the Eye sailing!
Captain's Log-"S.T.V. Eye of The Wind"
Stemming the boiling tide, the "Eye of the Wind" is framed between York and Eborac Islands. Directly south of us lies Cape York. Looking shoreward we observe our crew and trainees, appearing as a line of colourful ants, scrambling down the rocky terrain to stand on the northernmost tip of the Australian mainland, a feat we last achieved in 1986.
The eastern coast of Australia and Tasmania has been our home these past 8 months since we arrived in Cairns last October.
After a week of dealing with officialdom, restoring and acclimatising ourselves to the luxuries we all take for granted (decent bread, snow-peas, mud-cake and beer) we headed north to the fabled Ribbon reefs which are located on the outer limits of the Great Barrier Reef. Breathtaking diving and snorkelling was enjoyed at spots like "The Cod Hole, Pixie Bombie, Temple of Doom and Steve's Bombie". The highlight was several days spent at north horn, off Osprey Reef, which is in the Coral Sea, where fish life was numerous, (including sharks) and the visibility seemed limitless.
Northeasterly winds carried us forth to Dunk Island, where the beautiful blue butterfly can be found. If not in the bush, there is one tiled on the bottom of the swimming pool.
Magnetic Island gave everyone the opportunity to take to the saddle for horse rides along the beach, or jump on the ferry to Townsville to experience the world-class aquarium.
Through the Whitsundays to Middle Percy, where in the early morning light the ex-pearling lugger "Ruby Charlotte" sailed out to welcome us to the island home of Liz and John Hickling and their 2 sons Jacob and Justin, who have undertaken the enormous task of maintaining the island on behalf of Andy Martin, who is at present in the UK. John and Liz met on the "Eye" and were married aboard in 1988. Middle Percy was named by Matthew Flinders and has a colourful history dating back to that time. The White family grazed sheep and traded with the mainland town of Mackay for many years before Andy took over the lease in the early 1960's. Countless yachtsmen since then have enjoyed the amenities of a classic "A" frame house on the pristine beach, and sampled the home-grown wares such as jam, mango chutney, honey, cured coat skins and most importantly, honey mead.
In the moonlight we eagerly awaited the female turtles to come lumbering up the beach at North West Island, to lay their eggs in the fine sand above the high-water mark. They are extremely dextrous with their flippers, and use them as precision tools to scoop out the sand when making their nests.
We bade farewell to the Great Barrier Reef with diving and snorkelling at Heron Island (where everyone got the chance to visit the reef research centre) and Lady Musgrave Island Reef.
Proceeding south off Frazer Island we encountered a south-easterly gale which had us hove to for 18 hours under lower topsail and staysail.
Port Stephens (with its enormous quantity of dolphins) and Broken Bay were the last ports of call before our entry through the Heads into Sydney Harbour.
Even though Sydney has countless miles of wharves, we were to experience the problems all visiting vessels now have of seeking a berth. Too big for the yacht marinas, we have to apply for a commercial berth, however, with so much of the waterfront (and associated wharves) being sold to developers, there is very little available for vessels in our category. After 2 days at White Bay the Tall Ship organisers wanted us to go to Pyrmont (in front of the old casino) to promote the event, and be visible for the TV cameras when the Whitbread yachts arrived. Unfortunately, the yachts arrived in the middle of the night, and the whole event as far as public interest was concerned was a non-starter, which must have been disappointing for the organisers and participants alike.
Christmas was a relatively relaxed event, as we had only 20 people for dinner, with ex-crew, relations and friends turning up to enjoy the day. With the Sydney Fish Markets being so accessible by boat and the road traffic so congested, we opted for seafood, with some crayfish we had brought with us from PNG thrown in.
New Year's Eve was a little more hectic, being in prime position to watch the spectacular fireworks display.
A four-day charter with the Guides/Rangers took us to Wollongong, where we were hauled out on the public slipway. The Lloyds representative there carried out our biennial survey for the DTI in the UK. As always it was an extremely busy time, water-blasting the hull, antifouling, sprucing up the topsides, and the million and one other small jobs that go with slipping. Our Shore Manager from the UK, Fred Saunders joined us for that period and he had his usual busman's holiday helping out.
