AT’s Alissa Jenkins channels her inner pirate and climbs the mast of a historic tall ship.
Ever dreamed of stepping back in time and experiencing life as a pirate? It’s now possible on board a new two-hour tall ship cruise on Sydney Harbour, which allows passengers to also climb the ship’s mast – a first in Australia.
Today I’ve taken up the challenge and wait for the historic Southern Swan to arrive, the only ship that offers the experience, (it was also used for the Australian Bicentennial First Fleet Re-enactment). As I wait in the afternoon spring sun at The Rocks, the tall ship berths at Campbell’s Cove and the sound of old-world folk music being played on board drifts towards me. The crew are dressed as pirates and once they secure the entry ramp, I soon hop aboard.
Anchors away and the ship is cruising around a sparkling Sydney Harbour, while a gentle breeze blows and ‘pirates’ serve a seafood lunch to passengers. As the ship gains enough speed it’s time to hoist the billowing canvas sails on the front mast, and passengers are encouraged to get involved by helping to pull the necessary ropes.
Once lunch settles and the cruise is well underway, passengers gather at the rear of the ship for their turn at climbing the 15-metre high mast. In the past, only qualified crew have been able to experience the climb, but now on board the Southern Swan, passengers have a chance to also climb, with the safety of a harness and experienced crew at hand.
One by one, people around me zoom up and down the mast, returning with a relieved smile and pumped full of adrenalin. It looks easy enough, I mean it’s only 15 metres, but as my turn nears nervous excitement kicks in.
As the ship approaches Sydney Harbour Bridge, I’m handed the harness, buckled up and am soon carefully stepping up the cable ladder to the top of the mast.
Nervous, shaky and determined not to be the first to slip off, I soon reach the top of ladder where I stop to look around at the spectacular views of Sydney surrounding me.
As timing would have it, the ship passes under the Bridge just as I am mid-climb, making it an extra special experience. But in my nervous hast I then start stepping back down, forgetting to climb up on to the crows nest, which is a small platform at the top where mast-climbers can freely take advantage of the views without having to hang on to anything.
I soon reach the solid deck again and despite my premature descent, I am both shaky and exhilarated by my climb experience.
I can happily recommend this unique cruise to everyone – it’s easy enough for both children and adults and doesn’t require a great deal of strength or fitness. Also, the height is not overwhelming for most people which gets an extra tick from me.
What I can suggest though is be sure to wear flat comfortable shoes, shorts or pants (no skirts or dresses) and once at the top, don’t forget the crow’s nest!
Who? Sydney Harbour Tall Ships // (02) 8243 7961 // www.sydneytallships.com.au
Where? Sydney Harbour, departing from Campbell’s Cove, The Rocks, Sydney
When? Up to six cruises daily
How much? $89 for a two-hour cruise on board the Southern Swan, plus an extra $59 to climb the mast