Voyage on HMB Endeavour
Sydney to Botany Bay
25-29 April 2010
HMB Endeavour is a replica of the
original HMB Endeavour in which James Cook (with the rank of Lieutenant, but
commonly referred to as Captain) circumnavigated the globe from 1768-1771. It
was during this voyage that he visited lands that would come to be known as New
Zealand and Australia.
HMB? Well, in James Cook’s time it
stood for His Majesty’s Bark. Cook actually referred to it as His Britannick Majesty’s Bark! But you can read all about a bark (not to be
confused with a barque) and about the Endeavour onthe Endeavour Replica site.
My initial interest in undertaking
the voyage was to experience life at sea on a tall sailing ship as part of
understanding and relating to the vicissitudes of an early immigrant making the
voyage to Australia. It was another page in the life of my great grandfather,
William Crick, along with my interest if following his Old Mail Routes. The Bark Endeavour was almost a hundred
years earlier than the Barque Sibella,
on which he and his brother Thomas emigrated, but it would be as close as I
could get to going to sea on a vessel of a similar ilk.
With the Endeavour, there was the
added attraction, which became an increased focus of interest, of being taken
back not only to the voyage of James Cook himself, which remains of signal
significance for Australia, but to the life, challenges and dramas of so many
sea adventurers of past centuries, both naval and civilian.
The anticipation and interest in
undertaking the Endeavour voyage expanded by the day, interrupted only by my
desperation to recover from a foot injury incurred during my Old Mail Routes
trip. Fortuitously, I was able to transfer from my originally booked Broken Bay
voyage, on which I would have had to pose as Long John Silver, to the following
week’s Jervis Bay voyage, giving me more time to convert my hobble to a
well-disguised limpless amble. Equally fortuitously, I was able to spend a
further week in recovery mode by transferring to the following week’s Botany
Maybe it was the transit of Venus
that worked for me, as the Botany Bay voyage, on the reliable first-hand
evidence of an inveterate repeat offender, was the best of the three! (Neil’s
prime criteria were lots of wind in the sails and lots of swells on the sea. We
scored highly on both.)
On other trips, I’ve kept a daily or
intermittent blog during the trip; and then transformed it into a story page.
With this trip, I kept up a pre-voyage blog for a couple of weeks as I changed
plans from one voyage to the next; then resorted to Twitter for a few very
intermittent reports as the voyage took place. It just wasn’t practicable to
keep up a detailed blog at sea.
The upshot is that this page covers
the voyage itself. The pre-voyage blog, however, which contains information
about Cook’s voyage on the corresponding days of April 1770 – and a little more
besides – I have preserved in its original form, which you can access or
download in PDF format: Pre-Voyage Blog
This is not a leisure cruise, it is
hard work. Voyage crew must be able to climb aloft (39 metres in a harness), be
physically fit and not suffer chronic seasickness. Good upper body strength
(for handling lines) is an advantage.
Thus warns the Endeavour High Seas
Not exactly an enticing message!
Unless you’re looking for a real-life experience on an 18th century sailing
ship. At least, as real-life as current-century restrictions, obligations and a
few comforts permit. I was grateful for them all.
Sailing day finally came around. The
Plymouth atmosphere was perfect as the grey, bleak and cool morning highlighted
the lone would-be sailors almost reluctantly trudging along the harbour-side
promenade wet from the night’s rain. The converging point was HMB Endeavour,
its tall, line-laden masts starkly brought into focus by the pitch-black netted
rigging ascending from the deck to the tops of the three masts. The sight of Endeavour, waiting patiently for
its new crew to grapple with its complexities, was exciting, alluring and foreboding.
The excitement began to dominate as
we filed past the first mate (not that we knew he was the first mate at that
stage) to be “signed on” for our contracts of service to His or Her Majesty –
depending on your time-frame of choice.
