Voyage Log: Sydney-Brisbane Aug 2008: Day 7

Noon position: Lat 31.58S, Long 513.0E
Days run 105 nautical miles

There was great excitement on board this afternoon, as the mizzenmast watch’s ace fisherman, Kingsley Joliffe from the Hunter Valley, landed his second fish of the voyage – a huge one-metre 20 kilo yellowfin tuna from his line off the back of the ship.

Kingsley landed this 20 kilo yellowfin tuna from his line off the back of the ship

Kingsley landed this 20 kilo yellowfin tuna from his line off the back of the ship

Despite the lashing rain and wind, the stern was crowded with spectators from the off -duty watches, as Kingsley hauled the fish in from over 100 metres of line. It’s the biggest he has caught yet – and even better, the galley team of Abi and Darbey have already prepared it for another of their great meals!

Our sailing situation has improved dramatically since yesterday’s log. After more than two days sailing backwards and forwards east to west and back again, and at the same time losing ground because of adverse winds, we now have a southerly wind blowing us in the right direction northwards up the coastline towards Brisbane. There was a certain amount of self-satisfaction in the demeanour of Captain Ross at the morning’s briefing, having predicted this turnabout in the voyage’s fortunes 48 hours before.

The mizzenmast watch (on deck between 8pm to midnight) emerged from their mess into pitch darkness on the deck last night. No moon, heavy cloud, and you could hardly see your hand in front of your face until your eyes got used to it. The bow lookout were entertained by the sparkling phosphorus in the bow wave, giving an eerie glow in the gloom. It was blowing a gale of 20-25 knots across the deck, with breakers over the waist which is the lowest part of the deck between the stern and bow, soaking the crew as they crossed from one end of the ship to the other. Around 2330 hrs the moon rose and broke through the clouds and they could see again!

For the midnight to 0400 hrs watch, foremast watch were on duty and sailing was much the same as before, heading west towards the shore with a moderate breeze and then turning the ship (known as ‘wearing’ it) to head out east again, basically trying to hold our northerly line. A keen watchman noticed a slight fray starting on one of the lines, and this was temporarily repaired with a splicing until daylight. The 0400-0800 hrs mainmast watch had rain, with flat seas, but a fair amount of sail handling up to dawn, again ‘wearing’ the ship. Despite the rain and occasional strong wind, the ship behaves impeccably, riding the swell, and responding well to the helm.

Watches have settled into seamless teams, performing the instructions from the professional crew in all aspects of ship-handling – including maintenance. Paint-scraping and re-painting have been going on the keep this historic ship at its best.

Now we are on a correct northerly course, with the mountain ranges of the east coast away on the port side, it is awe-inspiring to know that Captain Cook sailed these waters in the original of this ship when these waters, and this land, was unknown to the European world at the time. His feat of navigation and map-making is all the more remarkable of course, being without modern GPS, radar, and charts.

There is now a certain undercurrent of activity running through the ship, as the watches prepare for the traditional ‘Sod’s Opera’ to take place a night or two before disembarkation. Keeping secrets on this ship is not easy, but small groups can be seen huddling in corners discussing plans to outperform the other watches with their sketches, songs and recitations. It’s a time to have some fun and relax after the discipline of round-the-clock watchkeeping, which everyone has to maintain during a voyage on such a ship.

All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward, Melanie Snow