Whale watching tall ship cruise

by Elisa Parry

While sailing the high seas on a tall ship might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s actually been on my bucket list for years. Confession: I love a good historical drama (think Outlander or Poldark). So, you can imagine how my imagination ran wild as I stepped aboard the Coral Trekker, a stunning little Square Rigger built in Norway in 1939. While I love the idea of tall ships in theory, I was nervous of just how’d I’d go sailing out the heads of Sydney Harbour in one, so I dragged my husband along for the experience (also because I really wanted a shot from the top of the mast and with my fear of heights, there was no way I was climbing up there).

Our journey began with a safety briefing, and a quick lesson on the history of the ship. We were also given a cup of delicious pumpkin soup, which apparently is supposed to settle the stomach and help with seasickness. This wasn’t my first whale watching rodeo, I’d knocked back a couple of Travel Calm ahead of the journey and would very much recommend this for all whale watching cruises. You just don’t want to take the risk.

We proceeded under full sail towards the heads. Those who were keen to climb the mast were encouraged to do so while we were in the harbour and the swell was much smaller. About half of our group harnessed-up and made the climb. The view from the top was pretty amazing.

Sailing out of Sydney Harbour

As we headed into open water, the swell had picked up to two metres. It was quite rough and at this point on the journey, I was very thankful for the Travel Calm. I was sitting up the front of the boat, where you feel the rise and fall of the swell the most. I stayed there partially because it was kind of fun once you got used to it, and also, because I was too scared to move between surges. Now, to spot whales…

Humpbacks had been sighted earlier in the morning at Botany Bay, so we headed south. Three hours later, there was still no sign. At this point, we were getting a little desperate. But after a delicious lasagne lunch, our spirits lifted as we began to head back towards the coast with our eyes peeled. Side note: trying to eat a plate of lasagne in two-metre swell on a tall ship in the middle of the ocean is not an easy task.

Sydney Harbour Sailing

As we approached the heads, we saw the spay of a whale on the Starboard side. With everyone on deck, scouring the water, we got the surprise of our lives when a humpback poked his head up just metres away from the ship. You could actually see the body of the whale beneath the water, even the white of its belly as it rolled over to get a better look at us. It’s honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed (swipe across to check out the video in our Instagram post above).

We bobbed around for a while longer and enjoyed a few more sightings before it was time to head back home. Despite only having a couple of brief encounters with the whales, it was a great day out. The experience of sailing the tall ship was quite unique in itself and added a whole other dimension to the cruise. If you’ve been whale watching before and you are after a slightly different experience, channel your inner pirate and sail the high seas!

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