Just over one hundred years ago, at a time when the Squadron was having its early regattas and meetings in the Metropole hotel, the beautiful Iron Barque “City of York” rounded Rottnest and searched for the pilot. Dusk was falling on a stormy July evening and she was nearing the end of a leg from San Francisco to Fremantle under the guidance of her skipper Captain Phillip Jones. They had sailed through a savage storm that had, the night before, claimed the “Carlisle Castle” with all hands on Coventry Reef, off Rockingham. The two available pilots were engaged with the simultaneous arrival that night of the “America” and the “Freden”.
She was a well-found and speedy 1200-ton ship having only just been beaten by the famous “Cutty Sark” in the “Great Race” in 1885. A flare was lit at the base of the lighthouse to warn Captain Jones of the closeness of the Island but he mistakenly assumed through the gloom that it was the pilot boat and sailed on. Under full sail, she struck the reef where she still lies. Captain Jones and 10 of his 26 crew perished. He was eventually cleared of blame by the controversial inquiry and, as a result, significantly improved procedures and communications were implemented at Rottnest. These included a submarine telegraph cable and the construction of Bathurst Lighthouse.
In 1961 the “Blue Water Wanderers” raised one of the anchors. It now resides at the entrance of our clubhouse at the Perth Flying Squadron Yacht Club, mainly through the efforts of past members and of our life-member Bob Drabble. We also have the Rottnest Island signaling Timeball used at the time. To remember the centenary of the loss of the “City of York” the club restored the anchor and dedicated our 1999 Commodore’s Ball to the ship and her crew.
The Perth Flying Squadron Yacht Club grew from humble beginnings in the mid-1890’s and has a rich history of nautical memorabilia and diverse characters over the intervening 100+ years. The very active heritage committee of the club, chaired by Dr John Kagi, has been extremely fortunate to have the support of Stuart Joynt, a journalist and historian of significant note to write a book of the club’s history. Stuart is progressing through the historic and archive material and an early draft of the history of sailing regattas and power craft on the Swan (and the deeds of their tough crews) is making compelling reading. We were also fortunate to have some professional and very good amateur photographers in the club’s early days and we hold some of the finest early sailing photos of the titanic battles for sailing supremacy on the Swan. The book is very much directed at preserving this rich history as well as collating the trials and tribulations of the Club. We are expecting to print a minimum of 1000 copies in hard-back style with a significant number of historically very important photos and charts, (including the only known good condition copy of the Shell Chart).
All of the club’s early photos have been captured digitally and are being systematically restored using sophisticated digital “air-brush” techniques. These pictures will be made available with the written history for members and are truly spectacular memorabilia.
Address The Esplanade, Dalkeith, Western Australia, 6009