Life on the ocean wave – Crossing the Atlantic

21st May 2008

TA 2 Days 44 – 46
Bermuda to the Really Big Blue Yonder

How lovely it is to be sailing again, after all the waiting and uncertainty our freezer part arrived on Monday afternoon and the engineers worked late into the night to get it fitted and working for us, those guys deserve a medal. We were up early on Tuesday to get the frozen stores back on board before heading over to the dockyard to bunker alongside, and then we were off out into the big blue yonder. Bermuda disappeared over the horizon pretty quickly as we made way and the new crew started to find their sea legs. Some fared better than others, Mick turned the same colour as his shirt (pale green) and Terry turned ashen, poor loves. I am pleased to say that they’ve now returned to their normal colours and are doing fine. The highlight of the day was when Jules was surprised up on the foredeck by an orca (killer whale) blowing almost next to her, two more gracefully surfaced on the starboard bow briefly, only about 10m from the ship, a fantastic sight on our first day out! We had set off in fine sunshine with a stiff breeze but by the time Aft Starboard came up on deck for the First Dog watch (1600 – 1800), the sky was grey and dull and as we reached the end of the watch the rain started.

It was a miserable night for all the watches by all accounts, the rain was horizontal at times and when we got up for Morning watch (0400 – 0800) it was still going, it eased off gradually though, and as the first fingers of dawn reached out there were slivers of sky to be seen. By mid-morning it had become a glorious day with not a cloud in sight and we were able to take our ease on deck. Those of us doing the Day Skipper theory had a lesson on fixes and tides in the afternoon, which made my brain go a bit fuzzy as I was tired, but I got my head around it all later when doing my homework, always remember: True Virgins Make Dull Company!!

After a good nights unbroken sleep (the joy of a four watch system!) I was full of beans this morning, Forenoon watch passed uneventfully enough, with a nice break in the middle when Keith the Mate gave us a talk on sail trimming, I know now that we are not pushed by our sails, we are sucked by them, (unless we are running before the wind, when we are pushed). Polly’s brand new fishing lure has sadly been lost, something seems to have bitten it off over night, so she and Jessie are now improvising with some old bits and pieces they found on board, I hope they manage to get us something during the voyage, fresh fish is always such a treat! Everyone is settling down into the ships routine nicely now, hopefully in a day or so we’ll start some fun and games to keep us entertained, meanwhile we have lessons to get to grips with, and some sunbathing to do!

TA 2 days 47 – 49

It has begun. There is murder afoot. Four people were killed off today, and I have my suspicions that the sweet and lovely Mrs Hinton is the perpetrator of more than one of these heinous crimes. Alright, so I may have killed someone myself, and have my sights on my next victim, but it’s now kill or be killed on the Pelican, and it’s all Becky’s fault anyway…

Since I last wrote, we’ve had two days of glorious sunshine and today, which has been much less glorious but a heck of a lot of fun. On Friday we played with the mizzen topsail, which is the one sail that isn’t attached to any rigging and has to be hoisted up from the deck in a sausage. To prevent it from unravelling and flogging all over the place while it’s going up it’s tied with bits of rotten cotton, or in our case red knitting wool. Once in position above the spanker it gets sheeted out, the wool breaks as we heave on the rope, allowing the sail to unfurl. It worked first time, which I think even the Mate was slightly surprised at, though unfortunately our speed went down after we’d put it up. We also still have bits of red wool hanging off the rigging, which I think looks rather pretty, so I’m up for putting it up again!

Yesterday the wind started picking up a bit more, getting up to about 20 knots at times, the sunshine continued and after a busy morning of happy hour and rope-work lessons I found a bit of time to lounge on the foredeck after lunch. No sooner had I laid myself down on the deck though, and Keith the Mate was there asking me to pull on ropes because he wanted to play with the foresail. A voyage crew’s work is never done! I did get to go up the mast a couple of times though, which I always enjoy, I think in the end I managed about 20 minutes of sitting in the sun, and then it was time for class in the mess. We’re now learning how to calculate the course to steer, taking into account the tide, variation (the difference between magnetic north and true north, which is slowly but constantly changing) and deviation (how much your compass is out due to all the metal and electronic things you have around). It’s a bit of a brain ache sometimes, but I actually find all my mistakes are due to moments of utter blondeness, like pointing the plotter the wrong way along a line, even though it has a big blue arrow on one end of it saying COURSE! In the evening, as it was Saturday night, we had a pub quiz, with each round of questions compiled by a different watch. We were even allowed drinks, only two each, but in the middle of the Atlantic, after 5 days at sea, a glass of wine was a massive treat!! When the scores were totted up, Aft Starboard watch came second only to the permanent crew team, so we’re feeling quite smug with ourselves.

