Fair Winds and Following Seas

By: Craig Murphy
Monday, April 22, 2019

There are so many ways to commemorate a life.

I don’t think there ever has or ever will be a request that we won’t try to fulfil for a family. Some are relatively simple, others not so much, but all of them are immensely important to that family.

Last week, I had the privilege of helping a family fulfil their father’s last wish, to have his ashes scattered in the sea at the site of the sinking of the HMAS Voyager.

This site is particularly important to many people in the Shoalhaven.  It is the site of a Naval tragedy that would affect many hundreds of sailors and their families.

On the evening of the 10th of February 1964, two warships, the Aircraft Carrier HMAS Melbourne and the Destroyer HMAS Voyager were partaking in fleet manoeuvres and training exercises off the Shoalhaven coastline. Disastrously and mistakenly, the Voyager crossed the bow of the Melbourne and was struck. The impact damaged the Voyager so significantly that she sank within hours, sadly with 84 fine young Australian sailors still on board.

The impact on those that survived was profound and significant. Many men still carry the scars to this day.

So, when we were approached by the family of one such sailor who was a survivor of this disaster to return his ashes to the sea with his fellow shipmates, we were keen to see this wish fulfilled.

It was a beautiful autumnal day as we left Greenwell Point and the Crookhaven River to make our way to the site where the Voyager lies undisturbed in over 2000metres of water. Glenn sat upstairs and chatted as we made our way to sea with the ashes of his father. We saw sea birds, dolphins, whales, and tuna on our 30 odd nautical mile ride to the site.

When we arrived, we pulled the throttles back on the boat and drifted. There was a lone Albatross skirting around the oily calm sea. Glenn said a few very heartfelt and caring words as he gently scattered his father’s ashes into the sea. He also left two red roses, to represent the love of his wife and children, and a photo of Dad, smiling, just like I remember him too. He was a good man, he deserved to have his last request met.

On our way home, we again saw whales, had dolphins playing under the bow of the boat, and also snuck a couple of lures out to see if we could possibly snag one of the tunas we saw earlier in the day. No luck on that front.

As Glenn departed the boat, we hugged, he thanked Lily (my daughter) and I for fulfilling this wish. Really, we should have thanked Glenn and his family for the privilege in allowing us to be involved in such a moment.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

C.

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