South Pacific Voyage 2012-2013

Back to Sea Again

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Thursday morning sees Picton Castle still pushing to get easting in this favourable weather window. Our position is 19-02’S, 171-09’W and the day is bright and sunny. The wind is a very agreeable 20 knots just to starboard of dead astern and we’re braced almost square, running downwind at a steady 7 to 8 knots.

Looking over the rail from the foc’sle head the water is foaming white under the bow as we surge along. The seas around are a dark, rich blue with scattered whitecaps and occasional glints where the sun reflects off a wavelet. Looking aft at the ship, all is peaceful and ordered industry. The sails are gleaming white in the sunshine and the laundry hanging on the well-deck lines is dancing a colourful dance.

Moving aft past the galley where Donald is inside cooking lunch, to midships and the main deck that surrounds the big canvas-covered cargo hatch, battened down now for sea. The port side of the main deck is almost entirely taken up with a row of saw horses upon which rests the new t’gallant yard Sam and DB are working on. It’s taking shape now, and looks more like a rough spar now rather than the block of wood it was so recently, or the pile of planks it was not so long before that. Something magical about watching it being created day by day, the spar that always was there inside the block being slowly released to the world. The plane lifts off long strips of pale shavings that curl as they rise up and grow, like a snake being charmed.

Moving aft again down the starboard breezeway we find our smallest, furriest shipmate George lying snoozing in the sun. He’s got his sea legs now and the movement of the ship doesn’t bother him, as long as he can keep his paws dry and find people to give him his daily dose of petting. With 30 people aboard he doesn’t exactly want for attention. The aloha deck is next, the furthest point aft on the main deck, it’s where we eat when the weather is fine and our in-house coffee shop and gossip spot all the time. It’s quiet on the aloha deck now, halfway between breakfast and lunch – just baby Dawson sleeping in his car-seat-swing that’s rigged from the overhead. It’s attached to a tag line so his nanny Tonya can swing him while she relaxes too, stretched out on the bench in the stern. Not that he needs much rocking when the ship is moving like this, lucky baby to get his very own barque to rock him to sleep!

Climbing up the port side engineer’s ladder brings us to the quarter deck where the decks are just starting to get hot from the sun. Murray has the helm, steering east by south, into the sun. John and Finn are working on a sail stretched out sausage style on the smooth, well swept deck. It’s an old t’gallant sail that was slightly too large to set nicely, so it’s being trimmed to fit – rather like hemming a pair of trousers. First the foot of the sail was cut off, and then the tabling re-stitched along what is the new foot. Now the bolt rope and clew cringles are being replaced. And soon the sail will be ready to set again, perhaps from the new yard.

It’s easy to write about all of these Tropical Island Paradises that we go to because each one is new and interesting, and there are contrasts and similarities as we sweep our way across the Pacific, but it’s also wonderful to spend some time back on our ship, being sailors and enjoying the simple pleasures of hard work well done, companionship of your shipmates, big blue skies and a wide horizon.