north with the wind on the bow, those not on watch retired below to catch some rest before their next watch, bracing themselves into their bunks, trying to avoid both body and stomach contents being ejected. Steve preferred to stay on deck and managed to snatch some sleep while standing upright with his arms and harness entwined in the ratlines. All but three of the crew were suffering the effects of the heavy seas, and even those three admitted to feeling rather seedy at times. Sam verified that acupuncture does not work! Brian ended up with less sleep than anyone since he was up and down on each watch and had to stand in for some seasick crew.

At 2100 we were passing outside Maria Island. There was heavy cloud with not a moon or star to steer by - only the light of an oncoming fishing boat! Steering a compass course was a challenge when irregular big seas knocked the head off in one direction and gusts of wind in the other. While on watch in the bow, the bowsprit dipped under the waves repeatedly, and midship’s gunwales were regularly rolling to the waterline. We were very glad we were all harnessed on.

Below deck chaos reigned. Jan was rudely awoken to find her head on the floor beside the foc’sle head door. Opening the fridge for a dash of milk for tea in the middle of the night released its contents. A tossed salad of apple pie, eggs, onions and cherry tomatoes dressed with an exploded bottle of Boags joined the biscuit tins, books and other items bouncing around midships. We were still picking up cherry tomatoes from under the freezer after docking at Beauty Point. They never did make it onto a plate!

Tuesday, March 31st: Dawn found us just north of Schouten Passage when Brian decided to run for some shelter to give the crew a welcome break from the seas. We surfed through the passage to anchor at Bryan’s Beach. However breakfast was cut short as she dragged anchor, so we headed back into the wind. A two hour slog found us half way to the entrance to Wineglass Bay, and it was touch and go whether we would turn back to wait out for calmer weather. But our resident weatherman advised us that the weather would not ease for several more days, so we battled on. The highlight of the trip was at the entrance of Wineglass Bay. Crew gathered around the helmsman as Brian conducted a short, moving ceremony to sadly farewell our former crewman, John Terry, fulfilling his last wishes to spread his ashes onto the waters of Wineglass Bay, on behalf of his wife Pam. As the wind and waves carried his ashes into the Bay, a large flock of shearwaters spiralled around the ship and up into the sky. Further up the coast we were treated to several pods of common dolphins frolicking in our bow wave. We also enjoyed large flocks of birds following fish schools, including lovely gannets with their orange heads and many pairs of albatross skimming over the waves. The second night saw us motor past Scamander and Eddystone Lights.

The darkness accentuated the phosphorescence in the water, showing in the white caps, bow wave and propeller trail and occasionally the phosphorescent creatures landed on the deck with a wave. After two days of corkscrewing into the headwind, Vivienne commented:…“It is wonderful to be able to take the Lady north so all my friends can visit her, if only we did not have to endure a trip like this.” Mick recalled yelling out: “Big wave” to Vivienne as she was bringing snacks on deck, but he was too late – she was already sliding across the deck on her backside. Lindsay praised Vivienne’s amazing perseverance in the galley, producing food under the roughest conditions for the few who had an appetite; he was one of the fortunate few not to be feeling too sick! Charles however was the most appreciative, at one stage having no trouble cleaning up left overs as well as eating the extra meal Vivienne had dished up by mistake!

Wednesday April 1st: Thankfully the wind had started to ease so we made better time and reached the entrance of Banks Strait just before dawn. Time to wake the Master, who
has been trying to catch a few hours rest before this tricky passage. The seas were choppy and confused at first, but gradually subsided as we passed between Swan and Cape
Barren Islands. As the sun rose, so did the spirits and appetite of the crew. At last Vivienne’s efforts in the galley were really appreciated and, finally, the wind was in the right quarter to set some sails! Everyone was so busy enjoying the lovely sail that we all forgot it was April Fools day. Except Jan, who managed to fool us about a pod of dolphins that were not on the bow wave but on her T-shirt. Robyn, at the helm doing 6 knots with five sails set in a steady 15 knot breeze, commented that: “If you judged a trip by the number of bruises, this one would win hands down. However, if all the days were like this, today would not be special.” Sam reported that during that first 24 hrs almost everyone was sick and most said they would never do it again, even wanting to jump ship. But by Banks Strait, almost everyone had adapted, was enjoying it and wanted to come again!

Charles noted that the trip had its gremlins, but not as bad as previous trips. We had to get hot water in buckets from the shower, because the galley tap had jammed on cold, until 48 hrs of shaking managed to free it up! Then Peter and he had to repair the salt-water pump so we could flush toilets. The secondary sullage alarm that beeped constantly in the saloon (unless by-passed) had to wait till Beauty Point to be fixed. We timed our sail along Bass Strait to reach the entrance to the Tamar by dead low tide, 2330 hrs.

