Just Me, Nobody Special

Enjoy a browse in my world

Day Six ~ Egg Thing

Wednesday 12th May

For some reason I was awake by 5am, I lay on my back, day dreamed and dozed til the 6.45 wake up call, Ruth and I dressed and washed before making our way to early breakfast in the Upper Mess.  This mornings watch is the longest of them all, 8am to 12.30, 4 ½ hours.  On the way to the Bridge Ruth and I saw a flying fish that had flown on deck during the night and got caught behind the Main Mast, it is amazing the distances these things travel.  Nick was Officer of the watch and today’s second most important task after fetching him a mug of tea was to complete the metrological observations to be telexed back to Bracknell.  Under various headings and categories the weather is transposed into a series of numbers.  The type of cloud, height, sky coverage, sea state, swell, wind direction speed, sea temperature, air temperature, and our call sign [HMZQ2] exact ships position at time of correlation.  I was put on the helm for happy hour which blended into smoko, steering 230°/225° she needed a little more corrective helm today as the winds were starting to strengthen.  Ruth had to chase Nick around the Bridge deck to get back the ginger cake that he had nabbed, he managed to scoff four pieces before he was caught.

A new competition has been set, to make a device to hold a fresh egg that can be hurled from the Fore Mast crosstree, the winner will be the one that travels the furthest distance where the egg remains in tact.  We discussed names for the device, ovulation and menstruation were quickly dismissed, but we settled for The Eggly Deckling”

Lunch today was barbeque spare ribs with baked potato, greedily I followed that with mixed berry yoghurt.  We caught up on some snooze til afternoon smoko, which was followed by a general knowledge quiz, 8 questions of stars real names, 12 questions on geography, and 8 questions on ologies.  We came third, not bad, poor Rosie’s watch consisting of Bermudians and French asked for the adjudicator to grant them a handicap, Simon said no.  We took the opportunity to discuss plans for our eggy entry, we need something that will cushion the impact, a means of suspending the egg allowing the shock to move but not crush the egg.

The chilli con carne with rice was most filling, Fee decided she wanted to play the guitar but first she needed to restring it.  Ruth, Chris and I sat in the bar chatting and amusing until we went on watch at 8pm.

Nick was Officer of the Watch and in jovial mood, giving me numerous little course changes during my regular time at the helm 230° to 235° to 240° to 245°.  I was deserted while everyone went to bring in the Royals on both Fore and Main Masts as we were now travelling too fast and in danger of catching a 30 knot squall that was heading for the Bahamas.  We sailed through a rain cloud, and as the first few spots started to hit the tarpaulin cover of the Bridge Nick suddenly exclaimed “Oh shit!” as he remembered he had not replaced the hatchway cover to the companionway that lead to the permanent crews’ quarters [which had been removed to have some rust treatment]. Oops.

Nick was relieved by Barbara who on seeing our progress then decided to take in the T’Gallant on both Masts as well.  I was plonked back at the helm, Chips who had popped on deck for a last smoke before bed was press ganged in to lending some muscles, and a piquant rendition of “friggin in the rigging”, which made us all laugh so much they couldn’t pull.

None of us dare comment on the fact that the more sails we took in the faster we went when what we needed to do was slow down.

Day Seven ~ Testing Deas

Friday 14th May

The sea started running a little harder during the night, making the swell a lot more pronounced, but it was still very gentle compared to the European waters I have sailed.  Breakfast as usual, with a little more excitement as we watch the sea wash the port hole windows and guessed whether the roll was enough to make it wash the ones on the other side too, then there was the grab it before it slides off game, thankfully we didn’t lose anything or anyone.

As some were feeling the effects of seasickness, I didn’t even think we were rolling that much, some of us not on watch assisted below with the after breaky clean away and remained down there for our morning watch meeting.  News from the Bridge was that we are still going too fast so all the remaining sails would be taken in accept the Flying Jib, Lower Top Sail on the Fore Mast and Main Mast, last night at one point when the swell really pushed us we were touching 12 knots and the average we needed now was 7.  Also because of the tack we were pulling, an able bodied person must stay with a wheelie at all times, okay so the deck slope was looking abit more pronounced now, and unwin straps were to be carried.  These are the straps that fix the wheel chair to the deck.  We were now looking for somewhere to anchour off and relax before heading into Freeport on Monday.  Happy Hour was minimal due to the lack of non-green people, Ruth and I gave the lower heads a quick scrub around.

After smoko today’s talk by Barbara was tacking and warring ship, using the wind to manoeuvre the ship.  One of her favoured things to try and do is to sail from anchour but this depends on the positions and wind strength but she hoped conditions.

