At Sea – off Port Stephens
With the rain in Port Macquarie struggling to keep away, our numbers were down somewhat. However, that certainly did not take away from the enjoyment of our stay. On Wednesday, with our departure upon us, I was left with a feeling of a little in trepidation as another crossing of the bar awaited the ship. My original plan, having looked at long range weather forecasts, had been to leave on the morning tide at the break of day, as a southerly change looked like it was going to make our passage south difficult. As the day approached, the southerly winds had fallen from the forecast, so the need to put to sea so quickly was no longer so great. This also allowed more time for the crew to pack the ship away from museum mode, and prepare for sea. This is a task that can be harrowing on the crew if it needs to be done at night after a Guides’ Function and then followed with a very early morning departure. Our afternoon departure also allowed some time for a bit of crew training, with a fire drill being held before we cast off the lines. The bar in Port Macquarie, like all bars, has had its fair share of victims in the past, and I was determined that Duyfken would not be one of them. Perhaps one of the more interesting victims was one of its first. For Port Macquarie was first surveyed in 1819 by H.M. Brig Lady Nelson. After surveying the river and its entrance it was decided to establish a settlement there. Two years later when trying to leave port, the Lady Nelson was run onto the rocks while crossing the bar. A sad fate for a vessel that for the previous twenty years had been involved with charting large parts of Australia’s coastline. Her mishap on the Port Macquarie bar in 1821 left her awash on the rocks, and this is how she was to stay for three years, before being recommissioned and put back into service in 1824. At a quarter to four we departed the wharf and headed up the river. We are very thankful to the Jordan family who had made our stay in Port Macquarie so enjoyable. We motored down the Hastings River and as we passed the town center were given a salute of sound from the Alma Doepel’s horn, who was tied up at the town quay. It had been wonderful to be able to see over the Alma, for as a commercial sailing vessel she holds such an important place in Australia’s maritime history. And it is good to see that a ship as old as Alma is still afloat and being maintained. Having passed the Alma Doepel, we rounded the final corner and approached the entrance to the bar. The strength of the flood tide coming in was starting to become apparent now. Although the tide was slowing the Duyfken down, it was also helping to smooth out the swell as it rolled over the bar. Finally, having taken some reasonably heavy rolls but not having touched the bottom, we were able to proceed safely to sea. For me, it was a great relief to be finally clear of the sand bar. Of course I had no pilot aboard for the departure, but the immortal words of Tennyson were not far from my mind, For though from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar.