Monday, October 25th, 2010
Despite the ticking of the clocks one now finds across the world, despite the ringing of bells or alarms reminding us of places we need to be and things we need to be doing when we get to these places, time never feels the same. Some days seem to ooze or drip by and others move so quickly they give you whiplash. When you think about it, maybe time is a strange concept. It is, after all, a human construct – a way of making the world make sense. Yet it is also very culturally specific. This awareness of time, or lack thereof, is particularly exaggerated on a ship. Perhaps it is the regimented routine of the watch system and perhaps it is partly the limitation of space (also a human construct). You know exactly where you are going to be for eight hours of the day – give or take a foot or two – and for the other 16 hours -well you know approximately where you are going to be – give or take a foot or two. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is a flurry of activity, a slight break in the regular routine, that creates the illusion that time is flying – or in our case sailing. This particular passage was one such example.
It’s trajectory (or momentum) began when Mate Mike called three ship drills before we had even left Suva Harbour. Fire in the paint locker, abandon ship and a man overboard drill were all completed carried out by all hands after over a week exploring ashore in Fiji – followed by a muster to discuss the strengths and weaknesses that were observed in each drill. Time didn’t slow down then though.
STOW THE SHIP FOR SEA! BRACE THE YARDS! UP AND LOOSE SAIL!
Big projects had been completed in Suva, but a ships work is never done and consequently neither is a sailor’s. One of the biggest projects to be done was to lavish some attention on the beautiful 20′ lapstrake skiff built at Lunenburg’s Dory Shop for the Picton Castle about four years ago (www.doryshop.com). She had been sitting atop the galley house for many months – and a good boat should never go to disuse – so Paul and Jan worked together with a growing team of interested and eager carpenters to scrape and sand her and get her in tip-top shape.
Then there were the afternoon workshops. The Captain did one on rigging – discussing different boats and ships and their general rigging designs – the strengths and weaknesses, benefits and drawbacks of each one and a bit of the history behind particular rig ‘designs’ and their development. The crew had so many questions – it being such a huge topic that one would only assume there would be a multitude – that the Captain held a second one, Part 2, the next afternoon.
WATCH CHANGE! SET THE SPANKER! HANDS TO SET THE INNER AND OUTER JIB AND THE FORE TOPMAST STAYSAIL! DINNER BELL! RINGY DINGY! YUM!
This eight day passage from Fiji towards Vanuatu was also filled with birthdays and celebrations. Paulina celebrated hers the day we left Suva with a batcave party – Bermuda style. Mitch got an un-birthday cake the next night because we had missed his birthday the month before during our busy visit to Rarotonga. Then came Joh who rocked the Mad Hatter tea party theme in the batcave. Then came Rebecca’s turn and she had a tropical bling wow of a gathering in the foc’sle. Then South Africa Day. Then Canadian Thanksgiving. Phew! Thank you Donald and the galley crew for the feasts and the cakes!
The daymen had also joined the regular watch system for a time and that added a bit of extra excitement to night watch. New faces or gaits to recognize in the dark. New conversations and stories. More hands to set sail or loose sail or furl sail or brace. Need two pots of extra piping hot coffee? No problem. Need the galley scrubbed? It’s already done.
It is time to take in the surroundings. The passage is almost done. There are 70 nm left until we reach Espiritu Santo where we will clear into Vanuatu. Take a look off the port bow. Ambrym island glows out of the night mists with a burbling volcano – its firey crater illuminating the surrounding clouds, turning them hues of pink and red. A reflection above of what lies below. The moon hangs bright in the sky – the stars competing. Wait for the sunrise. It will shatter all of your previous conceptions.
For eight days our hours were filled with satisfyingly hard work, celebration, dazzling beauty, soft laughter and quiet conversation. Yes, time is strange. And time on a ship, stranger still…or not.