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Australia’s oldest working tall ship James Craig celebrates 150 years

Sydney Heritage Fleet 2 mins read

Sydney Heritage Fleet’s 1874 three-masted iron barque James Craig is celebrating its sesquicentenary this year beginning with a spectacular Parade of Sail on Sydney Harbour on Sunday 18 February. 

The Heritage Fleet’s Patron, NSW Governor Margaret Beazley, and more than 100 invited guests – including a direct descendant of the ship’s original owner Thomas Dunlop, who is travelling from the UK - will be on board the magnificent ship as she does a lap of honour around Sydney Harbour accompanied by a flotilla of tall ships and other historic vessels. 

The Parade of Sail begins at 2pm and finishes at 3.30pm, with the fleet sailing from west of the Harbour Bridge to Bradley’s Head and return.

The best vantage points for seeing the Parade include Dawes Point, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Opera House and Duff Reserve on the south side, and Bradley’s Head and Cremorne Point on the north side. Boat owners are invited to view the spectacle (at a safe distance).

Built in Sunderland, England, and launched on 18 February 1874, in her early life James Craig carried cargo far and wide, rounding Cape Horn 23 times.

Originally named Clan Macleod, in 1900 she was sold to New Zealand merchant JJ Craig and named James Craig after one of his sons.

The ship was then used primarily to carry cargo between New Zealand and Australia, but she sailed less and less as she aged and ended up being used as a coal hulk before eventually being abandoned in Recherche Bay in Tasmania.

In the 1970s, a group of maritime heritage enthusiasts linked to what is now Sydney Heritage Fleet began the remarkable process of restoring the ship. She was re-floated and brought first to Hobart then to Sydney.

After almost 30 years of painstaking work, the ship came back into survey in June 2001, with the restoration resulting in James Craig receiving a World Ship Trust Maritime Heritage Award. 

Since 2001, James Craig has been visited by thousands at her berth at the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Wharf 7 at Pyrmont. 

Every fortnight her volunteer crew take her sailing offshore to give members of the public an opportunity to experience life at sea. The ship also ventures further afield, including sailing regularly to Hobart for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. 

For comment, contact Peter Cole (Executive Master) 0419 691 084 or Hans Adzersen (Master) 0420 232 265. For all other enquiries, contact Bob Hammer on 0409 302 484.

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