A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
We began day five with clouds, wind and rain again. It’s amazing how quickly and completely the weather can change.
Thanks to the uncooperative seas and wind, a spritsail yard has broken, forcing most of the professional crew on deck to repair it. The professional crew are truly an inspiration: they are calm, brave, disciplined, organized and good-humoured through everything. The voyage crew are pretty amazing also – we are all joking that after this, no-one can call us “fair weather sailors”, and we’re laughing admiring the muscle tone we’re all developing.
After effecting temporary repairs, the Master, Captain John Dikkenberg, made the decision to return to Sydney. This was the only decision possible for the safety of the ship and everyone on board and although it frustrates the dreams of some of us, the advantage to this is we can now abandon “motor sailing”, put out more canvas and actually sail. Without the sound of the ship’s engines we can hear the rush of waves against the hull, and feel much more closely the experience of the 18th century sailors – an important component of what most of us came for.
Just like a picture, the next morning dawned fine and clear in an amazing palette of clear blues and delicate greys. We set the main topmast staysail for additional speed and stability, and now the ship looks truly stately. There’s a sensation of flying when a wave lifts her from the stem and sends her gently shooting forwards.
The ship has reverted to a more usual routine. Breakfast is followed by (happy hour) ship-clean, with the hammocks stowed away and all decks thoroughly tidied up. Penny offers a session on celestial navigation in the Grand Cabin at 1pm. It’s an eerie experience to learn about navigation in Cook’s own cabin.
Night watch brings perfectly calm sailing with moonlight bathing deck, sails, and sea. We have the peculiar experience of being overtaken by a floating city. The sheer beauty of sailing our stately, silent craft towards the moon and safe harbour overwhelms us with awe; it more than makes up for the challenge of the first few days.
We have been escorted to Port Jackson heads by a pod of around 20 dolphins, rolling and playing in our bow wave.
On day 7, the harbour was breathtaking in the late afternoon light. We anchored in Watson’s Bay and were delighted when a boat approached bearing our long lost shipmates, both in much better health and excellent spirits. The three watches scrambled to get group photos on deck in the splendour of the setting sun.
There was both emotion and hilarity as the professional crew served the voyage crew a magnificent mess dinner, topped off with the Navy tradition of drinking to the Queen’s health. The brand new Endeavour Shanty was heartily sung by the entire company assembled by lantern light on deck. No one wanted to go to bed, so music and chat ensured late into the night.
On our last day we enjoyed some early morning shenanigans as we mustered past James Craig at anchor in Rose Bay. They had a piper – we had a canon! Later we enjoyed the spectacle of James Craig coming into the dock, with the piper in full Scottish regalia on the fighting top. Endeavour again gave James Craig three cheers, and they responded in kind.
Several members of Endeavour’s crew were treated to a tour of James Craig, and the two crews had a chance to compare bruises and “war stories” from the period when we fought the heavy seas. There is a huge sense of exhilaration and celebration on board both ships, and around the Australian National Maritime Museum in general. We might not have made it to Hobart, but we did something extraordinary together. Everyone seems to agree that despite the challenges of this particular voyage, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Musician, adventurer and recent Voyage Crew, HMB Endeavour, Sydney and back again.