Captain's Log

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Sailing To The Next Island

Tuesday December 3, 2013

With all this discussion of Capt. James Cook sailing around hereabouts in small barques and anchoring where we have been anchoring here and there – and with the fine worthy Barque Lord Nelson a heaving line throw or so away anchored off to our starboard – and with something like a fair wind in the making – it seemed a good thing to consider sailing the Picton Castle off the hook and up to the anchor if we could manage this.

Our day here in early December in the southern hemisphere, was bright and clear with a fresh easterly breeze. Blue skies, surrounded by small green islands and snappy white caps on the waters of these bays and sounds. No seas to speak of. To our port side was the island of Motuarohia (being a bit redundant here, ‘motu’ means island). To our starboard was open water, apart from a reef and one anchored barque, the Lord Nelson.

She was anchored more or less in the exact spot through which I would have preferred to sail away from this island. But I could hardly ask them to move for our convenience. We would have to sail around her. The gang loosed sail. They braced the main yards on the port tack and the fore yards on the starboard tack, this to swing the head away from land, the main yards to catch the wind soonest and draw us away from land. And from the reef to leeward. Then the gang hove up the anchor to one shot on deck (one shot being 90 feet of chain).

They mustered around the hatch and got the details and low down on what was about to come and in more or less what sequence – but – they need to expect variations in the expected orders and be ready to spring into action to respond to these new and perhaps differing orders. We did not want to sail into the Lord Nelson, nor did we wish to end up on to the reef to leeward. This would be bad.

Back to the windlass and heave up. Soon the anchor was doing what it was supposed to do, dragging a bit allowing us to drift aft a bit under control – and then off the bottom, heave up a bit more to let the ship’s bow cant to starboard and fall off with the backed fore yards working as desired. With anchor up far enough not to cause trouble, they stopped heaving and all hands jumped to the task of getting sail on the ship so we could do something other than drift. As we fell off to starboard our jibboom traced a line down the port side of the Nelson some hundred yards off or so. The main lower topsail got sheeted home and started to draw, stays’ls were hoisted rapidly to get some more forward pull as we headed for just under the stern of the Nelson. It looked as if were close but as we were making some leeway at the moment there would be plenty of room as we drew nearer.

The gang braced the fore yards around onto the port tack and set the fore lower topsail and fore course and we drew astern just fine and crossed under the other ship’s stern with plenty of room, but just as importantly is that we were also clearing the reef with room to spare as well. Past the reef, we fell off some more until steering due west and we squared the yards. Back to the foc’sle and heave the anchor all the way up until needed again. This would be soon enough too. We sailed along under easy canvas on this very lovely day. Time enough to enjoy supper on deck as the Bay of Islands slide by and the sun lowered giving us a golden afternoon light.

In a few miles we got up to Tapeka Point and around Fraser Rock, always good to go around something labeled “Rock”. From there we braced sharp and steered south the mile or so to the anchorage off Russell. In the early evening, the gang took in all sail forward, the helm was put hard over, the ship ranged into what light breezes remained, backed against the main upper and lower topsail with spanker amidships, and the Mate let go the port anchor in about five fathoms of water with a great big splash. Most hands climbed aloft to get a stow on all the sails. Then to coil down the many spaghetti-like lines snarling all over the decks. Rudder amidships, and all done. So ends this day. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. We get to start our rainy day projects.

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