Monday, April 20, 2009

1804 - Lady Nelson explores the Tamar River

Built at Deptford on The Thames in 1798, HM Colonial Brig Lady Nelson was the first ship to explore the Tamar River in Northern Tasmania.
She returned later that year with the Buffalo to establish a settlement.
In 1813 the little brig, in company with the Minstrel transported 21 men, 6 women and 16 children from Norfolk Island to the Port Dalrymple settlement.
Today, in April 2009, the replica Lady Nelson unfurls her sails on the same stretch of river.
During a once a year visit to the north of Tasmania, the wooden boat allows tourists to recapture the days of sail.
Join me on my blog (below)as a tourist and a crew member as I sail with the ship half way around the coast of Tasmania.
My blog story starts at the end of the voyage.

For more on the Tall Ships I have sailed on or visited, go to my Tall Ships' site
For more information on The Lady Nelson and the Tasmanian Sail Training Association go to: LADY NELSON

Pic: Lady Nelson sails the Tamar River - 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hobart – Lady Nelson’s home port

What a feeling it was to sail up the River Derwent and into Constitution Dock.
Most of the yachts in the Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks Race had arrived before us and most of the runners had completed their final long endurance race up Mount Wellington.
I looked up at the mountain and remembered standing on the top with PJ in 2005.
It brought back happy memories.

And as Captain Alan eased the Lady Nelson against the wharf it was satisfying to know the ship had made it safely home.
Today the replica brig is run by the Sail Training Association of Tasmania and crewed by volunteers of all ages.
Sailing with her for an extended voyage was something I had never envisioned a week before we left Launceston.
I only wish I lived a little closer to Hobart so I could join the crew more often.
But I am sure I will be returning to sail back into history on the deck of the Lady Nelson.

Photos: Lady Nelson back in home port at Hobart
Hobart, the River Derwent and Storm Bay from the top of Mount Wellington

Yard where Lady Nelson replica was built

As we headed north bound for Hobart I was on the helm.
Part way up the channel we passed the small shipyard where the Lady Nelson replica was built in 1989.
Her construction was a project envisioned by a group of Tasmanians, but like the best laid plans of mice and men, for a time the ship’s future ran into troubled waters.

However after several years and much determined effort the replica ship, which holds so much significance in the history of Australia’s early settlement, was returned to serve the people of Tasmania.
It is now manned and run entirely by volunteers.

Photos: Yours truly on deck and shipyard on channel where the replica brig was built

Woodbridge on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel

After being tossed by the sea for 5 days, to wake to the glassy surface of the D'Entrecasteaux was unreal.
The wharf at Woodbridge is the place Lady Nelson moors on many of her short voyages.

All the crew were aware that Hobart and the Lady's home port were only a few hours’ sail to the north, and no one wanted the voyage to end.

Photos: Morning water at Woodbridge
The Lady Nelson at the Woodbridge wharf

Cape Pillar, Tasman Island and Storm Bay

From Cape Hauy to Cape Pillar the scenery got even better.
Ahead was the bottom corner of Tasmania with Tasman Island sitting like a full stop at the end of the line.
A channel runs between the island and the cape.
As we entered we could see a change in the sea ahead.
Half way through and we could feel the sea rising.
And as we emerged we were lifted by a near 4 meter swell with an angry sea running above it and dashing itself against the formidable cliffs.

The Lady Nelson pitched and heeled and waves broke over the bow, washing the deck and pouring from the scuppers.
Everyone was harnessed and clipped on.

This is sailing at its best!
The long swell reminded me of the Atlantic rollers and I loved every minute of it.
Ahead was Cape Raoul.
To the north the entrance to Port Arthur but there was no time to pay a visit.
The Lady Nelson rode the waves bravely as she rounded the dragon-like headland of Cape Raoul.

Ahead was open water and a four hour sail across Storm Bay.
The Lady heeled over with every passing swell.
From there we headed south down the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to take advantage of the shelter of Bruny Island for the final night.

Photos: The Cape Pillar, the boiling sea of Malingon Bay and Cape Paoul

In the Wake of the Adventurers – sailing round Van Diemens Land

Another night on board as we sailed past the Isle de Phoques and the historic Maria Island accompanied by a school (?) of dolphins.
Next morning, I was once again woken to the sound of the anchor chain being fed out and came on deck to find the Lady Nelson in Fortescue Bay.
This part of Tasmania’s coast if almost inaccessible and few people get to see it.
The scenery is awesome and unchanged since the early explorers saw it!
How lucky we are! Only smaller boats and sailing vessels can get a close view of the jagged dolerite cliffs of the south east coast of Tasmania.
How lucky we were.
After breakfast we sailed past The Candlestick (a Holy Grail for rock climbers) and rounded Cape Hauy.

