By Kate “Bob” Addison
We have a well-used expression on the ship that something is very “Tuesday”. Tuesday being the vanilla of weekdays. Not traumatic like a Monday or fabulous like a Friday, just run-of-the-mill, routine and rather dull.
Well, today is a Tuesday and on board Picton Castle our daily ship routine rolls along, routine but hardly dull. The routine on the ship is anything but normal for anyone outside of our salty little bubble: Maia and Brody are running up aloft to loose the main t’gallant sail; Victor and Nadja are patch-serving the fore royal footrope stretched out on the well deck and then anointing it with plenty of oozing tar; Kendall has the helm steering close to the wind. Even doing dishes isn’t dull on board, what with the movement of the ship to keep things lively, two shipmates from the other watches to chat with, and your choice of music playing from Niko’s big amplifier, the Aggressor. Dkembe, Graham and Jo are on galley duty today, washing dishes after pasta in a rich tomato sauce and watermelon for lunch.
We had a muster yesterday afternoon before supper, all hands mustered on the quarter deck to hear the Captain setting out our plan for the end of the voyage. He explained that the passage that we have just made in four days from Tonga to the Cook Islands would usually have taken ten days or two weeks as it is going east against the prevailing south easterly trade winds. But we got fantastically lucky with a low pressure system over Fiji that brought us strong fair winds for the whole passage. And so now we find ourselves in middle the Cook Islands, with nowhere that we have to be till next week.
We could have stopped at another island in the Cooks Southern Group, but first we would have had to clear in at Aitutaki from the difficult anchorage there and then sail or motor upwind to get anywhere else. Proportionally we’ve had quite a lot of island time already this voyage, so instead of adding an island to our collection, Captain decided that we should go sailing instead. And sailing is what we’re doing. After the muster we wore ship to get back on course, which is a fun sail-handling exercise, and easy enough with all hands. The only excitement was when the spanker clew outhaul parted as we were re-setting it. By then it was too dark to reeve a new one so we had no spanker set until this morning when Sam’s 8-12 watch fixed it.
Now our position is 20°22’S 159°26’W and the Force 5 easterly wind is blowing across our starboard bow. We’re braced up sharp on a starboard tack heading NNE at 4 knots or so. It’s another bright, active day with white fluffy cumulus clouds, and there’s enough roll to make you notice that you’re afloat, but not enough to fling you from your bunk.
It seems fitting that people have some time under sail to get used to the idea of the end of this South Pacific Voyage and to mentally adjust to whatever the next thing will be for them. The soon-approaching deadline of the end of the voyage also seems to be motivating people to finish off all their little projects, and there’s a flurry of off-watch activity with people finishing ditty bags, sea bags and woodwork projects. Conversations are turning to thoughts of home and what’s coming next, but they sound sort of abstract – there’s a subtle feeling that this voyage will just sort of keep going forever. And in some ways it does. Not just for those who stay on for the next voyage, or those like me who went home and promptly come back again, but for almost everyone who has felt the cool sea water wash across their toes on the main deck, stood forward lookout under the bright tropical stars and felt the pride of wearing a Picton Castle crew shirt as the ship sails majestically into port.