International Fleet Review and Tall Ships Fesitval Wrap-up

Seventeen tall ships, more than 40 warships, 8000 navy personnel from 19 nations and almost two million visitors flooded into Sydney during the first two weeks of October for the International Fleet Review. The celebration was to commemorate the centenary of the first Royal Australian Navy fleet entry into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913, with activities and events spanning nine days.

A wet and overcast day did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with large crowds venturing out to welcome the tall ships into Sydney Harbour. Lord Nelson, Lady Nelson, Spirit of New Zealand, Tecla, Europa, Coral Trekker, South Passage, Picton Castle and Yukon made the museum their base with their captains and crews a welcome addition to the museums community for the duration of the IFR and Tall Ships festivities.

HMB Endeavour with Picton Castle en route to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Photographer Milo Brogan

HMB Endeavour with Picton Castle en route to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Photographer Milo Brogan

On October 4, the anniversary of the first fleet entry, people crowded to witness seven warships follow the same route as the first Royal Australian Navy vessels into Sydney Harbour. This was an impressive sight with the namesake ships of the original seven, HMAS Sydney, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Yarra, HMAS Darwin, HMAS Perth, HMAS Bundaberg and HMAS Diamantina, making the journey.

HMAS Sydney followed by HMAS Darwin and HMAS Perth. Photographer Milo Brogan

HMAS Sydney followed by HMAS Darwin and HMAS Perth. Photographer Milo Brogan

The formal ceremony for the fleet review occurred on the Saturday with Governor General Quentin Bryce in the role of Reviewing Officer. This was followed by impressive military displays including aerial displays and flypasts by Australian and visiting aircraft and a spectacular pyrotechnics and lightshow in the evening centred on Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.

Crowds at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Crowds at the Australian National Maritime Museum

The two main days for public access to the ships saw thousands of people visit Garden Island, Barangaroo and the museum wharves in Darling Harbour for a rare chance to get on board the vessels. Crews and hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure each day ran smoothly with almost two million visitors enjoying the long weekend. The museum offered various sailing and ferry opportunities that allowed the public and members onto the harbour to see the vessels up close from the water. Additional entertainment was provided by the RAN Navy Band and several visiting bands from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Nigeria.

At the end of the review the tall ships gathered in Sydney Harbour for the 2013 Sydney to Auckland tall ship race. The challenging conditions had four vessels retire, with HMB Europa coming home strong to land first place.

Europa overtaking Picton Castle. Photographer Milo Brogan

Europa overtaking Picton Castle. Photographer Milo Brogan

With the review now over, the tall ships remain in Auckland to continue the International Tall Ship Festival and the warships have departed for training activities on the east coast of Australia. We wish all ships a safe journey home and thank all captains, crew, staff and volunteers for their hard work during the nine days of the International Fleet Review and Tall Ships Festival!

International Fleet Review 5 day voyage: Day 4

After an eventful couple of days, we resumed our voyage to Jervis Bay. Although we remain slightly short-handed, we still managed to set the fore and main courses, the fore and main topsails, the spritsail, sprit topsail, fore topmast, main topmast and mizzen staysails and the jib, with the breeze on the quarter, it was time for the crew to take in its surroundings.

Soaking up the sunshine

Soaking up the sunshine

Noting the work put in by them, the routine was relaxed a little and for a lot of the day, the voyage crew were allowed to keep their hammocks slung so they could sleep. If they weren’t all snuggled into their bunks, they took the opportunity on deck to soak up the sunshine and sea air.

Lessons on square rigged sailing

Lessons on square rigged sailing

A feature of sailing in Endeavour is the opportunity to understand square rigged sailing to a better level and the officers and watch leaders had regular sessions during the day on the use of sails and running rigging. This hopefully helped to explain to the voyage crew just what they had been doing over the last few days.

Point Perpendicular

Point Perpendicular

At approximately 1600, as we neared Point Perpendicular, the crew were all called up on deck, to hand in sail, begin furling and range the anchor cable on deck. Under the lee in the northern corner of the bay, the stream anchor was deployed with five shackles of anchor cable. Almost immediately the strong nor’easter eased and the ship settled for the night.

Main Mast

Main Mast

International Fleet Review 5 day voyage: Day 3

After a busy night furling sprits’ls at nearly midnight, wearing ship at 3am and quite lumpy weather, an exciting day was sure to come!

With the crew up and about, the morning meeting was called to let them know of today’s plan. The crew was informed that the ship would be picking up more passengers during the afternoon.

After the meeting, all hands were called for sail handling as the ship was prepared to motor into Darling Harbour. Arriving off Sydney Heads, the crew was treated to its own naval review as the ship was passed by a large number of warships leaving Australia to return home. Many had come to this country from all over the world to help celebrate the International Fleet Review.

