the Eye sailing!
EYE OF THE WIND
(for Australian friends - Ina)
It is a shock to realise that it is rapidly approaching 4 years since we cleared Sydney Heads in company with 'Soren Larsen' to sail before the westerly winds, accompanying the albatrosses heading for Cape Horn. The Cape Horn newsletter was no doubt the last many of you have heard from us, with the itinerary of our proposed voyage back to Australia. As you must have realised, this did not eventuate, so since August 1992 we have left our wake in the northern hemisphere. Circumstances were such, including the world economic situation, which made it unviable for us to make a return voyage at that time.
The ship found employment with the Scottish Maritime Sailing Trust, sailing with young people from the British Isles. Before the first of the winter frosts, we headed south to pick up the Portuguese trades, which took us to Porto Santo and Madeira and on to the Canary Islands. From there we departed for the 3,000 mile ocean passage to the Caribbean.
Our Caribbean days have given us some superb sailing, amongst these islands steeped in history since Columbus first found them in 1492. Each island has its own individual flavour, depending on its past colonial rulers. It is quite easy to imagine the days when Nelson's fleet sailed these waters, and every headland was fortified as England and the powers of Europe battled for domination of these then rich sugar islands.
Large sailing ships still ply these waters, 'Sea Cloud', 'Star Clipper' and the large Windjammer fleet. Hardly a day goes by without the sight of square sails appearing over the horizon. Apart from their historical appeal, the islands offer rain forests, waterfalls, extinct volcanoes and beautiful beaches with diving and snorkelling. There are still many unspoilt areas to which one can escape. Balmy evenings can be spent ashore listening to reggae (Bob Marley is still a very strong influence) or the local steel bands, as most bars have jump-ups (parties) quite a few nights of the week. One has learnt to be careful of the famous local rum punches, as the mixers they use are more expensive to buy than the rum they put in them - consequently for the unwary, there are often a few associated headaches the next day.
On departing the Caribbean, our usual route was to head north to Bermuda with its picturesque bays and pastel coloured houses. New London was our port of entry into North America, and from here we were able to visit the superb Mystic Maritime Museum. This area was famous for building the fast clipper ships of James Baines, and also the notorious down easters, which carried people to the California gold rush, and then later to Australia. After an interesting passage through the Cape Cod Canal, Provincetown (where the Pilgrim Fathers first landed in America) was one of our favourite stops. It is also famous as an enclave for many American artists and writers in the 50's and 60's, and even to the present day. Boston was always one massive shopping spree both for the ship and individuals. Its excellent second hand maritime book shops were always a trap for the crew.
By the time you get this newsletter we will be in to our fourth North Atlantic passage, and we are hoping for a repeat of last year, when in 20 days we sailed from Cape Cod light to the entrance of Cobh harbour in Southern Ireland - an average speed of 6.3 knots. This passage is always challenging, due to icebergs being set south by the Labrador current, and the dreaded fogs which are often experienced off the Grand Banks. You certainly need your thermals in this part of the world in May / June. Numerous sightings of whales and dolphins are usually made on this route.
For the second year running, we sailed deep into the English countryside via the Severn Estuary and the Sharpness Canal to Gloucester. Here in this picturesque cathedral city, we drydocked the ship. Last year, on top of the normal work, we installed a new Hunderstat propellor which has made an incredible difference to our performance under power.
On leaving Gloucester we visited Lundy Island in the middle of the Bristol Channel - once the home of wreckers, who lured ships onto the island's rocky shores by using false lights. On to the Scilly Isles which are part of the Duchy of Cornwall owned by Prince Charles. These islands have inspired many of his watercolours, but unfortunately we didn't see him at his easel.
Whilst we have been in Europe, we have been able to participate in 2 of the STA Tall Ships gatherings. 1993 took us to Newcastle for a race to Bergen in Norway, and then on to Larvik (Norway), Esbjerg (Denmark) and Antwerp in Belgium. It was good to experience the comradeship and hype of tall ship fever which accompanies these events. As usual, the large Russian square-riggers dwarfed everybody, but the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden had the most number of entrants.
