Earlie Beach is a little town with about 1.300 people, in Queensland, Australia, along the Whitsunday Coast. It’s the gateway to the unparalleled Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s very popular with backpackers… and I was one of them! After arriving in the famous locality, I spent a couple of days relaxing and having a look around, trying to find out what could interest me in the area.
I simply loved the feeling of being careless free, fortunate to be in this superb part of the world.
One day, I do not remember if I was in a backpacker or in a pub, I saw an advertisement on the wall that unchained my imagination. The image of wonderful tall ship with all its sails unfurled appeared in front of me. A comment said that being on it would have been an adventure of a life time experience.
It was about a week cruise around the Whitsundays, a collection of 74 continental islands in the North-East Coast of Queensland.
I was hooked. I knew that I needed to go.
The ad also publicised: “Backpackers willing to help out with serving food and cleaning up will get a huge discount.” Without hesitation, I went to a travel agency and I bought a ticket immediately. I was very lucky; the ship was nearly booked out for the next weeks and they only had a few places left.
I was very excited about the trip and the ship as well. I started to gather information about my new mean of transport, which was a brigantine.
What is a brigantine? I am sorry about the technical wording but there is no other way to get around it…
It was, they do not exist anymore nowadays, a two-masted sailing vessel with an entirely square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square top sail and a gaff sail mainsail (behind the mast). The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.
The ship was built in 1910 by the Ports and the Harbours of Victoria, in Australia. At that time, she was called “Plover”.
For its construction, they used the best materials: the New Zealand Kauri, a gigantic native tree, and copper fastenings.
This astonishing 30-meter vessel was one of the last tall ship on planet earth.
It is hard to describe the feeling of being on it.
Its story is fascinating. It started as a steam powered ship in Melbourne and worked at diverse jobs as fishing ketch, ferry, scallop boat and finally as a striking cruise ship.
Unfortunately, in 1986 it caught fire. Luckily nobody died while the fire was raging but the deck was destroyed. Even its superstructure was completely wrecked. The ship then was abandoned in the mud for 2 years in the Marybyrnong River. A disaster!
Providentially 4 guys from Germany and a professional rigger of Geelong, called George Herbery, had the vision of seeing the huge potential of the discredited ship.
The brothers, called Helmut, Günther and Gert Jacoby and an engineer called Ed Roleff, were ship lovers. Within 4 years and 6 months they turned the derelict into a classy and elegant sailing vessel.
It was so picturesque, eye-catching and unique that it was regularly used in movies. One was the notorious softcore “The Blue Lagoon”…
Nevertheless, the day I was impatiently waiting for to start my new journey arrived…
The ship was blue with immaculate sails. What a wonderful sight when I saw it for the first time! What a feeling to embark on this masterwork!
My imagination ran wild… The Golden Plover reminded me of pirates, black and white flags with the skull, symbol of piracy par excellence… of deadly naval battles and hidden treasures…