On Sunday 5th June 2011, a beautiful cloudless Sydney Winter’s day, I was a passenger aboard the James Craig, which is a fully restored 1874, 3-masted Barque. A “Morning Tea” awaited us below as we arrived at the top of the gangway. The ship departed Wharf 7 Pyrmont at 10.00 AM and took an hour to reach the Sydney Harbour Heads. A Tour Guide was aboard to give us the incredible history of the ship and its restoration, much of which could be described as miraculous. (Built in Sunderland, England, by 1900 she had “Rounded the Horn” 23 times, and then purchased by a New Zealand shipping company.) Highlights of that first hour included passing under the “Bridge”, watching the crew climb the rigging to unfurl the sails, and seeing people on other boats gawking at the beauty of our ship as we passed. When we reached the “Heads” the crew really showed us what they did, and we passengers were asked to help out hauling the lines. Sails were set, yards were braced, and when ready we turned to catch the wind. The wind on the day was light to moderate, I think from an Easterly direction and we headed north at first. It was then that the engines were cut and we were told that we were now powered by sail alone. What an amazing feeling, to hear nothing but the creaking of the rigging and the water passing along the side of the ship. As is normal during the winter months, pods of whales were travelling north for their annual migration. One or two were spotted, although some way off the ship. After an hour of sailing the Captain gave to order to turn the ship to head south. More crew activity with passenger’s help, with a bit of rolling on the turn there was much fun and laughter. During the wonderful sail south, many of the sails were set and filled, giving us a fair speed for such a large vessel and we were served with a healthy and ample packed Lunch served in bags. When the order was given to again turn the ship to head back to the Heads, we were somewhere off Bondi Beach. More whales were spotted, this time closer, and many photos were taken. By the time the Heads were reached we had spent some 4 hours at sea, and when in the Harbour, Afternoon Tea of tea/coffee, cakes, cheese platter and fruit, was served on the “Main Hatch” covers. The crew were once more busy aloft, now furling the sails and tying them to the yards, as we returned through an admiring fleet of yachts and pleasure boats. We moored at Wharf 7 at 4.00 PM and disembarked after one of the most adventurous and exhilarating 6 hours available for all people over 12 years of age, without any danger. A truly unique experience, with a very friendly crew and good food, and a bar serving alcoholic and soft drinks, I can only give this the highest recommendation.
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