Today we had Morning watch (0400 – 0800) with a climb at the end of it to gasket the royal up; a sheet (that’s a rope to most of you) broke just as I was making tea to keep us going for the last hour, leaving one side of the sail flogging. The wind had increased steadily overnight and has stayed pretty consistent all day, it’s gone up to about 30 knots, which means we are now hooning along at an average of about 9.5 knots!! The sky has been grey all day and the sea has started throwing itself at us over the side occasionally, this is what I imagined it would be like! I’ve decided I like Sundays on board, we don’t have to do happy hour, (though the heads always get done) we don’t have lessons, and the captain invited the watch leaders to join the permanent crew for Sunday Service. This has me confused when I was told about it, apparently it’s a tradition, so I figured I’d just go along with it… What it turned out to be in fact was drinks (one each) and nibbles in the saloon, huzzah!! (Sshh though! It’s a bit naughty!!) After lunch the fun started, Becky has organised a game of Murder for us; each member of the crew has been given a contract on someone else, specifying a location and a weapon. To kill your victim you have to be in the right place and touch them with the object, you then take on their contract and pursue whoever they were supposed to kill. This should keep us entertained for days, as we are all now becoming increasingly paranoid and on the watch for people approaching us with random objects. Some of the locations are going to be very difficult to get the victim to as well, I thought James was looking at me funny this evening as we made ready to go up and stow the t’gallant, I was sure he was going to try and job me on the yardarm!

TA2 Days 50 – 58

Blimey! It’s been over a week since I wrote anything, and as we’ll be arriving in Horta tomorrow I need to get everything down so I can send the news home as soon as we get there, well, maybe after a visit to the much talked about Pete’s bar…

So, I last wrote on Sunday, when we were going great guns in winds up to force 7 and getting rather damp from the spray and waves coming over the side. My watch fared pretty well that day as we got a full nights sleep, but the other watches got the brunt of it in the small hours when the wind rose up a bit more and the rain started, apparently there was a waterfall coming off the spanker at one point! It calmed down as the daylight came in and by the time we came out on deck it was just another averagely grey day in a big old swell. We had good news at the morning meeting though, we’d done 200 miles in a 24 hour period!!(That was 3am-3am which I suppose is cheating a little, in the 0000-0000 period we only did 198 miles, but that still beats Pelican’s previous record!)

The day passed uneventfully until the evening when we were joined by a large pod of dolphins who played in the bow wake for quite a while, much to the delight of all on board as we’d not seen any up until that point. Since then we’ve seen quite a variety of dolphins and they’ve become a less of a novelty. We had a pod join us a few days ago which Ben announced to the ship over the tannoy in the most bored tone of voice possible, as if he was back at Kings Cross Station telling us the train was delayed.

Tuesday started off equally grey and wobbly, with a fair old mist around us too which made the world look smaller than usual. Just after lunch we spotted a mast on the horizon, a cause for some excitement as the closest we’ve been to another ship has been several miles. This one was a small yacht, looking very small against the swell which hadn’t abated since the stormy weather of the previous days. The bridge hailed it on the radio several times, but received no response, so the decision was quickly made to hand the sails and go and see if they were alright. The crew responded magnificently and we had the sails in in a trice. We motored back toward it, noticing as we got closer that it was looking distinctly haggard. The jibs, though stowed, were hanging over the side of the bowsprit, and the mizzen mast was down across the stern, lines were hanging in the water all over the place and there was a life ring over the side too. We launched the RIB as per the drill we’d practiced in Hamilton for emergencies and sent Keith, Keith and Little Jon over to investigate. We watched anxiously as they drove over the huge swells and Keith the Mate boarded the vessel, he checked it thoroughly and they then returned with a bag containing the ships documents, there had been no-one on board, but there were bags packed and ready to go on the bunks. The captain put a call out to the coastguard and they were able to shed a little light on the situation, the two person crew had been rescued by another boat a few days previously, leaving the boat to drift after she broke her tow. The documents that were retrieved told us some more about how they’d come to grief, Keith the Mate read us excepts from the log the next day as a lesson on how little problems can so easily mount up into disasters, and a reminder that tiredness is just as dangerous as a gale.

After the sobering events of the day we had a complete switch of mood for the evening, it was Alison’s wedding anniversary so we had a party to celebrate. Everyone got dressed up in their finest togs and we had cake and toasted the happy couple. As Alison’s husband isn’t on board, James kindly stood in for him as he and Alison share the same surname!

Wednesday passed peacefully enough, the weather had improved somewhat, but not enough to get everyone out sunbathing yet. The highlight of the afternoon was a pod of whales passing us, not particularly close, but still closer than most of the ones we’ve seen, they were being followed by dolphins too, leaping clear out of the water as they dashed along, presumably after the fish the whales were hunting.

