Westward Bound

Fiji Sunday

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Sunday July 22, 2014

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning aboard the Picton Castle lying here at anchor in Fiji, and the crew are scattered around the ship, chilling out after another busy week working on transforming the ship from ship-yard to voyage mode.

Amy is reading in her hammock slung between the foreward shrouds and the galley house strong back, Axel is scrubbing a bucket of laundry at the break of the deck. Alex has just hoisted the Fiji courtesy ensign on the starboard foremast, and is now reading something nautical-looking on the main hatch. Billy is writing an email and Gabe is phoning home from atop the galley house. Dawson is wide eyed, transfixed by “Despicable Me” playing on a laptop in the mess – keeps him happy for hours given the chance.

Sunday is a quiet day on the ship, no power tools, no paint or tar or mess and the crew are somewhat cleaner than usual. The crew do the cooking on Sundays so ship’s cook Donald can have a well-deserved day off, and he’s chilling in his cabin just now. The ship seems pretty spacious with just the professional crew onboard, but it’s surprising how much work this small gang of people can get done in a week, especially with the help of the Fijian carpenters and welders who’ve been helping with the bigger projects.

This week has been a big week of cleaning as we scrub away the ingrained grime of weeks of heavy work. It took about two minutes of scrubbing on each patch of deck for the water to run clear and the decks to look clean again. That’s a lot of scrubbing to get the 150 feet of decks clean. Then there are all the hatch coamings, bitts, chocks and corners which collect dirt and dust and need to be scrubbed clean with buckets of soapy water. Even in the ship’s office all the books and binders had to be pulled out, wiped down and put back – the amount of grime that had collected on the shelves was astonishing.

The engineer has been busy this week: overhauling the air compressor with the second mate and installing a whole new battery bank. There’s been a concerted effort scrubbing the engine room clean too.

But it’s not all work – Thursday was Donald’s birthday, so we had a little barbecue in the evening with grilled chicken and fish and lots of salads. Gabe made a rum cake, served with those annoying candles that re-light once you blow them out, and a tub of ice-cream that was kind of soft so we had to finish the tub. Shame. We had reggae music in honour of Donald’s Caribbean home of Grenada, and Vai danced a lyrical Tongan dance on the main hatch that told a story of sailing away to sea.

There’s still much more work to do – scraping down the rails and re-varnishing, painting yards, bulwarks and topsides, sending up sails. And of course, more socialising and dancing to be done. So now we just need our trainee crew to hurry up and get here!

Axel and Billy overhaul the air compressor compressed

Second mate Axel and chief engineer Billy overhaul the compressor

Donald on his birthday compressed

Ship’s cook Donald in the galley on his birthday

Fishing boat neighbours compressed

Fishing vessels sharing the anchorage at Suva, Fiji