Why? by Colin Taylor
That was pretty much the universal response/reviewed when I told them about the prospect of 60 days at sea sailing on Lord Nelson from Auckland to Ushuaia around Cape Horn, across the Southern Ocean.
The reason was pretty straight forward in my mind.
I was part of the first generation of my family that had not been to sea in over 150 years. To this end I wanted to get some feel for what life might have been like for them, albeit at no motors, no electricity, no GPS and other such navigational aides, at least back in the early days.
It started back in the late 1830s when my great-great-grandfather (who was an Englishman) was given a free sailing trip and accommodation provided for seven years in Tasmania, Australia. Okay, yes, he was a convict. Once he got his freedom in 1842 he put his hands to several occupations; farmer, bricklayer, Limeburner and finally a fisherman on the Tamar River in Northern Tasmania.
During this time he raised a family of 10 sons (one of which died very young) and 4 daughters (one of which also died very young). Of the nine surviving sons, eight went to sea and obtained their Australian Costal Masters tickets.
Four of the sons were prolific ship owners, building, buying or chartering in excess of 50 vessels between 1860’s and the 1920’s. Their ships were typically on the smaller side and covered cutters, ketches, schooners, topsail schooners, a brig, brigantines, barquetines and the largest a barque. This was an ex-Hobart whaler, reportedly the last whaler based there. They also dabbled with a couple of steamers. They traded these vessels all around Tasmania and to the mainland ports of Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in the main; and isolated trips to West Australia and Queensland. They even did a couple of trips to New Zealand.
Some of the next generation also took to the sea although none of them were ship-owners. A couple of this generation were lost at sea whilst in command and most of them were finished with the sea by 1930’s.
Of this generation my grandfather, who was a shipwright, was the last to be at sea, his last trip being in the early 1960s. One of his sons (my uncle) was also a ship wright and he ventured to sea in the 1950’s and stayed there until the 1980’s when sea going shipwrights were phased out in Australian flagged vessels.
So in doing this trip I hope to experience a fraction of what my forebears did in their years at sea and in all probability I will experience something they never did – sail around Cape Horn.