Once afloat again, we had an extremely fast passage up to Sydney with the help of a southerly buster, and joined the other vessels gathered in Darling Harbour for the Tall Ships celebrations. The fallacy of the definition "tall ship" caused some disappointment with the general public. Any vessel over 35 feet carrying trainees is now classed as a "tall ship"! The organisers hoped to have 90 vessels but very few of these were in fact square-rigged; "Pallada" and "Nzdeshda" from Russia, "Guatemoc" from Mexico, "Dewaruchi" from Indonesia, "Young Endeavour", "One and All", "Lady Nelson", "Enterprise" and "Eye of the Wind" were the only vessels with crossed yards. The remainder of the vessels were schooners and yachts. Also the excitement and spectacle of the First Fleet Re-enactment, sailing into Sydney Harbour on Australia Day in 1988 was a hard act to follow.
During this period in Sydney, a re-union of the First Fleet Re-enactment voyagers was held on the "South Steyne" in Darling Harbour. It was a great success with many people travelling from overseas to catch up with their old shipmates.
At the final briefing for the annual Sydney to Hobart race, on 25 January, the weather deteriorated, with strong gusty southerly winds causing ships to lose their flags and bunting, and a southerly buster forecast for the start of the race at 15:00 on 26 January. Fortunately for everyone, Australia Day dawned with clear blue skies and the Parade of Sail was able to proceed as planned. The gusty conditions and numerous spectator craft caused a few anxious moments with the fleet as they rounded Cockatoo Island and headed down the Harbour, under the bridge to the Heads. As we were following in the wake of "Guatemoc" we had to make a hurried course alteration when she had steering problems and collided with the wharf at Goat Island. Thankfully the vessel sustained no serious damage, and she was able to continue to Hobart.
In reasonable conditions, the competitors assembled off North Head giving a spectacular start to the race as the wind freshened out of the Northeast. Sailing down the New South Wales coast, the fleet soon spread out, with the leaders being "Pallada" and some of the larger modern yachts. Masters eagerly awaited daily radio reports to find out where other vessels in their class were, and if they had chosen the best track. By Eden the fleet had broken up into two groups, those working inshore, and the rest 30-40 miles off. Several vessels retired with injuries and gear failure. Parallel with Gabo Island the fleet was hit by a spectacular southerly buster, whose ominous dark clouds caused crews to race aloft to reduce sail and batten down before its arrival. During the next 24 hours, gale-force winds were experienced by most of the fleet, and many sought shelter in Bermagui and Eden. The leaders battled the winds trying to cross the Bass Strait. (Great stuff). It became obvious, once again, that the time allowed for the race would not be sufficient, especially for the square-riggers, to make Hobart in time for the festivities. The end of the race was brought forward 24 hours, and no A-class vessels reached the finishing line in time.
After powering for 18 hours, the wind freshened out of the North when we were abeam Flinders Island. This gave us a spectacular run down the East Coast of Tasmania, surfing down waves at times. This we carried right to Cape Raoul, when the wind died, but within minutes a sea-breeze came in and carried us to the mouth of the Derwent at the Iron Pot light.
"Ndezda" appeared from the southeast and both of us berthed after dark at Elizabeth Street Pier. Hobart continued its traditions as a sea-faring state and made all the vessels wonderfully welcome. All enjoyed the party atmosphere and multitude of organised events. There was a "Traditional wooden boat and historical vessel" gathering happening in conjunction with the Tall Ships. To everybody's applause, the coveted Cutty Sark Trophy was awarded to "Dewaruchi".
Yet another "Parade of Sail" saw us departing Hobart at the start of the "Round Tasmania Regatta" (Van Diemens Land Regatta). In fact, the fleet was larger than that which departed Sydney and included the square-rigged vessels "Young Endeavour", "One and All", "Lady Nelson" and "Eye of the Wind". We were under charter to the main sponsors of the race, "Tassal" (the largest producer of salmon and associated products in Tasmania). The organisers had broken the regatta into fivelegs, and their Australian clients, staff and business associates joined for each section. As well as promoting their own products, they generously provided an excellent selection of Tasmanian wines, beer and cheeses. Consequently, a fantastic time was had by all, even though the Tasmanian weather lived up to its reputation of being in the Roaring '40's. On some legs wind strengths of 50-60 knots were experienced, along with humungous seas, particularly along the south coast.
