By Chelsea McBroom
March 3rd, 2014
I knew it must be close to 6am aboard the Picton Castle. I had been on lookout on the bridge for an hour (while taking in sail) and had been at the helm now for a while. I was hoping the sun would come out soon. I was standing on the windward or starboard side of the wheel, and as I put my weight on my right foot I could feel the pool of water in my boot that my foot swam in. I lowered my left arm towards the centre of the wheel and water spilled out of my jacket sleeve.
I could feel the build-up of rain that morning – it had been dark and foggy at the beginning of watch, almost claustrophobic; stuffy, without a breeze. It was just as we clewed up and took in the mainsail that it started to really pour. The lack of any natural light made it difficult to coil down the ropes we’d cast off and the any new manila kinked and twisted making it difficult to move.
When we went to take in the main t’gallant, the port clew wouldn’t come up all the way so the Captain shone a flashlight onto the yard to see as we took up on the sheet and then the clew, hoping whatever was stuck would come unstuck. As I stood at the wheel, Denise went aloft to fix it as Anne held up the light, Lily and Lian standing by on deck at the lines. It was a tangle at the sheet block and easily undone.
The sail was clewed up and we continued to stand by for further or instruction or until the rain stopped. I couldn’t stand it any longer. There was barely any wind and the helm was fairly steady so I removed my boots with my feet, then bent down to retrieve my socks and squeeze them out with one hand, water spilling onto the deck. I tucked it all away under the driest spot I could reach, relieved and barefooted. Lily, Lian, Anne, Doc and I commented on our ‘prune’ or ‘frog-like’ hands and our supposedly waterproof foul weather jackets which we could feel sticking to our skin, clearly soaked on the inside.
“Can you fall off a point to west southwest please?” said Captain John and I repeated the order. “Uh west southwest,” he says again and I repeat the order. He still sounds uncertain, “What do you have a kazoo in your mouth?” he laughs and I realize he can’t understand me because the bottom of my hood is covering my mouth. I feel as though it’s keeping my head dry but maybe I have gravity to thank for that and the water is just going elsewhere. I pry the collar of my jacket down to articulate and our course is changed with the wind.
It’s just before the end of the hour when Denise leaves her lookout point and comes to relieve me of my position. The rain has stopped and our hoods are removed so we are able to breathe freely or hear and speak clearly again. There’s a break amongst the complete cloud coverage above us – a thin layer of glowing blue and I cross my fingers that it continues to get brighter.