Sunsets, sailing and sheer loveliness.

4th April 2008

Sorry folks, this is a long one, not been able to get online much lately, all the sailing and drinking and seeing beautiful things kinda gets in the way…. Hehehehe!!

Day 7/ TA2 Day 2
St Lucia to the sea

This morning was mostly taken up by bunkering- a re-fuelling barge came alongside, nearly taking out a bit of the foc’sle with it’s anchor, and getting a bit of a dent on its starboard poop rail on our brace jib, but otherwise quite safely, well, until Keith fell off the foredeck onto Jon, who cushioned his fall, but wasn’t too impressed. It took longer than expected because they managed to break some bit of their equipment, so we had to wait for a while they sorted it. Meanwhile, LJohn and James got sent ashore for some sand (in case of diesel spillage), they found a lovely little beach but were chased off buy a cow (ravenous cow according to LJohn) and a pack of dogs. They weren’t deterred though and returned with sacks of sand for Mike, such brave boys! My heat rash saga continues but has been greatly improved today, probably a combination of the Fullers Earth and lashings of factor 30 sun cream!

After happy hour and the bunkering Francis took us over the ropes we had learnt yesterday and then after lunch Keith took us through putting up the foresail, outer jib and staysail. Then it was time to make sure everything was tidied away and clean down the deck before getting underway. We weighed anchor at 16.30, Anthony and I went aloft and loosed the topsail, stayed up there to overhaul it, and then moved down to the coarse to loose the gaskets off and overhaul when it was sheeted out. While we were climbing and loosing gaskets the rest of the voyage crew got the outer jib and staysail up, and then sheeted out the square sails. The spanker was the last sail to put up, with plenty of the old “2, 6, HEAVE!” as we hauled in the clewline. By then St Lucia was becoming a distant shape on the horizon, and as the sun set Martinique’s lights drew closer. We’ve been at sea for a few hours now, supper was interesting as we’re heeling to port a fair bit. I learned a useful trick from Pip- putting a spoon under your plate puts it back on a level plane, a very useful trick when eating stew! We’re sailing overnight to Dominica, expecting to arrive early morning. I’m on dead watch (00:00 – 04:00) so am off for an early night.

TA2 Days 3-7
Dominica to Les Saintes

Dead watch on our first night at sea was fun, when we came up it was beautifully clear, the stars were shinning and the moon was out, there were a few clouds about but generally they were of the light and fluffy variety, all was calm. Then blob on the radar started showing where no land was, looking at the horizon we could see a dark miasma of grey, a squall was approaching. Ben wanted to use the wind it was producing to power us along as we were sitting behind the high point of Martinique at that point, and going nowhere fast. As it hit, the wind picked up and we started heeling to port once more, the rain lashed down, big fat drops that came from the side rather than above, soaking me to the skin as I helmed, trying to keep a straightish course. As we moved thought the main part of the storm the rain died away but the wind continued and we needed to get the outer jib down. Ben sent Pip, Anthony and me up to the foredeck to try and haul it down but all three of us on the rope had no effect so we woke Keith, LJohn and Oli to give us a hand. The downhaul was jammed so LJohn had to go scrambling up the bowsprit to get it unstuck before we could get it away. The morning watch had an even more exhausting time of it as Francis was frigging with the rigging (his favourite pastime) for the whole 4 hours trying to get the most power out of the sails.

Arriving in Dominica in the afternoon felt little bit hairy as there was a strong wind blowing us over onto the jetty, but we made it safely thanks to the skill of our captain and some judicious placing of fenders. The fenders on the pontoon were huge tyres which we rubbed up against the whole time we were there, making some horrible squeaking noises, not fun when you’re trying to sleep. We made sure the ship looked immaculate and then chilled out for a while, watching Oli and LJohn out on the dinghys and taking bets on how far they’d get and whether we’d have to get the RIB out to rescue them. In the evening we wandered over to the local bar, and then further into town for more. Dave, Tom, Jesse and James went on to Big Pappas to dance the night away, while the rest of us wandered back home for watches and sleep.