We were ushered into three “watches”
each centred on and named for one of the three masts: Foremast Watch, Mainmast
Watch and Mizenmast Watch (the mizenmast is the rear-most mast). These Watches
(I’ll use a capital M for them from here on) were, in effect, teams with
specific responsibilities relating to their designated mast and its sails; and
that work together in shifts (“watches” with a small m) to care for the ship
under the tutelage and sharp eyes of the officer of the watch and the
professional crew members of each Watch. The watches were four hour stints
around the clock, except for two 2 hour ones at 4.00pm and 6.00pm (the “dog”
watches), that ensured that no Watch got stuck with the same watch on
successive days. Members of each Watch pretty much ate, slept and laboured
Encounters with Endeavour
Looking upwards to the towering maze
of ropes (or ‘lines’ as we would come to call them), rigging and yards (the
cross beams or spars on the masts) was as magnetic as the ship’s compass. It
was hypnotising. But it wasn’t something you could afford to do while moving,
there being so many obstacles at foot and shin level waiting silently to trap
their prey. Walking up the gangplank onto the weather deck (so called for the
obvious reason that it cops all the weather) was a carefully stepped exercise.
On reaching the deck, you slithered
backwards through a small hatch, disappearing into the dark below like poor
Alice tumbling down the white rabbit’s lair. This dropped you onto the 18th
century deck, installed in the original Endeavour as part of the naval refit to
convert the collier Earl of Pembroke into the scientific expeditionary HMB
Endeavour. Forward of where you found your feet on the darkened humid deck were
cabins occupied by professional crew members. Feeling your way astern, waiting
for your pupils to dilate sufficiently to reveal the details of the expanse
ahead, you encountered wooden tables suspended by ropes from the supports of
the weather deck above. In Cook’s time, this area served as the crew mess hall,
sleeping quarters and recreation room. As you ventured further astern, with the
ceiling clearance dissolving to about a metre, you crawled, like Alice changing
size, to reach an alcove providing access to the officers’ cabins, with no
increase in headroom. The area between the crew’s area and the officers’ cabins
was occupied in Cook’s time by 12 naval marines.
The Alice-like alcove and cabins
combined with a heighten quarter deck up top to provided room for a mezzanine
deck between the 18th century deck and the weather deck. Herein was housed the
supernumeraries’ cabins and the Great Cabin.
For us, as for Cook’s crew, the main
area on the 18th century deck was the dormitory. We would be taught to retrieve
hammocks and sling them from anchor points beneath the weather deck, secured by
a series of half hitches, which you needed to master if you wanted to stay off
the deck during the night. The thirty
five hammocks we needed fully occupied the area, including the walkways. There
was no walking between hammocks, so close were they slung; only stooping low
under those in the walkways. I would end up with a woman on one side of me and
a man on the other; and the total width of hammocks and intervening space being
no wider than a queen size bed. The whole deck could have been dubbed a ménage
In Cook’s day, this same area was
home for twice our number.
The hammock is an old naval tradition
dating back to the 1500s. It turned out to be quite comfortable even though it was
impossible to turn in it. Its canvas sides encased you in a way that no amount
of rolling of the ship was about to toss you out or even disturb your
equilibrium. As the ship rolled, all the hammocks swayed back and forth –
always in unison and always balanced; not unlike the mountings of the helm
compass which kept it level despite the pitching and rolling of the deck. By
day, our hammocks were wrapped and stowed, magically transforming the dormitory
into a mess and recreations area.
Amongst the ship’s complement, were
four supernumeraries – so called. The invitation to join as a supernumerary was
decidedly more enticing than for voyage crew:
join as a supernumerary and sail as a gentleman passenger. Supernumerary cabins
are ideal for those who prefer not to do the sailing activities or who do not
meet all the physical requirements (like going aloft)....You will occupy single
cabins and relax in the Great Cabin, just as Cook himself would have done.
I originally thought the descriptor
of supernumerary was either pretentious or derogatory or even both, but I was
relieved and even delighted to discover that it was the same term used in
Cook’s day to describe his scientific ensemble led by Joseph Banks. Their roles
and functions were the very raison d’être for the original Endeavour voyage. Cook
even deferred to them by giving up his cabin to Banks; and the officers’ cabins
to the other supernumeraries. The Great Cabin became the operations room for
the scientific expedition, depriving the officers of their normally expected
privilege or perk of wining and dining in style. (In the circumstances, I’m not
so sure Cook would have got much opportunity to relax in the Great Cabin.)
Our four supernumeraries occupied the
cabins of the original supernumeraries. The captain occupied the cabin Cook
relegated himself to.
For us voyage crew, however, unlike
Cook’s crew, there was also the next level down – the 20th century deck. Here
we found a modern galley, dining area, male and female change rooms, spacious-enough
wash rooms, showers and the ship’s heads, a quaint ship-term for toilets,
although their peculiar nomenclature served to differentiate them from a
traditionally operating cistern which does not require multiple pumping or
manual refilling processes.