Motoring into Darling Harbour

Motoring into Darling Harbour

Once the naval vessels had cleared the heads, Endeavour made her way through to Darling Harbour where we rendezvoused with the museum’s tender. Radio communications were established and three new voyage crew joined to enjoy some 18th century sailing.

New voyage crew joining the vessel

New voyage crew joining the vessel

We cleared the heads at about 5.30 PM and started making our way south towards Jervis Bay where we plan to anchor tomorrow night. This will give the voyage crew a well earned rest and a taste of this beautiful harbour.

All is well.

International Fleet Review 5 day voyage: Day 1-2

After such an exciting and memorable time back in Port it’s now time for our second voyage to begin, not to welcome the tall ships into Sydney Harbour, but to unfortunately bid them farewell. Our visitors have come to Australia from all around the world to help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of our naval operations. Though after a short stay we are saying goodbye so that they can continue their journeys and start the last leg of the Tall Ship Races for this year.

The voyage crew all embarked on the Wednesday afternoon, with a busy crew swapping from day sail mode to voyage mode in a small amount of hours. Although this voyage would be run a little differently to the last voyages. For the first night Endeavour stayed alongside at the museum, with the professional and voyage crew invited to a crew barbeque on wharf 7 in front of Europa and James Craig. Many sailors and Museum staff and even tall ship crew from other ships around the globe showed up to the barbeque to celebrate the successful gathering of the fleet.

New voyage crew at the Museum Wharf

New voyage crew at the Museum Wharf

After many of the ships crews enjoying a laugh and meeting each other all was quietened down and soon all were snug away on the ship to sleep, ready to set sail the next day.

In the morning, many of the crew got up quite early, excited about what the new day would bring. After breakfast all hands were mustered into their watches and the safety training for the voyage began soon after. The training consisted of up and overs and the normal but very important life jacket and life raft briefings.

The start of the 5 day voyage

The start of the 5 day voyage

Once the training was complete the lines were cast off and Endeavour started making her way out of Darling Harbour and on her way to the heads to be a witness to the start of the race to Auckland. As we made it to the gathering point of ships just inside the heads, the breeze was light and the day was warming up, getting up to 39 degrees. The ships started to set sails and waited for the race to start. Unfortunately due to fire risks we were unable to fire any cannons near the heads so the announcements for the start of the race were made over the radio.

The start of the tall ship race to Auckland

The start of the tall ship race to Auckland

After the tall ships had begun the race, Endeavour started making her way South with the breeze and began the purpose of this voyage, to sail!! With the engines turned off, Endeavour was back in her element in no time at all. Once we were sailing the captain believed a little more training was in order, so we conducted some emergency drills. These drills included a fire drill, abandon ship and also a man overboard.

After 2 days of settling in, the time had come for dinner before the night watches were commenced.

All is well.

It was ‘a veritable blaze of splendour’: Lightshows of the past

'Searchlight Practice - USA Fleet' 1908 ANMM Collection

‘Searchlight Practice – USA Fleet’. Hand coloured postcard, 1908
ANMM Collection

Back in the olden days, you may be surprised to know, in honour of visiting international navy fleets, we hosted special events often called ‘Sydney Illuminations’. In 1908, during the United States Great White Fleet visit, ‘Magnificent! Splendid! Beautiful!’ were the words used to describe the electric lighting and searchlights placed around Customs House, Martin Place and Circular Quay. Even the great battleships themselves were lined from bow to stern in ‘dazzling brilliance’, in what culminated in a spectacular festival of light attended by thousands of people. Sound familiar? We’ve experienced the festival of light that is Vivid Sydney, and tonight a real treat is in store for International Fleet Review. Fireworks, projections and light will once again animate the Sydney Opera House and visiting ships on the harbour. At 7:40 tonight, it’s showtime! Continue reading

100 years: The first fleet of the Royal Australian Navy

On this day, 100 years ago, the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet of warships entered Sydney Heads ‘from out the morning mist’, as The Sydney Morning Herald dramatically described it. Headed by our first naval flagship, the aptly named Indefatigable class battlecruiser HMAS Australia, HMA Ships Sydney, Encounter, Melbourne, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra comprised our first Fleet Unit. Sydney’s shores were lined with thousands of people, dressed in their Edwardian best, with their waistcoats and feathered hats. Over the next few days, Sydney Harbour will come alive once more, this time without the Edwardian garb, for International Fleet Review and what will be the largest gathering of navy ships most of us has ever seen.

Video: Reproduced courtesy of Sea Power Centre – Australia, via 1913 Fleet Entry Continue reading

International Fleet Review voyage – Day 8

On Day 8 of our voyage, the crew woke up refreshed after being at anchor all night and enjoying a motionless deck. Overnight the breeze had been from the north and by this morning it was quite fresh. Many of the voyage crew were on deck simply to enjoy the picturesque foreshore of the bay.

