"Olivebank and tug Waratah - the Heaving Line" by Robert Carter

This is the second post in our series on the marvellous paintings by Robert Carter OAM, FASMA, FISMP of the sailing ship era and recently published in The Marine Paintings of Robert Carter.

Robert is one of Australia's leading marine artists and is also joint founder of the Australian Society of Marine Artists with Dean Claflin.1 You can read more about Bob's biographical information by clicking here.

In this publication Bob has presented his paintings in five parts and we will follow this same format. At the moment we are admiring and learning about the ships from Part One: Maritime Australia. Today is all about honouring and acknowledging the courage of those indomitable little tugs and their crew.

Olivebank and tug Waratah – The Heaving Line by Robert Carter ©

As Robert explains:

A ritual experienced by all those who went to sea in sailing ships was ‘taking a tow’.

Sailing ships could rarely enter port under sail and had to be towed in to their berth. It was accompanied by much activity by all those on board. Prior to taking the tow line, sail would be reduced so that the speed of the sailing ship could match that of the tug. In this painting the upper sails – topgallants and royals, are furled and the courses are ‘up in their gear’, meaning that they are hauled up to the yards but not furled at this stage. The topsails are always left to last as there might be a reason to abort the tow at the last moment. In this case the sailing ship must have the ability to get going again quickly.

The breeze is setting in towards the land and the sailing ship skipper must judge the right moment to take in the remaining sail. It can be seen that the anchors are already over side, with the mate observing that all is ready for them to be dropped when needed. The ‘heaving line’ was a light, small diameter rope attached to the heavy tow rope. It was weighted at one end. One of the skills necessary for an AB (able seaman) to possess was to coil the heaving line neatly so that it would not tangle and to heave it so that it landed where it could be caught.

As this was an imaginary painting intended to illustrate the activity surrounding ‘taking a tow’ I could choose any two vessels. The Finnish 4-masted barque Olivebank seemed to fit in nicely, as did the tug Waratah, which has been restored and is now operated by the Sydney Heritage Fleet.2

The paintings in Part One of Marine Paintings of Robert Carter refer to vessels that were employed in the Tasman Sea trade with New Zealand, together with those that were regular carriers for Australia's overseas exports of wool, grain and coal - in particular from the ports of Newcastle, New South Wales and Sydney (Port Jackson). The South Australian grain trade is covered in Part Three of the book.3

© Thank you to Robert Carter who kindly gave permission for the image of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life.

Please check out the Robert Carter Website.

And also the site for the Marine Artisits Australia.

The next glorious vessel in our Robert Carter Marine Series will appear in about a week.

1. Correspondence with Robert Carter
2. robertcarter.com.au
3. The Marine Paintings of Robert Carter OAM, FASMA, FISMP, Published in Australia by Robert Carter Maritime, Gosforth NSW, 2320, Australia, 2022