The James Craig Tall Ship

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 James Craig

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.

Approaching the ship at the wharf

Approaching the ship at the wharf

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.

'Watch and learn'

‘Watch and learn’

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.

Learning how to set up their hammocks

Learning how to set up their hammocks

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!

Dinner time

Dinner time

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.

Darling Harbour fireworks

Darling Harbour fireworks

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.

The cub scout

The cub scout

Sydney Heritage Fleet and James Craig:  Wharf 7, 58 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont NSW

Ph:  02 9298 3888



  1. Wow! That’s the way history should be taught. What a great experience.

  2. What fun for young men to imagine what it was like to be a ten year old back in the day. Poor Carl! He’s a really big man for a tiny bed. 🙂

  3. Fun and learning rolled into one! Great for Alfie!

    Gourmet Getaways

  4. Poor Carl that made me laugh! What an amazing way to bring history to life though – apart from the nightclubs across the way 🙂

  5. That must have been a wonderful night for Alfie. I wonder where they got the $30 mill?:))

  6. Great experiences…Poor Carl, you owe him one… LOL

  7. How fantastic. I must admit I would have volunteered almost anyone other than me to sleep in a hammock but amazing for the boys. The kind of experience that stays with you forever. GG

  8. This is the way to teach kids with hands-on, living history. But poor Carl.

  9. What a fabulous experience. It’s also hilarious how you volunteered Carl after learning about the sleeping arrangement. Every year we have the tall ships come to Toronto and we your them every couple of years. JT and his sister went in a tall ship cruise off the New England coast about 35 years ago and he loved it. We wanted to go but by the time we were married it was too expensive and we couldn’t afford it!

  10. What a fabulous experience. It’s also hilarious how you volunteered Carl after learning about the sleeping arrangements. Every year we have the tall ships come to Toronto and we tour them every couple of years. JT and his sister went on a tall ship cruise off the coast of New England about 35 years ago and he loved it. We wanted to go but by the time we were married it was too expensive and we couldn’t afford it! I should check it out again.

  11. Thank you for sharing another part of Australian history with your readers. Alfie is very lucky to have a childhood so rich in amazing experiences.

  12. My youngest might have stayed in scouts had he had these sorts of opportunities! Fun!

  13. Fabulous! What an adventure…poor Carl! Do hope he came home and got some rest!

  14. Alfie really is doing some wonderful things! From singing in the Opera House to a night aboard this boat, he is living out several dreams to the full 🙂

  15. What an amazing experience! Mr. N would have thoroughly loved that adventure. The sleeping arrangements certainly sound less than ideal for the adults, but I suppose one night for our children’s adventures isn’t too bad. 🙂

  16. Charlie, your family has the most interesting experiences!! With children of various ages, you are certainly always on the go! What a great learning opportunity for Alfie and for all of us too!

  17. I bet you had two tried, cranky guys to deal with the next day Charlie! It sounds like a great overall experience for the scouts, and it’s wonderful that such a fascinating part of our history is being preserved and passed on to a new generation xox

  18. What a great learning experience, Alfie sure is fortunate to have this opportunity.

  19. what a lovely experience, my nephew would love it!

  20. What a memorable experience for the lucky lad!

  21. I’m pretty sure I never had this much fun as a kid! Then again I wasn’t a girl guide! 🙁

  22. Oh my goodness – even as an adult (some people would debate that) I would LOVE to have spent a night on The James Craig! What an adventure!!! I took my daughter to spend the night at the zoo once – she got to wander around the zoo in the dark – and I must say, the zoo is a whole different place at night!

  23. Wow that would be so much fun! My bro loves ships, he would have loved to do this before he grew old 😛

    Choc Chip Uru

  24. Glad you got your priorities right in sending Carl on this adventure… Finally caught up on all the posts – have an awesome rest of the week 🙂

  25. What a great experience for Alfie, what fun. sounds like dad had quite the experience too!

  26. What a wonderful evening apart from the fidgeting, the sleeping arrangements, the night clubs and the noise! The rest must have been amazing!

  27. What a fun event 🙂 even though it seems like hard work I think all little boys dream would be to sail a ship and stay there over night hehe will need to tell my sister so she can plan and take my nephew there!

  28. What a wonderful and fun way to learn!
    Have a super day Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  29. What a fantastic experience for Alfie! And poor Carl…I hope he was finally able to rest at home.

  30. When I first started reading I was so excited for Alfie, thinking this would indeed be very exciting to sleep onboard such an amazing ship. But I wasn’t thinking about how hard it might be to sleep under these circumstances. What a special father-son experience, though, and a memory they’ll share forever. I have equally fond memories of our son in cub scouts. My husband was a scout leader for a few years and so he was the “designated parent” for most activities…I watched from afar. 🙂

  31. Alfie has been having some wonderful experiences between sleeping aboard the James Craig and singing on stage at the Opera House…how great!

  32. Oh, what a fantastic opportunity! My historian husband would have had more fun than the kids…and he’s small enough to have fit in the hammock!

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