The next morning a few of us went on a tour of the north end of the island, a mini bus took us up steep winding roads through lush rainforest. We saw lemongrass growing wild, coca pods and nutmeg trees, huge tree ferns and mango trees and the odd coconut too. Just above us were the tops of the really high mountains wreathed in cloud and far down below the coast and the sea stretched away. Our first stop off was in the middle of an old volcano, down a small footpath to a sulphur spring, it was absolutely beautiful, with verdant green grass growing to one side and little calderas of bubbling water surrounded by yellow stones dotted about, but the fragrance left something to be desired so we didn’t hang about too long. We continued on in our little bus, rising to heights that gave us amazing panoramic views and then right back down to the coastline where the waves pounded the shore. The final highlight of the trip was a waterfall, we parked at the top of a hill where a sign pointed along a path saying ’Chaudiere Falls – 2634 ft’, what it failed to note was that that was straight down! We scrambled and slid our way down an incredibly steep path to the river below. Polly and I were wearing flip-flops which weren’t the most practical choice of footwear so we ended up going barefoot and getting squidgy tropical mud between our toes. The climb was worth it, we found at the bottom a picture perfect scene, the plunge pool beneath the falls was deep and round with little fish swimming in it, rocks were perfectly placed, and the lush green canopy leaned over it all. Anthony braved the jump from the top and used the falls as a waterslide, he felt the full power of the water as he got pushed right down to the bottom by the current, and punched the air in triumph as he surfaced. Polly and I went for the easy option, playing in the rapids, which was lovely, until we discovered the only way to get out was to go down them, an option that involved getting several bruises! We clambered back up the hill to get back to the ship in time for the afternoon river trip along Indian River. 13 of the crew crammed into a row boat, with our oarsman, Macaroni at the back. It was a slow meandering ride up-river, along the bank there were huge sprawling tree roots, creeper vines and wild hibiscus. Macaroni showed us were they filmed the swamp scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and then we made our way up, spotting iguanas as we went, to a beautiful garden and bar where we stopped for a barbeque feast, complete with large quantities garlic dressing and volumes of beer. When it was dark I and a few others went and sat away from the light, listening to the forest, insects and goodness knows what else all singing their individual parts, making a full orchestra of chirruping and croaks. The ride back down river in the dark was magical, the trees above silhouetted against a bright starry sky. Back on the ship I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bunk.

We left Dominica in the morning and sailed the 20 miles to Les Saintes, which are just below Guadeloupe. We attempted tacking several times but Tall Ships don’t like going through the wind, and as we weren’t getting blown onto the island as much as had been initially thought we were eventually able to wear instead. We anchored in the middle of this tiny archipelago. There’s one main island, and a few smaller ones around it. The main town is called Terre-de-Haut, it’s so picturesque – very French colonial in style but all in bright Caribbean colours. A few people popped ashore for drinks that evening, the local cocktails are huge and extremely potent, but we generally had a fairly quiet evening, the highlight of which was the inauguration of the Grumpy Old Men Corner in the mess, Keith takes pride of place there of course!

Before we could go ashore the next day we had some cleaning to do, the bottom of the ship has accumulated a fair amount of weed and barnacles, and the fenders on the jetty in Dominica had left some nasty big black marks on the port side. Trying to get rid of the barnacles and weed proved to be a fairly fruitless task, we tried scraping them off with a sharp ended plank and brushing too, but had little effect. I went over the side with a snorkel to have a look at it properly, we have some interesting little things growing on us at the moment! Getting the side of the ship clean was a slightly easier job, some bods leaned over the side, scrubbing with Cif and we had Virginia, our dive boat, rigged on a sliding rope along the ship so as to get all the way along. Ray went hard at it, along with Jess, and I relieved Ray after a while. It was a little choppy and hard work but it was satisfying to see our ship looking all spick and span again.

