We have just had the best 24 hours of the voyage so far. After days of motoring into the wind and rain, the weather patterns finally aligned yesterday afternoon and we were able to hoist some sail. It looked at one stage as though we were going to be pushed to arrive in time for the Transit tomorrow. Instead, after a night of flying at up to seven knots, we woke this morning to the sight of Lord Howe Island, shrouded in mist on the horizon. The twin peaks of Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird dominated the scene, rising dramatically from the sea, with the rest of the Island forming a saddle between the two. It looks entirely worthy of its status as a World Heritage site.
The lift in crew morale once we transferred to sail was quite extraordinary. The ship steadied and sea-sickness faded. The incessant drizzle that had accompanied our progress ceased and the clouds parted to give us a clear view of the night sky. A spectacular lunar eclipse dominated the evening as the moon shone silver on the water. The crew spent the evening wandering on the deck, chatting about the stars, and Carlos shared his wonderful knowledge and enthusiasm with us. I will disembark to the Island this afternoon, to prepare for the Transit tomorrow, and I can’t imagine a better way to spend my last night on the ship. I even got some sleep. And I had a shave this morning. I did discover that some damp rain gear had left a dye stain on one of my only respectable shirts, but you can’t have everything.
For me, excitement about getting ashore is building. In the spirit of eighteenth-century voyaging, I can’t wait to explore the island and meet the ‘natives’. They have a great reputation for hospitality, and this is a place I’ve longed to visit. To be able to do so in this context, with the once-in-a-lifetime prospect of the Transit of Venus tomorrow, is more than anyone could wish. The weather remains uncertain, however, so we must hope for good fortune.
I will continue blogging over the course of the Transit, but since I am soon leaving the bark, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my shipmates – particularly the members of Mizzenmast watch. It’s amazing how quickly you bond with people when you’re gazing at the sky together through the small hours of the morning, or smashing into each other as your hammock sways in a rolling sea. Thanks to Natalie and Ed, who led our watch and kept us alive despite our idiocy, to Nigel and Fiona who made delicious food every day, and to everyone who keeps this national treasure on the high seas.