Yesterday I had the pleasure of sailing around the Derwent River Harbour in a full scale replica of the Lady Nelson sailing ship. The original was built in 1798 in England and plied the waters between Newcastle and Norfolk Island and Tasmania for the next twenty five years. My day on the water was glorious with blue skies, golden sunshine and a firm breeze. When all the sails went up, we scudded along at 7 knots. Quite wonderful. The image below is of the replica in which I sailed.
The water surface had an almost millpond quality as we returned to the wharf. I couldn’t imagine how sailing ships would cope with heavy seas.
I spent a great deal of time trying to remember what I knew about the Lincolnshire, the ship which brought our ancestor William Baker Tyzack and his family to Port Melbourne from England. I tried to imagine what it might have been like, with so many ropes and so many sails being part of the picture for 83 days at sea.
Today I have been able to compare the sizes of the two vessels. The Lady Nelson came out to Australia with around 20 people. The original crew size was 12. By contrast the Lincolnshire, when first launched in 1858 sailed with a crew of 60. The Lincolnshire was designed for 180 passengers in addition to the large crew. When William travelled in 1866, approximately 116 passengers plus crew sailed. Not a full complement, but undoubtedly the hold was full of supplies and cargo so space for moving around would still have been at a premium.
Records show that at times there were perhaps 60 or so people sailing for days on the Lady Nelson. Yesterday with passengers and crew I suspect our number was around 40. It was standing room only on the deck when all were assembled. Sailing for days would have been very cramped and most uncomfortable by today’s standards (although I recognise that people were generally physically smaller back then than we are today). Add to that, on the original Lady Nelson, the area below deck remained unstructured with one open hold. Apparently people slept on boxes and ropes and all.
My photos below give some idea of the majesty of a sailing ship however small.
The original Lady Nelson was approx 53 feet long compared to the Lincolnshire which was approx 198 feet long – that is, William’s ship was over three times as long as the ship I sailed on yesterday.
The Lady Nelson was approx 17 feet wide compared to the Lincolnshire which was 33 feet wide – that is, William’s ship was almost twice the breadth.
The Lady Nelson weighed 61 tons compared to the Lincolnshire which weighed 1025 tons – the latter being about 17 times the tonnage of the smaller ship
Having pursued this simple research comparing the two ships, and after yesterday’s most stimulating sail, I feel I have a small but greater understanding of what William, Charity and their four children might have been exposed to at sea.
The Lady Nelson replica runs trips lasting a few days; I am considering taking one of these small voyages. Part of the deal, if you wish, is to learn to handle the ropes and even climb around the sails. I wonder if the Lincolnshire crew allowed such liberties to its passengers.