Sailing ships

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sailing around the Derwent River Harbour in a full scale replica of the Lady Nelson sailing ship.  The original was built in 1798 in England and plied the waters between Newcastle and Norfolk Island and Tasmania for the next  twenty five years.  My day on the water was glorious with blue skies, golden sunshine and a firm breeze. When all the sails went up, we scudded along at 7 knots.  Quite wonderful. The image below is of the replica in which I sailed.

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The water surface had an almost millpond quality as we returned to the wharf. I couldn’t imagine how sailing ships would cope with heavy seas.

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I spent a great deal of time thinking about earlier sailing ships and I tried to imagine what it might have been like, with so many ropes and so many sails being part of the picture for months at sea.

The Lady Nelson came out to Australia with around 20 people. The original crew size was 12.

Records show that at times there were perhaps 60 or more people sailing for days on the Lady Nelson.  Yesterday with passengers and crew I suspect our number was around 40. It was standing room only on the deck when all were assembled. Sailing for days would have been very cramped and most uncomfortable by today’s standards (although I recognise that people were generally physically smaller back then than we are today). Add to that, on the original Lady Nelson, the area below deck remained unstructured with one open hold. Apparently people slept on boxes and ropes and all.

My photos below give some idea of the majesty of a sailing ship however small (and it also shows how glorious it is to be out on the Derwent River in Hobart).

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The Lady Nelson was approx 53 feet long ,  approx 17 feet wide and weighed 61 tons. I have compared this with the larger ships that arrived in the Derwent River in the early part of the 19th century and so,  after yesterday’s most stimulating sail, I feel I have a small but greater understanding of what travellers (convicts and free settlers) might have been exposed to at sea before they started their comparatively mild run up the Derwent.

The Lady Nelson replica runs trips lasting a few days; I am considering taking one of these small voyages. Part of the deal, if you wish, is to learn to handle the ropes and even climb around the sails.  I wonder if the 19th century crews allowed such liberties to its passengers.

14 thoughts on “Sailing ships

    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      Hi Ruth.The views from deck looking up were so thrilling, and because the sky was so blue the whole experience was very stimulating. I took lots more of the sails – they really fascinated me. With all your photography skills perhaps you should take a trip. Mine lasted about 2 hours.

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  1. Jeanette

    What a beautiful day for a sail – perfect weather. The boat looks amazing and I too am fascinated by your photographs of the sails. However, I don’t think I would want to sail from Newcastle to Tasmania on her or any great distance really.

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    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      Yes the sails were amazing and the photos show how close passengers and crew are to them – they are not something lots of metres away. My mind is excited and wants to sail long distances but I doubt whether I have the passion or need required for that.

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  2. Lynne

    Your photos are wonderful.,Helen. It is such a great little sailing ship. The boys and I went on it for a birthday party our second year in Hobart. It was a great trip up the river and back, and a great way to see the scenery for someone new to the city. The below decks was very compact, I don’t think Michael would be able to get down there now without bumping his head. I am still amazed that people travelled so far on a ship that size and survived. They were very hardy folks. 🙂

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    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      Spending time on ships such as the Lady Nelson is an eye opener. Here in Tassie and for much of Australia we expect space and prize it highly. My time on this ship reminded me that not everyone has the same luxury of space that I have. Deciding whether to tackle a two or three or more day trip on this sailing ship will be a very serious consideration – can I cope with so little space on board even though the sky and the sea are huge.

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  3. Canuck Carl

    This would have been such a tremendous day for you. Your photos capturing the rigging is amazing. There a couple of replica sailing ships in Canada what we call “Tall Ships” here. I have never been close to one (living in the middle of the country) but maybe someday I will have the opportunity.
    Loved reading about a bit of history. And such a marvel of engineering to be able to harness the wind and travel great distances. 🙂

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    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      I think you could feel my excitement about being on the Lady Nelson, so I would urge you if you are travelling to a destination where old sailing ships take people for a sail, then grab the opportunity with open arms. My sail was only for two hours but it was such a rich experience that it felt like a day. When we have a group of such ships, Australians refer to them as tall ships but when we talk about one ship, we may or may not refer to it in this way. Canadians and Australians have so much in common it seems to me.

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    1. Tasmanian traveller Post author

      Thank you for your comment. Hobart has had flotillas of Tall Ships sail up the Derwent River at least twice in the past 30 years. Very special and totally wonderful. It was a great privilege to sail on the Lady Nelson recently. You are correct. The original, once in Australia never returned to Europe. This replica has never left Australia. I like the fact that you look for connections. Marvellous.

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