The sky was blue.
The sea was relatively smooth and we were not alone.
Juvenile albatross skimmed the water and dolphins frolicked in the bow waves.
There were schools of fish churning up the sea's surface and seals serpentined through the blue water.

What more can you wish for?

Photos: The Candlestick and Cape Hauy

Three Peaks Race competitors in a close race at Freycinet

There was a gap between first second and third boats home then six of the 13 competing craft were seen entering Coles Bay.
What a sight it was as they rounded the headland - spinnakers flying.
But it was late and the runners would have the unenviable job of running over the Hazards in the dark and heading up Mr Freycinet - the second peak.

But the Lady Nelson could linger no longer and at 9 pm we weighed anchor and headed south.
Unfortunately the wind had died and it was back on motor.

Photos: Three Peaks entrants sail into Tasmania's Coles Bay

Slingshot – first boat into Coles Bay in Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks event

After a day and night at sea, I left the deck at 4.00am as we were sailing through the Schouten Passage.
Two hours later I was woken by the sound of the anchor dropping in Coles Bay.
Overnight nothing had been seen of the race entrants.
It was Easter Sunday and the Easter Bunny had just delivered Easter eggs to every bunk when the first boat in the race entered the Bay.
It was the multihulled, Slingshot of Neil Buckby Motors Subaru.
According to the rules of the race, the competing boats are not allowed to use their motors, and with a lack of hardly any wind the crew had to resort to rowing.
It was no easy task for a boat of that size.
As soon as the boat docked at the wharf, the two designated runners were off over the Hazards and heading up Mr Freycinet.

Slingshot was about two hours ahead of her next rival.

Pics: Slingshot crew row their boat into Coles Bay.
Another yacht sails in

Bay of Fires – Binalong Bay, Tasmania

I was not the only one sick that first night.
I think all the crew were happy when the Captain Alan took the Lady Nelson into Binalong Bay so we could eat breakfast on a fairly level table.
About a year ago I had visited the Bay by car and sat on the red rocks and looked out at some boats bobbing on the bay.
At that time I never imagined that one day I would be aboard a sailing ship looking back towards those rocks.
After breakfast we pulled up anchor and resumed our southerly course but now, without a suitable wind for the square-rigger, we were limited to motoring to keep to schedule.

Pic: Binalong Bay at the southern end of the aptly named Bay of Fires

The 21st Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks Race

This remarkable land and sea endurance race is named after a race in UK.
The Tasmanian version however is an ultra marathon event for both boat crews and runners.
The sailors must navigate around half the inhospitable coast of Tasmania and combat the turbulent seas of Bass Strait and Storm Bay with the winds of the Roaring Forties to contend with.
For the runners there are three peaks to climb – Mt Strzelecki on Flinders Island, The Hazards on the Freycinet Peninsula and finally Mt Wellington at Hobart (which a week before was decked in snow).
A truly ultra marathon event!
The starting gun was fired at on Good Friday and that afternoon the fleet with The Lady Nelson following them sailed out of the mouth of the Tamar River and onto the choppy waters of Bass Strait.
The assorted sailing craft were heading for Flinders Island.
The Lady Nelson was making for the light on Swan Island at the North eastern tip of Tasmania.

By evening the seas were boiling.
It was rough and I was too sick to go below to my bunk.
And it was a long cold night on the open deck of small ship.
I can only imagine how much discomfort the early sailors and their passengers suffered without the advantage of thermal underwear and wet-weather gear.

Pics: The Crew dress the ship as she sails past the start line.
Lady Nelson sails from the River Tamar out to Bass Strait

The chance to sail away on a tall ship

Two days before the Lady Nelson was due to sail back to Hobart, one of the crew (of 18) pulled out due to injury.
And I was asked if I would like to sail with the ship on its voyage south.
What and opportunity.
I immediately said yes.
Despite the prospect of watches throughout each 24 hrs with 2 hours on and 4 off, the chance to sail out into Bass Strait on a small brig on a 5 day voyage around half of Tasmania was not to be missed.
Just goes to show you never know what is around the corner.
And you are never too old to embark on such an adventure.
The Lady Nelson was to sail out on Good Friday following the yachts in the Three Peaks Race.

