Tuesday, 23rd September 2008
Noon position: Lat 31°36.6´S Long 153°04.8´E
Day’s run: 65 nm
A quick rearranged lunch and the crew is ready to attempt the bar crossing into Port Macquarie. There’s a 1.5 metre swell and winds around 20 knots, several yachts form a welcoming party to greet Bark Endeavour. The ship bounds in the swell, from bow to stern, some exhilarating bow waves showering those lucky enough to be working on the foredeck – preparing lines or laying out anchor cable. The winds strengthen and the ship goes a little south of the channel, kissing the sandbar softly. At 1320 life jackets are brought up, one for every crew member – 56 bright orange vests – required for the bar crossing.
The winds are up, between 25 and 30 knots, and Endeavour is bouncing near the mouth of the river with trepidation. A few moments pass, the last preparations are made with the berthing lines at the ready, and everyone waits on deck with baited breath. At 1335 the mates collect the life jackets, Ross, the captain, has decided to call off the entry. We are not going in today. He calls an immediate meeting with the voyage crew to explain the decision. The swell is ok for crossing the bar, but the winds are too strong for berthing the ship. Our entry is very much dependent on the tide, and today the tidal window has been blocked by high winds.
1400 hours and numerous people can be seen on the 18th-century mess deck with mobile phones out. Ally, the foremast topman and an experienced tallship sailor, says he’s “never seen so many phones on an 18th-century tallship!” But with the attempted bar crossing averted, and the possibility of a few more days at sea, there are travel plans to be renegotiated. At 1415 Ross calls the voyage crew down to the galley for a talk about weather forecasting and synoptic patterns, something he has been promising to do for a few days. Afterwards the voyage crew have a thorough understanding of the weather front behind us and why there are gale force winds on shore.
To end the weather briefing there is a call over the PA: “Whales breaching of the port bow!” Within moments Ross has lost his audience: “that’s one way to end a meeting !” After a moment of whale watching, Ben, the second mate comes over the PA: “Ah, now that you’re all on deck…” the voyage crew know what’s coming, “let’s have watches aloft to reef sails!” And everyone is hard at work again, Bark Endeavour needs to get out to sea before the weather front stirs up the coast. At 1515 whales are spotted again, crew aloft have a spectacular view. The sail handling continues for the next two hours, it’s a bit of a shock for the voyage crew after being within sight of land and in reach of relaxation.
For dinner there is sumptuous fish cooked with love by Abi and Darbey, it’s delicious, and an enormous comfort to the worn out crew. Everyone is a little giddy and hyperactive, people are joking and being silly with each other, as we head back out to sea together for who knows how long. Following dinner it is an absolutely stunning night on deck, pitch black interrupted by bolts of lightning, travelling every which way through the clouds on the horizon. Occasional dull thunder rumbles and rolls overhead, but the worst of the storm seems to be clinging to the coastline behind us and there is little rain to speak of.
At 1900 the wind is boxing the compass (going round and round without settling or maintaining turn to it’s direction). At 2000 we wear ship and set a new course north-west. By midnight the lightning squall has diminished and the wind is almost non-existent. At 0200 hours the winds increase to force 3 and are blowing northerly, at 0415 we wear ship again. The really troublesome thunderstorm activity expected to develop hasn’t arrived yet. At 0800 we wear ship. At the morning meeting Ross announces that we will be trying to cross the bar into Port Macquarie again. Will it be a groundhog day? It’s uncertain, conditions appear to be favourable, but no one can be sure whether the expected storm activity will blow in proper.
At 0945 all hands are called on deck, watches head aloft with surprising vigour to furl, their topman and yardies have kept them in good working order despite the to-ing and fro-ing of the ship’s schedule. The motors go on and we power back towards Port Macquarie with our “fingers and toes crossed”, as the captain puts it. At 1100 hours dolphins come alongside and say hello to the ship which doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. A good omen for the voyage crew perhaps? Happy hour says otherwise, cleaning stations! Suddenly the crew are not so vigourous.
After a fairly lazy but nonetheless thorough happy hour it’s lunchtime, then preparations are made for going to shore. After midday we come up to the bar, the swell is light, and the winds die down as if preparing for us. The skipper jumps aboard a local rescue boat and does a quick reccie of the entrance. All appears well, Ross announces that we will be going in!
Everyone reports to their muster stations and don life jackets efficiently after their practice the day before. The Port Macquarie breakwater is lined with a massive crowd of locals come to greet Endeavour and her crew. There is much waving and cheering, and invitations to the local tavern thrown across the water. Bark Endeavour is a 400 tonne ship, and she is in a narrow channel, the final manoeuvre to berth her is done slowly and carefully with the assistance of Port Macquarie Volunteer Sea Rescue. Once berthed securely the crew go about the final ceremonies of disembarkation. The captain dishes out the wages (a drop of rum for each crew member), and hands out track charts and certificates. Afterwards everyone packs their luggage, then are called up on deck – where the rains have finally arrived – for a last bit of heavy work. The rescue boat is heaved ashore and the gangway and shore staging are constructed.
Farewells are made, there are many handshakes and pats on the back, and a voyage crew member speaks of his envy of the professional crew who are to keep sailing Bark Endeavour – “enjoy it” he says, “before you have a spouse and six kids.”
Thank you, I wish you fair winds and farewell.
All is well.
Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston