Today has been so mental. All hands getting ready to leave the dock and go to sea. So much activity, pulling up and stowing the gang plank, tying up the strop to close the gap. Getting sails ready to set, pulling ropes, then pulling more ropes and yet a few more. We then left dock and were at sea. Totally confused as to what is going on, just pull on a rope as directed or pushed.
We had been moored in the protection of some mountains, so no wind. The engine is chugging away to get us out further so,we can catch some breeze and fill the sails.
There are three watches, 12-4, 4-8 and 8-12. I will be working between 12 and 4 day and night. We will do all the necessary duties required to run the ship during that time.
I may be on the helm, on forward lookout, pulling ropes, going aloft. I do whatever I’m asked.
After 4pm I’m off for 8 hours so time to learn more about which ropes do what etc plus get some sleep before I work again at midnight.
We have all reset our watches back half an hour so that it’s not so dark in the mornings. At sea you have your own time zone as desired by the captain to make the sailing better and safer.
Watch started at 12 my watch tends to do most of the ships maintenance work opposed to cleaning duties. Today’s chores included some painting, but, mostly lashing down items in the hold for sea worthiness. At 2 pm I was put on the helm.
Yes my first day at sea and I am already steering the ship. Hope you are all impressed with that, I certainly didn’t expect to do this so soon.
Whilst I was on the helm the ship was joined by a magnificent 10ft shark. it came 20ft off the back of the ship and right on the surface. Anna took the helm for a couple of minutes so I could look at it. You never leave the helm unless relieved.
just as I finished on the helm a pod of small dolphins joined us for a couple of minutes. It’s like living in a movie, nothing feels real.
We are moving quite slowly, very little wind, heading south to Dakar. Should take about 8 days to get there.
My first night watch.
It was so dark, no lights on the ship you just have to get your night vision and use your other senses. I sat down to have a coffee before muster at the back of the ship and a rare moment on my own when a shooting star shot across the sky. there are so many stars, no light pollution no moon just the brightest of starry nights. then the sea started to twinkle and I realised it was the creatures under the water. They flash and glow like they are swimming around with torches on there heads. large patches of luminescence glow and fade. it’s the most amazing underwater firework display.
We had to trim and reset some of the sails, I took a turn on the helm and also took a turn on forward watch. finally getting to bed at 4:15 am.
All this in just 24 hours.
Routines start to get established. Sunday’s you still stand your watch but we don’t do extra work we do the basics of sail handling and ships checks, but most of the time is spent doing projects or learning more about the ship.
Night time watch is so unreal especially at the moment as there are thousands of stars but no moon. it makes the ship so dark. We are in the middle of the main Africa shipping lanes so we have to be extra vigilant at night to make sure that we don’t get too close to the massive container ships.
We had a near miss with a sailing boat the other night. It was running without its steaming lights(night lights) on. This is a legal requirement. Who ever was a onboard must have been sleeping on auto pilot and suddenly saw us, switched on the lights and turned in the other direction. It was a bit of a shock to us as it appeared from nowhere. Too small to show up on our Radar. It would have not of hurt us but would have totally wrecked them.
Then we had a super tanker go by us at 3:30am, it was a mile away, but was so huge and we could hear the roar of the engines. We don’t ever want to get within 1/2 a mile of these big ships.
There is the amazing sight of dolphins swimming off the bow at night and glowing in the luminescence. They look like light torpedoes swimming and jumping. Totally breath taking.
Night look out is one of those times when you get to spend an hour alone in the dark, standing at the front of the ship, watching the sea traffic in the distance, counting shooting stars. Watching the Dolphins. I love this time best of all.
Day watch is totally different. We work for four hours, doing all manner of odd jobs. Yesterday I got to wrap tar soaked rope round large metal screws. I got covered in tar but actually it makes your hands really soft. Filthy but soft. This is a fully operational running ship. She doesn’t go on a voyage then employ people to make all repairs at the end. Everything is done as and when required. All running repairs and maintenance done at sea. Makes for a very busy and varied time. Never sure what you will be doing from one minute to the next.
Last night I got invited to dine with the Captain. Also at the table were, Alison the 1st mate, Bob the purser, Victor from Sweden, Jasper from Finland both have been on board since the beginning of the voyage and then there was Tim from England who joined in La Gomera at the same time as me. It was really great sitting in the officers mess.
I had to find clean clothes as you dress up to eat with the captain. Shame I had been working with tar all afternoon. I looked smartish but with the most disgusting hands and nails.
I am already sort of getting used to being filthy all the time. I wear the same clothes every day. On watch the jobs are all mucky. My plan is to throw them away when they start to walk about on there own, or just fall apart. I have different set of clothes for night watch. I don’t get dirty but do need warmer clothes.
The night watch clothes will have to change as we get further south. It is getting warmer by the day.
I have kept clothes aside for going ashore. Got to keep some standards.
To day I have been put on scullery duty. This starts at 8am for me. I get to scrub pots and pans and keep the scullery clean, as well as helping Donald the chef with fetching and carrying. Not cooking though, that’s his domain. I am on duty until the dinner things are all cleaned up.
Everyone has to wash there own plate and cutlery, but the drying and the pots and pans are down to the three people on duty. The best part about scullery duty is that you don’t have to stand your night watch. A huge bonus for me on the 12-4. I can sleep all night tonight and not work until 12 noon tomorrow. Time to try and learn which rope does what. I’m sure I will get it one day. Only 128 of them.
We are sailing in the trade winds and officially in the tropics now. We are due to arrive in Dakar on Sunday. The Captain had the entire ship muster for a talk about where we are going. What to see, how to behave, what to wear. Hanna and I agreed that we will stick together and visit as much as we can in the two days off that we will get there. More abut that later.
Cool things you get to see at sea.
Dolphins, loads of them. Day and night. I will never get board of seeing them dancing, jumping and playing. Whales, yes I have seen 4 so far, small dark hump backed ones with no dorsal fin.
Super tankers, and an aircraft carrier. We also have in the distance a slow moving oil drilling rig, it looks like a rocket launcher.
Yesterday, I caught a tuna. A couple of the lads had been fishing since they left Lunenburg at the beginning of the trip in October. I get on board and catch a fish in less than a week at sea. It was so exciting pulling this large silver flash out of the water. I did get Jack to help pull it up into the boat. It is now safely stored in the freezer for another day.
Dan the 2nd mate and my chief on watch is really good at knowing the stars. John was on the helm last night and steering due south using the southern cross instead of the compass. We still have no moon at night so the stars and planets are showing up brighter than normal. The sailing has been quite calm and quiet. So Dan has agreed to teach us more tonight.
First week at sea has been interesting. Mostly brilliant. Some scary, like the moment I lost control on the helm whilst they were trimming the sails and changing tack. I shook for about half and hour afterwards and didn’t want to continue steering, but Jasper came and took over for a few minutes, then made me stand the rest of my watch on the helm with him beside me. It got my confidence back. It was also explained to me that I should not have been left alone during the sail handling as I was new. The rules at sea are Did anything get broken, and was anyone hurt or killed. As long as the answer is no, then no problem.
I have been through moments where I have thought, what am I doing here? am I tolerating this, or living it. It is quite a normal emotion for new sailors I have been told. Talking to others really helps to keep things into perspective. I am now in the swing of ocean life and although I am not learning which rope does what yet, I am learning so many other things that I do understand.
I am getting on with everyone and we have such a good laugh.
Dakar tomorrow. Can’t wait for the next instalment of this adventure.