Australia’s oldest tall ship, the Sydney Heritage Fleet’s 1874 three-masted iron barque James Craig, is celebrating its sesquicentenary (150 years) this year, and the celebrations will begin with a spectacular Parade of Sail on Sydney Harbour on Sunday, 18 February.

Invited guests, including the Fleet’s Patron, NSW Governor, Her Excellency Margaret Beazley AC KC, will be on board James Craig as she does a lap of honour around Sydney Harbour accompanied by a flotilla of other tall ships and some of Australia’s most historic vessels.

James Craig will be honoured with a formal salute from Garden Island on passing.

The Parade of Sail begins at 1.45 pm and finishes at 4.00 pm with the fleet sailing from west of the Harbour Bridge to Bradleys Head and return

Members of the public can join in the celebrations by booking passage on the Sydney Heritage Fleet historic vessels Waratah, Lady Hopetoun, Harman, and Berrima at  

Boat owners are invited to view the spectacle (keeping a safe distance from parade vessels). The best vantage points for viewing the Parade include Dawes Point, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Opera House and Duff Reserve on the south side, and Bradleys Head and Cremorne Point on the north side.

James Craig Australia Day 2009The following weekend (24-25 February) the James Craig will be at Barangaroo and the public are invited to come on board free of charge to view the magnificent ship up close. Visitors will also have the chance to participate in various activities including climbing onto the jibboom. 

The James Craig was launched on 18 February 1874. She was built as a barque, square rigged on her fore and main masts with a spanker on the mizzen mast. She carried cargo between Australia and New Zealand and in the Pacific until 1911 when she was converted into a storage hulk in Port Moresby.

During WW1 she was again converted to a sail ship and used to carry supplies. After the war, she resumed carrying cargo and survived heavy storms before arriving in remote Recherche Bay Tasmania in 1922.

From 1926 she was used as a coal hulk before being scuttled in relatively shallow water. This process prevented salt-laden air from corroding the metal of the hull. She remained in a deep sleep for many years.

In the early 1970s she was seen as an ideal recoverable wreck by a Sydney group of maritime heritage enthusiasts who established the Sydney Maritime Museum (now known as the Sydney Heritage Fleet).

The remarkable process of restoration began with her being re-floated and brought first to Hobart then to Sydney. After many years of work, she began sailing trials in Sydney in July 2000.

Since 2001 the James Craig has been visited by thousands at her berth provided by the Australian National Maritime Museum on Wharf 7, 58 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont.

She sails once or twice a month past the heads to the ocean where sails are unfurled. She is also used for harbour cruises and functions alongside and on the harbour and sails to Hobart for the bi-annual Australian Wooden Boat Festival and to other destinations. The last voyage to Hobart was in January-February 2023.