Just short of Hebe Reef off Low Head we turned into river. It was a slow, tense trip in the dark, with Charles at the helm Brian, Mal and Sam aft with the radar and chart and the rest looking out for’ard, following the leading lights and channel markers that zig-zag their way between the mud flats and rocks. What a relief when Mick’s spotlight picked out the pontoon at Beauty Point, and Brian eased the vessel alongside with assistance from the incoming tide. At 0230 a tired and relieved crew celebrated that Brian had delivered us without serious mishap, over tea and cakes since nothing stronger had survived the trip! Only Peter was heard to mutter: “It’s past my bedtime.”

Thursday April 2nd: A late start after the first restful night saw a ravenous crew appreciating Viv’s wonderful breakfast. Then we thoroughly cleaned the ship, from heads to stern. Mal engaged in a spot of fishing off the wharf , but neither he nor the fish were impressed with his luminous pinkrubber bait; he only managed to hook some smelly old broccoli that somehow got onto his hook while he was asked for his opinion by the engineers repairing the sullage alarm. The crew were finally able to relax that evening over Vivienne’s award-winning roast lamb (held over from Tues when NO-ONE would have appreciated it).

Friday April 3rd: A rest day for everyone except Vivienne, who headed to the supermarket to restock supplies for the next leg of the trip. All but three of the rest of the crew headed for the bus, leaving Sam wailing: “Who is going to fix my lunch?”, having no success at inveigling Monica into the galley.

Brian summed up the trip:“We had some bad times. A good crew for my first off-shore solo trip. Persistent NE head wind with nowhere to shelter. Constant worry about so many crew seasick with all the duties left to the few left standing. Banks Strait was not as bad as I had feared.”

Lindsay described the trip as: “A character-building experience battling head winds and confused swells."

But Monica won the best quote of the trip:“You should always join a ship after the first 24 hrs since the first 24 are the worst!” (She is now singing the praises of Quells.)

By Jane Elek

Unorthodox Instructions

While at the helm of our beloved Lady Nelson, battling the high seas and raging waves up the east coast of Tasmania, just past Schouten Island, I looked longingly at the entrance to Schouten Passage as we passed by. Then, just as I had given up all hope of having a peaceful breakfast in the reasonable quiet waters of Bryan’s Bay, the order came: “Turn her around and head to the left of that ‘lumpy bit’”. Wow! That was all I needed to know. I had been watching that space slide past for the last 20 minutes or so, and knew exactly where to go. I brought our Lady gently around (no half donuts here) and headed for the Passage.

The quieter waters inside the Bay were a welcome relief for the crew, with most of us enjoying one of Vivienne’s hearty breakfasts, the others resting their tummies. Alas, that was the only rest we got on the ‘up’ trip to the Tamar, although the weather did abate a bit the further north we got. Once safely berthed alongside ‘our pontoon’ at Beauty Point, a midnight feast was enjoyed by all crew in the saloon, put on by Vivienne. It was all smiles and a good winding down in a much-relaxed atmosphere, then a calm night’s sleep. Alright for some, but others missed the ‘gentle’ rocking movement! HA!

By Your Roving Eye

In the Tamar and the Trip South

by a new crew member


The Lady Nelson rekindles the magic

It is five years since I sailed as a passenger on a tall ship and almost ten years since I furled a sail or hauled on a line, and until I saw an advertisement for short cruises on the Lady Nelson, I thought my tall-ship sailing days were over. So when I read that the replica brig was to spend a week at King’s Wharf, Beauty Point in the north of the state, I jumped at the chance to go for a short sail. The ship’s cook pumping out sea shanties on an accordion and it was a fine afternoon when I walked across the gangplank to the deck of the small wooden ship.

Within ten minutes we were heading down-river, towards George Town and after speaking with the crew, I was invited to join the Tasmanian Tall Ship Association and, if I wished, to assist on deck while the ship was in the north of the state. The following day, proudly sporting my new Lady Nelson shirt, I was delighted to help welcome aboard groups of school children and seniors, a charter of cancer survivors and even the Northern Tasmania ABC Radio crew. The short river cruises took each charter out across the broad Tamar River which HM Colonial Brig Lady Nelson explored in 1804.

Unfortunately for northern Tasmanians, the Lady Nelson only visits the north every second year and after a week she returns to Hobart, her home port. Two days before she was due to sail south, one of the 18-member crew pulled out due to illness. Much to my surprise Captain Mal invited me to take his place.

What an opportunity!

To sail along Bass Strait as the original Lady Nelson did in 1800. To spend five days aboard this historic replica brig which played such a significant role in the settlement of Tasmania. To sail around the south east coast of Tasmania and see scenery unchanged since the days of Van Diemen. Wow!

We sailed on Good Friday and even leaving Inspection Head was an event to remember. The departure was scheduled to coincide with the Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks Race and thousands of spectators lined the wharf. When the starting gun was fired, the thirteen competing yachts, accompanied by a flotilla of small craft, headed down the Tamar River. The weather was perfect and Lady Nelson, with Captain Alan as her skipper, sailed out in style, the crew dressing the yards and bowsprit. Ahead was Bass Strait where the Three Peaks Race competitors would head to Flinders Island. For their runners, Mt Strzelecki was the first challenge. Lady Nelson however was heading east along the coast of the mainland. We were not to see the yachts for another two days.

