A blog series from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
Growing up in Portland the bay was a constant in Stephen Radley’s childhood – swimming in the summer, watching the ships unload their cargo, trawlers returning with their catch and people sailing their yachts. One memory that remains of those days is that of the cray boats returning with their catch, cooking the crays right there on the wharf and then selling them still steaming.
At the age of 18 he left Portland, set out for Melbourne where he enrolled at RMIT and ultimately graduated as a medical scientist. He worked in that capacity throughout Victoria and New South Wales until adventure called him and he took the overland route to London.
On reaching Kathmandu he was surprised to see recently slaughtered beasts being chopped apart on the open street. This sight did not unduly disturb him as during his school holidays, in Portland, he had worked at the local abattoir.
On reaching London by truck from Kathmandu he began a 10-year period working all over England as a medical scientist, within the British Health System.
On his return to Australia and Stephen settled in Brisbane and continued to work in his chosen field and it was there that kayaking entered his life. He had seen people kayaking on Portland Bay but had never tried it himself, as cycling was his hobby. Having cycled throughout England, Europe and Australia, it was the hand-built wooden kayak of his friends that intrigued him and so he added kayaking to his list of hobbies.
In 2011, whilst cycling over the Storey Bridge, Brisbane, on his way to work, he caught a glimpse of HMB Endeavour sailing up the Brisbane River to her berth at the Creek Street Pier. In order the pass under the bridge she had struck her t’gallant masts and as soon as she had passed under the bridge she greeted Brisbane with a two-cannon salute. The sight of the Endeavour sailing up the river and under the bridge so intrigued him that Stephen had to find out more about her. A few days later he cycled down to where she was berthed and started his enquiries. The Endeavour was on her first full circumnavigation of Australia, the first leg being Sydney-Brisbane.
From the website he discovered that Portland was included in the Endeavour’s itinerary and having a desire to sail in or out of Portland, it was the perfect way to visit family. Unfortunately the Portland – Hobart was already booked out so he opted for the Adelaide – Portland leg, which turned out to be a wise decision. The voyage track went out to the Bonney Upwelling on the edge of the continental shelf where Stephen witnessed the annual event of blue whales feeding on the abundance of krill which welled up there.
As they approached Cape Nelson the Queen Mary II bore down on them and as she passed by, at close quarters, the Captain ordered both cannons to be fired. This memorable occasion was recorded by a helicopter which was hovering overhead.
Stephen’s first night in Portland was highlighted by the fact that he had not gained his land-legs and his around town was somewhat unsteady – however the local police did not feel it necessary to caution him.
Stephen returned to Brisbane after visiting his family and set about planning his next voyage on Endeavour which, as it turned out, almost turned him off sailing. It was the 2013 Transit of Venus voyage from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and back to Sydney. It was a particularly rough voyage and as he left the ship, Stephen thought that he would not sail the Endeavour again. This thought did not remain with him for very long as he signed on for the Sydney to Botany Bay voyage, to commemorate James Cook’s arrival and landing at Botany Bay, an event hosted by the St George Shire.
Stephen then signed on to the 2015 Sydney to Hobart Wooden Boat Festival voyage, another very rough voyage, so much so that it was terminated five days in and has been affectionately renamed the ‘Nobart’ voyage.
Undeterred by the rough weather, a given for any sea voyage, Stephen signed on once more for the 2016 Sydney – Adelaide – Sydney voyage. This time he visited his family first and then took the Portland to Sydney leg, a rather “cool way” to travel back to Brisbane (via Sydney).
Stephen also has an interest bird identification or “twitching” something he was introduced to by friends who are passionate twitchers. On the 2016 voyage he indulged this interest by identifying a number of Bass Strait sea birds, something that his land-based friends could not do. He also enjoyed the 10 days under sail, the whole point of a sailing ship, and the final 3 days motor sailing, necessitated by the winds coming in from N-NE.
Reflecting on his various voyages, Stephen remarked that each time he boards Endeavour ‘muscle memory’ kicks in and all that he has learnt on previous voyages comes flooding back to him.
Australia has a long coast line inhabited many different species of birds and Stephen, determined to increase his knowledge of sea birds and sailing, is already contemplating his next voyage aboard Endeavour.