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Captains Log -  a summary of Legs 10 to 14

via a memo to Her  Excellency the Governor of NSW

 

To Her Excellency
Professor Marie Bashir AC
Governor of New South Wales

A mid Voyage memo   -   1st December 2002

    • Brigantine Windeward Bound is operated by the Windeward Bound Trust, a registered charity dedicated to getting Australian young people to sea.

Below are some of the recent voyage highs and lows.

    • We are currently sailing in the wake of Matthew Flinders and calling at most Australian Ports. We left Sydney on March 7th and so far have sailed over 14,000 nautical miles. At the time of writing, we are at the bottom end of Shark Bay, waiting for a break in the weather to finish the run to Geraldton. It is our second attempt, having been beaten back last time by the fierce opposing winds.
    • Paying a visit and anchoring in the Monte Bello islands off the Dampier Archipelago. These Islands were the site of Australia’s atomic testing program 50 years ago, and seeing the stark contrast of blast melted rock above water and watching turtles, dolphins and whales frolicking below the water made me wonder at the stupidity of some parts of the human race.
    • We have carried an enormous variety of people, both young and old, including families with young children and an 83 year old adventurer. Young people have predominated however. We are delighted to report a significant number of young voyage crew scholarships, funded by ourselves and corporate sponsors. A large percentage of these scholarships have been for young indigenous persons from such diverse backgrounds and cultures as the NSW and Queensland coasts, the Gulf country, the Northern Territory, the Tiwi Islands and W.A.   We are delighted to advise that 3 of the most recent sail trainees have applied, and been accepted by us on a long term basis as full time trainee/volunteers.  They are 3 exceptional young people from very ordinary backgrounds, two of Maori descent and one of Italian/Australian descent. They will finish their school work on here and be trained as future full time crew for Windeward Bound. We are very excited about their future, especially as now, both myself and the First Mate are fully qualified trainers and assessors. So welcome Marcee, Stevie and Nathan. The Australian newspaper has reported to me that a survey taken of young people participating in the first 4 legs of the voyage showed a unanimous verdict, Their voyage had "dramatically changed their lives."
    • We rounded Cape York, thereby taking the ship off the east coast for the first time, visited Thursday Island, explored The Gulf of Carpentaria thoroughly, anchored in most of the same positions as Flinders had and visited in practise his 1802 notes and logs, comparing them to 2002.
    • On Sweers Island at the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria, we watered the ship the traditional way by cask and boat from the well dug by HMS Beagle in 1841. The well is still flowing strongly all these years later.
    • We have visited and had an involved dialogue with as many indigenous communities as we could, being especially privileged to watch and be part of their own various examples of cultural dancing and celebrations. Most noteworthy was the visit to the home of the Kaidilt people on Bentick Island, whom Flinders referred to as "Australians" for the first time and also the delightful young people of the Tiwi Islands. The Tiwis must be the happiest combination of traditional island culture and introduced European religion. They are bright, cheerful, friendly and gregarious.
    • Seeing the modern day ‘Trim’ develop into an almost uncanny "replica" of Matthew Flinders delightful original. Trim races aloft with the crew, has fallen overboard several times (sometimes the fish swimming alongside prove too much of a temptation). She considers herself part of the crew at mealtimes, and has generally warmed the hearts of all who have come into contact with her.
    • We have performed the play about Matthew Flinders voyage, (especially commissioned and written for this voyage) to thousands of schoolchildren and adults at almost every port between Sydney and Dampier.
    • We have contributed significantly to the goals and ideals of Coastcare by the ongoing environmental survey and collection of statistics producing an enormous variety of data for future use.
    • We lay on a beach in the Timor Sea at midnight, watching a Flatback Turtle laying her clutch of eggs and afterwards watched a group of hatchlings climb clear of their sand bound nursery and race for the open sea.
    • We visited the Kimberley region, finding little has changed since the days of Phillip Parker King and Nicholas Baudin. It was interesting to visit Yampi Sound, the Prince Regent River, St. George’s Basin, King George River and many more. Memories abound of Aboriginal cave paintings on the beach at Bigge Island and the 10 knot tide race in and out of Derby.
    • Dealing with the open and treacherous roadstead at Broome, while exploring the town itself and it’s infamous and unromantic history and soaking up the atmosphere of the "romance" of it’s pearling past. I’m sure the women of the past century who proudly wore the "Tears of the Moon" had no idea of the price the people who actually recovered the pearls paid, often with their lives.
    • The reception given to us by the people of the many ports we have visited is nothing short of astounding. I am pleased that we have been able to put back into the communities as well and I think we are being successful so far in making the coastal communities of this country, and to a lessor degree, the country as a whole, more aware of the importance of Flinders in our history, and an increased awareness of the importance and privilege of being an Australian. It is important to note that in all the communities visited, there is still that unique Australian character, that tolerance of all, that enormous "Aussie" welcome and that unique willingness to put everything aside to help those in need. In Carnarvon recently, we had suffered considerable storm damage. When we arrived in port, the locals put down their regular work and pitched in, engineering systems were repaired, electric motors dried out and repaired, sails repaired or rebuilt, crew looked after, barbecues held, the list went on. As an Australian, I am very proud and very privileged to see so much of my country and get to know so many of my people.

On the downside
A voyage such as this must, naturally, have a few downsides. While ignoring the routine and quite normal maintenance accentuated by being constantly at sea, moving parts and machinery break down with greater frequency and crew "burn out" is a major problem.

    • We have learnt that the least amount of burnout occurs in those crew that are constantly rotating. For example, crew members on a 3 month on and 3 month off basis have fared better than crew on a "Whole of Voyage" contract. It is also interesting that the older crew members have fared much better than the younger crew. The younger crew members seem to tire more easily and equally get bored with the whole proceedings. There are exceptions of course; however, on the whole, maturity does matter. The difficulty then is finding crew who can financially stand being off for a period without pay. Those of us who receive no subsidies or other assistance can only dream of being able to have extra crew members rotating off on full pay. The answer seems to lie in the pool of enthusiastic volunteers enjoyed by some vessels.
    • The other major issue as a result of long term contracts is crew complacency and familiarity resulting in a danger of disregarding the safety and other requirements of the ship. This effect, coupled with crew fatigue and the ensuing lack of morale can create a very dangerous situation if allowed to go unchecked. The obvious short term solution is to:
    1. Pick crew based on track record, maturity levels and community skill levels as well as qualifications.
    2. Rotate the crew regularly but not all at one time.
    3. Have standby crew available to meet with manning emergencies such as compassionate leave, dismissal of staff crew for whatever reason. As we all know, this is next to impossible as the industry income levels and overall running costs do not allow for the luxury.

I trust this short report will bring you up to date a little, we have a revamped website. The Captain’s logs have suffered due the extreme weather and lack of available time, however, we will get them back on track once we arrive in Fremantle. Many people ask if I feel Flinders’ presence at all, well I have to say that the answer is most definitely yes. When things are difficult, I draw my inspiration and persistence from him. He is a wonderful example of the way we should all be in our daily lives.

Your Excellency, I thank you for your continued support, I will rest continue to forward information from time to time.

Kind regards

Captain Sarah Parry
Master
Windeward Bound



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WINDEWARD BOUND TRUST

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