100 Not Out for Gypsy

Gypsy  – The centenary of annual 10 day cruises

by Steve Knight

 On Friday 19 January, Gypsy slipped her moorings at Bellerive in Hobart and headed south down the River Derwent, bound for the east coast of Tasmania, on her annual 10 day cruise.

These cruises have been part of a tradition that began in 1919, after my two great uncles purchased Gypsy in 1918. From 1919 until 1968, when my grandfather died, Gypsy undertook at least one of these cruises every year, and often two and sometimes three. Since 1968, she has undertaken one 10 day cruise (and other shorter cruises) each year.

Extraordinarily, from 1919 until 1968, without missing a beat as I understand it, Gypsy went up the east coast of Tasmania every Christmas. She left Hobart on Christmas Eve, and despite the fact that the Dennison Canal closes on Christmas Day, the canal Superintendent kindly came down, interrupting his morning, and opened the bridge to let Gypsy through. Gypsy would have Christmas lunch at Maria Island, before heading further north. She would then return early in the New Year, frequently stopping in the area around what is now known as Gypsy Bay, in Frederick Henry Bay, on the way home.

These trips continued during the Second World War despite the rationing of fuel, and the prohibition on travelling at night for fear of submarine attack.

In the early trips, Gypsy seemed to only go as far as Little Swanport, where in those days it was possible to cross the bar. I am not sure when she began journeying as far north as Schouten Island and Schouten Passage, but she was also a frequent visitor to Wineglass Bay, which is further north.

The extraordinary thing is that for many decades, she would have been one of the few cruising vessels visiting these parts, and even in my time as her skipper, it was quite common to be in these cruising grounds alone, sharing them only occasionally with working fishermen. I suspect that it would be quite reasonable to suggest that she probably pioneered much of the cruising in that part of Tasmania remembering that in those days, many fishing vessels were either not fitted with an engine, or chose to use them very rarely – indeed, I can remember stories from old fishermen who used to talk about waiting for a fair breeze to sail through the Dennison Canal, or wait for slack water and be towed through by draft horses.

Gypsy in Class One turn-out for the Governor’s Salute. Photo: Ian Stewart

Whilst most of Gypsy’s 10 day cruises have been up the east coast, many have also been down south, either through the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, sometimes venturing as far as Recherche Bay on the far south east coast of Tasmania, or involving a circumnavigation of Bruny Island. She has also cruised around Tasman Peninsula, therefore cruising extensively from Wineglass Bay up the east coast of Tasmania, to Recherche Bay in the far south east. During that time she must have travelled many hundreds of thousands of nautical miles, and given the utmost joy to those on board.

As usual, we had an excellent time; it is a wonderful thing to be able to share these cruises with a group of mates, all of whom have been doing these trips for the last 20 or 30 years, and in some cases, about 40 years.

With the exception of the first day, the weather was pretty much perfect, although very hot on a number of days; the fishing was good (although the cray season remained closed unfortunately), and we had a fine time – although the annual beach cricket match seems to attract much slower bowlers and less agile batsmen and fielders, than I recall was the case in the past!

With thanks to Gypsy’s wonderful crew, who help keep her alive by both enjoying her and helping with maintenance, and with good luck, the Gypsy tradition will hopefully continue for many more years!



Ben Mendlowitz Calendar Features Tassie Boats

One of the world’s most respected maritime photographers, Ben Mendlowitz, has selected two Tasmanian boats to feature in his eagerly-anticipated Calendar of Wooden Boats for 2019.

This is an extraordinary result from a first-time visit for Ben to Tasmania for the 2017 MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  With a 20,000 copy print run, this famous calendar is a hot item on every wooden boat owner’s Christmas list in North America and hundred of mail-order copies find their way to Europe, Asia and Australasia.  It’s a remarkable honour to see not one, but two Australian vessels in the calendar and the boat owners can be justifiably proud to be chosen for this prestigious and beautifully produced photographic essay.

The boats are Ben Marris’s 1936 Huon Pine ketch Saona and Toby Greenlees 13-metre, 111 year-old ketch Mallana.  Both boats were popular features at the 2017 festival.  Saona is something of a cinematic star, having hosted the Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans television team for an SBS series in 2012. Mallana was a participant in the thrilling Working Ketch Race for the Wrest Point Cup.

Saona – photo courtesy Ben Marris
Mallana – photo (c) Ballantyne Photography

The Calendar of Wooden Boats is published by Noah Publications in Brooklyn, Maine, which also produces elegant books featuring Ben Mendlowitz’s photography.  The calendar will be available on Amazon and from the publisher, but we are hoping to convince a local Hobart bookshop to stock the calendar when it is published.  If you are a lover of fine wooden boat photography, an advance order for the 2019 calendar from your favourite bookshop might be a sound idea.

Ben Mendlowitz was a guest of the AWBF at the last festival, along with Off Centre Harbor film maker Steve Stone.  Both friends have been instrumental in helping to build awareness of the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival in the North American market.

Windeward Bound Skipper Honoured

Windeward Bound, Parade of Sails, Hobart, Tasmania. Photos (c) Ballantyne Photography

The sail training vessel Windward Bound might be dubbed ‘the hardest-working tall ship in Tasmania’, given that it’s at sea so frequently, crewed by a mix of student trainees, professional crew and the occasional passenger.  That would make Captain Sarah Parry the hardest working skipper in Tasmania, and that has been recognised by Sail Training International at their recent conference in Bordeaux, France.  Presented with the prestigious  Sail Trainer of the Year Award, the international organisation acknowledged Captain Parry’s extraordinary dedication to making real ocean-going tall ship sailing available to hundreds of trainee crew members over the years, many of whom have gone on to command ships of their own. Sail training programs aboard the Windeward Bound have produced more than 20 qualified masters in the last ten years alone..

At the annual awards ceremony I was presented with this award. This great honour frankly blew me away, and I have to say, in no small way, the honour also belongs to the entire group of wonderful young, (and older) people, past and present, who make up the entire crew, both afloat and ashore, of our great ship.Our collective success is due to all our collective efforts. – Sarah Parry

The two-masted brigantine is a home-grown Tasmanian success story.  With its keel laid in 1990 at a now-vanished wooden warehouse on the Derwent foreshore, from build to launch took six years, almost entirely staffed by volunteers.  Materials were gathered from dozens of sources, including recycled parts of older wooden ships. Since its launch, the ship has logged more than 100,000 nautical miles and has circumnavigated Australia. The square rigged vessel is a familiar, and favourite part of Hobart’s waterfront scenery.

The Windeward Bound Trust was formed and sail training for young people became our target. It is our belief that no young person should be denied the opportunity (of sail training – ed.) and it was resolved to specifically target the disadvantaged, whether disadvantaged by financial, social or other circumstances.

That ideal has been maintained ever since and the vessel still conducts ‘Outward Bound’ style sailing adventures for young people on a regular basis.  Details of their program are to be found on the Windeward Bound website. As a long-time participant and supporter of the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Captain Sarah Parry deserves our congratulations on a well-deserved award.