Studdingsail Tradewind Dawn
We came up on the quarterdeck this morning for watch at 0400 to find the ship sailing along easily under studding sails on a big moon, shimmering sea night. A warm easterly trade wind was blowing softly over the starboard quarter. Yards are braced ahead from square a point or so. The old patched fair-weather square-sails bent on for this trade-wind passage from Africa to the West Indies catch this gentle breeze and pull us along at five knots in small seas. Even the studding sails are patched. How many ships have made that claim in a very long time? There is some charm in having patched studding sails. With a full moon in the sky, dappled shades of moon and star lights on the seas and clouds making piles of white here and there all around us, this is very much a Bill Gilkerson painting of an olde tyme sailing ship at sea. I am pretty sure I can see the indistinct form of a pirate skull in a cloud passing on starboard.
The helmsman stands to windward of the large teak wheel getting used to the night, the compass and the wind. The new lookout heads forward to relieve the old lookout on the foc’sle head. The watch sit on the vegetable lockers on the quarterdeck waiting their turn at helm or lookout or to be called to sail handling in the shades of bluish grey of
this moonlit night well advanced into morning. The spanker boom moans and chirps gently from time to time in the gentle roll. The only other sounds are the occasional clunk of the steering gear from the rudder fetching up in the following seas and the ocean bubbling past along the waterline either side. Some sea bird has perched on the starboard main royal yardarm, hitching a ride, easy to see in silhouette against the bright dark sky. The port running light lantern casts a red glow on the port tack and sheet of the foresail as the lower studding sail on starboard gets a bit of green loom from the other lantern.
Time moves on and now a yellow light comes piercing out of the lee galley door as the cook, Mr. Church, starts his daily chores banging pots and pans around. The hand water pump starts a-pumping, which pretty much signals the beginning of the day aboard this ship. Our young Swedish lead seaman gets her watch started up, rolls out the hose for a deck scrub. Getting pretty light in the east now. The tops of the tall clouds off to leeward get the first sunlight and glow a yellow pink. Cats rubbing up looking for attention and a renewed food bowl no doubt. Not a peep out of the two and a half year old sleeping below. White chalky plops on deck underneath the royal yardarm hosting our feathered hitchhiker.
The days comes in fair and partly cloudy with a couple scattered light rain squalls off in the distance, thin sheets of rain slanting beneath them benignly. There is no power in these squalls right now. For this we are grateful as this can easily change. We have a new royal yard just completed on saw-horses on the main deck, which needs many coats of varnish before securing foot ropes and sent aloft for crossing. Long sausages of sails are getting lumped up to the quarterdeck, soon they cover the poop in lots of clean canvas as we sew up all the sails laid out and cut in Cape Town. The rigging gang is renewing hemp ratlines and serving in the rig here and there. Foot ropes get sent down one at a time for overhauling. They just made a new mainstay and next up is a new cap-stay. Big wire, big splices, pretty big wire seizings. And a hundred other jobs in the rig.
The galley bell rings signalling first breakfast back aft in the warm breeze for the eight to twelve watch which will take over the deck very shortly.
Dark sky at sea