Thursday, 11th September 2008
Coffs Harbour, outer harbour anchorage
It’s a lazy afternoon at anchor, everyone glad of the respite after the rolling at sea. The watches gather in clumps on the deck in the warm sun, and go over their acts for tonight’s Sod’s Opera. Back in range of land and some of the voyagers catch up with their landlubbing loved ones, spinning tales of some of their adventures.
At 1400 hours the chief officer, Marty, announces the starboard side open for swimming; despite the sun, it is a cool sea breeze blowing and only a handful brave the water, leaping – less than gracefully in most cases – off the waist (middle of the ship). Tegan, mainmast topman, and Josh the foremast yardie, hang the wide rope ladder; the refreshing swim finishes with a workout that challenges climbing the shrouds, the rope ladder twist and turns with nothing securing it at the bottom, and the swell tipping the ship from side to side.
Towards 1700 hours and everyone musters on the quarterdeck, the mates, Marty and Ben, have marked chalk lines at various intervals around the ship. The watches come up and eye them off suspiciously, “what are we in for now?” Ah, a relay race, with short wooden batons, that’s not too unusual. Oh… no hands. Oh, we carry them between our legs and pass it on with a pelvic thrust?! So it is that with peels of laughter the watches go racing around the deck, and of course in this case racing means hopping, stumbling, falling, elbowing, thrusting and clamping. No one has a moment to imagine being bashful, as beating the other watches is of paramount importance. Mainmast watch under Tom and Amanda prove how intimate they have become by winning both rounds, the mates start to worry about what mainmast has been practicing during their watches.
The last night onboard is a special occasion, marked by an indulgent dinner on the 18th-century mess deck. Following naval tradition whereby the officers serve for the crew, the professional crew serve for the voyagers. The captain, Ross, shows great enthusiasm for serving, racing and grabbing plates out of the hands of his colleagues, trying to do it all himself. Many of the professional crew have dressed in 18th-century sailor’s garb for the occasion, and snarl at the captain as he tries to nick plates from them. Abi and Darbey have prepared a seafood feast, with delightful fish and prawns a plenty.
After dinner and it is time for Sod’s Opera. It is a fantastic night, each watch putting on a variety of songs, poems, dances, and even a story of the voyage with accompanying pantomime. Such fun is had that the audience don’t want it to end, and to keep it going there are a few contributions from the professional crew, especially the dulcet tones of Ally the foremast topman, Amanda singing and on guitar accompanied by one of our voyagers on a harmonica, and Tom gives an all-too-brief performance on his didgeridoo.
The night passes quietly at anchor, and everyone rises slowly after the night of frivolity. Ross calls a meeting in the waist and announces that Endeavour will not be berthing in the inner harbour tonight as scheduled, the swell has been keeping the dredgers at bay and the entrance is still silted up. So the voyagers will be ferried to shore later this afternoon. After the meeting and it’s time for brunch, the first time on the voyage that crew are able to eat on deck. The smell of fresh coffee fills the air, and all are treated to a big brekkie. After the meal it’s happy hour, the last one and a big one. On the 18th-century deck all the seachests are removed and replaced, so that there can be a thorough scrubbing underneath. The voyagers also pack there belongings and bring them up on deck to the main hatch.
After noon and the chief officer, Big M, is at it again. He musters all watches on the quarter deck, this time making sure all are wearing their safety harnesses, presumably the voyagers are all going to have some fun aloft in the rigging. Not exactly … fun yes, but the harnesses aren’t for climbing. It’s a treasure hunt, and the harnesses are to add an extra challenge, all 13 members of each watch must be harnessed together! Now most of the laughter comes from the mates, yours truly – Mischa the steward, and Matt the boatswain’s mate, whom all have the pleasure of spectating. This time it’s foremast watch who win the prize, the Chuppa Chup Challenge Cup, a chalice filled with glorious lollipops.
A little too soon for some after the fantastic brunch – but Abi won’t hear of letting her charges go hungry, especially with the work of getting to shore still to be accomplished – so it’s time for a last sumptuous meal. And of course as soon as they have a taste everyone discovers they have an appetite after all.
Finally, the voyagers are called to deck for a presentation from the captain, track charts expertly designed by one of their number are distributed, as well as a sea time certificate. Farewells are made, and with the invaluable assistance of the local coast guard, boat load by boat load the voyagers are taken ashore.
Thank you, I wish you fair winds and farewell.
All is well.