One of the most important things to know on the ship is the lines. And you should attempt to know all 205 + of them as soon as possible. Everybody has their own way of teaching and everybody has their own way of learning and so the deckhands have a lot of work cut out for them when new trainees join. In Lunenburg they had 36 people to teach the ways of the ship. Leaving Palmerston they just had 7 to teach the basics to.
When we sailed away from Palmerston we had wind, watches, waves and willingness. But everyone was a little out of practice. It had been a few weeks since the Picton Castle and her crew had actually sailed much and the rust showed. Time to rust bust, prime and paint. Oh wait…that would be the starboard scuppers. Time to do sail handling drills. Each watch spent an evening or night setting and taking in sail – remembering (tactile memory) and learning. When setting the royal what do you do with the clew and the bunt-leech? What of the sheets and the halyard? And can you find the right lines in the dark? Night time truly is the best time to learn the lines. If you learn them in the dark (and out here when it is overcast it can be incredibly dark… no light pollution for us) daytime sail handling will seem like a breeze. There are naturally some ‘clews’ – the lines that tend to carry more strain have metal pins whereas bunts, leeches and brails can be made fast to a wooden pin.
The trainees who joined in Lunenburg have become teachers in their own right and they have all been incredibly helpful when it comes to guiding their newer crew members. Liam wrote a manual entitled “The Dummies Guide to Setting and Taking in Sail” which breaks the process down into simple steps. Davey is patient when it comes to sharing the technique of tying knots and the art of knowing when to use them. Shawn quizzes trainees on their lines by creating sail setting scenarios and making sure that they find the right lines in a timely period. Tiina has clever sayings and rhymes that she created to help remember lines when she first joined and is kindly passing them on. Leonard takes his time when walking trainees through the lines – giving them time to write the names down on their practice sheet if they so desire.
Yes, it was nice to be sailing again. But with the desired wind came rain and heaving swells… and seasickness. Our passengers spent most of the first couple of days asleep on bunks made for them in the hold – safely tucked away from the squalls and heavy weather. Crew members took turns standing an hour watch amidships to check on our passengers at regular intervals and to ensure that everyone was as comfortable and safe as possible. Tammy had taken over from Joani as Donald’s assistant and the two of them made wonderful meals together, unfortunately most of our Pukapuka guests chose not to eat, preferring to sleep off the queasiness. Not that we blamed them.
As if they could sense the proximity of home people began emerging from the hold of slumber and spending more time on deck. The weather had also started to clear up and the eight knots that we were making steadily dropped to 2 or 3 knots. Nevertheless we sailed on toward Nassau. Enjoying the silence, enjoying the sunshine and enjoying each other.
Nassau is a small island atoll 50 nautical miles from Pukapuka. They had also requested the ship’s help when we were in Rarotonga. Just like many of the smaller South Pacific islands and atolls, cargo ships are few and far between and they were in desperate need of supplies. While we could not stay, the Captain had agreed to do a sail-by cargo drop. Several aluminium boats tied up alongside and Mate Mike oversaw the unloading of cargo. We also said goodbye to one of our guests who hailed from the island. There is no anchorage, so no anchoring.
As a token of their appreciation the people of Nassau sent an absolute feast to the ship. In beautiful woven baskets they packed pounds of coconut crab, taro, manioc, fish and coconut tree marrow cake. That night we ate the fruit of an island only a few of us actually set foot on. Just a few trips to shore with heavily laden boats; just a few hours of our time; just 50 nautical miles out of our way and we had made a lot of people very happy.