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    Re: Bass Strait, avoidance of
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2003 May 26, 18:40 +0100

    Peter Fogg said-
    >Bibliography - such as it is ..
    >This detour to avoid Bass Strait may have been mentioned, among others, by
    >Francis Chichester in his book 'Along the Clipper Way' and by Eric Newby who
    >sailed on one of the last of the sailing grain ships in the late 1930s  and
    >wrote about that trip in his book with a title something like 'The Last
    >Grain Race'.
    >The chap who served a late apprenticeship under sail, in a variety of
    >sailing trading boats, and who went on to become a sailing ship's master
    >himself was Alan Villiers, title of his book forgotten. One of these boats
    >was the James Craig, which has been splendidly restored and now sails,
    >again, out of Sydney.
    >Excuse me for being vague; I'm happy to read books but avoid collecting them
    >(possessions are a burden).
    Perhaps I can fill in a few details.
    First, about arrivals to Australia from the West.
    Chichester, in "Along the Clipper way", said-
    "The clipper captains, rather than make a passage to Sydney through the
    narrow waters of Bass Strait, preferred to lengthen the voyage by 500 miles
    and sail round south and east of Tasmania".
    A year later, 1967, on his own circumnavigation, (see "Gipsy Moth circles
    the World") Chichester arrived at Sydney via Bass Strait, but then he was
    in a deep-keeled yacht with some modern aids, and by then the Strait was
    well lit.
    But was Chichester's claim about the clippers correct? In "The Colonial
    Clippers", Basil Lubbock lists 12 of the faster sailing-vessel arrivals in
    Sydney from the West in 1883, only one of which had rounded Tasmania, the
    others passing through Bass Strait. By that date, presumably, King Island
    had been lit.
    Now, for departures toward the Horn-
    Eric Newby in  "The last Grain Race" records his passage in "Moshulu",
    4-mast barque, as a deckhand. In 1939 she left Port Victoria in the Spencer
    Gulf. Moshula had a fair wind for making south-west around Tasmania, and
    Newby writes as if that was to be expected.
    Alan Villiers records two grain-carrying passages around the Horn.
    First, in the 4-masted barque "Herzogin Cecilie", in 1928 (see "Falmouth
    for Orders"). She beat out of the Backstairs passage around Kangaroo island
    (quite a feat in itself, in a loaded square-rigger), hoping to pass round
    Tasmania, but continuing SE head winds forced her to take Bass Strait. She
    ended up passing South of Campbell Island, South of New Zealand.
    Then in 1929, Villiers signed on in the ship-rigged three-master "Grace
    Harwar", which from Wallaroo was able to run South of Tasmania, though
    headwinds then prevented her from fetching South of New Zealand, and she
    was forced to take Cook Strait.
    Lubbock gives extracts from the logs of "Lightning", four voyages each
    departing from Melbourne for the Horn in the 1850s. Of these four, one
    passed West and then South around  Tasmania. From Melbourne, a ship is
    already half-way through the Bass Strait passage, but this shows that in
    suitable winds a master was prepared to backtrack and sail close around the
    dangerous West coast of Tasmania if there was easy Southing to be got.
    So my conclusion from all this is that mariners were not so horrified by
    Bass Strait, nor by the rugged lee shore of the Tasmanian West Coast. They
    were prepared to take whatever chances the wind offered, and make the best
    of a difficult choice.
    I think that the lighting of King Island must have made a big difference to
    the attraction (or otherwise) of Bass Strait. Anyone know when that
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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