By Chelsea McBroom
February 18th, 2014
I had been dreaming I was seeing my friends back at home again when I was woken at 3:30am this morning onboard the Picton Castle on its way to Nuku Hiva. I’m living in the foc’sle now (no longer in the once called “Chel-salon” because at one point I was the only one sleeping there) below the bosun, with the engineer and the lead seamen, and I often forget where I am.
Keeping my curtain half open during these hot nights so the air from the foc’sle head hatch can come in, whoever is waking me is suddenly very close to my face as I become conscious and it’s always a surprise. I still don’t know who it was who belonged to the voice that woke me, but they told me the weather was full of random squalls as usual and to take a jacket. I turned on my light to keep me awake but still I closed my eyes and snoozed for another ten minutes before I scrambled to put my harness and knife on, taking my torch and jacket on the way through the foc’sle curtain, through the carpenters shop and out onto the well deck, where, to my relief, it wasn’t raining.
My watch was gathering for our muster at the hatch and thanks to the bright moon we could see one another and greet each other with a personal good morning instead of living in a dreamlike, zombie state in the dark. When everyone had arrived (Denise has been an apprentice daymen with the Bosun, Mark in the engine room and other crew members have been taking turns with galley duty so we are often short a couple) the Captain updated us on what other watches had experienced for the last eight hours, which was squalls and sail handling, and what to stand by for: taking in more sails for another potential squall.
Once the lookout and helmsman were sent to replace those positions from the last watch, we began the order of taking in sails: the royals, the main t’gallant staysail, the outer jib, the t’gallants and the spanker; lowering the halyards of the square sails, casting off the sheets and hauling on the clews and buntlines; casting off the outer jib halyard, easing the sheet and hauling on the downhaul; casting off the peak outhaul, easing the clew outhaul, hauling in the clew, hauling on the leeward brails and peak inhaul.
Within the hour when the squall had passed and missed us entirely, we did it all in reverse and set them all again – the majority of the work being done on the halyards as Kim, who’s even taller than me (he’s got to be at least 6″3) hauls as high as he can reach, Doc hauls the line below him, and I kneel down to help. “We’ve got this,” the Doc says between breaths, pulling down the rope at the same beat, “Kim’s got the penthouse and Chelsea’s got the basement.” Then as we think we can’t haul anymore our lead seamen Mark tells us to “sweat it out” and we take the line to the pin, one of us taking hold of the end of it as the other two push the line outboard and then back down towards the pin. “Well the halyard!” calls Mark, “That’s well!” we reply and holding the weight, make it off to the pin. My hands are still burning now as I sit in the office, next to the chartroom and see the sun has risen looking through the window. I can hear the sloshing as my watchmates begin the morning deck scrub – better get back to work.