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Starboard Watch Adventures In Nuku Hiva

By Peter Crawford, trainee from New Zealand

February 22nd, 2014

Saturday 22nd of February started in pleasant fashion with a midnight disco serenade from a club on shore. The Polynesian/western fusion accompanied a half moon rising over the eastern edge of the crater we are anchored in. Rain had cleared the hatch of those trying to sleep on deck. It was calm and clear, a beautiful night.

This is the first liberty day for Picton Castle‘s starboard watch in Nuku Hiva. Port watch took ship maintenance while starboard watch went ashore, however the first task for all was domestic duty. This ensured that the ship was clear and fresh throughout all living areas. After these duties the skiff schedule was implemented and starboard watch went ashore. Insect repellent was the order of the day due to the resistant presence of ‘no-no’ flies which the Captain says, “Suck, suck.” Port watch commenced duties including preparing and painting various bits and pieces as well as changing t’gallants, both fore and main. After a heavy downpour interrupted work, all sails were set and clewed up to allow them to dry and air.

The same downpour caught starboard watch at various places on shore. Avery and I sheltered under one of the many trailered boats around the edge of Taiohae Bay. Our watch was first to explore for the services we all longed for: laundry, general store, wifi and ATM, all high on the list. Activities were also sought; horses, ATVs scuba and island tours were all available and tours were booked for both watches for the next few days. Some of the advanced divers will also dive in what is expected to be a great, deep water coastal dive, as there is no surrounding reef here.

The Doc took a trip up the Taipi Valley in the footsteps of Herman Melville. He commented on the sights that still occur, that show how the paintings of Gauguin reflect real life on the island – young people on horseback is one example. To wrap up a good evening for starboard watch, we enjoyed an hour of terrific ukulele and guitar playing by some locals on the wharf before the
last boat home. It is good to remember that tall ships have evolved over a very long time and that many of our forebears have been a part of that evolution.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Len Crawford (my father). Known to his shipmates as Tarzan, Len was a fine sailor, sailmaker and rigger who went to sea as a very young teenager at the time the Picton Castle was built. He had the skills and knowledge that today are displayed by our senior crew. He worked on sail, steam and diesel merchant vessels through the depression, up to and through the war years and mostly in the Pacific. He saw the beautiful places, the stresses of the depression and the horrors of war. He was a fine sailor like so many of his shipmates in those ‘transition days’.

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