The painting depicts the small yawl Spray under the command of Captain Joshua Slocum clearing the rip at Port Phillip Heads in Melbourne, Victoria on January the 24th, 1897 bound for Launceston, Tasmania. In the background is the steam tug Racer which had assisted in towing the Spray to the heads. The temporary Point Lonsdale wooden lighthouse is seen on the headland and remained in service until replaced by the present day lighthouse in 1902.
The Spray is wearing the suit of sails which had been provided in Sydney by Commodore Foy and a single reef has been taken in the mainsail to avoid overpowering in the fresh winds.
Captain Slocum was the first person to sail alone around the world leaving Boston in 1895 on his three year voyage in a 100 year old yacht that he restored himself. In his classic book Sailing Alone Around the World he states that, “The rip off Port Phillip Heads, a wild place, was rough when the Spray entered Hobson’s Bay from the sea and was rougher when she stood out. But, with sea-room and under sail she made good weather immediately after passing it … the wind being fair and blowing hard”.
Specifications and details on the Spray:
Length overall 36ft 9in
Beam 14ft 2in
Draught 4ft 2in in the hold
Tonnage 12 and 70/100th tons gross
Planking – Georgia Pine
Bulwarks – White Oak
Deck – 3 inch white pine