Voyage Log: Port Macquarie – Newcastle Day 4

Friday, 3 October 2008

Noon position Lat 34°06’S Long 152°10’E
Day’s run 99.4nm

After the rolly morning there are a few new under-the-weather crew members, including a couple of professional crew. Attendance to lunch is variable, and the diners are very selective, taking care of delicate stomachs. In the lull after lunch, the mizzen and mainmast topman, Tegan and Tom, sit on the skylight above the gentlemen’s mess, leisurely throwing torn bits of cardboard at Matt the boatswain’s mate (under the guise of throwing it overboard) – who is hard at work sanding the quarterdeck railing.

The afternoon is harsh and clear, with big rollers still coming in; the glare is intense, with a large section of the sky a blinding white, brilliantly reflected in the ocean. Ross, the captain, gives a talk about 18th-century sailing, describing the workings of Bark Endeavour‘s sails. There is an albatross sighting, then another, and suddenly the captain hails yours truly, the steward, up to the quarterdeck with the ship’s camera, a flock of six albatrosses altogether – usually seen alone if at all. They sit on the surface of the water, bobbing up on top of large rollers then disappearing down the other side. “It is spring,” remarks Ant, the sail master and boatswain; Ben, the second mate laughs, “it’s probably one female and five males, that’s why one keeps taking off!”

At 1435 all hands are called for sail handling, to wear ship. Everyone gets into position, and just as we commence, Josh, the foremast upperyardie, catches a fish: a skipjack tuna! Naughtily, it’s reeled in by Amanda, the mainmast yardie. Once the wear ship is successful the chief officer, Toby, musters the crew for an explanation of the manoeuvre, and then everyone gets in position to do it again – to practice and perfect the crews’ technique. They do so marvellously and are congratulated for their efforts, with Bonito sashimi served for afternoon smoko.

At the onset of evening, the chief officer is on the bridge and asks the voyage crew helmsman: “happy with full and by?” – to ensure the voyage crew member understands the direction. “As longs as it’s like a dinghy!” says the voyage crew member, “ahh, she’s a little slower to respond than a dinghy” chuckles the chief officer, but the principle is the same. The mainmast yardie is down below and goes through the knots required for hammocks again – to ensure there are no more falls, and the topman, yardies and idlers are called upon to double check the knot work. For dinner Abi and Darbey serve delicious, hearty lasagne, enormously satisfying, wonderful for those whose appetites have returned since the morning rolling.

At 1600 hours Bark Endeavour is sailing under the fore and main topsails with two reefs, the fore topmast staysail, and the fore course; she’s making 5-6 knots. While the sun sets a brown bird, variously described as a wedgetail or petrel, seems to be confused by the shrouds, almost getting caught in them and finally landing on a voyage crew member’s head! Then on another! It is most disconcerting. As darkness falls a new moon appears low on the horizon, directly ahead, preceding a clear and starry night. By 2000 hours the seas are easing, and at midnight there is only the odd roll, it is smooth sailing. At 0600 hours the mizzen staysail is set, followed at 0715 by the main course. It is lovely sailing in calm seas with so much canvas set. The crew awake from their first good night’s sleep to find their vessel full and by on a slight sea.

Coming up from breakfast Dirk, the navigator and medical officer, is on the bridge with a broad smile – he’s happiest when he’s taking readings with the sextant, the same device used in Cook’s day to find position by celestial objects. The morning meeting is called, we are about level with Sydney and still bearing south, with more strong northerlies expected hopefully followed by a southerly. The crew get into happy hour, the chief officer calling upon his topman and yardies to ensure a thorough cleaning job is done – as the last couple of days were a bit rushed. Most have fully recovered from their seasickness now, and there are many cheerful faces.

Once happy hour is completed, all hands are called for sail handling. At 1015 the topsails are lowered and a reef taken out to bring them back to single reefs in each, at 1045 the main topmast staysail is set, 1100 hours sees all watches working hard at it. At 1115 both topsails are re-set.

The winds are increasing slightly, Bark Endeavour is sailing easy on a starboard tack, the best sailing she’s had in a while.

All is well.

Contributed by ship’s steward Mischa Chaleyer-Kynaston