After lunch we were given leave to go ashore to explore the town and island, the older lads had a wander round the town and found some good drinking spots and did a spot of shopping. Jess, Polly and I decided to walk across the island to find the north beach, it’s a lovely spot, a big wide palm fringed beach looking out across the bay which is sheltered from the brunt of the sea by rocky islands with gaps on each side that let the tide in. I went for a snorkel but was sadly disappointed, it obviously used to have a beautiful reef, but all that is left is broken coral and a few weeds. There were a few pretty fish, but it was mainly just a sad reminder of the damage we are causing this planet. We got back to the main town in time for a cocktail before getting the RIB back to the ship, they were huge, and tasted stronger than the ones we had the night before, I think we broke Jesse a bit! Back on board it was party time, the barbeque was brought out and Pip made Pelican punch (made of pretty much anything she could lay her hands on I think!). Everyone had a great time eating, drinking and dancing, Dave dragged me out onto the dance floor for a boogie, he may look skinny but he threw me about like a ballroom pro!

We’re now heading up to Montseratt, expecting to arrive in the wee small hours. We’ll anchor for a day there before heading on to Antigua, a leg that promises to be interesting as we’ll be beating into the wind.

TA2 Days 8-11
Montserat to Antigua

We were sailing through the sulphurous stench of the volcano as we changed watch, after taking in some sail the previous watch were allowed to go below and Mizzen watch were left to watch the dawn over Montserat. Towering clouds mixed with smoke from the mountain and we got snap happy as the sun sent rays under the clouds and around the hills of the island. We arrived into Little Bay on the north end at about breakfast time. Jules popped ashore and found a couple of taxi drivers offering to take us on a day’s tour of the island, which almost all of the crew decided to go on. We had to leave a few souls behind to look after the ship but the rest of us piled into two mini-vans (a tight fit with some of the larger chaps) and set off for the Montserat Volcano Observatory where we had a stunning view of the still smoking beast. Half the island is now a restricted zone as pyroclastic flows have swept down to the sea, obliterating the main town of Plymouth and extending the shore line. After watching a short video about the phases of eruptions that have occurred over the last 10 years we drove down to a valley where one of the flows has left a boulder strewn lunar landscape, with a couple of top storeys and roofs poking out of the grey sand. Up the other side we went through what had been the richest area of the island, known as Beverly Hills, the houses have been mostly abandoned now, though some people still go back occasionally to maintain the beautiful homes they had to leave in the hopes that they will be able to return. We got to a point where even 4 wheel drives couldn’t go any further and we climbed up the rest of the impossibly steep road to the top where we had another fantastic view of the land, including what was once Plymouth, now a modern Pompei. After all that, beers were needed to refresh the troops so we found a bar before returning to the shore to meet the RIB. Keith and Mike were in a shack bar there having their end of the day refreshment. The bar was owned by a fellow by the name of Moose and instead of serving us he told me I could just go behind the bar and serve the gang myself, Ben came with me and he ended up living his dream of running a Caribbean bar for an hour or so! Moose was a wonderful host and provided us with bar snacks of freshly fried jerk chicken and gar fish. The only annoyance was the midges which ate my legs with as much gusto as I ate the fish!

Next morning we set off on the slog to get to Antigua, the wind was against us and as soon as we got away from the shelter of the island we found ourselves in some very lumpy seas. We tried a tack after lunch but were too soon in doing so and ended up going back along the line we had come along, so we made a quick about face again and sailed on. In the end it took us 3 more tacks to get there, we sailed 98 miles to get across a 20 mile gap and arrived in Falmouth Harbour at about 4 in the morning. I was on mess duty that day which is always made much more interesting when you’re heeling at what feels like 35 degrees (but is probably only really 10 to 15). The freezer had packed up because the water intake was above the water line when we were on a starboard tack and when Tom went below to get ice cream for pudding after dinner he found something more like soup. Poor boy wasn’t very happy at that point and went up to the foredeck to vent his frustration by shouting abuse at Neptune!

