One hundred years ago the port of Hobart was often packed, gunwale to gunwale, yardarm to yardarm, with tall ships. Those were the great days of sail, square riggers bringing migrants to the colonial island, other sailing ships loading wool and grain for export to European ports, whaling ships in port for a break from hard life at sea.
Dutch ships being escorted up the Derwent
This weekend Hobart’s waterfront has turned back the clock for a colourful Tall Ships Festival, following the arrival today of eight tall ships from Great Britain, the Netherlands and ports around Australia.
Hobart’s yachties were out in force on the River Derwent to escort the ships up the river, most of them under square sail in a light sou’wester until they reached Sullivans Cove.
Like some of the fleet, many of the welcoming fleet were in vintage era, including the century-old yawl Gypsy. These heritage yachts will be berthed in Constitution Dock over the weekend while the tall ships Europa, Oosterschelde and Tecla from the Netherlands, Lord Nelson from Great Britain, Soren Larsen and Young Endeavour from Sydney and local sailing ships Windeward Bound and Lady Nelson will be berthed alongside Prince’s Wharf and on either side of the Elizabeth Street Pier.
Young Endeavour was the first to dock, her crew lining the yardarms of the foremast. She had anchored overnight in Sandy Bay while the other tall ships spent the night in Bruny Island’s historic Adventure Bay south of Hobart.
It was an appropriate anchorage as many of the great navigators who explored the South Seas also dropped anchor in Adventure Bay, including Cook, Bligh, Baudin and D’Entrecasteaux.
Abel Tasman, the Dutchman who discovered the island and named it Van Diemen’s Land, tried to enter the bay in 1642 but was driven off by a storm. Fortunately, the three Dutch ships had better conditions when they anchored in Adventure Bay last night.
While the visiting tall ships carried varying rigs as they sailed up the Derwent the local brig Lady Nelson, a replica of a 1798 vessel of the same name, hoisted every sail in her inventory as she followed the bigger ships.
Greeting the tall ships, Hobart’s Lord Mayor said: 'Given Hobart’s strong and long lasting maritime history, Hobart has been a sail city since its beginning in 1804.'
This evening the Tall Ships Festival will open with a fireworks display, giving an unexpected farewell to the 35 racing yachts setting sail from Castray Esplanade in the overnight race of the Derwent Sailing Squadron and Huon Yacht Club’s Pipe Opener regatta.
The Tall Ships will be in Hobart until next Wednesday with up to 50,000 visitors expected at the Festival in Sullivans Cove. They will then set sail for Sydney to be part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Royal Australian Navy.