With our gear stowed in lockers,
freshly baked cake for morning tea, and getting to know our fellow Watch
members, including supernumeraries, and our ‘topman’ (professional crew Watch
leader) and ‘upperyardsman’ (professional crew offsider to the topman), the total
complement of crew went through some primary safety briefings prior to motoring
down the harbour to a mooring point at Athol Bay (off Taronga Park) for an
afternoon of training.
It was sobering to watch the grand
structure of the Sydney Harbour Bridge fill your windscreen of vision and then
smother the whole ship as it passed underneath.
As we passed by Sydney Harbour’s renowned
landmarks of the Opera House and Fort Denison, built to resist Russian invaders
at the time of the Crimean War, we became more conscious of the decking structure
of Endeavour. In the middle of the ship, a flat, level deck was designated the
waist of the ship. Up front, was the fore deck, slightly raised, which housed
the foremast, the base of the bowsprit, the spar that reaches far out front of
the bow and supports the two sprit sails, and the gigantic ropes of the anchors.
At the stern was the quarter deck, raised more prominently from the waist and
sloping upwards to the stern, thus providing the head room for the Great Cabin
There’s a lot to learn about 18th
century sailing that’s best learnt in still water before venturing into open
sea – not least when the sea is being chased hard by a stiff southerly. In any
event, we were following the pattern set by the previous two voyages of
anchoring or mooring in a semi-secluded bay within the harbour to accustom
ourselves to the vagaries of tall mast sailing. I admit I had an initial
feeling of being cheated precious sea time by being locked inside the Harbour
Heads overnight, like being remanded in custody for an appearance next day. By
day’s end I was convinced of the wisdom of the plan; and by next morning
grateful for the preparation time.
Our Foremast Watch, which included
throughout the voyage the supernumerary occupying Daniel Solander’s cabin, came
up first for the “up and over” training. This involved scaling the rigging from
one side of the ship to the “top” (which we called
“the shooting top”) high up the mast and then down the other side. My main
concern all along had been whether my tightly strapped foot, strained in a
couple of places by being tossed off my F800GS in pursuit of Old Mail Routes
along the Murray River, would cope with climbing on the thin ropes of the
rigging. This would be the first serious test.
The combination of the physiotherapist’s strapping technique and a
thickly soled hiking shoe thankfully dispersed the pressure of the ratlines to
Like most people, I had a fairly good
picture in my mind of a sailing ship’s rigging: the vertical thick black ropes
running from the ship’s railing and converging as they reach the top of the
first stage of the mast, be it the fore, main or mizen mast; and the thinner
horizontal lines running between them. The former, I learned, are the shrouds. The thinner horizontal lines between
the shrouds are the ratlines, which sailors, typically dropping
syllables, call rattl’ns.
Scaling the rigging, I always
thought, would be the pinnacle of challenge and accomplishment of the voyage.
The image of sailors, naval, merchant or pirates, scrambling up the rigging
must be etched in anyone’s mind who has watched sea-faring movies from the time
of Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe. So I knew what we were in for.
Or so I thought.
In all my movie-watching,
book-reading and researching, I had never seen or heard of or, at least, been
aware of the futtock shrouds. We tended to call these, loosely,
possibly inaccurately, simply the futtocks.
Imagine climbing the rigging. You
hang onto the shrouds, you put your feet on the rattl’ns; and up you go, hand
over hand, foot after foot. It wasn’t nearly as difficult or scary as I had thought.
But I hadn’t counted on the futtocks.
As the shrouds and rattl’ns converge onto the top of the first section of the
mast, a platform (the ‘shooting top’) protrudes. It provides a load-carrying
anchor for the upper shrouds that support the next section of the mast. The
‘problem’ was that the platform stopped your climb metres short of the
convergence point of the shrouds. This is where the futtock shrouds take over.
They provide a link between the main shrouds and the edge of the platform carrying
the load of the next lot of shrouds. They are the access to the platform and
the upper shrouds. Transferring to the futtocks, however, means you are now
hanging out rather than leaning in. The last metres are climbed with every arm
and shoulder muscle straining to keep you as closely hugging the rigging as you
can, as gravity wants to pull you down.
