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Captains Log - Leg  16  Perth to Albany

Date  Events
5 January to 16 January 2003 Special log Entry by Tania Stadler - Coastcare Education Program
University of Tasmania

If two weeks on a tall ship sailing around the most southerly and westerly Cape Leeuwin in the wake of Matthew Flinders sounds like a great adventure, it was!

Coastcare is part sponsor of the re-enactment of the circumnavigation made 200 years ago by Matthew Flinders in the Investigator. This voyage is being undertaken by the Windeward Bound, a brigantine with twelve sails built in Hobart in 1995 with largely volunteer labour and commanded by Capt Sarah Parry, whom many of you would have seen recently on the ABC’s "Australian Story".

My own Voyage of discovery started in Fremantle in January 2002 and ended in Albany two weeks later. A novice sailor, I took a little time to get adjusted to the movement of the ship and contended with mild seasickness in the first day or so. But this soon passed as our daily routine revolved around the 24 hour watches that everyone kept. At anchor at Rottnest Island, we learned how to check the anchor cables, assess the ever-changing wind direction and check the bilges-all OK there! At sea, on the run down the coast into Bunbury and past Busselton, we learned how to take the helm and steer a straight course (harder than it sounds!), keep a lookout for other vessels, craypots and occasionally dolphins. Stops along the way included beautiful Bunker Bay, playground for the rich and famous of Perth and Hamelin Bay, a more down-to-earth but very beautifully sited caravan park.

Checking the bilges was part of the watches at sea (still OK there!) but the best part of the night watches, especially midnight to 4am were the stars (and steering by them) and the peaceful feeling of swishing along under sail. The 4am to 8am watch offered other pleasures-taking over from the previous watch in the dark and watching the sun gradually appear. On the west coast, the sunsets are more spectacular than in the eastern states, but we witnessed some pretty special ones.

Heading further south, the weather turned cooler and as we rounded Cape Leeuwin, the sky was overcast. This was a memorable moment as this was the first sight of the Terra Australis that Matthew Flinders and his crew were commissioned to chart. After seven months at sea, it would have been a welcome sight. It was notable on this voyage too, as it signified the "turning point" for the Windeward Bound. After heading north, west and south, the ship was now heading east towards the Great Australian Bight, Bass Strait and Tasmania before its planned return to Sydney in July 2003.

After Cape Leeuwin, we still had to reach Albany which I thought would be very straightforward. Not so, however, as we lost engine power after leaving Augusta. Engine restored but not wanting to push its limits, we sailed south, and kept sailing until we crossed the continental shelf where the depth of the water dropped to 3, 000 metres or more. With the cooler, rougher weather it seemed as if we were heading straight for the sub-Antarctic islands, an impression highlighted by the sight of albatrosses and shearwaters wheeling over a vast and empty ocean. A lucky change of wind direction enabled the ship to head north again. With the wind behind us and great skill on the helm, the ship raced along at a very respectable 7 knots for the 18 hours it took to reach Albany. Now, that may not sound very fast, but it certainly was for such a vessel, which often travels at 1-2 knots under usual conditions.

There were many more experiences and highlights ­ like the sight of the square rigged sails filled with wind; the dolphins alongside; the sight of a large ship at night, lights ablaze, first seen on the radar then looming out of the darkness; the sight of land on the West Australian coast as Flinders would have seen it; the expressions of people watching the ship coming into harbour; learning how to tie a bowline knot, "the rabbit comes out of its burrow" and how to loop the ropes in a clockwise direction ­always! I’m afraid I still canąt tell the difference between a clew and a buntline though. Maybe on another trip?

The Windeward Bound is due in northern Tasmania at the end of June and will leave Devonport for Port Welshpool 30 June. There may still be vacancies available, so why not check out the website: or contact the ship directly

Tania Stadler
Coastcare Education Program
University of Tasmania

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