Thursday, April 17th, 2014
By Chelsea McBroom
April 13th, 2014
Port went ashore to Palmerston Island while starboard stayed on board to continue with a day of ships work. Melbourne, a man from Palmerston, came by asking if we had any soap to spare and so I brought him a bag full of bars to take back. Some locals came to pump out some of our fuel for the island as well. Crew spent the day replacing broken ratlines, spot painting, and end-for-ending lines. When the day was done, a watch list was posted and specific instructions were given to note the depth, the GPS and any change in weather through-out the night.
I went to sleep early, exhausted from the long day, and was woken up by Meg for night watch at 0150. It was pouring rain and the wind had picked up. Clearly the ship had moved since we arrived but in a fluid curved line. It was just after Meg had gone to bed that I felt the rumble of the anchor moving. The Captain came up from his cabin having heard it and I showed him the changes. At that point he wasn’t certain we had moved, but he asked me to wake Billy, our Engineer on board, to fire up for comfort. Crew appeared on deck, having heard the change and waiting to see what happened next.
I reassured them that everything was fine but then the Captain called out, “Anchors dragging! All hands on deck!” and I hopped about, calling it out in the superstructure towards the batcave and the mate, the salon and the foc’sle towards to brocave. Most people were already awake and ready at the windlass to heave up the anchor.
It wasn’t long before we realized the metal pads weren’t catching us we pushed and pulled up the windlass bars. The anchor wasn’t being picked up. Faces were long and shadowed as we attempted multiple solutions – drying and cleaning the pads with acetone, taking the port anchor chain off the windlass. The only brightness or colour, lit by the anchor light hanging above us, was that of our coats – the mate was in orange, the captain in red and all of us standing at the windlass bars in orange, red, yellow and blue.
The tackle was finally brought up and attached to the base of the windlass, the other end hooked to a link of chain and the rope was wrapped around the capstan to take some of the weight. This worked, bringing up a meter and a half at a time as the tackle was moved and placed, trying to bring up about 27.5 meters in total. We knew it would be a long night. The windlass bars hiccupped and tightened in place, stalling us as we tried to haul-up. “Down to starboard! Two, six!”, “Down to port! Two, six!” until finally the tackle wasn’t needed. We pushed and pulled, up and down, breathing heavily but moving like robots and then the mate called out “Anchor’s at the water line!” and we all cheered, still bending with the windlass bars.
It wasn’t long before the mate called “That’s well! Unship the windlass bars!” and we whooped and hollered some more. By then it was 0500 and the watches were doubled for the rest of the morning until all hands at 0800. We had the ship hove to for the rest of the night, quietly falling seven miles away. When I went back to bed I couldn’t sleep, my adrenaline was pumping and my brain was still wired for action.