It’s 1981 and my parents are dragging me to somewhere on Sydney Harbour’s foreshore. All I can remember is the name of the ship we came to see – the James Craig.
The event some 33 years ago was celebrating the return of the James Craig, now being brought back to Sydney Harbour for a lengthy restoration project. The significance of the vessel was lost to me at the time.
The ship was built in 1874 in Sunderland, England, named Clan Mcleod. Until 1900 she travelled the worlds trade routes endlessly, with 23 roundings of Cape Horn credited to her.
In 1900 she was purchased by New Zealander, JJ Craig, and used as a trade vessel between New Zealand and Australia, but with steam powered vessels more prominent the James Craig’s relevance waned.
She was purchased by jam connoisseur Henry James IXL and returned to Sydney from New Guinea, but in 1932 she became beached at Recherche Bay in Tasmania after breaking her moorings in a storm.
There she sat until 1973 when she was refloated and repaired in Hobart, before being brought to Sydney Harbour in 1981 for a lengthy restoration project.
A restored James Craig was finally re-launched in 1997. She is now owned by the Sydney Heritage Fleet, and is moored at the Sydney Maritime Museum, when she’s not sailing out to sea with up to 80 guests.
This was a chance sighting. Not only because I was busily scootering the smoothly concreted finger wharves along Hickson Rd, but the James Craig is one of only 4 operational Barques from the 19th century still sailing, and the only such vessel in the Southern Hemisphere.