Distance run in the last 24hrs; 86NM
Average speed; 3.5Kn
Weather; force 5-6 SE by E, overcast skies with the occasional break in the clouds, moderate to rough seas
By 1300 the chariot for Carlos, Alex and Ashley awaits in the form of a zodiac boat. The Island is surrounded by reef shallows and so there is someone ashore on a VHF radio communicating to the boat handler to ensure they make safe passage and navigation ashore. Just a few meters away from the edge of Ned’s beach there are some large treacherous breaks.
With the Transit of Venus not happening until tomorrow and strong gale winds being forecast during the night and the morning of tomorrow, captain Ross decides that we are safer not anchoring and that we should continue on sailing, but to reef our topsail’s in preparation for some strong winds. So once again an all hands call is put out and the crew clamber aloft to get the sails reefed, I can tell you that the view from aloft is spectacular with this tropical, volcanic scenery, a real buzz for all involved.
The ship has a substantial roll once again which is strenuous to the body and after enduring it for several days your muscles start to let you know about it. At 0330 much to everyone’s disbelief there is an all hands call with wet weather gear and harnesses. Gradually everyone blurry eyed makes their way up on deck. It might seem a bit cruel to get everyone out of their hammocks at an unearthly time, but unfortunately Mother Nature does not keep the time and we have to be prepared at any moment to deal the weather we are dealt. It is not a moment too soon, the winds starts to blow up and it takes many more hands to assist in all aspects of sail handling. It is aloft for the professional crew and those of the voyage crew that are of high climbing calibre to face the adverse weather condition to get the sails furled as quickly as possible.
The last sail to be dealt with is the Main topsail and it is a team effort to get her down into her lifts with the wind now gusting from 40-50 knots. Furling the main topsail is a job designated just to the professional crew and being one of those up there on that yard, I now fully understand and appreciate the famous sailors tattoo of ‘HOLD FAST’ across the knuckles. Once down from aloft the horizontal rain kicks in with a sting to the face, but onwards with securing all the ships lines and the thought of that first, hot, strong coffee keeps us going. As always when there are strong winds it brings the high seas and right on cue they arrive making it exceptionally hard to travel around the ship.
Fortunately the sea state subsides fairly quickly and although we are still rolling, it is not as bad as earlier on. During the crew meeting below decks, Ant the third officer interrupts as there is a break in the cloud as some blue sky finally shines through and an opportunity to observe the transit of Venus. Most crew jump at this opportunity to get on deck with their solar glasses and see this remarkable, once in a life time phenomena. Although the last few hours have been exceptionally intense with minimal sleep, this occasion marks a mile stone in history and albeit only a brief break in the weather, what more amazing way to witness this account. This crew have sailed this ship over 450NM through gale force winds, storms and sleepless nights to witness an incredible spectacle just as Cook and his men did over 240 years ago an adventure that all should be proud of, but the adventure isn’t over yet.