Voyage Log: Sydney-Brisbane Aug 2008: Day 6

Noon Position: Lat 31 19S, Long 513 24E
Day’s Run: 55 nautical miles
This afternoon, Captain Ross decides that the crew are resting on their laurels, so he throws in a fire drill at sea to liven things up a bit. This drill is vital for the safety of Endeavour – especially as she is a wooden vessel. At the sounding of the alarm, all hands muster on deck and count off – everyone is present. At the same time, the professional crew take their stations – hoses, fire suits, first aid equipment and all in an orderly manner.

The voyage crew work the lines to bring the ship to hove-to position so we can concentrate on the “fire-fighting”, and to bring sea water onboard to prime the emergency diesel pump which would be used only in the event of a breakdown of the main fire control systems. Within two minutes the “fire” in the galley is under control and the captain declares himself satisfied with the performance of all those onboard.

After excellent progress over the past six days with a favourable south-westerly wind to help us up the coast to our destination, the wind has changed so that we now have to sail out to sea on a long tack and then back in again towards the coast, trying to gain some progress northwards. Ross explains that this is the limitation of a square-rigged ship such as Endeavour, as she depends on the wind coming either from behind directly or from some angle off the stern. We are hopeful of another set of winds from the south-west in the next day or so to continue our journey north.

The Endeavour crew at work

The Endeavour crew running a fire drill

The voyage crew – divided into foremast, mainmast and mizzen watches – are each under the watchful eye of their allocated team of experienced professional crew and continue with their daily routine of rotated watches. The mainmast watch are on watch tonight between 2000 hrs and midnight and report a calm sea, a stunning moonrise turning the sea to silver, and Endeavour proceeds at a steady 5-6 knots. The mizzenmast watch take over at midnight to be on deck until 0400 hrs, experience an increase in the wind speed to Force 6. There are no lights on deck save the red glow from the compass housing, so in the darkness, illuminated only by moonlight, the watch hauls down the mizzen course and sets the mizzen staysail to balance the course of the ship. At 0400 hrs they are relieved by the foremast watch, who were able to come on deck with the ship trimmed for the course and weather, until their watch finished at 0800 hrs – and breakfast!

With plenty of work on deck, handling sails, the helm and the bow and stern lookouts, the watches look forward to their meals, and the Endeavour galley crew always exceeds their expectations. Catering officer Abi and cook’s mate Darbey are busy from morning to night conjuring up a varied menu three times a day for the ravenous sailors in their small galley located in the hold of the ship known as the 20th-century deck. “Anyone for seconds” is probably the most popular call!

Today we are halfway through our voyage – although not halfway to Brisbane – but we have every hope of catching up with favourable winds. The voyage crew have settled into their shipboard routine – including ‘happy hour’ when everyone gets down to daily cleaning duties throughout the ship with minimal grumbling – and the watches are developing a strong sense of camaraderie in this close little community at sea.

All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward, Melanie Snow