“Don’t pull with your arms. Just hang
on. Do all the pushing with your legs.” That was the counsel of the
professional crew. I had no idea what I was pulling or pushing with. I was just
clinging tightly to whatever I could grasp and carefully edging a foot to the
next rattl’n. The rattl’ns seem to run out far too short of the edge of the
platform, which you see only if you angle your head back at a point of near neck-dislocation.
You then feel gropingly for some point of contact around and over the edge. The
next lot of shrouds heading upwards come into reach. You can’t get your hand
around the three strands that start the shrouds, so you grapple to clutch a
single strand – not easily. The ‘leap of faith’ at this point is to let go with
one hand – as you must do – to reach a higher holding point. The golden rule,
we were told, was “three points of contact.” That was easy enough coming up the
main shrouds when you were leaning in. When you’re leaning out, it’s easier
said than done. When you’re leaning out and reaching out and around, feeling
for an out-of-sight holding point, it’s even more of a challenge! But you find a point of contact and pull
yourself up enough to get a knee on the edge of the platform. From there,
The reward was amazing. Standing on
the ‘top’ or the “shooting top” (where sharp shooters were placed in an
altercation) was breath-taking. It was such an achievement. It was
ground-breaking. It was almost unbelievable. Little did I know there were
greater challenges to come!
There was a lot more, important but
less nerve-racking, training to be had: helming – we would all have to steer
the ship in various sea conditions(how do you keep a cumbersome,
slow-responsive 18th century bark on a compass course or on a “full and by”
course, reading the wind on the sails); the basics of hauling and easing on the
yards as the ship turns into or away from the wind; the baffling and
mind-boggling array of lines, each neatly coiled along the deck and each with
its name and function; the allocation and execution of duties when you’re
called to “bracing stations”; the techniques of unfurling and furling the
sails; and many more tasks, few of which were understood, let alone remembered;
but delivered when it counted.
After such a full-on afternoon of
training, dinner was a welcome respite. But then the watches (small m,
remember) began. I think we did shortened watches of two hours while lying idle
in the harbour.
The first night was our introduction
to dozing lazily in our hammocks, while always conscious of the noise and
movement of Watches and watches coming and going, bumping into your hammock and
audibly apologising, thus ensuring you woke up even if the movement and noise
hadn’t woken you.
The morning came and the rising sun
raced unimpeded to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Pancakes for breakfast
lulled us momentarily into a false sense of assurance that we were on a
pleasure cruise. Then we became aware of the professional crew stringing out
safety lines criss-crossing the decks. Murmurings among the professional crew
revealed that this had not happened on any of the previous voyages and queried
why now! Well, the captain knew best; and, indeed, he did, as we were to
As Foremast Watch, we were, now “for
real” clambering up the rigging and over the dreaded futtock shrouds to unfurl
the sails. I was a bit tardy in getting onto the rigging and so ended up
watching the unfurling from the shooting top. That was fine. It was challenging
enough at that stage to have conquered the futtocks a second time without having
to venture onto the yards. That would come later with a vengeance.
With favourable winds, now blowing
from the south-east, we were able to make our way down the harbour and out
through the heads under sail, with the motor idling to conform to regulations.
It was a great sight to be on deck in
this anachronistic vessel sliding under billowing sails towards a narrow, one
nautical mile-wide escape to the unimpeded open seas.
Then, the starboard turn to East and
only the horizon in front. Goodbye, Sydney Town!
The Open Sea
It wasn’t long before we appreciated
why the safety lines had been strewn. The captain had foreshadowed “rolly polly
seas” – whatever that meant, but, I assumed, some decent – and welcome –
swells. I had tried unsuccessfully to extract from Paula, the Replica Endeavour
contact at the ANMM, a money-back guarantee for a southerly buster. But here
was the next best thing: a brisk sou’eastly swell that would exploit the
flat-hulled Endeavour’s propensity to roll mercilessly as we headed east. And
“One hand for you; one hand for the
ship” was the adage of the day. Clinging – mostly with both hands for the ship
– to the starboard railing and safety ropes, you would drop as the ship slid
down the side of a passing wave into a trough of royal blue water, watching
with some awe as the outside wall of the trough blotted out the sky then
suddenly descended on the ship, which, in a quick response, would cunningly
raise its side to let the wall pass underneath; and in doing so lift you high
above the now sinking port side. Then the process would happen again....and
While this phenomenon was engaging
mind and body, the view of the ship’s bow from the waist area of the deck would
momentarily distract you from the water walls lining up to starboard like
planes approaching the Botany Bay runway. As you lurched sideways to compensate
for the passing walls under the ship, the bow would rear like a resisting
brumby only to drop its head and lash out with its hind legs, sending the stern
high into the air. Your sideways lurch had to be coordinated with bracing for
the forward and backward strides, as if blending bass and treble to produce a
melodic movement. One discordant note could potentially destroy the whole composition!
