What I love about Alfie being a cub-scout is that he’s having so many wonderful experiences and great opportunities to learn and discover. One recent experience was spending the night on the James Craig.
The Barque James Craig is a tall ship that was built in 1874 and launched as Clan Macleod. It was a cargo ship that sailed the trade routes and in her first 26 years, rounded Cape Horn 23 times. In 1900 she was purchased by Mr James Craig of Auckland, New Zealand, who changed her name and used her on trans-Tasman trade routes from New Zealand to Australia as a general cargo carrier. Typical cargo was kerosene, wood, wool and coal. About a decade later she was laid up due to the arrival of steam ships and so she was stripped and ended up in New Guinea.
After the First World War she was bought by the well-known Australian jam manufacturer, Henry Jones IXL who brought her back to Sydney for a re-fitting. Her return to service was brief because in 1925 she was reduced to a coal hulk at Recherche Bay, Tasmania. In 1932 she was abandoned and became beached after breaking her moorings in a storm. She remained beached until 1972 when she was bought by the Sydney Heritage Fleet who re-floated her. The Sydney Heritage Fleet is a community based, non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of Australia’s maritime heritage.
The James Craig is one of only four barques from the 19th Century still operational and the only one in the southern hemisphere. She is not a replica and has been genuinely restored. She was towed to Sydney in 1981 and in 1997, after years of restoration work at a cost of $30 million she was re-launched. (The original cost for building the ship was 11,350 pounds). She is 70mtrs long and is a ‘barque’ because she has three masts. She is famous all around the world and regularly goes to sea with up to 80 passengers.
The cub scouts were given the opportunity to spend a night on the James Craig. A parent helper also had to attend and when I heard about the sleeping arrangements, I volunteered Carl.
They arrived on the ship in the afternoon and were given a tour and some information on the ship’s history. I think they were very surprised to learn that the youngest crew members of the James Craig 100 years ago were 10-year old boys. You must have had to grow up very fast back then. Then it was on with learning how to tie knots which the boys took very seriously.
Dinner was served on the ship and I enquired as to the standard and both Alfie and Carl said it was ‘really good’. Curried chicken with rice and one of the mums onboard had made a couple of chocolate cakes so that was dessert.
With regards to the sleeping arrangements, the boys were handed a hammock and shown how to hang it. There was no way Carl was going to fit into a hammock and so he was led to an open bunk area where he looked at the size of the bunks then did a check-measure on his own proportions and realised he faced some challenges. The bunk wasn’t quite as wide as his shoulders and not quite as long as his height. Fear gripped him!
After the boys were all in their pyjamas and ready for bed, they went out onto the decks and watched the Darling Harbour fireworks which they thoroughly enjoyed. Then it was time to settle into their hammocks and try to sleep like sailors of yesteryear. Except some couldn’t settle. Like Alfie. At 11.30pm he had to be moved into a bunk near his father where he fiddled relentlessly with the porthole opening and closing it repeatedly until he lost one of the screws preventing it from closing. With the porthole open Carl couldn’t sleep due to the noise thumping across the water from the nightclubs that didn’t shut down until 3am.
Everyone was woken a few hours later at 6am where it was onto the decks to raise the sails with the captain yelling ‘heave’ and the boys yelling, ‘hoe’ as they pulled on the ropes. They also had to mop the decks and check the charts and pack up their bedding. After a few slices of toast it was time to thank the captain for a wonderful experience and disembark. And Carl couldn’t wait to get home and go to bed.
The James Craig is moored at Wharf 7 in Pyrmont. She can be booked for private functions where you stay berthed at the wharf or you can have a sailing experience. When the ship is moored, you can have a night-stay which is very reasonably priced and a fascinating experience for adventurous boys.
Ph: 02 9298 3888