West of Burnett Heads
'I can see my house from here.' Voyage crew John Bowes lives in Kelly's Beach near Bundaberg. If his neighbours look out to sea they will witness a spectacular sight. An ancient Dutch sailing ship heaves into view from the north-east. She is hard on the wind, pounding the seas into spray and foam with her bluff bow. Her topsail yards are set low on the topmasts and her two topsails billow roundly out to leeward in the near gale. Her sails are all grey from the rain. What a strange apparition. The Flying Dutchman perhaps. The vision from the past sails close in to the shore. When she is less than a mile off the beach there is a sudden flurry of activity on deck. It all happens as if in silence, as any sound from the ship is drowned out by the steady roar of the waves pounding on the beach. The mizzen (the sail at the stern of the ship) flutters and all but disappears. The ship starts to turn towards the shore. What's going on? Are these crazy ghosts going to drive their ship aground on this suburban beach? One corner of the ship's mainsail lifts like a kitchen curtain raised for a better view of a passer-by. As the ship swings in a graceful curve and starts heading back out to sea and out of harm's way her fore and main yards swirl around onto the new tack. The small figures on the deck of the ship scurry this way and that as the sails flatten to the new tack and the ship settles onto her new course. In another hour the mysterious visitor from another age disappears into a rain-cloud. What strange apparition is this? Duyfken has been beating to windward all night and all day. We wear ship every change of watch and a few in between: midnight, four am, eight am, eleven am, two thirty pm (just in front of John's house), seven pm, and we will wear again about midnight. It involves a lot of hard work for all hands. Progress is slow. We are about five miles closer to our destination than we were at midnight. Wearing ship is a manoeuvre with the same effect as tacking in that it allows us to zig-zag back and forth to work against the wind. The difference is that tacking brings the bow of the ship through the eye of the wind whereas wearing brings the stern through the wind. Modern yachties call it gybing. It is a less stressful manoeuvre than tacking in a strong wind on a square rigged sailing ship like this. Tacking in a gale puts too much strain on the rigging because all the sails must come aback (set backwards) for part of the turn. Wearing, on the other hand, has the sails setting evenly through the whole turn. If you want to see how it's done, well, you should have been at Kelly's Beach at 1430 this afternoon.