Latitude; 23°58.6 S
Longitude; 153°19 E
Distance run in the last 24hrs; 98.9 NM
Average speed; 4.1 Knots
The Boatswain Ant is caulking an area of the deck that has a minor leak. Caulking is a method used to waterproof and strength a wooden deck. We only have a small area that needs minor work, but it is an interesting process to watch. It involves using Oakum and pitch. Oakum is teased out hemp fibre coated in pine tar and pitch, is a type of putty. The oakum fibre is driven into a V shaped seam between the planks of wood with a caulking mallet and a caulking iron, until it is tightly packed to strengthen and stiffen the deck. The pitch is melted down at approx. 200° and poured on top of the seam to seal and waterproof the deck and protect the oakum from rotting.
In contrast to the previous voyage, we have had pretty much ideal sailing condition. The crew hasn’t had to hand too much sail due to prevailing winds. They have been nicely eased into the conditions with relatively calm seas. Tonight everyone is put to the test. There is an announcement made at 2048 for all hands to promptly muster on deck. This is very unusual as quiet time is after 1900 and most of the crew are already tucked up in their hammocks. It is then explained that 4 people on watch had witnessed two flares off our port side. The first
flare witnessed was an orange/white rocket flare and then approx. 15 minutes later a 2nd white rocket flare was witnessed, this time by several more of the crew on watch including Captain Ross. We are currently 130 NM offshore. All the crew muster at their life rafts to number off (ensure everyone is on deck) and then it is time to lose all sails as soon as possible. This is done outstandingly considering most of the crew is still half asleep. The engine is started and we put out a message on the VHF to any nearby vessels to alert them of what we have seen. We get a response back from a container ship, which then come to assist in searching the area with us. The RCC is notified of the sightings and all the details are given. We searched the area for several hours but don’t find anything.
A distress flare would be a red rocket flare and not a white rocket flare. A white flare is commonly used by submarines to alert vessels that they are emerging. So we are of the assumption that it was a military exercise being carried out, however it is a ships duty to report any flares sighted and also to investigate any sightings of flares disregarding the fact that it was awhite flare and not a red distress flare.