We got a lie in that morning thank heavens, in the afternoon some of the crew went ashore and had a look at English Harbour which is not very far away from here, I decided to go back to bed instead as I’d got no sleep the night before until we’d anchored. The ship had been going up and down a lot and my bunk is thwart ship (lying across it rather than along the length) so when the ship heels I slide down the bunk and my feet hit the end, I have to change ends when we tack so I’m not lying upside-down! After some kip and shower I felt like a much nicer person. Graham, who’s the creator of the ship, joined us that afternoon and we had a lovely steak dinner to welcome him on board before heading off into town to celebrate our arrival in Antigua properly. Many rum punches and tequilas later we staggered home. I fell over and scraped my knee on the way, and in the middle of the night found myself shut in a small dark room that I was convinced was the sail locker of a pirate ship. After banging on walls and what I thought was the hatch above me for a while in anger and frustration, I ripped the shower curtain down and realised I was in my bathroom!

I didn’t feel very well yesterday, but was dragged out for a marginally more sedate night out anyway. A couple of rum punches acted as hair of the dog and I was soon dancing like a loon once more. We were a little late back, (OK, about three hours) but as we had Ben, who was Officer On Watch, with us, we pretty much got away with it. We had a lesson on knots this morning, with Graham filming us for his promotional video, and have had the rest of the day free. Most of the crew have gone ashore so I’ve taken advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on emails etc. Now I’m off to Shirley Heights to watch the sunset.

Later, back on the ship feeling pleasantly full after another deck barbeque. The sunset was stunning, we had an awesome view of both Falmouh Harbour and English Harbour. God I love this life!

Pink bits and pizza

25th March 2008

Day 5

Been on mess duty all day, which mainly involves a heck of a lot of washing up after each meal, so no wheel oiling today; there wouldn’t have been any wheel oiling anyway in fact, as they’ve now decided to cover the wheel with a tarp or something until we can get the special varnish they want. (Rolls eyes)

I actually really enjoy being on mess duty, the downside is you have to be up a little earlier than normal, but you get the night off before, and with the music cranked up high while you’re chopping and slicing or washing pots you can have a good old warble and a boogie. Tom’s a wicked guy too so it’s just like hanging out with a mate for the day. We were going to make pizza for lunch but that got scuppered as we hadn’t the time to make the dough from scratch and we couldn’t find the dough mix in the stores, so it was salad buffet instead.

After lunch was washed up the voyage crew were granted some shore leave, I’d already peeled the spuds for later so the was nothing to do in the galley thankfully, so we pootled across to Pigeon Island, it’s not actually separate from the mainland but is St Lucia National Trust land, so we got stung for a few dollars, just for going to the beach, pah! It was a lovely beach though, small and perfectly formed, with a bar 500 yards away, we lazed under a palm tree, swam and had a few drinks. There was an old lime kiln, right by the beach and the toilet block had been converted from the old stores house, I wanted to climb the hill behind the beach and explore more but we didn’t have the time sadly.

Back on the ship we found that the last few crew members had joined us, Jessica, who’s on her gap year, and Rob and Jon, two old mates, Jon’s got the dirtiest laugh I ever heard, I reckon those two will liven things up no end! After a lovely roast for dinner the washing up got ploughed through as I had so many helpers drying up, which left plenty of time for a run ashore, Mike the engineer, Anthony, Polly and I went over to the bar I was at with the crew on the first night, the owner has got the idea that we’re a cruise ship and so gives us 10% off on drinks, we’re not complaining! I felt fine when we came back, but waking up for watch at 3 was horrible, rum punch is tasty, but vicious!

Day 6/TA2 day 1

Today was mostly spent doing introductions, briefings and talks. We signed on with the captain (even though some of us have already been on for a week!) and were told all about the ships routine- watch rotas, mess duties, happy hour (cleaning after breakfast- a perfect time to put some tunes on!) Then it was time for some basics of seamanship- helming, climbing the rigging, and sail setting. As I’ve been up the rigging many a time I wanted to do a little more than the basic up and over to the first platform that trainees generally do on their first time up, and as I’ve not been up yet this week I wanted to check out the view. So with the captain’s permission, I went right up to the top crosstrees and sat on the royal yard. Nick and Anthony came up as well and enjoyed the scenery with me for a bit. After the much promised pizza for lunch we had a talk about sails and the ropes that work them from Francis and the rest of the afternoon was spent getting to grips with and practicing setting and stowing sails.

