Captain's Log

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Taking the 8-12 Watch

By Chief Mate Michael Moreland

After a late wakeup call, a quick glance out to weather from my porthole reveals our near perfect sailing breeze is still with us. She trots along the long Pacific swells with the clean, fresh wind on her port quarter. All sails set and drawing nicely, a pull on a jib sheet here and haul to weather on a brace and she is balanced, tracking true all by herself. Taking the watch from the second mate with a full cup of coffee ready to give me a jump start, we go over the conditions and sail handling done in the past 4 hours. His enthusiasm is usually
high, directly related to the amount of sails taken in or set and how much coffee he has had to drink. Helm and lookout are relieved by the oncoming watch fresh from breakfast and the remaining crew shuffle around into morning cleaning and domestics. I take the time alone on the bridge to review the plan of the day, taking into account sea state, weather, and any new priorities that may have accumulated over the night.

The sailmakers are back on the quarter deck wiping dry the freshly washed deck to lay the fore royal sail out on and I offer them
my short term rain and squall forecast, to help them plan their day. The Bosun is running around checking cleaning progress and has the Bosun’s Mate opening up the paint locker, as well as getting tools out and ready for the upcoming jobs. A quick glance from the bridge to the main deck sets our time to meet briefly in the morning and we confer on the bridge, fine tuning our plan for ships work that day. A mix of painting, localized cleaning, rigging, or scraping and sanding is usually on tap and the specific jobs are handed off to the watch as they finish domestics and report to the Bosun forward on the well deck. The daymen riggers have already started in on their project planned
the night before of sending down the large, heavy anchor tackle and pendant from aloft around the fore-topmast hounds, and I look up to monitor their execution and progress.

An increase in breeze makes me consider taking in our big flying jib, but I wait and enjoy the ride for a minute, watching her pick up speed. 7, 7.5, 8 knots, alright time to get it in. Take in the flying jib! And the crew on deck immediately drops their tools, running to the halyard and downhaul. Off comes the halyard and four people strain against the downhaul, fighting the pressure of the wind, pulling the sail down the stay onto the jib boom. A deckhand quickly scampers out to windward on the end of the headrig and passes a gasket. Lines are coiled and then right back to their respective jobs, without much of a fuss.

Back to the bridge and I notice the sun has risen high enough in the sky for one to catch an honest line of position and I grab my sturdy sextant, check my chronometer and walk aft to the stern, where the sun bears north. No clouds to worry about, I easily bring the sun down, have it kiss the horizon and log my time and sextant angle. After a few calculations I have a line of position that will cross nicely with the next sight at noon. That task complete, I come back to the ship and sea, a glance to weather for squalls, a look aloft for sail trim, and all is well as we sail onward towards the lonely island of Pitcairn.

rsz alex uses the draw knife to shape spars - copy
rsz jan and robert plane spars - copy
rsz lorraine on helm with sophie
rsz nadja covers a splice with leather chafe gear - copy

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