Crew from the Young Endeavour boarding HMB Endeavour

Crew from the Young Endeavour boarding HMB Endeavour

At the morning brief the Captain explained he wished to weigh anchor and be underway by noon, He added that everyone on-board would probably enjoy a play with the other tall ships in the bay before making our way north to Sydney. First of course was ‘happy hour’ which this time involved a deep clean of the lower decks.

The day mainly went to plan with a few distractions, the rescue boat being sent ashore for an errand and some of Young Endeavour’s crew being brought on board for a look around and to help weight our bower anchor.   The anchor party closed up as briefed and the evolution had hardly begun before the wind swung dramatically from north-north-west to southwest. Within a few minutes it was blowing at 35 to 40 knots. Great work by the chief mate and bosun had the anchor aweigh in quick time allowing the ship to move off a lee shore and up into the body of the bay.

While loitering with intent off Huskisson to recover the sea boat, the ship was joined by the barque James Craig and the training ship Young Endeavour. It was interesting that at this time there were three ‘Endeavours’ in the bay, ourselves, Young Endeavour and the Singaporean landing ship RSS Endeavour.

The sea boat back on deck and Young Endeavour visitors back in their vessel, the three sailing ships began getting sail into its gear and within 15 minutes, our own local tall ships’ race was underway. As if that was not exciting enough, we found ourselves passing through various formations of warships entering the bay as we sailed out. Many passed down the ship at two or three hundred metres. No complaints from the crew on board for it gave some amazing opportunities for photos.

james craig with Point Perpendicular in the background

Once under Point Perpendicular the race was on with the James Craig

Once under Point Perpendicular, the race was on in earnest with ourselves and James Craig abeam. Our smaller competitor was not far behind. Had we had time but to load the cannon.

The James Craig

Racing against the James Craig

With the ships beam reaching in the strong gusts, sailing was again perfect and the collier from old England was picking up her skirts. Showing their approval, two humpbacks breached nearby and waved their petrel fins as they swam within 20 feet of the ship’s side.

All is well.

International Fleet Review voyage – Day 7

All was well on the bright and sunny morning, with most of the hands on board waking up to a call from the Captain, announcing that the barque James Craig was in sight and that our port and starboard cannons were loaded and primed. Into the chase, more and more ships started to appear with six warships on the horizon and James Craig in close proximity.

After breakfast, all hands were again called on deck as Endeavour began playing “cat and mouse” with the Craig. With the ships in close proximity, both began a tacking duel when, at about 1030 and with 5 tacks under our belt, another ship was sighted in the distance. After a couple of guesses as to who it might be,  it was finally confirmed by the AIS (Automatic Identification System) on-board that the ship in question was the Young Endeavour, slowly making her way up the coast.

Once the ship was identified, HMB Endeavour began making her way up the coast but slow enough to let the Young Endeavour catch up. At about 1345 Cody the Bosuns mate was ordered to fire the port cannon beginning a friendly “war at sea”. Young Endeavour retaliated, and replied with two slightly smaller cannon.

The Young endeavour

The Young Endeavour

The gun action being declared a draw, both Endeavours made their way past the Point Perpendicular lighthouse and into Jervis Bay to anchor. Before we could do so, the port bower anchor, one of two large Admiralty anchors on the bows, had to be made ready to drop. These anchors are rarely used and it took almost two hours to get ready. According to the Captain, time well spent for the sense of security these anchors give.

crw working on the port bower anchor

Getting the port bower anchor made ready to drop

Hardly had the flukes buried themselves into the seabed when the professional crew were called to the 20th century deck to start the preparations for the mess dinner, pulling out all the tableware that had been tucked away since the circumnavigation. The professional crew hung the lanterns and set up the lighting while all the voyage crew looked on, excited about the night to come.

With the tables set, the voyage crew took their seats and the delicious meal, prepared and cooked by our Galley team, was brought up and served by the crew. During the dinner many toasts were made, laughs were had and stories were told, clearly showing that the voyage had definitely been what everyone had hoped…. the voyage of a lifetime!!

Dinner was followed with a speech and many thanks again from the Captain and crew, before rolling straight into the SODS Opera. With all of the voyage crew pitching in on an act, there were harmonica players, poems, songs and sea shanties throughout the performances.

The crew assembled for speeches and the SODS Opera

The crew assembled for speeches and the SODS Opera

After the performances and laughs, many continued to chatter late into the evening whilst the smart ones rushed to their hammocks to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

All is well.

International Fleet Review voyage – Day 6

After an exhilarating sail through the night, Sunday 29 September dawned bright and sunny. For some of the voyage crew, the sight of Sydney sky scrapers came as something of a shock but such is life in a square rigged sailing ship. You can only go where the wind allows. At the morning brief, the captain announced that the ship had covered over 500  miles since sailing and he was expecting to cover another 250 before the tall ship entry on Thursday.