Lunchtime was sandwiches [will the bread never go mouldy!!!] with a choice of fillings, either tuna, egg, ham or cheese, and a selection of yoghurts to follow.  We were on watch from noon til 4.30pm, the quietest watch in many ways, as a lot of people after lunch catch up on their snooze time.  I was on port look out, underneath my hat and pillow case, it was so quiet there weren’t even any flying fish to see.  Very little corrective helm needed to maintain the 225° course even with the tack slant we were on and the run of the swell.  It was refreshing to see some proper seas running for a change.  Although every now and then the deck would get a washing down as it came up through the scuppers.  Not really sure why, maybe for something to do, but the upper top sail on the Fore Mast was set, again.

After watch Roger gave a talk on the international navigational buoyage system and the differences between the US and the UK system, which is basically that the channel marker buoys are swapped over in rivers and estuaries.   We drew our river on the white board trying to remember which colour we had decided was red and green seeing as the red and green markers didn’t work.

Ruth started her mess duty today, I stayed on deck enjoying the warm sunshine, I have no idea what the temperature is I cannot remember the readings from when I did the log 23° or something like that, anyways warm pleasant relaxing and sheer bliss [especially with an aperitif]  Jo offered to push me to the lower mess for dinner.  Is today Sunday?  Must be, we have Roast Chicken with roast potatoes, cauliflower in a cheese sauce, roasted green peppers and sage onion stuffing.  Fee says she wants to marry Cookie for his gravy making skills alone, I think every one on board wants to claim him as their own, lol.

Although this diary doesn’t really show it, I have been stretching and straining, in trying to get myself about, with rope handling, happy hour cleaning and so forth, just generally participating as much and sometimes a little more than I can, I am sore in some places, especially my back, the dislodged sleeping pattern is another factor, Sue said that if I wanted I could be excused the midnight to 4am watch, especially as Ruth is on Mess Duty, it was an offer I gladly took.

Day Eight ~ Land Ho!

Saturday 15th May

Sleep was an on and off affair, I heard Robert and Chris get up and ready in the cabin next to mine at 11.30 and I heard Aurielle and Domi coming off their watch at midnight getting to bed, but the sleep I had was restful.  I heard Ruth get up for mess duty, somewhat leisurely I got myself up and wet wiped bathed, lotioned and so forth my exposed skin and was just lacing my shoes when Sue appeared all apologetic as she’d forgotten about me!  Breakfast chatter was of the heady 12 knots we reached yesterday, the amusement of light showers drying as soon as the drops touched the skin, well sizzled and steamed after hitting my hot spots, and that land, that green and pleasant stuff was only 70 miles away.

Up on deck to peruse the view, yeap 360° of sea but I do believe it is a slightly different shade of aqua today and if I am not mistaken a few more white horses cresting the waves and watch out, too late, highest point rolling swell meets lowest point rolling deck, okay so no need to water the wood today then Phil???  

Happy hour had me on the Bridge today brasso-ing Nicks Nob’s.  Beneath the panel of the outer Bridge are cupboards and these have brass cupped handles that were a mix of black and green – are you sure these are supposed to be a brass colour Nick?  Okay I’ll keep rubbing – resting chin on table top merrily rubbing at what I cannot see, sniffing the fumes, listening to the VHS taxi’s being ordered by the islanders – are there supposed to be pink elephants pirouetting across the table Nick?  Okay I’ll keep rubbing.

My watch took time out to begin the building plans for the Eggly Deckling a simple affair, the egg would be inserted into the middle of a loo roll, that wrapped in an egg tray, placed in a nappy bag, cushioned by blown up surgical gloves, this then tied to two carrier bags to act as parachutes.  It is amazing the bits of detritus that appear from the deepest recesses of people luggage at times of need.

Lunch delights today was spiced chicken with chips or tortillas, warming and welcoming indeed.  General spirits were more excited when land was spotted off the port bow at 11.20 this morning, the kind of furore “Oh look, its real then, the ice caps haven’t melted while we’ve been away” and “Hoorah!!”

After the quiet time we were on watch from 4pm to 6pm, the land spotted this morning was now close enough to see the beach line and what looked like sand dunes.  We were listing quite strongly with the tack we were on and we were beginning to catch the edge of the winds we were trying to avoid, I was on the helm for the first hour while all the sails were stowed, as this was for anchoring it was a case of close hauling rather than a full harbour stow.  The swell was calm enough today to keep her balanced between 2° of our course, as each sail was hauled this became easier.  There were numerous course changes and Dave arrived to start the engines in order to manoeuvre us to the anchoring position as the shore came closer.  It was not long before the anchor was dropped and our position fixed at one on the smaller Pimlico Islands.

