HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

29 August 2017



CaptureCutter Moonbill

March 1934.

Quite a stir was felt in Huskisson when word of the adventures of the auxiliary cutter Moonbill spread around the town.

The new gaff sail cutter was moored just off Currambene Creek flying a couple of flags at the stern riding the waves as if nothing untoward had happened to her.  But this comparatively small vessel and her crew had just been through 4 days of torturous sea conditions which tested the ship and her crew's strength and will to survive.

Barely able to walk when they reached the shore, the crew related their story to interested listeners before returning to their vessel.   Word quickly spread and a small crowd gathered to see the cutter.

The crew moved the cutter into Currambene Creek where the people had gathered at the wharf hoping to hear from the crew once they had moored, but instead of tying up to the wharf, she anchored mid stream causing some disappointment for those onshore.

A local journalist made arrangements to be taken to the vessel and record the adventure from the captains log.


Monday, Feb 19 - 3.40pm Sydney. The cutter cleared Barrenjoey on a cruise to Lord Howe Island with a crew of four men, good progress was made overnight.

Tuesday, Feb 20 - A moderate wind was coming from the south east.

Wednesday, Feb 21 - The wind swung around to the North East and during the afternoon the weather became threatening, with long N.E swell and the wind rising rapidly.
At 4 pm they took in all sail and streamed the sea anchor.  By midnight the wind reached gale force from the N.E with high seas.

Thursday, Feb 22nd - The wind blew a moderate gale all day. The wind now shifted from the N.E to N.N.E with a very high sea and continuous rain.  The vessel rode as best could be expected under the existing violent conditions.  The sea anchor was lying about 3 points on the starboard bow.  By nightfall, the sea became lashed with fury and the crew had a very tiring and hazardous time, Mountainous seas crashed over the vessel.  Due to the rolling the engine was flooded, and the bilge pump was disabled, but in two-hour shifts, they pumped by hand,  there was not much time for eating with the crew surviving on biscuits, the crew having to give every attention to the safety of the vessel.
Luke on one occasion had to climb the 30ft mast in huge seas to retrieve a broken halyard.

Friday, Feb 24 - The seas started to show signs of moderating, but violent squalls and continuous heavy rain,  which prevented any observation of the ship's position being made.
By midnight the weather showed signs of abating and the wind hauled from the S.W.

Saturday, Feb 24th - 4 p.m the sea anchor hawser carried away, the crew set a reefed canvas and proceeded close hauled towards the westward, by noon the weather had cleared,  and the wind moderated to a light breeze from the N.W.  This enabled observation to be made showing them the ship's position.

Incredibly the ship had drifted 200 miles to the southward. During the ordeal water had poured through a skylight, the wireless was sourced and all their clothing and bedding was saturated.


The crew by this time were almost completely exhausted and set a course for Jervis Bay,  they sighted Point Perpendicular Head at 7.55 am, entering the bay at 11 a.m.  and dropped a ground pick, and were pleased with the prospect of a hot meal and unbroken rest.

The crew - W.E. Moulin (owner). Captain Hill - ( ex Royal Navy Navigator).  S.J Keegan and Peter Luke the youngest.
Moonbill – measured 34ft ft in length, 11-foot beam and 5ft 6 inch draft and fitted with a 16 h.p Hercules engine.

Meaning:  Sea Anchor - an object dragged in the water behind a boat in order to keep its bows pointing into the waves or to lessen leeway.

sea anchor


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