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Lily’s Birthday

By Chelsea McBroom

February 20th, 2014

It was Lily’s birthday on the 19th aboard the Picton Castle, all sails but the flying jib were set as we sailed to Nuku Hiva, so cupcakes were made the night before, just after dinner, as the galley and scullery were being cleaned. I used the boxes of devil’s food cake we had in the hold and six of the Mangareva eggs that Donald gave me permission to use. “I’ll lay three and you lay the other three,” he said. Lian joined me, playing a list of eighties music on his iPod amplified by an old chicken soup container. Both galley doors were open to try and keep it cool with the oven on, but the cupcake papers started to fly and so the starboard galley door was closed.

The cupcakes were still in the oven when our watch ended, the bright white light turned off and the red switched on, and Meg offered to keep an eye on the cakes. She left them out, saran wrapped for us the next morning, cooled and ready to be decorated.

It was quite a day to have a birthday – a beautiful hot day, with a cloud piercing sunrise, but all square sails were taken in at around 5am; lowering the royal, t’gallant and upper topsail halyards before casting off each sail’s sheets and clewing, then bunting up; and so our watch went aloft to the t’gallants and royals to stow and the motor was turned on. Lily and Kim were having a time stowing the main t’gallant, which can be the heaviest and most awkward of sails to stow – it’s heavier and bigger than the fore and the ears need to be flaked inboard. To the relief of the birthday girl, after the fore I went aloft to the main to help.

Back on deck we coiled down the piles of rope scattered everywhere and somehow managed to get all the ship checks and wake-ups done (for the galley team, the daymen and the next watch) in time. It wasn’t until after we’d had our naps that Lian and I readied the cupcakes – at first experimenting with all the colored icing tubes, creating blobs and smears and then deciding that sprinkles atop of the chocolate icing would do just fine. We put them in the freezer to keep them from melting.

That evening the Captain had dinner in the Mess with those invited while Lily took the deck and when they came out just before 7pm, those awake were mustered on the hatch to sing Happy Birthday (30 crew hanging out on the hatch in the dark pretending to have a purpose). Unfortunately the one cupcake made by Lian with a candle on it, especially for Lily, did not stay lit long enough to walk through the breezeway and out into the open air at the hatch, but the thought counted and a wish was still made (which we all hope comes true). Donald brought out three scoops of ice cream for the birthday girl and we were all very jealous. Every one of the 36 cupcakes were devoured. Lian brought out his guitar to improvise a song which gave us all the giggles before we put everything away and went back to the quarterdeck to stand by on watch.

Before I knew it all the excitement was over and we’d gone back to sleep to start another day, bringing us another day closer to the next birthday (and any reason to celebrate and eat cake is a good one).

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