Photo: At sea

Trainee deck hand on the Lady Nelson

I’d only been on board as a tourist for half and hour when I was invited to join the Tasmanian Sail Training Association and join the Lady Nelson as a volunteer crew member.
Perhaps the fact that I had sailed previously on the STS Leeuwin out of Fremantle had some bearing.
I don’t know. But the idea appealed to me.
I was to help for three days while the ship was in the Tamar Valley and away from its home port.
I signed on.
Talking to the groups of tourists on short cruises on the river was not daunting.

For three days there was a mixture of charter groups – school kids, seniors’ groups, the Dragon Boat ladies and the ABC Radio, who did a broadcast from the ship.
Some of the passengers even joined the Captain in dressing for the occasion.
Ashley and Sue were the centre of attraction during the ABC presentation. Both in period dress.
Throughout the cruises, ship's cook Viv pumped out sea shanties on her accordian, the passengers sang along, and despite the lack of wind it was an unforgettable trip.

Photo: Captain Mal and passengers create and image of the past

HM Colonial Brig Lady Nelson – replica of 1798 square-rigger

The original colonial brig was built in 1789 at Deptford on the Thames.
Named after Lord Nelson’s wife, the little brig was only 16m long with a 5m beam and weighed 60 tons. She carried two masts and was square rigged on the foremast.
In order to sail into shallow water in the Antipodes, the original ‘Lady’ was fitted with three sliding centreboards in place of a fixed keel.
Under the command of Lieutenant Grant, the Lady Nelson left The Thames in March 1800 and sailed to the new settlement in New South Wales.
This remarkable small ship carried a small crew and an eccentric physician with pet dog and monkey.
In 1801 the Lady Nelson was the first vessel to sail west to east along Bass Strait and the first to make landfall on what is now South Australia.
Also in 1801, under the command of Lt. John Murray, the Lady Nelson sailed into Port Philip Bay – until then an undiscovered harbour.
In 1803 she headed south and sailed up the Derwent River to investigate a site for settlement in southern Van Diemens Land.
In 1804 she sailed up the Tamar River (where my journey began) to select a site for the future city of Launceston.
She returned to the Derwent and established a site for Hobart and later sailed north to the Hunter River to establish the city of Newcastle.
After that the Lady Nelson was used as a coal carrier, and a convict carrier transporting prisoners from Norfolk Island to Van Diemens Land.
In 1825 sailing north to Timor, the Lady Nelson was lost.
Her burnt out hull was later discovered in Timor and it is thought that the crew were murdered, the cargo pillaged and the ship burnt. An ignominious end to a proud little lady.

Little did I know that with three days of my short tourist sail, I would be setting out for the notorious waters of Bass Strait and following the route taken by Lieutenant Grant down the east coast of Tasmania heading towards Hobart.

Pics: Sails on the foremast and Lady Nelson the River Tamar, Northern Tasmania
Inspection Wharf on the Tamar – note small size of the brig in comparison with a modern day yacht

Lady Nelson rekindles memories of tall-ship sailing

The local paper carried an article advertising that the Lady Nelson was visiting Launceston for a week.
Nowadays the replica ship only sails to the north of Tasmania once a year.
As it is a few years since I sailed on a tall ship, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join her for a short sail on the river.
Little did I know what it would lead to.
Doing the tourist thing, I paid my $15 and boarded.

Stepping aboard brought back memories of my tall ship sailing days on the Leeuwin in Western Australia and the 23 day clipper voyage across the Atlantic.

For more information on The Lady Nelson and the Tasmanian Sail Training Association go to: LADY NELSON

Pic:Lady Nelson on the Tamar north of Launceston (Tasmania)
Yours truly as paying passenger

What kind of nut am I?

It grew on a medium sized tree in the garden.
The fruit was round and green
And I had no idea what it was.
I thought perhaps a nashi pear as some of the neighbours grow them.
Eventually the green skin began to split.
And when it fell to the ground I peeled it and discovered it was –
A walnut!

How ignorant can one be!

Post script - Interesting news release:22 April 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - By eating walnuts, women could reduce their risk of breast cancer, researchers said on Tuesday.
"Walnuts contain multiple ingredients that, individually, have been shown to slow cancer growth including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols," Hardman's team wrote in a summary presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in Denver.

Photos: Walnuts from tree to table