Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
By trainee Nolan Walker
February 3rd, 2014
My watch (4-8) is awakened at 3:30 this morning with declarations of scattered rainfall and warm weather, a welcome change from the seemingly inevitable wake-up, “It’s cold, windy, and you probably will want your foul weather gear.” The sudden change in the weather can only signal that we are getting closer to arriving at our destination: Pitcairn Island, it’s getting warmer, a lot warmer. So I stumble on deck, scrubbing the sleep out of my eyes, armed with my technicolor foul weather gear, looking like a ripening mango, and settle onto the port side of the cargo hatch where our watch will often muster (unless the conditions are less than forgiving). We are all wearing a slight hunch the way you might when a light rain is falling, or perhaps it’s just that not many of us slept well due to the quick change in climate of our living quarters. Finn, our leading seaman, declares that Maria (from Denmark) should go and take forward lookout on the foc’sle head and sends Chelsea (from Toronto & our purser) to the helm, while the rest of us take the quarterdeck, but not before a couple of us grab our due portions of coffee that could rival even that of the heavy Texas style trail coffee of cowboy lore. I arrive on the quarterdeck and take my seat next to Steve (from Boston) who, ever the optimist, has arrived with just shorts and a foul weather jacket.
Our morning watches start out much like this, as we wait until the sun begins to reach its fiery fingers through the encompassing night, usually carrying promises of rain and sometimes pockets of wind. The moon is a sickle as it gleams beneath the waves of clouds that pass it over, and the rain is keeping steady tempo in fat, warm drops. As the sun begins to rise and the rain begins to dwindle, I go to relieve Chelsea at the helm as she moves on to make the next ship’s log entry; making note of the course given, wind and swell direction, swell height, cloud cover and barometric pressure, and taking the current latitude and longitude. By now the sun has reared its head and I have to take off the personal sauna that is my foul weather jacket and make a non-serious prediction that it will rain again now that we have all taken our jackets off (and it’s too bad I forgot to knock on wood). No sooner do we start our daily deck wash, far far away from where our jackets are stowed, than it begins to rain quite a bit, though, at least the sun is out. I retreat down the foc’sle head ladder to head for the well and main decks for scrubbing and am met with a nice salt water greeting from the hose man, my mistake for not looking up.
During our deck wash, Finn (lead seaman) is preparing a new lower ratline of hemp for the port mizzen shrouds where we all get a lesson on proper ratline seizings and technique once the deck wash and fresh water wipe down is finished. All the while the sails (save for the topgallants and royals which were stowed last night), have been patiently hanging in their gear heavy laden with the burden of the incessant rain, waiting for to be flashed out again and dried. This we undertake just before the changeover of the watch as Maria goes up the foremast to loose the topgallant and royal sails and Peter (the doctor on board whom most call “Doc”) goes up the mainmast to loose the topgallant. Gustav (from Denmark), myself, and Finn ready the fore topgallant staysail, which requires we pass the sheet over the galley house, make off the standing end to the main shrouds which Gustav does double quick, and move the main lower topsail buntlines to the same pin while shifting the clew line over and making off the t’gallant staysail sheet to the pin which was previously occupied by the main lower topsail clew. In this case, easier done than said. We then proceed to flash out all sails and clew them back up to set out for drying. And as we had to start the motor last night (or as some people call it, “set the iron jib”) due to a falling out with the wind, we make due for now with our fore and aft sails and move on pleasantly and diligently about our business as each hour takes us closer towards Pitcairn.