It was around this point that I realised that I’d gone a bit pink so I ducked out of the sail stowing and went below to stand under a cold shower and then slather myself in various creams. The heat rash has gotten worse too, it seems to be slowly spreading across my body, my feet are feeling better, but my hands look like bright pink toad skin. Jon has some Fullers Earth cream which I’ve heard of before now and is supposed to be really good for skin complaints, so I’m trying that tonight, hopefully something will have an effect soon! I borrowed a shirt from Pip for the rest of the afternoon while we set the spanker and practiced bracing the yards over and over again, I’ve landed myself with the port mainbrace as my station. Rob, who’s a big fella, offered to swap it for the t’gallant and royal, but I’m quite happy with it really, all part of the fitness regime!

I just had time for a quick dip before supper and have just been watching Hercules in New York on deck; LJohn has a projector so we just have to hang up a white board and we have an in house cinema! It rained on us briefly a couple of times – nearly, but not quite enough, to send us running inside. The lads are all back from shore leave now and it’s time for me to hit my bunk as I’ve got anchor watch at 5 in the morning.

On watch. Typical, I pop down to my cabin to grab my torch and memory stick and a bloomin’ alarm goes off! Bizarrely enough, it was a distress alarm, apparently coming from us, but was in fact an emergency weather warning for the North Atlantic. Useful.

To oil or not to oil?

22nd March 2008

Kind of a boring one today, we finished cleaning the wheel with Nitrol and I spent a good while obsessively scraping off the last tiny little bits of varnish that had been missed. We started washing it off with white spirit but then the great debate about whether to sand down the dents at the ends of the spokes and what finish to put on it started. Finally, a special varnish was decided upon and people went ashore to get it, but it’s Good Friday and all the shops are shut until Tuesday. As we’re possibly supposed to be going out for a day sail on Monday I’m starting to get rather frustrated as we only have one day to get it done, we’ll probably oil it now, but we need to get on with it pronto!

My heat rash has got worse, now it’s on my feet as well, it’s driving me nuts, but they have found a lotion in the medical cabinet that helps a little. The best thing for it though was my swim this evening. I did 4 laps of the ship this evening, to make up for not doing any last night. As I finished my second lap the Unicorn came past on a sunset jolly, crammed full of tourists and pretending to sail, but with smoke bellowing from the engine. She’s the local Tall Ship, pandering to the tourists who want to get pissed and pretend to be a pirate for a day. We saw her going out this morning as well, looks pretty but I wouldn’t think she sails well.
The new captain Doug Lindsay arrived today, along with another chap called David, and we lost Bruce this morning. There’s only a couple more people to join now I think. I’m really looking forward to getting underway now, Rodney Bay is pleasant enough but isn’t the most exciting place to be, and I haven’t even been up the mast yet either.

I’m on mess duty tomorrow, which means I have to be up at 6.30, so I’m going to hit my bunk now, but to make up for the dullnes of the blog I’ll put some pics up 🙂

Heatrash :(

21st March 2008, St Lucia

I’m sitting on the well deck with some of my younger crew mates, the elders are inside having wine and cheese after dinner. Kevin is leaving tomorrow so we had a special dinner- fresh local fish and a free glass of wine each! We have a bar on board, it’s a help yourself honesty system where we pay the tab off every so often, it’s only for when we’re in port though, a glass of wine is £1.50 :-).

Kevin’s replacement arrived last night just after Pip and I had finished tidying up, he’s a huge man, as engineers so often seem to be, by the name of Mike. We had three more new arrivals today- Polly is our Chippy, who’ll be with us until Weymouth, Nick who’ll be with us of a ew weeks and may be returning or the TA, and Melissa; Tom’s local girlfriend who’s going to be on board for a couple of weeks. Polly’s been put in my cabin, and I presume Melissa’s going to be in Tom’s cabin. There is one other girl due to join the ship for the trip and she’ll be bunking in with us as well, so we’ll have a spare bunk to chuck stuff on.