We took advantage of this opportunity to put our clocks back one hour to match Eastern Standard Time used in the Bahamas and East Coast United States.  The fate was set, before tonight culinary feast the Great Egg Throwing contest would be fiercely fought.  One member from each watch had to make a presentation briefly explaining the attributes of their particular entry.  The launch operatives climbed to the Fore Mast first crosstree and one by one threw their efforts, the winner being the entry that travelled furthest along the ship in which the egg remained intact.  Chris launched our impressively, the bags filled with air, the trajectory was perfect, we were sure to have a smooth landing approximately three quarters of the way along the Bridge deck, but a last moment gust of wind too it a little too far to port and she landed in the sea.  I still think our egg survived.  The Bosun Mate’s entry won as it landed on the canvas cover of the Bridge.  The final test to ensure no cheating had occurred was to break the egg, Captain Barbara volunteered Robert to crack them on Chris’s head.  Strangely enough the Permanent crew’s entry egg was too clean, it transpired that they used a rubber egg in their design and craftily swapped it.

Tonight would be BBQ night on board and the engineers soon rigged up the cooking plates and took charge of burning, I mean searing and cooking the steak, chops, sausages, burgers, chicken pieces, salmon steaks.  Mess duty men had spent their time chopping various salads and Graham had made some garlic bread.  The Engineers also made the punch, reportedly not excessively alcoholic but it sure tasted it!!!!  The great taste debate decided that there was rum brandy and white wine involved but the magic hand of Chips meant anything could be in it.  The pumping dance music from the engineer’s workshop, the setting sun and much alcohol consumption made for a festive evening.  As usual I rested my can of beer against the foot straps on my foot plates, Fee saw and in much envy said “Da’s no fair, I want a chair with beer handles”

As Ruth and I were about to go below, we found Fee sitting on the life jacket box deeply engrossed in her book [she read one everyday] she was chatting and said she felt uncomfortable in the cleavage rummaging in her bra she found her desert spoon!!

My upper lip’s gone numb, must be the ice from the punches I had.

Day Nine ~ Overboard Drill

Sunday 16th June

Ruth and I were woken at 3.30am to go onto anchor watch from 4.00am.  Along with Sue we had some lively chats about familiar things, places we had been, interjected every 15 minutes by checking the three point bearings on the radar to make sure our anchor was not slipping, the walk round deck and below to make sure everything was in order and the hourly log reports, the time when quickly.  It was lovely watching the dawn arise and hear the water washing against the shore.  We raised the flag of courtesy at the Fore Mast before going down to breakfast.  Just the one sitting this morning as watches were suspended from duty for the duration of anchorage.  

Happy hour found me in the bar, cleaning and washing up the debris of the previous nights antics, one person who shall remain nameless, got so drunk that she spent the night on the bean bags in the bar, but she didn’t make it to the heads in time when her stomach contents exited in haste, she eventually padded her way to bed at 3.40am where her stomach redecorated the floor and bunk.  What was that, oh a dirty glass? Yeah right!  

We made preparations to sail away from anchor, which was exciting, not using any form of engine, just the wind and tide.  Setting the Fore course, Fore upper topsail, Fore lower top sail, the flying and outer jibs, although it can be a tricky move made more so with the small crew that we were, we sailed away softly.  Barbara was most pleased and impressed.

I washed my hair and sat on deck in the sunshine before going below for lunch, spare ribs and rice.  There were still some green faces, a motley looking crew indeed.   A lot of people took advantage of today’s quiet time, the ship taking on a ghostly silence til smoko was called at 3.15pm.

There was a man overboard drill, where a dummy is thrown into the water [sometimes a live one, but we decided Chips was too valuable].  The DoTi boat is launched, two people quickly climb the Mizzen Mast and point to where the missing person is, and others quickly let out sails and brace yards, the engines are put to full astern, all designed to halt the ship as quickly as possible.  The DoTi boat speeds off towards the last sighting area to retrieve the missing person.  The dummy was retrieved in 12 minutes and was pronounced fine if not slightly concussed from Nick throwing him on the deck.  On board ship it seemed like a moment but for the person in the water it would seem like hours, it was an exciting exercise.  We then reset sails and rebraced yards and tidied the ropes.

Early dinner for us tonight as were on watch from 6pm to 8pm.  News when we got to the Bridge was that Lord Nelson had struck Tower Bridge in London, sustaining some superficial damage and a 14 foot gash along the side, above the waterline, John Etheridge was captain, it was thought that incorrect procedures were followed to book the pilot and opening of the Bridge.  