Crew member at bracing station

Crew member at bracing station

A sailor’s work is never done and after the happy hour ritual of cleaning ship, all hands were called to bracing stations. Wearing ship this morning appeared to happen with ease, as the crew are now getting used to sail handling and working lines. Two watches were then called to shake out the reefs in the main and fore topsails followed by setting the spritsails and jib. Even with this amount of sail, the ship was reduced to a pedestrian three knots in very light airs.

After lunch an ‘all hands’ call was made but this time not for sails. Our Bosun, Ben, skilled in the art of cannon management explained the finer working of the ship’s main armament. Pointing out that the guns were cast from the original cannons jettisoned from Cook’s Endeavour in 1770, he proceeded to load and prime the required battery.  The captain’s order to fire the starboard cannon, elicited the response of ‘fire in hole’ and every grown man’s toy blasted into the Sunday afternoon atmosphere.

Ben about to fire the canon

Ben about to fire the canon

After the excitement of the cannon firing, a navigation lecture was held in the great cabin by the Captain, where he explained the concept of the noon sight. Reducing the problem into two dimensional geometry appeared to strike a chord with those present and tomorrow ten or so budding navigators will shoot the noon sun and produce a latitude. It is hoped they will all be in the same hemisphere. Attendance at the lecture might have been made attractive because the alternative was an afternoon of ship’s husbandry. Many hands set to scraping, sanding and repainting the rails and deck boxes.   One other point worth mentioning was the close passing of a merchant ship this morning carrying the blades for wind generators. Referring to both ships, one erudite voyage crew commented, ‘old wind, new wind’.

Many hands set to scraping, sanding and repainting the rails

Many hands set to scraping, sanding and repainting the rails

Another great day. With close whale watching over and the northerly wind building, a contented team went to dinner.

All is well.

International Fleet Review voyage – Day 1-3

Tuesday 24 September was the first time the ship has been at sea in quite a while and the professional crew were up early to square away the ship and prepare for their 10 day voyage. An excited voyage crew had joined that morning at the museum and they were placed in watches after being introduced to their watch leaders and the rest of the crew.

As always, the ship has attracted a wide range of interesting people with some coming to experience the 18th century sailing environment, others joining to be a part of the tall ship sail in company and others still coming back in Endeavour to relive their amazing experiences on-board during the 2011/2012 circumnavigation.

 Drill time

After the ship had anchored in Athol Bay, the voyage crew underwent some training and familiarisation around the ship, ensuring they were ready for the next stage of the voyage. For many in this group, this was their first experience in a square rigged ship and in some cases, they were overcoming the challenge of climbing aloft.

After the training had been completed, the Captain put the ship through a variety of emergency drills making sure the crew were ready for any event. The drills included a man overboard evolution and after a buoy was thrown over the side, the voyage crew took their positions, bracing the cro’jack and launching the sea boat. At the end of a long day, everyone was ready for dinner and their hammock.

Crew on deck

The second day started off very well, after a good night at anchor. Despite the long Day 1 and an early rise, the crew were keen to go and after clearing Sydney Heads began setting sails in perfect conditions. Mainsails, topsails and staysails were set and on cue, the wind filled in and the ship started gaining speed.

Hosting the sailsA short while later, the training undertaken the day before was put into practice. With the call of “all hands on deck” the voyage crew carried out their first wear and tack. As positions were manned and topmen prepared to make the calls, the ship was suddenly surrounded by a pod of dolphins, playing and dipping under the bow, another sea boat drill followed after which all on board settled into a regular sea going routine. Eighteen knots of nor’ easter breeze, carried the ship south and by nightfall, she was off Jervis Bay. A last call for all hands celebrated the birthday of one of our voyage crew with a cake especially prepared by the chef on-board, Nigel.

Day three on Endeavour and the routine was starting to fall in to place. With all the crew up, the morning deck scrub commenced, but at that morning’s crew meeting, the captain announced that instead of the normal “Happy Hour”, sail handling was to commence immediately. Explaining that the weather report indicated bad weather on the way, sail was to be reduced and reefs were to be put in the courses and topsails.

After the sail handling, many of the crew went below deck to try and get some well-earned shut eye after the almost three hectic days. Rest, unfortunately, is only for the wicked and the winds picked up almost immediately.  By early afternoon it was blowing 40 knots and by late afternoon the wind was blowing at about 45 knots with gusts above that. Topsails had been taken and ship ran before the wind with a fore course, main and fore topmast staysails. Following and fairly uncomfortable day and night, the wind eased and by first light on Day 4, the ship was sailing on a broad reach to close the coast. After only 48 hours at sea, Endeavour had covered over 250 nautical miles and was some 90 miles offshore.

All is well