Our sails had been set in anticipation of
seas, wind and course, so there was no venturing up the rigging at this stage.
There was, of course, a duty watch, but most could enjoy or endure the
experience of the “rolly polly” seas...with or without the a happy bucket – a
plastic bucket with a happy face on the inside bottom staring cheerily at the
holder or, more likely, hugger until obliterated by the sadder mien of its
This wasn’t quite rounding the Horn;
but then again, it could be anything or anywhere you wanted it to be. The
moments were yours. You communication was internal. You simply held on and let
your senses and imagination take over. And you could be anyone you wanted to
be: Ulysses, Jason of the Argonauts, Peter Pan, Horatio Hornblower, Captain
Jack Sparrow, Jack Aubrey or, more pertinently, Lt James Cook. The list was
I simply watched and immersed myself
in awe and admiration of nature and ship as Endeavour, a tiny speck on an
infinite sea, drove through the ranks of resisting waves and, ironically,
powered only by the wind that commanded them.
As evening approached, the opposing
forces of ship and sea drew back to their lines. The wind eased but continued
to fill the sails. The rolls and pitching abated to a steady drone. We swayed
the night away in our hammocks with occasional surges in pendulum pace.
Our Watch was on deck for the
0400-0800 watch. That’s an interesting exercise. The 18th century deck by night
is a tightly woven maze of swinging hammocks. No lights allowed except for the
dull red glow of a ‘nursery light’. You are stealthily woken by someone from
the 0000-0400 watch. You carefully lift yourself out of the hammock by a
pull-up on the ceiling and ease yourself over the side onto the deck. You feel
your way to your safety gear hanging nearby and make your way down to the 20th
century deck to get dressed and rigged out (there’s light there and less
disturbance to sleeping crew above).
The weather deck, thankfully, is
filled with the impending full moon. It might have been totally dark. No lights
allowed as they interfere with night vision. There are tasks to accomplish,
checks every hour around the whole ship, and time to be hypnotised by the
glittering phosphorescence darting around the bow of the ship as it shatters
the moonlit surface. It gets colder as the moon disappears behind cloud and
eventually sinks long before the sun starts to emerge from below the horizon as
though it also had to find holds to pull itself off the futtock shrouds over
the edge of the shooting top. The sea
lights up, the sails takes on a golden hew, the new day already augurs a calmer
sea and smoother sail.
While the day was breaking, our Watch
gets called to ‘bracing stations’. We’re about to wear ship. That’s a manoeuvre
that has us change tack by turning against the wind rather than into it; and
coming right around to the opposite tack. Endeavour doesn’t much like tacking
(i.e. changing tack by turning into the wind). It fusses with its head into the
wind and only reluctantly lets it happen. It gets tetchy if you try to make it
run closer than about 70 degrees into the wind. Endeavour just doesn’t do
windward! Tacking is its greatest dislike; and, in any event, it’s a difficult
manoeuvre requiring all hands operating in a sharply coordinated movement. It’s
so much easier to wear ship even though you lose ground.
While the wind retained a chill, the
seas relented sufficiently for the safety lines to come down and a few of the
happy buckets to be retired – but far from all! A pod of pilot whales guided us
for a while before deciding we were too slow. With winds easing, the 0800-1200
watch got to set the top gallant sails – the top most square sails on Endeavour
(in ship-talk, the bottom square – actually oblong – sail on a mast is the course’l.
The next one up is the tops’l. And the next one after that is the t’galn’t.)
The TGs (lazily called such at times) provide more power in light winds by
picking up the less turbulent higher breezes without altering the centre of
gravity. Like a motorbike, you don’t want too much load up high – keep the
centre of gravity low – so the TGs need to come down if winds pick up, as they
did later in the day.Beating North
By noon we are south off Port
Hacking. We don’t want to keep going south as the wind has changed to a
nor’westerly, which could take us so far south that we’d never get back with
Endeavour’s windward contrariness. We spend the next 24 hours prodding Endeavour
across the wind and fighting against the East Australian Current. Net speed
ends up being about 2 knots, but with current and wind, there’s plenty of
action and sail-handling.