The stark grandeur of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour conjured up constant visual masterpieces on our three visits there. Whilst anchored off the Celery Top Islands with the "One and All" and "Windward Bound", a sea mist drifting off the shore shrouded the vessels. As the sun's heat intensified, sunlight broke through the swirls of mist and in the calm buttongrass waters, perfect reflections appeared. To cap this, Mount Rugby looked down majestically from above the shallow mist. (Wow).
Days flew by, as we explored this wilderness, with visits to Melaleuca, canoe trips up the Spring River, and countless shore expeditions to enjoy this unique World Heritage area. Flocks of muttonbirds and albatross were our constant companions as we navigated the south coast. At Maatsuyker Island, we were lucky to swim with seals, and at Mewstone, we wondered how the albatross and gannets ever managed to cling to the steep, rocky formations, much less build their nests and sit precariously on the eggs.
All too soon, it was time for us to depart Tasmanian waters and return to Sydney. Tassie has always been special to us, and it was sad to sail away once more.
We surfed across the Bass Strait after calling in at Port Arthur, Maria Island and Wineglass Bay. At Flinders, everyone had a tour of the island, and Eric was able to obtain a supply of crayfish and abalone, much to everyone's delight.
A dilemma had been brewing on finding a berth in Sydney for our planned month there. Our worries were insignificant compared to the ructions taking place on the waterfront over the stevedoring strikes. We were extremely lucky to secure a free berth at the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. Sydney Ports would have charged us AUS$700.00 per day for being at White Bay (which is out the back of beyond).
On this refit, all the foreyards were sent down to be revarnished, the sails overhauled and restitched, and all the fore and back-stays were renewed, with Ross Pearce working endless hours to get the rig back together for our departure on 1 June.
During our month's stay, we had 10 days of rain, which put us behind on many of the projects we had planned. Thanks to the crew and some loyal volunteers, we were still able to depart Sydney only one day behind schedule.
Within days of us leaving Sydney, a series of lows formed off the NSW coast, and the State experienced some of its heaviest falls of snow, extremely strong winds, cold and rain. We were very lucky to have just missed these conditions, as we sailed northward.
Joanne and Andreas are in Perth - Andreas had a short spell as relief Chef on 'Leeuwin', and we understand he has itchy feet again and may be travelling back to the Alps.
Benny and Angela worked most of the Tasmanian season, and after assisting Roscoe and Suzy with some work on the 'Windward Bound', headed for Adelaide.
John and Thew left in Sydney in Johnno's white Range Rover, and headed north (after leaving their maps and coffee percolator behind) for Darwin. Hopefully they managed to navigate their way, and we should see them there.
Ross Pearce once again extended his time aboard and stayed on to Airlie Beach putting the final touches to the rig and leaving his mark on the fancy work around the deck. He returned to Sydney where Kerry has just completed further nursing studies.
Kate went back to UK to see her family, and returned again in Sydney to join us and complete her circumnavigation back to England.
Ross Waters spent some time in Torres Strait working on local cargo vessels before rejoining us in Sydney again for the voyage back.
Roscoe and Suzy (whom many of you know from their time aboard Australia and Europe) joined us for the Tasmanian voyages again this year. Roscoe has now gone to Devon to help Fred in his latest project- converting a fishing vessel into a pretty little 2 masted schooner 'Gipsy Mermaid'. For the short term, Suzy is at home keeping the fires burning (literally, as it is now winter down there).
Many people have asked what the ship's plans are after the UK, and where will she be in the year 2000?
The reason for us returning to northern waters was to enable us to become involved with a two year expedition called 'Fleet 2000'. The concept was that 13 sailing ships and an ex North Sea car ferry would do a circumnavigation of the world calling in at various ports. Youngsters from each country visited were to be involved, with various presentations and displays on different aspects of the new millenium on show. Unfortunately, no one to date has underwritten the concept, and with time marching on, it will be more and more difficult to organise within the time frame available.
We will be competing in the 1999 Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race from St Malo with sections to Greenock, Shetlands and Alborg in Denmark. We would then be planning to sail in the Western Isles on our return to UK. Definite dates will be finalised in the next few months.
There are a few ideas in the melting pot for 2000 - one possibility could be a voyage out to Australia again through Panama and the Pacific, with those wonderful destinations of Galapagos, Pitcaim, Easter Island.
© pictures byand