Monday, June 10th, 2013
By Kate “Bob” Addison
Wednesday June 5, 2013
It’s Wednesday night here in Rarotonga and there are just a few stars peeking out from the black black sky. The day was a big muggy, but now it’s cooler and quite lovely, though still warm enough to be in shorts and t-shirt on deck. I’m perched on the quarterdeck enjoying the gentle sway of the ship and the subtle smells of a tropical night; a hint of diesel and fried chicken mix with the smells of the soil and the sea. The dramatic mountains that make up the familiar backdrop to our berth here have vanished into the darkness, making the lit-up ship seem bigger and more important than she does in the day. With the number of people walking or driving past to have a good look it’s easy to believe that we are in fact the star of the show.
We have a whole new crew aboard for this new voyage which started on Monday and it’s great to have them here; a ship full of happy excited people is a very agreeable thing. There is a whole gang of them chatting and laughing on the main cargo hatch on the main deck right now. I’m not sure who’s on watch and who’s just hanging out but who cares really. They are all getting to know their new shipmates, soaking in the fact that they have finally arrived in Rarotonga and their South Seas voyage has actually begun.
This voyage is known as ‘Aloha Polynesia!’ But it could perhaps better be described as ‘Kia Orana Cook Islands!’ By popular demand we are pressing our fine barque into cargo and passenger service in our Pacific home of the Cook Islands, delivering food and other much needed supplies to some of the outer islands in the country. It will be the first chance in a long while for some of the islanders to get home, and we are delighted to welcome them aboard as our passengers and guests.
This voyage, like so much else on ships, can be described as ‘same same but different’… it’s still training in the ways of ships and the sea, exploring remote and fascinating places under sail, and trying to do a little bit to help the communities who are so extraordinarily generous and welcoming to our crew time and time again. But with the cargo and passenger operations the focus is different on this voyage, and the timeframe is much shorter than our usual year-or-so voyage. It’s going to be a whole lot of hot, sweaty hard work, and it’s going to be great.
There’s a lot to do before we sail a week from today, but unusually for the start of a voyage the ship needs relatively little work since the crew from the South Pacific Voyage which just wrapped up worked so hard to make her nice before they signed off, and that was only a week or so ago. But with a whole new crew there’s a whole load of training that needs to be done. A few hundred feet from our berth is the mouth of the harbour, and the other side of that is the open Pacific Ocean. So our crew need to be pretty sharp the moment we sail off the dock.
We have a good gang, lots more experience than a usual group of new trainees, mainly because of the apprentices we have along for this voyage who are all either graduates of the State Training Ship Danmark (Nikolaj, Anne Sofie and Rasmus) or students of Maine Maritime Academy (Jeff and Nick), and also because we have a fair few returning crew – Shaun, Shanna and Mark all sailed with us last summer on the East coast of the USA and have come back for a Pacific adventure.
We’ve been busy the last few days doing ship’s work like overhauling and sending up the spanker gaff and boom and all the associated standing rigging. But training has really been the focus of the week: we’ve been doing aloft training, with all hands climbing ‘up and over’ the fore top with help and encouragement from the pro crew, sail handling drills of bracing, setting and striking sail, loosing and stowing square sails and headsails, walkthroughs on deck to learn the hundreds of lines of the running rigging, studying handbooks to learn the seemingly endless nautical terminology, the policies and procedures that keep us all safe and the ship running smoothly. We’re had safety orientations and we also have lots more safety drills to do.
Today was an introduction to launching and recovering the ship’s boats and I promise hoisting the boats will get easier once everyone learns to pull together! There have been walkthroughs of the ship’s domestic routines, the proper way to clean the accommodation and scrub the decks, learning about scullery duty, keeping the galley and scullery clean and stocked with snacks and coffee, and helping out new cook Shawn in the galley. Shawn has a tough act to follow in the shape of the legendary Mr Donald Church, but he is doing a brilliant job – we had pan seared wahoo steaks with pawpaw salad, baked Mediterranean vegetables, rice and green salad for supper tonight, yum!
And so we are in good shape, but we still have much more to do before we sail – and then next week we start to load the cargo!