The word filters out that we might
tack. Why, given Endeavour’s likely antagonism to being made to face the wind?
Well, the unanimous response was “because we can!” More likely, the motivation
would have been because it’s important that the captain control Endeavour – and
be seen to – rather than Endeavour control the captain. The call goes out “all
hands on deck”. So much for afternoon tea that was just announced. Tacking
requires everyone on deck with a role to play.
Imagine the average recreational
sailing boat: you have a mains’l attached to one boom that requires moving from
one side to the other at that vital moment as the wind abandons one side of the
sail and fills the other. It requires some skill and dexterity. Endeavour has
potentially up to a dozen “booms” all of which have to be moved in unison. And
these aren’t booms that swing around with the wind catching the sail. They are
the yards that have to be hauled, bearing sails that have to hauled separately
but in close synchronisation with their yards. One yard and its sail require
about three hands to haul the yard, a couple to haul the sail and a few to ease
off the lines on the opposite side to the haul.
“Two, six, heave” echoes across all
decks time after time as the helmsman turns Endeavour into the wind, its head
wavering. Its aversion for wind in its face buckles under the demanding hand of
captain and helmsman. It shies at the midpoint but comes around, its objections
quickly dissipating as the new tacking angle increases away from the wind.
A self-congratulatory cheer resounds.
People are leaning back, looking up, bemused at the about-face of yards and
sails; and feeling the returning comfort Endeavour exudes as it gathers
momentum on its new run across the wind.
But then the order comes to tack
again. Incredulously, ship and crew reel together at the prospect. But a second
tack gets executed as effectively as the first one.
An hour or so later, flushed and lulled
with two successful tacks, we go for a third. However, Endeavour is ready for
it this time. It fights the helmsman from the first turn of the wheel. It
feigns a stall and allows itself to drift backwards. A tack isn’t going to
happen. It’s aborted and we again resort to wearing ship.
Crew 2; Endeavour 1.
Somewhere along this run I had the
helm. There are always two on the helm: the brain and the brawn. The helmsman
(the brain) has responsibility to keep the ship on its designated
compass-course given to the new helmsman and repeated by him or her to the officer
of the watch: “course two-five-zero!” The compass is at your elbow to guide
you. Turning the helm can be arduous, so a second pair of hands provide
additional muscle (the brawn).
It was late in the afternoon. We were
still struggling to stay on a north-westerly course against a wind that wanted
to push us out to sea. Having taken the helm, the officer of the watch changed
the compass-course order to “sail full and by!”
Oh? Maybe it was my blank look that prompted him quickly to follow up
with more detailed instructions: “watch the bottom corner of the main tops’l.
Keep it full. Steer gradually windward. Once you see the sail starting to luff,
ease to starboard to fill the sail again. Find the magical point where you the
sail is always on the verge of luffing but never does!” We are steering by the
wind rather than by the compass. The objective is to steer as close to the wind
as possible. The wind determines the
course. That added a new and challenging dimension to my time at the helm.
The Run Home
Being on the 0000-0400 watch, we get
to see the silhouette of Sydney’s skyline off to port as we struggled against
the current and keet the yards and sails tightly hauled to starboard to catch
the cross wind. We wear ship once more and turn for home with the Sydney
silhouette swapping sides to cross over to our starboard; and our yards and
sails now hauled tightly to port. We are grateful again for the moonlight.
We enjoy good winds and calm seas as
we run down the coast for the rest of the night and most of the next day. We
end up way south of the Royal National Park, with the prospect of a lot of
beating against a wind shifting more westerly to reach Botany Bay. We turn and
ease westward for a while before turning north-west to Botany Bay. We get to a
point where we defer to Endeavour’s well-known windward animosity and decide
that furling sails and engaging diesel power for the last 20 nautical miles was
the only assured way of meeting the Botany Bay pilot.