My day was taken up entirely with the cleaning of the ships wheel, Pip and I have both been working on it all day, though Pip actually started sanding it (while in use) in Lisbon, which was several months back! It is now clean of varnish and awaiting treatment with Netrol, which will bring the colour of the wood up, and then several coats of D1 and D2, which are oil/varnishes. Hopefully we’ll have the job finished by tomorrow evening- we’ll need to be able to steer soon! We finished a bit early this evening and I had a quick dip to remove the ick before settling myself with a book on the poop deck behind the charthouse to catch some rays, I feel horribly pale and pasty compared to the permanent crew and have no wish to inflict it upon other people. I have also developed my usual summertime heat rash now, my hands are itching and pimply but I am holding myself back from scratching them and hoping that it’ll sort itself out soon as I acclimatize.

I managed to get out of my 4 ‘til 5 anchor watch last night, which was a boon. The boys who went out had promised to be back by midnight as Anthony was on watch then. They failed to turn up by the promised time and eventually Pip and LJohn were sent out by Francis to find them, they had ordered food at 11 and it had taken over an hour to turn up. By the time they eventually got back, Anthony’s watch was over halfway through, and as I’d been on deck all evening I suggested I finish his watch and he could do mine. Francis was very cross with them and they got a lecture this morning from him about setting a good example as the permanent crew to the trainees, which confused Anthony a little as he’s sure he’s paying for this!

Introductions

20th March 2008, St Lucia

I’m looking at the moon as I write this, she’s nearly full and glowing in the dusk like a lamp. We eventually got to see some blue sky this evening, the thick grey clouds that have been with us have finally been chased away by the wind from the south east, but the sun has stayed resolutely behind them as it set.

I have spent most of the day sitting on the well deck under the blue and white striped tarpaulin, scraping varnish off the wheel. It’s a long and boring job, but I have been occasionally joined by Pip when she’s not been sorting everyone else out with jobs or sanding deck plugs. I finished my ladder scraping this morning, and Francis was very impressed with how well it came up, which can only be a good thing.

We finished work at five, and the young were soon in the water, getting rid of the sawdust and sticky, oily, greasy bits that accumulate when doing maintenance. I was accompanied on my laps of the ship by the little fish we’d been watching all day, thousands of them swimming around the ship, sometimes leaping out of the water like a patter of rain in an attempt to evade the larger fish that were chasing them for lunch. As I swam I sent tiny flashes of sliver leaping out of my way, which made me giggle, as there’s no chance I could ever catch them!

I think I should introduce you to the crew, as I’m going to be talking about them a fair bit and names alone will leave you wondering who the heck they are and where they fit in. So pay attention…

