When seven Cornish fishermen decided to try their luck during the Victorian gold rush, the first idea for raising the money for fares was to sell their boat – a fishing lugger called the Mystery. The captain, however, had another idea – sail it all the way to Victoria. Departing from Cornwall on November 18, 1854, the fishermen sailed the 21,900km to Melbourne, arriving on March 14, 1855. None of them found a fortune and five returned home, but the other two settled here.
A replica named the Spirit of Mystery was built in 2008, and an adventurer called Pete Goss sailed her over the same route. Skippered by Pete and crewed by his brother Andy, his brother-in-law Mark Maidment and his 14-year-old son Eliot, the Spirit of Mystery left Cornwall on October 20, 2008, and arrived at Melbourne on March 9, 2009. A fortnight was spent in Cape Town, which meant the Spirit of Mystery was a little more than a week longer at sea than the Mystery.
Pete described 15m waves with crests passing every 18 seconds. The voyage was delayed after Mark had one of his legs badly broken when the lugger was struck by a huge wave south of Kangaroo Island, and the vessel made for Portland so he could be taken to hospital.
The replica was rigged in the same way as the original, and although an engine was fitted, it was used on the voyage only to take Mark into Portland. Navigation was by the sun and stars, but a satellite tracking device made it possible for the progress of the Spirit of Mystery to be followed on the internet.
An interesting YouTube video provides some idea of the huge waves encountered and shows views of the accommodation below decks. More information and photographs can be found on the internet.
BY MAURIE HUTCHINSON
President, Peninsula SS
T: Maurie Hutchinson 9787 5780
The Peninsula Ship Society meets at Hastings Yacht Club on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 10am. Visitors always welcome.