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Hi, welcome to my blog. I'm a writer of poetry, prose and plays but my best known work is children's fiction. My most popular books are the Selby series and the Emily Eyefinger series. This blog is intended as an entertaining collection of thoughts and pictures from here in Australia and from my travels in other parts of the world. I hope you enjoy it. (For more information have a look at my website.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sea Fever in Sydney

Sydney loves a party, especially when massive amounts of fireworks are involved. We are now in the grips of nine days of the Australian Navy's 2013 International Fleet Review. Forty war ships and sixteen tall ships from around the world have come to Sydney to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Royal Australian Navy's fleet in Sydney Harbour on October 4, 1913.

In the midst of all this I flew up to Tamworth to give a talk to kids at Tamworth Library (thanks, guys, I had a wonderful time) and---just my luck---on the flight there I had a window seat on the plane on the right side to see the ships in Sydney Harbour.

A view of some of the ships in Sydney Harbour.
The foreshores of Sydney harbour are filled with spectators lining up to inspect the ships or, like me, just wandering around taking happy snaps of anything that floats. For the maritime tragics, and those of us just out enjoying a good day out, there's a full program of events that began with Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs launch of the fleet review. Prince Harry is checking things out on behalf of the Royal Palace and providing additional photo fodder for the press.

The Royal Navy's HMS Daring and air defence destroyer. The smooth lines reminded me of a stealth fighter aircraft.

The Royal Australian Navy's frigate HMAS Perth. This is the first major warship of the RAN to be commanded by a woman.

A US Navy' guided missile cruiser USS Chosin docked at Barangaroo.

While it's good that we have naval war ships to protect our shores, I confess that I find the tall ships with all their masts and lines and sails are much more interesting to look at. Surprisingly, even the tall ships that aren't replicas but were restored old ships, aren't that old. Of the ships I saw only the Dutch ship Europa was launched before the arrival of Australian's navy in 1913. The Europa was built in 1911.

Some of the tall ships docked among ships on permanent display at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour.

The Dutch ship Oosterschelde (1918) docked in the background and the brigantine Windeward Bound (1996) in the foreground.

The Picton Castle (1928) drying its sails after sailing into the Harbour in the rain the day before. The Dutch ship Tecla (1915) is on the left.

 The Picton Castle has an interesting history. It was built as a motorised trawler in Wales in 1928 but saw service in World War II as a minesweeper. At one point a mine exploded underneath it and lifted it out of the water but the ship survived. It was also dubbed "the liberator or Norway" when it was forced to put into Bergen, Norway, during WWII due to mechanical problems. Germany occupied Norway but, as luck would have it, the Germans had just retreated from Bergen before The Picton Castle sailed in with its Union Jack flying.

Making frequent appearances in the TV series The Onedin Line and a guest appearance in the movie "The French Lieutenant's Woman", the Soren Larsen was only built in 1948.

 Standing in front of the Soren Larsen a gentleman asked me if that thing sticking forward from the bow was called the bowsprit. I said, "Yes, and did you know that the word 'bowsprit' comes from the Middle Low German word bōchsprēt? Meaning 'bow" and 'pole'?" (Actually I just made that up after I looked it up on the internet.) What I really said was "I think so". He was obviously taken aback. "Oh," he said, "I thought you looked like someone who knew a lot about sailing boats." Embarrassingly, I don't. I just like the look of them. (That's the last time I wear my captain's hat to a boat show.)

New Zealand tall ship The Spirit of New Zealand (1986).

Dutch ship Europa (1911).
There are three tall ships from the Netherlands in Sydney for the Naval Review.

HMAS Vampire on the left was retired from service in 1986 and is part of the Maritime Museum's permanent collection. It's the last of Australian's big gun ships. After this, they've all been equipped to carry missiles. On the other side is the stern of the Picton Castle.

 As of this writing (Monday, October 7, 2013) the International Fleet Review is happening on so check your local listings and see if there's anything for you.

HM bark Endeavour replica is also part of the Maritime's permanent collection.
It was the Endeavour that Captain Cook sailed to Australia in 1770.

If it's tall ships you want to see, I recommend Darling Harbour. When you tire of them you can wander over to the Monkey Baa Theatre Company's home, the Darling Quarter Lend Lease Theatre, where the fabulous children's play, Emily Eyefinger, will be on from October 8th to 11th. (Yes, I'll be there giving a talk after every performance and signing books.)

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