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Antigravity in the Southern Ocean

By Chelsea McBroom

I’ve been told I have terrible sea legs aboard the Picton Castle, but I’ve gotten used to never standing still for a moment, always stumbling around from pin rail to hand rail. I probably did a better job of walking when Pania (one of the lead seamen) and I pretended to be penguins and then robots hobbling around on deck, trying to step up from the well to the main deck over and over. Today was grey and especially rocky with a wind force of 5 on the Beaufort scale, heading in a northeasterly direction, the swells rolling parallel to the ship and I was glad for the man ropes we had put up along the quarterdeck and main deck.

Maybe I’ve been taking gravity for granted. I can imagine what it’s like for those who train for NASA when I go into the Brocave, which is farthest forward, or below to open the chain locker during a ship check and find
myself floating inside of it. Even with the man ropes lashed about, every task becomes more complicated with one hand holding onto the ship: carrying pots from dinner in the salon to the scullery much farther aft; taping up previous logs for the crew to read with a roll of tape under my arm and the pages flapping; going aloft to the highest yard, the royal, on a narrow shroud, climbing as we roll side to side; steadily coiling a line on deck;
or having to remember to pour water out of a pitcher lengthwise as opposed to athwart ships.

Today, when it came time to set up for dinner, we had to make a chain from the galley to the salon (a fairly short distance but down stairs) to carry the pots full of steaming hot food. It was Sunday so stand-in crew had cooked supper, this time Beamy and Meg who did a roast with potatoes, peas n’ carrots, onions n’ squash, and Yorkshire pudding (a favourite). The best part of it was the gravy which had to be taken down one step at a time and still sloshed around in its pot on the salon table with gripped padding beneath it. Some of our watch was able to hang below while we ate but the helmsman and the lead seaman Finn ate while they kept watch of the ship on the quarterdeck , causing peas and carrot to fly and scatter all over the deck.

I suppose this isn’t something one gets used to but I shouldn’t be surprised. It certainly acts as a reminder should we forget to look outboard: “In case you’ve forgotten, you’re sailing on a ship!”

watch gathers on the quarterdeck in foul weather gear

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