CLIENT: Somerset College
VOYAGE NUMBER: 20190909
FROM: Hervey Bay To: Manly
DATE: 11 September 2019
REPORT BY: Red Watch Leader
A gentle tap on the shoulder in the dark early morning reminded me that it was the start of my first watch for the day. Time to rouse the watch, a quick cup of hot chocolate while we listen to the skipper’s instructions for the morning.
The plan was to leave the relative safety of Inskip Point and get across Wide Bay bar at high tide. The anchor raised and the crew moved noiselessly in the dark to prep the foresail. We approached the bar just on first light, not a pretty sight. Whitecaps everywhere, like a thousand dancing ponies assailing us from all sides. Varying sized steep pitched waves at short intervals attack us. The vigorous action of the boat too much for the watch below and soon without hesitation below decks was soon abandoned.
The ship rose on the approach of each wave, up and up, until the wave passed the longitudinal pivot point and then the bow sinks to meet the next oncoming wave, with the resulting greenie spreading across the deck, drenching anyone who happened to be near. At least the water is warm, but the benefit of that soon lost as the not so warm wind blows relentlessly. You get the idea of the action if you have done the roller coaster ride at Luna Park, but with less predictability and of course much wetter. Much excitement for the onlookers!
Across the bar and time to raise the foresail. It goes well, but I ask you this “one hand for the ship and one for yourself” right? So which hand do you use to ‘steady’ yourself when both hands are busy hauling the halyard and the deck has a less then horizontal attitude and constantly changing position? Let’s say the last few inches were a bit testing, especially for this aging watch leader.
Now for the stays’l. Same principle, same difficulty, but the operation was successful. While basking in the afterglow of a successful raise despite the torrid conditions, the halyard assisted by the continuous stream of water running down the deck and a slight loss in concentration, slips silently through the freeing port, overboard and began trailing behind the boat.
The ever-turning propeller searches for a victim. But saved by a trainee, the wayward halyard is soon spotted and quickly retrieved. A silent thank you from the now worn out watch leader. Time for some breakfast as the watch period concludes. Porridge was a delicate affair and discretion being the better part of valour, meant very little was consumed. Better safe than depositing it over the side! Time for some needed lying down and gather some shut eye time.
Another watch to start at mid-day, time to regroup and gather the troops for the 3 hour afternoon watch. Lunch was offered and there were some takers for Hugh’s burritos but this old guy politely declined. So on watch, with some of the crew feeling the effects of the continuous pounding and seemingly torturous conditions. The wind howls past your ear drums and speech is difficult to hear once you are more than 2 metres apart. It’s cold and it’s wet, and most of the crew have had at some time or the other been subject to a drenching by the waves crashing over the sides. The crew on watch managed with some difficulty to make it through the watch period but were quite relieved when it was time for the next watch to take over.
Despite a suggestion from the watch leader that they should try and grab some shut eye, many were reluctant to go below for fear that the confines of below deck would tip their delicate constitution over the edge. To a small degree conditions began to ease as the evening drew in, and the Chinese chicken prepared by our ever loving cook, was a welcome sight. But as a precautionary matter, better a little than too much.
By the start of the watch, some of the watch had succumbed to the dreaded mal de mare and were heads down in the bunk. Other watch groups decided they too had had enough and abandoned the upper deck for their bunks. And so it remained for the valiant survivors of Red watch to begin the first of the night watches as the boat moved ever onward towards Morton Island and calmer waters. A few tacks thrown in to the routine to keep the crew on their toes, and like the experienced crew they were becoming, handled with aplomb. And they were adept hands at the helm as well.
Midnight and the new watch takes over, Red watch has finished for the day and they slip fully clothed into bunks for a much needed repose.