We have no captain at the moment, he’s due to arrive on Saturday, so in charge at the moment we have Francis, the Mate. He’s got a mop of salt and pepper hair and a rather lugubrious way of talking, he can go on a bit, but is full of knowledge.
Ben (Mr Swain himself) is the Second Mate, he seems to have more of a handle on the organisational aspects of running a ship and has spent most of the day franticly on the phone trying, and succeeding, to sort out getting a sanitation inspection we have to have to be able to continue sailing.
Kevin is currently our Chief Engineer, but he’s getting relieved in a few days, I get the impression he can’t wait to get back to proper beer and the English climate, mainly ‘cos he’s told me so. He’s the kind of chap who’ll go to an English pub for a traditional roast on a tropical island…
Keith is the Bosun, he calls himself a grumpy old man, and anyone under 30 is classed as a child. He likes to be in bed by nine, but will stand anchor watch if the rest of the crew is going ashore for a night out. In fact he’s a sweetie underneath, I told him that I want his job, and he said he reckons I could be taking over from him in about a year. I think it might take me a little longer, but he has himself a willing and eager pupil here!
Tom is our cook, I was so pleased to see him here as he became a good mate almost immediately when I was on the ship for a few days last summer. Puddings aren’t his strong point but he makes a mean chicken and veg pie!
LJohn (Little John) is, I think, Bosun’s Mate, he’s 20 but acts more like he’s 15 sometimes, or most of the time, if you ask Pip! He was on board when I joined Pelican in the summer too, as was…
Oli B, who, to my shame, I failed to recognise when I met up with the crew on my first night. He’s very quiet compared to the rest of the young’uns, he wants to become a ships engineer so a lot of the time he’s hidden down in the engine room.
James has been on board since the ship left Weymouth, his defining feature is a beautiful white mans afro, but secretly, he just reminds me of a monkey!
Pip also joined the ship at Weymouth but she went home for a month over Christmas, she’s been deferring going back to her Oceanography degree for months now, a girl after my own heart!
Jules has been on the ship for about the same amount of time, I’m not sure exactly how long, she’s been tied up with office things and admin for Ben most of the time so far. She and he are coupled up and they’ve gone ashore for the evening, LJohn came back from dropping them off complaining that they’d been petting in the RIB! They’re not generally publicly affectionate though, they’d probably get a bucket of seawater over them if they were.
Anthony is the guy I met in Scuttlebutts before Ben showed up, he had been staying in a hotel but the day after he met us he moved over to the ship. He’ll be on until we reach Weymouth and also intends to stay on as a volunteer after that- I have competition!!
Bruce is a Yorkshire chap who’s been on the ship for a couple of weeks, but he’s not going to be coming on with us, he’s got a boat of his own in the marina, the lucky sod.
Last but not least we have our most recent member Ray, he’s staying on until Weymouth too. He’s of the salt and pepper generation, and I just left him and Keith having a conversation about beards in the saloon!
As the crew changes and grows I shall try and remember to update you. We were visited by a couple of local girls today who were under the impression that they’d be joining as paid crew, I think they might have been put off the idea when Francis told them they’d have to pay to come on board, but we shall see.

Tom, James and Anthony have gone ashore for beers now, I nearly joined them, but couldn’t be bothered in the end, so I am sitting on deck with Pip and a glass of wine with some music on her laptop. I discovered today we have an extension cord so I can sit up here writing without having to worry about my computers pathetic battery life. Keith’s having a moan about the state of the ship, everything’s been left out, so I think I should go and have a tidy up. Over and out!!

Blood and barnacles

19th March 2008, Rodney Bay, St Lucia.

The sun has come out again, but only after my swim, and my toe is bleeding. I must have scraped it on a barnacle when clambering onto the pilot ladder, not an easy feat in the gentle but large swell that is washing in from the north. Ben is expertly tending to it and I’m told I shall live. First lesson learnt – beware the barnacles!

Yesterday was long, and I spent nearly all of it in a slightly dazed surreal state, even when the plane had taken of and I was flying over the Atlantic I still somehow felt that it wasn’t real, and I was watching everything through someone else’s eyes. The flight was cramped and slightly turbulent, and when I had come through customs I was bombarded with offers for taxis, which always makes me doubly suspicious that someone’s trying to rip me off. After a little negotiation I paid $60 for the hour and a half taxi ride through shanty towns and mountainous rainforest to the other end of the island, and have been told that I got a good deal.

I arrived at Shuttlebutts bar and found a soon-to-be fellow crewmate hanging about in the hopes of bumping into some Pelican crew. As none of the crew were to be seen I got myself a rum punch to match his beer and sat down, no sooner had I done this than Ben appeared, as if by magic, behind me. We took my rum punch in a take out glass on the RIB, across the marina to another bar where the crew were having drinks as it was two crew members last night on board, a guy called Oli and the cook, Jan, she’s off home for 8 weeks and should be rejoining us in the Azores. My rum punch had mysteriously disappeared down my throat on the short trip across the water, but it was soon replaced with an even tastier version, and about two bottles of water as I soon realised that tiredness and dehydration were not going to be cured by rum. The partying continued after dinner with free tequilas from the bar owner, dancing demonstrations from Ben and Pip, and more cocktails, by the time we got on the RIB to take us to the boat my body clock thought it was 4am, though it was only in fact a more reasonable 12.