Our Foremast Watch is back on duty
for the 1200-1600 watch (there were eight hours in their somewhere between our
watches!). But this is now the “bring it home” watch. As the duty watch, our
first task is to furl the tops’l on the main mast. Up the port side rigging
(you always climb with the wind in your back), over the futtocks, then
transferring to the next set of shrouds and rattl’ns from the outer edge of the
shooting top to the t’galn’t yard. Before reaching the t’galn’y yard, you step
off the rigging and onto a wire hanging below the tops’l yard. You then make
your way along the foot wire, holding another wire running along the yard,
until you reach the mast. Around the mast is a narrow collar – about 20cms wide
– which provides a stepping path around the mast to deliver you onto the
starboard side of the yard. Then a process of side-stepping along the foot wire
to take up a position along the yard. The sails by now have been folded in at
the bottom corners and up the middle – effected by hauling and securing the
Our task is to reach over the yard
and pull the sail up in folds, dragging each fold over the yard and down in
front of you, holding it in place with your stomach leaning up against it. You
pull up fold after fold until you can create a sort of trough of sail into
which you then dump all the folds. The wrapped sail then gets tied to the yard.
At first I was reluctant to let go
the wire running along the yard. I held on with one hand and pulled at the sail
with the other. It didn’t take long, however, to realise this was not very
efficient; and just a little longer to conclude it was decidedly ineffective.
Hesitatingly, I grabbed the sail with both hands. The weight of the sail was
more than enough counterbalance to keep you in place, even when you had to lean
back to shove the folds of sail down your front, provided, of course, you
didn’t let go; and, as we were to be told later by an old timer “you’d be silly
to let go!”
With the task completed, it was back
onto the rattl’ns and down...to the course yard...not even as far as the shooting
top. Same process, except that the course sail is the biggest and heaviest. It
didn’t help to have tied the safety strap on my harness tightly to the yard together
with the sail. That took some undoing before I could manipulate lines, sail and
harness to tie what had to be tied and keep apart what had to be apart. Back
down on the deck, having made a last transit of the futtock shrouds, we were
all pretty exhausted but thoroughly elated.
Standing out on the edge of the
tops’l yard, a 12 knot wind blowing your face, the ship gliding forward at
about 6 knots, blue sea all around far below and as far as you can see, the
outline of the cliff faces of the coast off in the distance, the only sounds
the wind in your ears, a hive of silent activity over the decks below – what a
magical experience! The trance is suddenly broken only by our upperyardsman
shouting at you to secure the sail. Botany Bay
No one complained that we were an
hour late to meet the pilot, who leapt from the pilot boat to Endeavour, with
both steady at 6 knots. This was finally to be a repeat of Cook’s first entry
into the shelter of an anchor haven since reaching land some ten days earlier.
You could imagine the headlands on either side looking pretty much as Cook
might have seen them, except for the warning lights, the golf fairway, and the
groves of pine trees. Inside the Bay was something else: refineries, oil
storage tanks, massive iron contraptions reminiscent of the aliens from War of
the Worlds and large oil tankers on their moorings. A lot harder to imagine
what Cook might have seen once inside the Bay.
The last night of the voyage, quietly
at anchor or securely moored, is a celebration of the achievement. A ‘gala
dinner’ takes place on the 18th century deck in the crew’s mess of Cook’s day.
In keeping with navy traditions, the officers wait on us humble but proud
sailors, ratings, and supernumeraries.
An impromptu Sods’ Opera performed by Watches and professional crew
culminates in a toddy of rum toast from all – that is, an Endeavour toddy: a
The watches continue through the
night. No ship can be left unattended or uninspected. The ship’s log has to continue. Records kept.
On the 2000-0000 watch (broken into two halves at anchor), we record, as usual,
the under keel depth (1.2 metres – not much with low tide still three hours
away); the radar sweep of 1.5 nautical miles; wind speed; and the usual run of
inspection reports: fridge and freezer temperatures, bilge depth, engine room
status, cisterns not overflowing, heads (toilets) all operating (knock and
shout before entering the female block!), everything on deck in its place etc.
It was nice to get to ‘bed’ a little
after 12.00am for the rest of the night.
An early breakfast on the 20th
century deck or the weather deck, if you chose so, preceded a busy few hours of
packing, stowing and being ferried in Endeavour’s run-about to Cook’s landing
beach. This was farewell to Endeavour. The end of the voyage.
We entered Botany Bay on the same day
as Cook had done 240 years ago – 28 April. That was significant. In fact, I got
caught up in the progress Cook made as he sailed from New Zealand and reached
the mainland of New Holland before charting his way up the east coast. I
recorded a lot of this in pre-voyage blog which I have preserved in a PDF
document here: Pre-Voyage Blog.
There is a slide show relating
to the contents of the pre-voyage blog which you can see here: