Voyage Log: Coffs Harbour – Port Macquarie day 5

Monday, 22nd September 2008

Noon position: Lat 31°28’S Long 153°00.1’E
Day’s run: 77 nm

Chicken soup and salads for lunch, easy enough for the last voyage crew recovering from seasickness to have a spoonful. Mainmast watch finishes their spud peeling competition, with a clear winner of the longest peel trophy as adjudicated by the Ben the second mate. After the peeling is done and the competition complete they finish off with “the spud cannons!” All lined up in the waist of the ship by Bark Endeavour‘s cannons they launch a handful of peel over the side and shout BANG!!! It’s fun, but it’s just not the same. On deck it’s still bright and beautiful, calm as a pond, and people are swanning about in the sun. Perfect conditions for an emergency drill. Ben calls it over the PA: “Man overboard drill! Man overboard drill!” And the sound of the general alarm knocks the crew out of their slumber.

 

The professional crew all rush to their designated man overboard positions, and the voyage crew to their muster stations. Those already on deck are standing and pointing directly at our man overboard dummy: “Oscar”, a green ball (Oscar is the name of the code flag flown by a ship in a man overboard situation); the lookouts do not take their eyes off him, and keep their arms rigid pointing at him – a clear indicator for the rest of the rescue effort. Dirk the navigator starts his timer the moment the first call is made over the PA. Darbey, the cook’s mate, and Ally, the foremast topman, suit up, while the mates, Toby and Ben, command the voyage crew hoisting the rescue boat.  The boat is launched with Ally at the tiller and Darbey in the bow, they look back to the lookouts to get their bearing and race to save Oscar.

Darbey is heard on the radio: “Man overboard recovered!” Ross, the captain, looks at Dirk and asks for the time, “ten minutes precisely.” It is calm conditions, with nil ship speed, and in 10 minutes the man overboard drifted 0.2 nautical miles (about 370 metres). It is a clear demonstration of the necessity for a speedy rescue should a real emergency arise, which would be more likely to occur under strenuous sea conditions. Oscar is appropriately chastised on his return and told not to do it again. After the drill, with the rescue boat in the water and Bark Endeavour heaved to, the crew are rewarded for their efforts with a unique experience: a swim in the open ocean with 4000 metres of water below them, and 65 nautical miles from land – well beyond the edge of the continental shelf. It is a welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity aboard ship the last two days, the water is blue and pristine clear: absolutely refreshing.

  

A little work is done immediately after the swim, with some crew pulling lines while still in their bathers – the rescue boat has to be hauled back onboard and the lines cleaned up, and all sails out are set on a starboard tack. Once completed, and everyone is out of their swimmers, the day returns to a peaceful tone. There is talk of the sod’s opera night coming up, reading in the sun, and on the foredeck there is a guitarist practicing. At 1600 hours one of the topman is hunting down a line under the direction of Ant the sailing master/boatswain, they look and look, getting closer, only to be trumped by their own upperyardie, who finds it first. Ant thinks it’s very amusing and makes sure to rub it in, “I was close!” huffs the topman.

At 1640 the top gallants are clewed, followed by furling. There are many cameras watching from the deck below; sail handling – up so high in perfect weather – is a pretty sight. Except one voyage crew member up on the yard calls: “No more butt shots!” Pictures taken from below and behind a yard while a crew member is hanging over it can be less than flattering (or more flattering – as the case may be!).

It’s movie night, after a scrumptious Sunday roast courtesy of Abi and Darbey in the galley, it’s time for Sunday night moonlight cinema courtesy of Ross. Onto the main course sail is projected images of Endeavour under full sail and hurtling along, followed by incredible footage of a massive tallship sailing the wrong way around the horn. Popcorn and chocolate travel up from the galley, bringing more enthusiastic patrons.

The night passes smoothly with a little lightning teasing from the horizon but not drawing closer, at 2200 hours the wind is backing rapidly, blowing north-west and north, freshening force 4. During the 0400-0800 watch with mizzenmast watch on duty there is a splendid shooting star: space debris burning large and blue, similar to a comet. A pod of dolphins also welcomes the ship into the day. It is another beautiful morning, with french toast on the breakfast menu (known as Matt’s french toast, the boatswain’s mate, for it’s his favourite brekkie). And on either side of breakfast all the sails are clewed, followed by a whole lot of furling.

At 1000 hours the captain calls the voyage crew for a morning meeting, the news: we are heading in. The iron staysails (the engines) are up, there might be a chance to enter the Port Macquarie river mouth before gale force winds close the door – and Captain Ross has decided to take it. The entry is highly dependent on both the wind and the sea state – if the conditions aren’t suitable then Endeavour will be headed back out to sea ’til the time is right.

After the briefing it’s time for “happy hour”, cleaning stations on board, everything is to be ship shape for arrival. Afterwards everyone is on deck in uniform ready to attempt the bar crossing into Port Macquarie.

  

All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa ChaleyerKynaston

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