Whilst on passage from Bergen to Larvik, we cruised in company with 'Soren Larsen', 'Jens Krogh' from Denmark, and 'Hawila' from Sweden. Lennart Martinson, the Captain of 'Hawila' took us to some unbelievable anchorages as we headed through the fjordland of southern Norway. His Mother's family owned 'Merry from 1923 to 1956, and some of the family came aboard which no doubt would have brought back many old memories - some of them had not seen the ship since we purchased her in 1973.
From Antwerp we had to return our crew of young Scots to Glasgow, and we decided to make a passage across the North Sea and then go through the Caledonia Canal. Had a superb sail down Loch Ness with all squares set (no 'Nessie' of course). it took us 3 days to transit the canal, with nightly stops at quaint villages and pubs. Enjoyed someScottish haggis but not their midges, which seemed to descend on us in the stillness of the twilight summer evenings.
A spectacular start to the 1994 Tall Ships race commenced at the Eddystone light (off (Plymouth). 'Eye of the Wind' battled with 'Malcolm Miller' and the Russian 'Kruzenshtern' to cross the line. Once into the Bay of Biscay on our way to La Coruna (northern Spain), we were dogged by light airs but as we ghosted along hundreds of dolphins and many, many whales kept us company. The sail in company was from La Coruna to Oporto (Portugal), which was where Henry the Navigator was born. Every vessel left Oporto with bottles of port, kindly donated by that city.
After a slow start, we experienced a series of squalls. Whilst trying to manoeuvre through other vessels of the fleet and dodge numerous Spanish fishing vessels, we experienced one severe squall as we were wearing ship. The main boom parted by way of the preventer band, and a section of the boom came down and injured Geoff Andrewartha's hand as he was on the wheel. Several other vessels had to retire due to storm damage, with masts and sail suffering the most. The race once again ended in light airs., with few square-rigged vessels able to round the waypoint off Ushant (France).
At St Malo, an historical walled city, we marched through the streets; and were surprised at the closing ceremony to be awarded the 'Concourse d' Elegance', which was a beautiful watercolour of Grand Banks fishing barquentines departing St Malo.
Crossing the Channel to the still working china clay port of Charlestown we wondered if the ship had visited this still working port as 'Friedrich' in earlier times. The port is cut out of the cliffs, and it was like stepping back into the 16th Century - a forest of masts and spars with Square-Sail's vessels 'Kaskelot', 'Carrie' and 'Earl of Pembroke' sharing the lock basin. Our replacement main boom, a 50' Douglas Fir was awaiting us in Square-Sail's workshop. With the help of a Danish shipwright it was shaped and fitted in a few days. We now have a standing gaff with a brailing mainsail and have the option of lowering and reefing the mainsail if so desired. one watch can handle it under most conditions. In actual fact, we think it enhances the look of the ship. The mainsail alone now has 26 blocks - a varnisher's nightmare!
At this stage we severed our connection with the Scottish Maritime Sailing Trust due to bad debts on their part.
The Western Isles of Scotland was once again a magical place, with spectacular anchorages, superb sailing and a bout of wonderful weather. The ruggedness brought back memories of the terrain and beauty of Port Davey in South West Tasmania. Whilst sailing off Iona, we had a short service and scattered the ashes of Capt Tim Gallantly, whom some of you may have known.
Yet another hurried turnaround before departing for Malta, as we were to be used in the harbour scenes for the movie 'Cutthroat Island' (starring Gina Davis).
A good sail across the Bay of Biscay, passing through the Straits of Gibraltar 9 days out of Penzance. A strong westerly wind carried us 170 miles into the Med, and then promptly died. Our new propellor came to the fore, and we motored along doing the incredible speed (for us) of 7-8 knots. All these years of plodding along seemingly getting nowhere have hopefully come to an end. It certainly has made an amazing difference. The blue eyed wiggly squid gave us an excellent and unprecedented catch of 5 tuna and one swordfish (which made beautiful eating). The Med was the last place we expected to catch anything.
Unfortunately, 'Cutthroat Island' had blown its budget, and they decided not to use us after all. This gave us a lay over period of 4 weeks in Malta with perfect weather, giving us the opportunity to rake out all the seams and completely replug and re-caulk the main deck. Our berth was in the Grand Harbour, Valletta, in an area known as Birgu which was the scene of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 between the Knights of the Order of St John and the Turkish Empire. Most read the book about this amazing event, which put the whole place in a different perspective. For the non readers, there was lots of sandstone, churches and good cheap local beer.
