We all gathered on the quarterdeck for a muster with the Captain on our third day of sailing since leaving Pukapuka. The sun was shining brightly on the wood of the decks, on our backs and on the calm ocean – causing the small breaking crests to sparkle. The wind was strong and fair and filled our sails with gentle care. The Captain cracked open a coconut with four sharp smacks of a machete and passed the drinking nut around the circle. “It actually does not get better than this, ” he said deliberately. “This is it. Ocean voyaging under sail. This is what it is all about. ” Looking around the circle it was clear that most everyone realized the magic that we were experiencing out here at sea in perfect conditions of blue sky, balmy trade winds and small seas as we sail from an atoll called Pukapuka to the Fiji Islands.
As Shawn wrote in his log Fish On!, the very next morning at 6am the 4-8 watch caught a huge marlin. Most of the ship was still asleep when the fish took the hook, but few of us were asleep for long after this leviathan was hauled aboard. Awakened by muffled squawks and shouts of excitement and the most tremendous flapping, all rose sleepily and were confronted by a fish the size of most of us (and bigger than some…). The day didn’t end there though. Sometime in the afternoon frenzied shouts brought most of us to the pin rail and the foc’sle head. A pod of pilot whales had come to say hello. There must have been about twenty of them in total and they were in the mood to play. In the past we have seen dolphins come to race the bow of the ship through the water, but this was a rare sight indeed. Their shadows shimmered beneath the surface of the water as they came in from port and starboard to frolic underneath the headrig. They flipped and rolled and breached and seemed to smile at us and the ship as if the Picton Castle was an old friend they had not seen in a while. I hate to anthropomorphize the situation, but it seemed as if they were saying, “Well done. This is the way to travel the seven seas.” ‘Mitch’ (Mike M) looked at me as we sat on out in the head-rig and said simply, “This is what we signed up for.” We sat and watched them for what seemed like hours until ship duty called.
There was indeed much to do. The crew remained divided in a three watch system, but the mates had selected a few of the crew to be daymen. David Brown transitioned to an apprentice in the engine room. Under the guidance of Chris and Katelinn he will learn the subtleties and intricacies of the world below decks – a world equally as alive, fascinating and in need of care as the deck and the rigging. But as he is one of the regular engineers at Pitcairn Island looking after the island generators, tractors and so on, no one figures he’ll have even the slightest problem in Picton Castle‘s engine room.
Logan and Siri took Davey Laing and Georgie under their wings to teach them the ways aloft. They overhauled and repaired blocks and inspected and tarred the rig. The rigging crew also sent down the fore royal sail for repairs and when the sailmaker team of Joani, Lauren and Paulina repaired it – they bent it back on. The wind was also perfect for stuns’ls – which give us the ability to get a few more knots out of her. Many were eager to lend a hand and helped send up the three stuns’ls (lower, topmast and topgallant). My-oh-my she must have looked a sight from afar and one could almost envy the birds and the fishes their view.
The sailmaking team was also busy making a new royal and spent their days on the quarterdeck with wide brim sun hats working away. As we all discovered sailmaking is no easy task. Rebecca put on a few ditty bag workshops and on a small scale we all got to experience stitching canvas and sewing grommets.
Sophie was made bosun’s mate to assist bosun WT and the two of them delegated general ship projects on deck. The crew painted the BBQ, stripped, sanded and oiled/painted the galley frames, repaired leaky portholes, oiled and rust-busted ratchet straps, scrubbed the base of the windlass, and on and on and on. Jan worked on several carpentry projects around the ship and Paul had help from Shawn, Tammy and Megan to finish up the new rudder for the monomoy.
We had daily classes with subjects ranging from cargo to weather and as we got closer to Fiji. On the same day as the marlin and the pilot whales the 8-12 watch caught two big tuna weighing over 300 lbs and we dined on sushi and tuna steaks for days and the mahi mahi continued to bite. Life was full and life was sweet with plenty of scrumptious food served up by the one and only Donald. As we approached the International date line which would launch us into the next day and into the Eastern Hemisphere we all couldn’t help but feel that it was not the destination, but the journey – or the voyage in our case.