Sailing the Tall Ships in Sydney Harbour and Climbing the Mast

Fresh oysters with a lemony tang, barbecued prawns, crab rolls, spinach and feta triangles, the platters of food kept on coming around.

Except I could barely eat it.

I had to also limit my intake of champagne on this bright and sunny spring day on Sydney Harbour to one.

Perfect day for Champagne

It wasn’t that I was sick, or not enjoying myself. I was to a degree…

It was because I was about to attempt something my brain tried to tell me was foolish.

I revealed to you a few weeks back what my secret travel fear was. Well, there is another one lurking around in that irrational mind of mine. It’s a fear that had me last year quitting on the High ropes challenge course in Queensland a lot earlier than I should have.


They make me freeze. I can never work out how I can ever get up them, or down.

It’s a long way up

And now I was going to climb up a 15m ladder, otherwise known as a mast, on the Tall Ship on Sydney Harbour.

A mast that sways in the breeze.

Did I mention that there are lots of breezes in the springtime in Australia?

And a mast that sits above shark infested waters.

The Pirate Party

Have I mentioned to you though, that I was once a pirate in a previous life?

I was a pirate once


Pirate Philip, as told to me by my chakra-rebalancing-past-life clairvoyant.

Never fear, I only robbed from the rich and that was only because I was poor and had no other choice.

Survival of the fittest, right?

Well, I needed the pirate in me to kick the fear out of me so I could climb that mast, admire the views, take the photos and get back on deck so I could eat more of yummy food, without the sickening dread upsetting its taste, and down some more champagne in celebration.

Gorgeous views

You can’t not sail a tall ship on Sydney Harbour with some of the best views in the world and not drink champagne, or wine, or beer…

Climbing the Mast

“Geez Caz. You’ve bungyed before, you can climb up the mast,” Craig started on his pep talk that he has had to give me many times before in front of ladders.

(‘ll remember that call when it’s time to do bungy Craig- “geez you’ve sky dived before, you can bungy!”)

Usually, I have Craig in front of me or behind lending a hand. But this time he was on the mast opposite me and he scaled up like Spiderman while I was still down the bottom getting my harness clipped on, asking for the safety instructions once again.

“Come on Caz, you can do it. You’ve got a harness on.”

“Just take your time. You’ve got it”

Rung by rung I slowly edged my way up, keeping three points of contact the whole time. My legs wobbled, my breath came out long and drawn, trying to gain courage with each one.

Rung by rung

“I hate this. Why am I doing this?” my mind kept repeating as the mast got narrower and narrower the higher up I got.

“Look up Caz,”

The smile belies the fear

Craig was shoving the camera in my face expecting me to smile. Didn’t he know a smile might just top my wobble over the edge and down to the shark pit below?

“The harness will grab you if you fall and you won’t go anywhere” Jo the pirate instructor told me. No one had tested that theory out yet and I didn’t want to be the first.

“Now how the hell do I get on the pirate viewing deck?”

“Just grab the rope and slowly climb up.”

A twist of the body one way, the other way, a slight pull up, a knee on the deck and before you knew it I reached the pinnacle and could admire the most gorgeous view of one of the most spectacular harbours in the world.

Worth the climb

Craig, who is meant to be afraid of heights, was snapping away and enjoying himself, the fear suddenly gone, and mine started to slide away as the true pirate in me came out.

Hanging over the edge

That really was fun and the reward was worth the swallowing of the fear.

The ship was really packed of eager would-be pirates waiting to climb the mast, and Jo quickly came scurrying up the mast without any harness to hurry us back down. I was slightly disappointed.

Not just because I wanted to keep admiring the view, but because now I had to get back down the ladder.

It was much easier, although my legs still shook and my breath was still heavy which prompted Jo to call up “Are you okay up there?”

“Um yeah.. but I am stuck.”

My harness had gotten caught on the ladder rung and up he came scurrying again to help release it.

“Better that they sometimes get a bit stuck like that then are loose and send you tumbling into the sea.”

“I hear ya Joe!”

Sailing The Tall Ship Experience

I soon hit the deck, unharnessed myself, gave my inner Blackbeard a pat on the back, and headed to the bow of the ship where I thoroughly enjoyed some more prawns, chilled wine, the view and time with my pirate husband.

Ahoy there Bring on the barbie

The pirate workers ran around running the ship and serving us with whatever we needed to make our two hour cruise a pleasurable experience.

A band played traditional Australian folk music from the first settler era giving us the full 18th century sailing experience.

Strike up the band

I sat back to enjoy the sun’s rays chatting to my fellow pirate passengers and the skipper of the boat, who injected the word “ripper” into almost every sentence, really adding to the Australian authenticity to the Tall Ship experience.

Ripper Captain

The Southern Swan was the tall ship we were sailing on. A replica of those that came over on the First Fleet, and rescued by David Warne and Marty Woods five years ago as it sat rotting on the wharves of Sydney Harbour.

Cheers to a great day sailing

The Tall Ship Vision

Dave had a vision to restore history to the harbour and give a unique experience to tourists and locals alike.

The Tall Ship experience

It is now listed as one of the top 10 experiences in Sydney and this month sees the opening of the once in a lifetime mast climb. Not only that but the ship’s billowing sails will cruise past iconic landmarks such as the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo.

Dave’s passion and enthusiasm was really catching and shone through with the way he told us his story and spoke to every passenger on board. Here as someone who truly loves what he does.

And those people have infectious energy that you can’t help but want to experience more of.

Not only was it an enjoyable Tall Ship, pirate adventure but one that inspired me to keep believing in my dream and loving what I do. Only great things can come from it.

Sailing the Southern Swan and Climbing the Mast Facts

Where:     Departs from Campbell’s Cove Sydney Harbour
When:      11-1pm on weekends 1:30-3:30pm every day but Tuesday
Cost:          2 hour cruise with BBQ seafood lunch- $89 mast climb- $59

Want more information? Read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

Would you climb the mast?

We were guests on the Tall Ship but all opinions are of our own.

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