We set sail for Tenerife and with unseasonal winds, managed to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar after only 7 days. On the dark, moonless night that we passed the Rock, we were treated to a most incredible performance of dolphins streaming like fireballs through the phosphoresce. They stayed with us for 3 hours.
For the first time since Cape Horn Santa had to find us at sea, 7 days out of Tenerife Emma got worried that he would miss us in the expanse of ocean, but luckily he called in at the last minute, and lowered a bag of toys to the deck.
For the next 3 months we cruised the Windward and Leeward islands of the Antilles, spending time at our favourite haunts. In mid March, we returned to the Northern Grenadines to commence a motion film entitled 'White Squall'. The story concerns an ex Dutch pilot boat called 'Albatross', which was first restored to sail by the writer Ernest Gann (High & the Mighty, Twilight of the Gods). In the late 1950's she was sold to Christopher Sheldon, a nephew of Irving Johnson of 'Yankee' fame. He and his wife ran a sea going academy, with young men from America. Their 6 month voyage commenced in Bermuda and took them to the islands of the Caribbean and then through the Panama Canal for an extended stay at the Galapagos. On returning to the Caribbean, they experienced an intense electrical storm off the coast of Yucatan. On the 8-12 watch whilst the vessel was ghosting along in light airs with all sail set, the storm approached them. A thunderbolt struck the sea very close to the ship, and within minutes they were hit by a white squall, or as it is known nowadays as a microburst. 'Albatross' was driven under within minutes by this intense downdraught, and 5 of the crew perished including the Captain's wife. The script is based on a diary kept by one of the young men who survived the tragedy. Ridley Scott (Thelma and Louise, 1492, Alien) is the Director, and the stars are Jeff Bridges, Caroline Goodall and John Savage. The young men are played by a group of up and coming young actors from the States. Locations have taken us to St Vincent, Soufriere and Grenada.
They have also built a full size replica of the ship from the stem to the forward deckhouse, in a tank in Malta, and a 4 foot model as well. Both these will be used in the capsizing sequence. An amazing mechanical dolphin is in Bermuda for part of the story, which takes up an entire 40' container and needs 6 handlers to operate the electronics.
Like the rest of the world, the Caribbean this winter has experienced unseasonable weather patterns. The water temperature is 2 degrees up, and since November the area has had only light trade winds, with very little rain. These conditions have made it very difficult for us to achieve the opening storm scenes when the 'Albatross' first departed Bermuda. So we have been hunting for rough weather from Grenada up to Bermuda, where we are laying at anchor at present We did think we were going to be heading for Southern Ireland or Sardinia, but we heard 2 days ago that they want us in Capetown - a 65 to 70 day passage- For anyone interested in a last minute bargain voyage, we will be departing Cape Town for the West Indies in early October, calling in at St Helena and Ascension, before arriving in the West Indies early December 1995.
After receiving numerous enquiries via the grapevine from many people who had sailed in the ship, we are taking this opportunity whilst Deb and Emma are back in Australia for a couple of months to get out this long overdue newsletter, to let you know what has happened in the past 4 years and what we plan for the future. Owing to the fact that the ship has been in the northern hemisphere and we were under charter for 2 years, we could not justify maintaining the Sydney office. This gave Lesley the opportunity for a well earned rest, and the time to pursue her own career.
As it is 20 years in October 1996 since the 'Eye of the Wind' first sailed on her outward voyage to Australia, we have decided to make a return voyage at this time, which will also co-incide with the Tall Ships gathering in Sydney in January 1998. It is then our intention to compete in the Tall Ships race tram Sydney to Tasmania before doing some voyages out of Hobart to the south west wilderness area.
We have formulated a long term plan for the ship, and enclosed is an itinerary for the next 2-3 years to give you an idea of our movements. We do realise that a lot of this is in the northern hemisphere, but perhaps some of you may be interested in joining us.
Deb's parents (Keith & Betty Heydon) have been keeping the office ticking over for us. Should you require any information or help, we have 2 contact addresses:
Whether or not you are able to sail with us in the future, we hope to see many of you when we return to Australia. We are updating our mailing list, and would be very grateful if you could assist us by completing the appropriate section below if applicable.(…)