Voyage Log: Coffs Harbour – Port Macquarie day 4

Sunday, 21st September 2008

Noon position: Lat 31°19.9’S Long 154°03.5’E
Day’s run: 82.8nm

After lunch and it is a glary day on deck, the clouds have been scorched away and we are sailing into an infinite grey haze. The sky is a strange purple and cobalt, with the grey reaching up from the horizon in a long gradient. There’s a moderate north-easterly swell and Endeavour is sailing easy, west-south-west back towards land. At 1400 hours the captain, Ross, continues his talk about sailing, people clamber up from different parts of the ship – having been there for the first instalment they don’t want to miss the conclusion.

Afternoon smoko sees a birthday celebration for one of the voyage crew, Abi and Darbey in the galley have baked him a cake! Everyone on board gets a slice. The seasickness is beginning to abate, with some who have rested for most of the day coming up to the deck for fresh air – lifting their confidence; however a handful are still afflicted. At 1630 hours Ally and foremast watch head up the mainmast to put a second reef in the main topsail.

1900 hours and the lookouts see occasional lightning to the south, at 2000 it is closer, coming up to midnight and the sea and sky are alight. Mizzenmast watch under Tegan and Amy are on duty and are joined by the idlers (the professional crew who are not part of the regular watch rotation), we clew the courses in smart fashion to keep Endeavour under control in the storm. Tegan remarks about a bolt of lightning and a roar of thunder unlike any she’s ever seen or heard – earth shattering in magnitude. The bow and aft lookouts both have a similar experience of some voltage: the bow lookout feels a shock in his elbow a moment before a lightning strike directly ahead about 2 miles off, and the aft lookout describes a sensation similar to touching an electric fence – a mild shock giving a thud to the heart. As well as the lightning there is beautiful phosphorescence moving in the wash of the ship.

Between midnight and 0100 hours, the storm spins the ship in a pirouette and knocks her around a little, and she is braced for a port tack. At 0300 hours the main topmast staysail is set. At 0500 hours, wearing ship is finished in very light conditions. It is a beautiful, clear, calm morning, with the ship all but becalmed. At 0700 hours the sextants are on deck, both the captain and chief officer, Toby, taking readings to get our position 18th-century style. And the recovery from seasickness is evident by a large turnout to brekkie.

At 0800 hours, whales are spotted to starboard, at first the crew suspect a ruse by the chief officer to get everyone on deck quickly, but then the whales are seen: five are counted all up, swimming and surfacing together. At 0830 an albatross joins the ship, circling from afar but keeping her company. As the morning carries on, the stories of the night’s storm are getting bigger and bigger: “It was a force 5 hurricane!” “We had to nail the captain’s feet to the deck!”

It’s a glorious day for sail handling, working aloft, and on deck. At 0930 the fore and main topsails are set with single reefs, then the main topgallant, the spritsail, followed at 1000 by the mizzen topsail and fore topgallant. Wally, our engineer, is “hunky dory” doing some painting.

1130 hours sees all of mainmast watch on deck peeling potatoes, the task doesn’t usually inspire the enthusiasm of such numbers, but they have turned it into a competition between themselves (with the greater purpose of increasing their competitive nature with the other watches). There are two competitions running, the first is who can peel the most spuds, and the more conclusive and glamorous is the competition for the longest intact piece of peel.


All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston