Dan and Justy Down Under


February 6, 2005

Dan or Justy

The crew asked for a CD. They said mellow. What went wrong I can't say exactly, but the CD I burned for them will probably never be forgotten. It will be referenced by crews I never met. A kind of immortality, I suppose.

Our first day at sea, sailing the Whitsundays. The ship is preternaturally still. Admittedly there is lttle wind, but she is as steady as if lashed to a sheltered dock. The Solway Lass has a long and varied history, starting with it's construction in 1902. Her primary feature of construction was that for a 127 foot ship, she drafted but 6.5 feet. This made her eminently suitable for transporting heavy goods by small rivers, and canals in an age before trucking goods was possible. This she did for years.

World War I saw her be seized by both sides in turn and employed to move war materiel. In the years between the wars, she was bought by Scottish concerns in the Firth of Solway and rechristened the Solway Lass. This name was ignored in the Second World War as she was used by the Germans. An allied mine tore her stern off at one point, but she was refitted and used as a sail-powered icebreaker in the north.

After the war, the age of container ships arrived. Ships like the Solway Lass were on the market for a mere 2000 Pounds Sterling. Each was an albatross around its owners neck.

Solway Lass was sold and she took up general cargo work in the South Pacific. Tahiti, Fiji, etc. This she did happily for many years. Then the container ships came to the South Pacific. Solway Lass was no longer wanted.

She lay neglected for years until an Australian businesman bought her. He refinished her and she was the pride of the 1st Fleet Bicentennial celebration in Sydney harbor. After that, she served as a floating, cruising restaurant for over a decade. Alas, this was not so successful. The dining room, while exquisitely appointed, lacked windows.

Another change of owners and a refit for cruising in the Whitsundays. Here, the old girl has definitely found her niche. She is a feast for the eyes. At once a classic figure, but also replete with all the miscellany one expects of a tallship. I am a layperson in these matters, so I shall use my own vocabulary: the multiple sails, some small, two large. The many, many ropes tied here and there with a dizzying array of knots. Wooden planking for a deck, each piece sealed by hand. The quarters were small, but functional. She is rated to carry 37, but only sells 32, plus crew. There are no portholes.

For the enjoyment of passengers and spectators alike, there is a swing rope attached to the main mast. The Swedes took advantage of this and I have video of Cirque du Sverige.

Justine took the dive offered in the morning. She came back glowing. As with most uninhabited places, the reef starts just off the beach. It was healthy and quite populated. I remained dry, under doctor's orders. I don't want to risk not getting to dive the Yongala or even risk our liveaboard to the northern Coral Sea at February's end.

Justine also snorkeled in the afternoon and once again had great praise for the quality of the experience. I was shipboard for all of this and found out that the a/c is not run during the day. This is probably fine during the winter (ha!) but in the depth of summer is a real bummer.

Arr, ye mates! With the wind at yer backs and the sails set high, she set her course throughout the Whitsundays. These little paradise islands are a national park, and are therefore mostly uninhabitet. With permits camping is allowed on some of the islands, there are short scenic walks, fresh water pools for swims, incredible snorlkeling and diving opportunities and spectacular bays. A few of the islands host restorts, one is even the world famed Hayman Island resort for the priss and often photographed with rooms starting at $1000. No worries, we had our accomodations set on the Sailway Lass, a restored sailship from 1902.

Though the ship is not small, you can imagine that with 11 sails, a possible 32 guests and crew every inch of her isutlilized to its full potential. Each guest has a berth, some are private doubles, some are bunks for 4. Berths are below deck and with airconditioning (!) are perfectly comfortable. The seas are extremely calm, and therefore offer little winds and sailing opportunity. Instead, the good weather gives the boat the opportunity to motor (faster than sailing) and get to more destinations.

I was not planning to dive, especially because of Dan's ear infection and none of our gear with us, so I didn't bother to bring my c-card. When the scuba instructor came aboard and told us about the reef and location, I could not resist. I am glad I dove, as it was pretty much the 'easiest' dive I've ever done. I did have my mask (prescription being critical) and our little u/w camera for pics. The reef was spectacular, the viz stellar, and my skin was all I needed in these temps. Super!

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

Digital Pix Courtesy of Shimmivision.com
More Digital and Film Pix Coming Soon.