That night as we sailed along on Bass Strait, the sea was rough and despite all my seasickness precautions, I succumbed to motion sickness. Feeling too unwell to go below, I spent the whole of the first night on deck – my only consolation was that I was not the only crew member suffering from mal de mer. When morning eventually arrived, we dropped anchor in Binalong Bay providing everyone with the opportunity to sit down to breakfast at a horizontal galley table. After filling my empty stomach and with all signs of seasickness gone and forgotten, I was able to look forward to the days ahead – golden sunrises and sunsets, 360 degrees of blue ocean broken only by the seals and dolphins splashing through the water.

Before daybreak on day three, I left the deck to catch a couple of hours sleep and was woken to the rumble of the anchor chain announcing that we had arrived in Coles Bay. On the tiny wharf, people were gathering and tents had been erected to house the supporters of the Three Peaks Race.

While we waited for the first boats to arrive, the younger members of the crew assembled the Lady Nelson’s new dinghy and put it to the test. An interesting exercise! At midday, Slingshot, of Neil Buckby Subaru was the first boat to enter the bay. According to the Three Peaks Race rules, competitors are not allowed to use their engines and with virtually no wind to assist them the crew of Slingshot resorted to oars and rowed their catamaran to the wharf. Not an easy task. No sooner had they docked than their two runners were despatched around The Hazards to climb Mt Freycinet. It was about two hours before the next yacht arrived and the sun was almost setting when a large group of race competitors sailed into view. For the runners it would be a daunting task to tackle Mt Freycinet in the dark.

At 9.00pm Lady Nelson weighed anchor and we resumed our voyage south. Though the moon was almost full, the night was black when we navigated around the Isle de Phoques and Maria Island. Unfortunately with a southerly wind blowing, it was necessary for the little brig to go under motor. I slept well for four hours and when I woke we were in the tranquil inlet of Fortescue Bay, the water broken only by the dolphins which circled the ship. After a brief stop for breakfast, our heading was Tasman Island at the tip of South Eastern Tasmania. Sailing past the Candlestick at Cape Hauy and south to Cape Pillar, more dolphins danced in the bow waves, seals serpentined through the sea and young albatross fed on the schools of fish which at times ruffled the surface. But when we rounded Cape Pillar, and headed west into Maingon Bay, the sea rose and heaved with a near four meter swell. The little brig pitched and heeled, burying her bow in the oncoming wall of water and sending foam rushing across the deck and pouring from the scuppers. Riding each trough was electric. Ahead was the dragon-like promontory of Cape Raoul and as we sailed by the swell eased a little. We had entered Storm Bay which was to provide four hours of pitching and heeling to the sway of the Southern Ocean.

With the homeward journey almost complete, there was time to overnight at the wharf in Woodridge on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. It was time for the crew to unwind and celebrate a successful voyage.
On the final morning, I was on the helm as we headed north along the channel to Hobart. Off the starboard side was Bruny Island and from the port side I saw the small shipyard where the replica of the 1789 colonial brig, Lady Nelson, was built over 20 years ago. Hobart lay ahead and by the time we sailed into the harbour, the competitors in the Three Peaks Race were already home, the runners having climbed Mt Wellington, the last leg of their ultra marathon.

As I gazed along the wooden deck, mind drifted. I imagined what Van Diemen, D’Entrecasteaux and Boudin had thought when they first witnessed the spectacular scenery of the south east coast of this southern island. Standing on the deck of a tall ship provides an opportunity to step back in time and sail in the wake of the adventurers.

Thank you, Lady Nelson, for giving me that opportunity.

By Margaret Muir

Recollections by a seasoned crew member

The trip back to Hobart was much less of a drama, weather wise, than the trip up to Beauty Point. We had a small patch of rough weather which sent things banging and crashing in the galley, and we had some 'rock and rollers' once through the 'gap' at Tasman Island and Cape Pillar, so lunch was off during that ride.

Back at Coles Bay we rested for the day, swimming (the water was freezing, but once the numbness kicked in, it was fine) fishing and experimenting getting people out of the sea with the handy-billy was all good fun; even the Easter Bunny paid us all a visit. The sea was awash with dolphins on our way to Fortescue Bay - it was sheer magic; there were also large numbers of Sooty Faced Albatross, seals and plenty of fish.

Beautiful sunsets, sunrises and moonlight....what more could one ask. Well, there was just one thing we would have asked for. WIND !!!!!! Ah can’t have everything. It was a fantastic trip nevertheless, and on our final night at Woodbridge we had an absolute ball singing with music, yarns and the odd splash of wine and beer kindly delivered (the pub was shut, a time when the old mobile phone proves its worth!!). Our much-deserved refreshments were personally delivered to the Lady, via the prearranged phone order. A car awaited our arrival and 'give that man a medal' (who must remain anonymous for security reasons!!!!!) handed over the 'grog' to a round of cheers and applause!!

What a wonderful way to round off the trip. Thank you to all.

By Barbara Moulton