By Thursday lunchtime the weather had improved beyond all measure, the sky was blue, the sun was shinning, but, unfortunately, this also meant that the wind had died! Captain Mike decided it was a good opportunity for a photo run in the RIB for those of us who wanted to get some pics of Peli in full sail. We had nearly everything up, including the Mizzen Topsail and she looked glorious against the blue sky, bearing down on the little RIB as we crossed in front of her to get the best aspects. Sadly the wind didn’t pick up at all and by late evening we were only doing abut 2.5 kt, it was only then that Mike finally admitted defeat and we stuck the engine on at about 10.

When I awoke in the morning things were peaceful again, which had to be a good sign. Sure enough the wind had picked up a bit so the donkey had been put to bed and the squares had been re-set. We had a lovely day sailing on smooth seas and the sun stayed with us all day which got everyone out on deck trying to boost our fading Caribbean tans.

Written on Wednesday, Horta.

The fair weather stayed with us for Saturday, it wasn’t quite as warm as the day before though so the tanning saloon didn’t open. Most of the day was spent creating our costumes for the evening’s party, it was open fancy dress and everyone rallied to the call magnificently (mainly because the rule was no costume, no beer!) We were an eclectic bunch that night, the party was made up of a priest (our esteemed Captain), a nun (Polly), a fireman (Oli), Colonel Gadafi (Rob), Bob the Builder (Engineer Mike), Somerset Maughan (Ray), Crocodile Dundee (Mick), an Admiral (Ben finding any excuse to put leggings on!), a greek goddess (Rachel), a diver (Lucinda), a mermaid (Becky), a gypsy (Jules), an engineer in a very tight boiler suit (Anthony in James’ suit), two jellyfish (David and Alison), a fender (Jessie), a south Cardinal buoy (Lesley), LJon came as Jessie (just an excuse to wear her bra and dress again!), James came as Francis, complete with the hairstyle and speech mannerisms, and I went as a carrot. As to why I decided on a carrot I am still at a loss, it seemed like a good idea at the time I suppose… We had a good laugh that night, our nun got groped quite a lot by the priest and the Admiral, (she didn’t seem to complain), and it seemed to me that there was a beautiful love affair starting between the fireman and our pseudo Jessie!

Sunday is a day of rest, so there was no happy hour and no lessons, we’ve been kept busy all through the week with our day skipper course and the subsequent homework, so it was nice to have a day off. The permanent crew and watchleaders held a Sunday service once again, purifying our souls with holy water (the fizzy kind, with a bit of gin to give it some flavour…) I do like Sundays!

On Monday it was back to the grindstone, the day skipper lessons aren’t getting any easier, we’re now working on calculating the tide fall to figure out if there’ll be enough water underneath the boat at low water, it involves tables and graphs and maths, which I’ve not had to deal with since school, which feels like a long time ago now! We were only about 90 miles from Horta in the evening, when Chiefy came up from the food store with some bad news, the freezer had died again, a cracked pipe this time. The freezer stays cold for quite a long time, especially if the door stays closed, but even so, we had to stick the motor on to get us to Horta as soon as we could. We took in the squares and while my watch and the watch due on after us ate supper, the other two watches went aloft to do a good harbour stow on them; finally I had my chance… I’d been waiting for Anthony to go aloft for the whole week, carrying my vicious weapon (dental floss) in my pocket. I eschewed pudding and timed my arrival on the main top to meet him as he came down and got him as he set foot on the platform, a most satisfying kill! That day was particularly bloody in fact, 3 or 4 people died, there’s only 7 of us left now, since Chiefy killed the black widow this morning (in the dive locker with a piece of toast!) I’ll give a full run down of the murders when the game is over, we who are left are busy puzzling over how to get our next victim, while trying to keep an eye on who’s still alive and how to avoid them!

Anyway, yesterday mornings wake up call was “We’ve arrived!” Peering out of the porthole we could see green stuff, with white and red bits on it too… Land! Houses! Uncensored amounts of BEER!! We moored up on a commercial berth while we waited for a big djinn place to shove off and then came across to the marina side of the harbour a few hours later. Then, finally, we were allowed ashore, by mid afternoon most of the crew was in Peters Bar, which we’ve heard so much about. It’s a proper mariners bar, the walls and ceilings covered in burgees and flags from boats that have passed through over the years, there are notes pinned to the wood above the bar for other boat crews to pick up and they also have a scrimshaw museum in the back which I’m hoping to have a nose round later. My watch pulled the short straw for night duty so I didn’t get wrecked, instead I got a good laugh at the drunkards as they wobbled back in the wee small hours. Still, now we’ve done our night we are free to go out for the next three nights, look out Horta, here I come!!!

~ by size4riggerboots on May 21, 2008.

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