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Monday, February 4, 2013

A World of History in our OwnBack-yard.


Recently I read a delightful e-mail by fellow Historical  Writer  Kaye Chaloner, and I was instantly reminded that here in Australia we have a lot of  maritime History under our very noses, as long as someone points us in the right direction.
So thank-you Kaye, because it prompted me to share a tiny bit of it. :)

And being that  I love to write Historical fiction, therefore Historical Romance Novels are usually found at the top of the pecking order in my reading preference and TBR pile, I'm going to talk Ships....
BIG ships...
TALL ships.
Ships from an age when those mighty crafts ruled the seas.
They have long fascinated me and I feel they add adventure, nostalgia and of course the romantic vision of a time that has long slipped away.
But in Australia we do not have to venture far to see or experience this wondrous feeling because it is right here in our own back yard.

Here is what Kaye said:
"I write regency but I do have pirates in my book and I thought many of you who have ships in your books maybe interested. This is the Duyfken and it is housed at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour 40 Mews Road which just happens to be over the road from where the RWA 2013 Conference will be held, the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle...IMAGINE THAT!! This is a blurb I have just received in the visitor Center.

...Step back in time as you walk the decks, smell tarred hemp and oiled oak, stoop to explore the dark recesses below. Imagine the crew talking, the roar of guns, timber creaking as rigging strains and canvas Billows....
Open from 1000 - 1600 Mon - Fri and it is $10.00 per adult.

Thanks Kaye, and I'm sure now there will now be many more people who will make the journey to see her if they are lucky enough to be in your neck of the woods. :))

So now I'd like to share with you a little history from the east coast of Australia.
Knowing my love of anything historical and romantic, a few years ago as a birthday gift, my family bought tickets for a full day's cruise out of Sydney Heads on a tall ship.           
Currently birthed at Wharf 7 at Darling Harbour, in beautiful Sydney Harbour, is the James Graig, one of the last of only four ships of her era and rig, that are still afloat, that puts to sea fortnightly (when she is not on a voyage to Hobart or Melbourne) 
 And we were told on our "voyage", that the James Craig is the only one of those ships that still goes to sea for 'paying' tourists.  HOW LUCKY ARE WE?

As the Clan Macleod
Originally named  Clan Macleod, the ship was built in Sunderland, England in 1874 and was employed to carry cargo around the world. In 1905 she was acquired by Mr JJ Craig, and renamed the James Craig,where she operated between New Zealand and Australia until 1911. With the advance of steamships the James Craig could no longer compete profitably and was abandoned at Recherche Bay in Tasmania, where she was blasted by local fishermen, and sank with a 3 metre hole in her stem.  
In 1972 some dedicated volunteers re-floated her and towed her to Hobart where she underwent initial repairs enough to see her make a new sea -journey. She was then toed back to Sydney in 1981 and work began (out of the water) on the restoration, which was undertaken by many enthusiastic volunteers and paid crafts-people. The James Craig was relaunched in 1997 and completely restored and ready to sail. Thousands of ships like her plied the oceans in the 19th & 20th centuries linking the old world with the new. The James Craig is sailed in the traditional 19th Century manner entirely by Volunteers of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, from the Ships' Master to the Galley Crew. She has 140 running lines secured to belaying pins and spider bands and most of the crew know each one by name. 

One thing that was abundantly evident when we were on board the James Craig , was how devoted and passionate the crew were about their beloved Ship. They were only too willing to answer any questions and never got tired of our (probably mundane)questions. 
The cost of maintaining the James Craig is  close to $1 million a year and the ship relies on generating income from visitors, charters events and regular fortnightly day sails with up to 80 passengers. We had over 60 passengers on board that day and truly I do not know where they all were. there is plenty of room not feel claustrophobic  ... only sea-sick! :)

Although it was August, we must have scored the only Sunday that was not a blustery day, (maybe that was not a bad thing too?) But because of the lack of high winds All the sails were not hoisted, which was a bit of a disappointment to me, I think they only raised 10. As you can see here, by lunch-time (which comprised of each passenger receiving their own lunch bag filled with a variety of yummy food, the seas had all but gone to sleep. :)) We got to feel what it would have been like to be be-calmed. Ok for us we were only an hour off Sydney Heads, but imaging being in the middle of the vast ocean way back then ...bbrrrrrrrr. It did pick up though when we were ready to return to the Harbour. Then things were really exhilarating.
While on board the crew went through training, drills, raised sails, (we got to participate) and they performed a *man-over-board rescue with the long boat, as it would have been done back then.


Here is a photo taken from a port hole, and as we sailed out of the Harbour  one of the crew positioned us so that as we passed by the city, you could take this perfect picture of Sydney tower. I love it.
To the left is a photo I took, as we were about to leave the wharf, of the Young Endeavor that was in port as well and just making her way on her own day cruise of the inner Harbour.
For a cover fee into the  Sydney Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour  you can go on board a Submarine,(which was great)  the James Graig and the Young Endeavor. They have all the prices and dates of when all the cruises are available throughout the year. Which is most of the time.
One of the crew did say that the very best trip passengers flock to on the James Graig is the annual sail up the coast to Newcastle & back to Sydney for the Maritime festival in Newcastle in October.  
It was truly one of the most unforgettable day trips I have eve had. Right up there with our tour of London Tower   
The crew were marvelously patient with our ongoing questions and allowed us all sorts of privileges.


It was interesting that the ages of volunteers ranged from 18yr olds to ... well, well-seasoned salts.. :)). And many of the experienced hands (captain, petty officer, Ist officer   are ex-naval persons, so is it no wonder they love their ship. The ocean is always their Mistress :))  

 Here you can see the magnificence when the James Craig is under full-sail!  
Ahhhh isn't she just wonderful :)) 
     

The James Craig under full Sail

Maybe us Historical girls should make a date with the sea?