by Steve Knight
On Friday 19 January, Gypsy slipped her moorings at Bellerive in Hobart and headed south down the River Derwent, bound for the east coast of Tasmania, on her annual 10 day cruise.
These cruises have been part of a tradition that began in 1919, after my two great uncles purchased Gypsy in 1918. From 1919 until 1968, when my grandfather died, Gypsy undertook at least one of these cruises every year, and often two and sometimes three. Since 1968, she has undertaken one 10 day cruise (and other shorter cruises) each year.
Extraordinarily, from 1919 until 1968, without missing a beat as I understand it, Gypsy went up the east coast of Tasmania every Christmas. She left Hobart on Christmas Eve, and despite the fact that the Dennison Canal closes on Christmas Day, the canal Superintendent kindly came down, interrupting his morning, and opened the bridge to let Gypsy through. Gypsy would have Christmas lunch at Maria Island, before heading further north. She would then return early in the New Year, frequently stopping in the area around what is now known as Gypsy Bay, in Frederick Henry Bay, on the way home.
These trips continued during the Second World War despite the rationing of fuel, and the prohibition on travelling at night for fear of submarine attack.
In the early trips, Gypsy seemed to only go as far as Little Swanport, where in those days it was possible to cross the bar. I am not sure when she began journeying as far north as Schouten Island and Schouten Passage, but she was also a frequent visitor to Wineglass Bay, which is further north.
The extraordinary thing is that for many decades, she would have been one of the few cruising vessels visiting these parts, and even in my time as her skipper, it was quite common to be in these cruising grounds alone, sharing them only occasionally with working fishermen. I suspect that it would be quite reasonable to suggest that she probably pioneered much of the cruising in that part of Tasmania remembering that in those days, many fishing vessels were either not fitted with an engine, or chose to use them very rarely – indeed, I can remember stories from old fishermen who used to talk about waiting for a fair breeze to sail through the Dennison Canal, or wait for slack water and be towed through by draft horses.
Whilst most of Gypsy’s 10 day cruises have been up the east coast, many have also been down south, either through the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, sometimes venturing as far as Recherche Bay on the far south east coast of Tasmania, or involving a circumnavigation of Bruny Island. She has also cruised around Tasman Peninsula, therefore cruising extensively from Wineglass Bay up the east coast of Tasmania, to Recherche Bay in the far south east. During that time she must have travelled many hundreds of thousands of nautical miles, and given the utmost joy to those on board.
As usual, we had an excellent time; it is a wonderful thing to be able to share these cruises with a group of mates, all of whom have been doing these trips for the last 20 or 30 years, and in some cases, about 40 years.
With the exception of the first day, the weather was pretty much perfect, although very hot on a number of days; the fishing was good (although the cray season remained closed unfortunately), and we had a fine time – although the annual beach cricket match seems to attract much slower bowlers and less agile batsmen and fielders, than I recall was the case in the past!
With thanks to Gypsy’s wonderful crew, who help keep her alive by both enjoying her and helping with maintenance, and with good luck, the Gypsy tradition will hopefully continue for many more years!