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Sailing from New Zealand, Bound for Pitcairn Island

By Chelsea McBroom

December 31, 2013

It was an ugly couple of days of rain as we waited out some weather before sailing away from New Zealand. We were anchored in Opua in the Bay of Islands in a small landlocked basin when the crew was woken up at 0200 with a call from Amy for all hands. The crew leapt from their bunks, throwing on their still wet foul weather gear and straight to the foc’sle head. The wind had picked up as the rain continued and we needed to adjust our placement in relation to the other boats anchored in the area. It was time to heave up and drop the port anchor. It took time to heave up but it kept the crew warm.

Muster was called and the crew stood on top of the hatch as they were thanked for their late night efforts. Just then Hannah realized it was a few hours into Amy’s birthday, so the crew stood on the hatch in the dark, in the pouring rain, and sang Amy a Happy Birthday. What a way to begin the eventful day!

The crew went back to sleep and awoke to parting clouds and sunshine and steam coming off the decks. It was the day we hoped to begin our voyage to Pitcairn Island. New Zealand Customs & Immigration was expected to come aboard to clear us out at 0900. After the pancakes Meg made for breakfast (since it was Donald’s day off), Pania finished up a few of the ratlines, lashings were tightened or made and a party was sent to dispose of the garbage ashore as the Purser prepared for the meeting at 0900.

The friendly Customs official joined us when expected and, even though our process into New Zealand was a hurdle (we miss ship’s cat George! And Tammy and Dawson!), the leaving process was a simple and painless one. But he did need to make sure that everybody on the crew list was actually aboard the ship when she sailed. Seems that they are worried about interlopers. The Captain said that he had never seen that done before when clearing out of a country. We had an hour before we were expected to leave but even after the possibly exhausting and eventful previous night, the feeling on the ship was an awake and anxious one and everyone seemed excited to move on.

The anchor was heaved up again, this time with the addition of the capstan to hoist the port anchor to the cathead and then the rail, and the ship motored out of the bay against warm northerly winds. The call was made to go aloft and loose sail, mainly to dry them from the soaking the night before. It wasn’t until the ship passed by Russell that grins and sighs of relief could be seen and heard – we all felt then that after all the preparation, stowing, lashing, drills and safety exercises that we were really were going to sail from New Zealand.

Everyone in the crew has fond memories of each port and anchorage experienced in New Zealand – taking passengers out for a day sail during Tall Ships, loading ten tons of goods in the hold for Pitcairn, rowing the monomoy into port for the nearest town’s best fish and chips, or sailing it to get a closer look at a ship wreck on an island and go swimming, late night skiff runs in the rain to pick up anticipated new and previous crew (a treasured event), what seemed like our first gathering with everyone in one place on Christmas Day at a small island away from everything….

The topsails and fore and aft sails were set. Then, until late afternoon, once again, the focus was on safety. The first event was an unexpected fire drill taking place in the galley – those taking a break snapped up on alert, grabbing the nearest fire extinguishers to take to the area of the fire. All broke into their designated areas and trained roles – bringing out the remainder of extinguishers, the hoses and water pump, closing water tight doors and collecting a head count. We mustered to discuss possible improvements and to be shown an example of how to use a fire blanket which is easy to access (because, as John says, most fires are detected by a human and not an alarm).

Then Lian was used as an example for man overboard (on the hatch, we didn’t toss him overboard) as we tested out our wooden bearer or stretcher. Seven pairs of hands carefully placed each of his limbs to be strapped in and lifted the bearer. Muster was called on the quarterdeck to share in the excitement on our first day of our journey to Pitcairn as the watches were split into three and just like that, our two months time in New Zealand was behind us.

That night all the sails were set. It was a fairly calm evening with the ship going 3.5 knots. Light clouds passed under the stars, the ship aiming straight for the crescent moon. The lines were still drying from the days of rain before so much slack had to be taken out of them throughout the night. Soon a bluish hue could be seen on the horizon as the sun began to rise. Nolan and Finn at the helm saw a whale lurch out of the water on starboard side, heading back from where we came. Donald was awake preparing the galley, lighting the stove and oven for muffins, eggs and oatmeal. Pania declared, in memory of our recent, all night sailing to Opua, “You know what the best thing is about all this? It’s not just for one night!”

We chose a great day to leave, we haven’t yet experienced rain (knock on wood), and the sky is incredibly blue during the day. She’s a beautiful ship when all sails are set! We are getting up to about 3 or 4 knots. Perhaps we’ll be begging to see land at some point but not currently – our keen senses of the wind and weather, the sights of the sea, the albatross, the cargo ships in the distance, the direction of swell, as well as the company of our crew are all we need to keep us happy.

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