It was a magical ride across the bay, the moon was nearly full and bathing everything in silvery light. The hilly coastline of the island was silhouetted against a deep blue black sky studded with stars, and the water was deliciously warm as I trailed my hand in it while little splashes glinted like diamonds in the moonlight. I was sorely tempted to have a dip there and then.

Finally aboard my beloved Pelican, I was shown to my cabin where I dumped my stuff and had a cursory attempt at unpacking, but I had to have a good look about too and see what improvements have been made since I was last on. The saloon is looking lovely now, the red seating is a little less opulent than I might have wished for, but I doubt the budget would have stretched to plush velvet and gilded mirrors! The scruffy parrot hanging in the middle is perfectly piratical though. The walls are perhaps a little bare and stark at the moment, but I’m sure in time they will be covered with pictures and cards that chart the progress of the ship’s family life. I slept like a baby, only waking once when my phone started bleeping at 5.40 with messages from home- an empty message from my mother and some kind of media message from Ade that I can’t download. Grrr!

Breakfast was at 7.20, followed by a certain amount of lounging as the permanent crew started to get on with their maintenance tasks. The soon-to-be member of crew I had met in the bar the night before had joined the ship by then and we decided we should probably ask for a job – Anthony got painting on deck and I got scraping paint drips off the aft ladder, not thrilling occupations either of them, but all necessary, got to keep things ship-shape! After lunch Tom, who’s taken over the cooking from Jan, asked if I’d help him with the shopping. Naturally I jumped at the chance of a trip ashore and a break from paint scraping!

We were dropped ashore by the mall and arranged to get picked up a few hours later. The mall itself was fairly nauseous; most of the buildings in the vicinity and around the marina are horribly twee and look like pastel cardboard cut-outs, complete with private pontoons, manicured lawns and palms trees. The supermarket wasn’t quite so bad, mostly I was horrified at the poor quality of the meat available, the pickled pig’s snout was one of the more appetising things I saw!! When we were done we realised that we’d only taken a fraction of the time we had and were going to have to sit about waiting for hours, so we decided to get a drink and try and find someone with a VHS radio to call the ship and ask someone to come and get us. It turned out that the only VHS that was working was in the yacht club down the road from the bar we were in, so when we had finished our drinks we wheeled our bright red trolley down the road.

Tom went in to the club and I waited at the end of the drive with the trolley, the mission was a success and we trundled on to the bar we’d been at the night before to await our lift. Once the shopping was on the pontoon Tom popped off to take the trolley back, mumbling something as he went. The RIB arrived, shopping was put in it and we waited…. and waited…… Eventually we heard a radio call go out to Pelican from Tom, asking where the RIB was. The mumble he had left me with had actually been a request that after the RIB had collected the shopping, it would go on round to the supermarket drop off point to collect him from dropping the trolley back. When we hadn’t turned up he’d somehow got himself on board a German vessel to use their radio, so we picked him up from there instead!

The swell had grown by then and as the RIB zoomed back we nearly made air several times, awesome fun! It was time for a swim by the time we made it back to the ship, I have to admit I was a wuss and used the ladder instead of jumping in like the others, mainly because I am as yet unsure about the holding qualities of my new bikini, and swimming in deep water puts me in mind of sharks and things that come up from the deep to grab you. However, I did two laps of the ship and will be increasing that as the days go by, weather permitting, at least. That, of course led to the toe incident, I think I was actually the last to know that I had injured myself; having climbed out I went below to have a quick shower, started drying myself in my cabin and then popped back into my en-suite for something, at which point I saw the blood on the floor and wondered where it had come from! When I hobbled back up to the mess with a lump of tissue on my foot Ben was mopping the floor and people were asking how my foot was. It’s not a major wound but it was a bleeder! Since I started this the sun has set, supper has been eaten and I am now sitting in the saloon with a glass of wine. Now I must go and sit on deck so my little computer can pick up a wireless signal from one of the hotels on shore.

On deck… hrumph!!! It’s not playing the game, I shall try later…

Later. 3 til 4am anchor watch. The wind is up, but it’s warm, and the internets working!!!