Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
We sailed out of Luganville Harbour in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu on October 28th bound for Bali, Indonesia. Sailing between Cape York, Australia and Papua New Guinea through the Torres Strait it should take us approximately 3-4 weeks to find our way to that storied isle. Everybody was excited to be on our way, but it is still a bit of an adjustment to get back into the rhythm of the ship at sea after an extensive stint on land. And it was hot – desperately hot. So hot that you could taste the humidity, see the heat waves that permeated the air and hear the sweat dripping from your brow. It is still hot, Vanuatu hot, Coral Sea hot…
With new watches assigned we fell back into the everyday routine – albeit a bit clumsily at first. Conducting safety drills helps, not only do drills help us stay up on our game with important emergency procedures but carrying out drills snaps our minds back to the sea and being seafarers again. The wind was spotty and inconsistent for the first couple of days, which made for very interesting 4-hour watches as we set, took in, and set every sail we had, braced to a port tack and then squared the yards and occasionally started up the engine for a few hours to gain some ground. We all knew ahead of time that this might be a hard passage for sailing. The Torres Strait is infamous for it’s currents – and its temperature – also for the fact it is under an ozone hole which makes the sunburn more nasty. Yes, it could get hotter before we reach Bali. No two ‘tacks’ about it. Then it should cool off some.
The Captain, foreseeing a need before it arose, directed that all bunks be evacuated, overhauled, aired out, scrubbed and dried. Things can get pretty moldy in these tropics, so, it was a good thing to do. Just airing your sheets and pillows in the sun cooks some freshness back into them. Regular ships work was put aside for the day as we hauled out our mattresses, pillows and sheets, bleached them out and left them hanging in the sun. The sun beat furiously down on our wooden decks and there seemed no escape, burnt tootsies were inevitable. Yet there was a temporary escape. While motoring along it was impossible to set up a rope and swing off the foreyard – we could, however, have a POWER SHOWER! Rigging the starboard hose in the rigging, its powerful blast not only served to cool us down but served to cool the decks as well. With shampoo bottles and loofas in hand we all got our turn under the ‘hosefall’. Dripping and relieved we were then able to go on and tackle the projects at hand.
We not only changed watches when we left Vanuatu, we also changed out the daymen. Daymen, of course, being crew removed from watches to take a specialty work during the day. They get to sleep all night. WT remains the bosun, naturally, and Sophie still his bosun’s mate, leading the crew in various ships projects, including rust busting and sanding, priming and painting the port and starboard bulwarks; bleaching the garbage; cleaning the windlass dual wheels and overhauling the capstan.
Shawn took David B’s place in the engine room and had quite the introduction as we started and shut-off the engine several times throughout the day and night.
Riggers Logan and Siri took David B and Alex as their newest apprentices – introducing them to the intricate ways of the world as seen from aloft. Their first project was to send down the mainsail and the foresail, replace the foresail with the mainsail and give the foresail to the sailmakers to work on. They have also been extremely busy overhauling the stay and fish tackles and storing them in the sole, tarring and stretching new ratline stock and replacing those that seem due.
The wind shifted shortly after the mainsail was sent downand so an old very patched mainsail was hauled out of the sole and bent onto the yard. Joani and Paulina still remain on as daymen sailmakers, but now they have the dual power of Liam and Dan to help them through the projects. The biggest one at the moment is obviously getting that mainsail repaired and back on the main yard where it belongs. Their work is predominantly done on the quarterdeck, but with a sun this hot, they would roast without protection. An awning now protects them a little from the persistent reach of the sun, allowing them to do their work. A nice cooling breeze funnels under the quarterdeck awning. Paulina, Nadja and Lorraine also spent time making new curtains for the port breezeway head and the port forward head, as the old ones had gotten quite grubby with time. It happens.
Jan and Robert H are the daymen carpenters and have completed numerous projects in the past couple days alone. Jan joked that he should make some more up if I am going to put this into the log. After that comment I did my fact checking, but it does indeed seem that they built an extension on the veggie lockers – allowing them to moonlight as extra sail-making benches, built a new gaff for the monomoy with new joints and new jaws. Tammy helped with this project and I am pretty certain that I have seen Megan wielding a saw lately. They also helped Mike ‘Fred’ W and Paul with their barrel project on the foc’sle head and are helping with a project aloft. Paul, Nadja and Brad launched into the project of overhauling the top platform on the main and foremasts. They wire wheeled, rust-busted and primed and will soon replace the wooden planks of the platform.
Mate Mike, Rebecca and Paul have also held three workshops on chart work. The first was an introduction to the types of charts and the sorts of information they carry. Workshop two went into a little more detail, discussing magnetic variation, ship deviation and how to plot a true course on a map that is invariably flawed because it is flat paper and not the round, moving, flowing, changing reality that is the earth. Charts do not – and cannot – record everything, as Clark discovered when he spotted a gire while on lookout. A gire is a fascinating phenomenon. It is where two currents meet and therefore where garbage gathers. We passed the gire – a strip of light blue water – with oil, plastic and assorted odds and ends. It stretched as far as the eye could see (approx 4.4 miles to the horizon) off the starboard and port bows. This particular one was not recorded on our charts and it changed our wind instantly. Fascinating. Workshop three went into more details about buoys, their colours, shapes and meanings.
The crew have been inspired. Long passages such as this give the mates and deckhands time to teach more complicated subjects. Navigation is certainly one of those subjects and the crew have been busily studying when not on watch. I have seen Dapper Dan in the salon bent over borrowed textbooks, Liam with calculations in hand discussing the mathematics with the mates, Josh spending a lot of time in the charthouse, bent over the charts deciphering the symbols and Ali on the hatch reading over the textbooks. The workshop series will continue in good weather over the next few weeks – branching into a few on the art of celestial navigation.
Donald continues to work his magic in the galley. Despite the heat we are still voracious eaters. Coincidence? I think not. It is due to the undeniable fact that he makes meals so delicious and appetizing that we simply must eat them. Pork loin, sauteed greens and mashed potatoes with a mushroom gravy. Chinese cabbage, steak and yams. Fish and chips with salad. Spaghetti and meatballs? Yes, please and thank you!
Yes, life at sea ain’t so bad at all.
While we may be sweaty and dirty –
our hair full of paint and tar
While the heat may border absurdity-
and land so distant, so far
We are still content to haul and stow-
furl and splice, scrape and sew
Yes, we find we are a happy crew
Happy to be out on the ocean blue