I was helming at 305°, when Captain decided to take in the Fore Course Sail after which it was difficult to see the compass because the sun was directly in my eyes, so I had to do a quick change of glasses while steering, but my sunglasses didn’t make it any easier so I had to lean over the arm of the helm chair to get the sun behind the compass and move in close enough to peer in and to check our bearing.  She needed a heavy helm between 5 to 8° of port which was unusual, despite this we are still going too fast, all sails were to be set.  As we were on a heavy tack we were leaning well over to starboard I had to be clipped onto something, Sue pulled me to the nearest point, the rope handle around the Bridge, she pulled so hard my eyes nearly popped out, I was giggling I couldn’t hardly move or breath, Simon stood grinning widely asking if I could breath, needless to day our attempt to haul the Main bunt lines was pretty pathetic.  The tightness reminded me of Victorian ladies being strung up in the extra tight corsets.  

After watch Ruth and I had a beer before heading to bed.

Day Ten ~ Grand Bahama

Monday 17th May 

Early breakfast, this means early wake up call too.  When we got to the Bridge, just visible on the horizon were the tops of the oil platforms, yippee civilisation with buildings!!!  I was placed in the helm chair it would be a busy watch as we were preparing to come into Freeport Harbour.  First of all the Fore and Main course’s and lower topsails needed to be hauled and harbour stowed, which means going aloft to fold the sail and then roll it on top of the Mast.  Happy hour I was giving the deck heads a quick wash and scrub. 

I was then on port look out, Captain, Simon, Nick, Dave were all on the Bridge, mostly trying to find the ‘lead-in lights’ for the harbour entrance as per the chart, but they were hiding and subsequently we had to abandon our first approach, then we had to wait for a very heavily laden vessel to lug its way out of the harbour, probably carrying sand or shingle, an unstable cargo.  Ruth was at the helm to take the instruction for the 360° turn.  That was a roller coaster bouncy experience for sure.

The wind had picked up in speed to around 22 knots, when the remaining furling sails [which are like a sophisticated roller blind] were furled in we were doing a heady 3.2 knots.  As all the sails were in the engines were started.  After much discussion and swapping of binoculars a collective decision was made as to which were the beacons and we approached gracefully.

Ruth was to join the ashore party to go ahead of us in the DoTi boat to catch the mooring lines and secure the Ship, so I was placed on the helm.  From 11am to 12.20pm I took continual helming instruction either in the form of a course heading or helm degrees.  By this time Barbara was standing on the handrail in order to see ahead.  As we approached the harbour entrance these instructions were one after another straight off.  As soon as we were between the entrance we had to make a 90° turn to starboard to the basin where we would be moored, which meant supper fast spin of the wheel to 35° ‘hard over’ which Dave did for me, ala Jack Sparrow, we cheated slightly and used the bow thrusters too.  We steadily eased alongside the wall without even rubbing against it, perfect.

Suddenly Chips appeared, just when needed and was only too willing to volunteer for his daily cuddle [lifting me from the helm chair to my wheelchair].  He had been sitting down in the engine room in case the port generator decided to stall [again] then he could quickly start it up.  He was waiting to feel the grave of the harbour wall so he could radio Dave and say “Are we there yet?”

Without the sea breeze there was a drastic change in temperature, the sun was baking hot, time to double slap the factor 30.  The lunch on deck was home made beef burgers which were bigger than the bread rolls, with chips and salad.  The gangway was secured and soon people from the massive floating boxed cruise ships were wandering about, it was a little like being a live exhibit as we were watched stuffing out faces.  I always find coming alongside a curious peek into human nature.

After the light snooze, Ruth and I found a shady place on deck, conversing with those there.  Chips used to be the swing Bridge pilot at Potter Heigham, he proud stated that he had only scraped two vessels, I asked how many he had piloted adding “three?” he replied “12,000” before realising what I had said, Nick laughed, Chip’s facial express made me feel sure retribution would be in store.  I dined on board with Chris, Fee, Thyra, Gray, Tony and Ruth, partaking of a beer or two with the braised duck breast with cabbage and potatoes, very nice.  

We took a leisurely stroll to Point One, the bar restaurant at the harbour entrance, perched on the shore, where we sampled a local beer and a second to make sure our first impressions were justified as we watched the hourly shark feeding.  The sharks are wild, not kept in tanks but free to the sea and were varying in size, it was difficult to gauge exactly how big they were, but sea life centre this was not.

The walk back to the ship was a little more adventurous as we tried to figure out which side of the road people drive on [we concluded the shady one which didn’t help as it was now dark], we also tried to figure out what lights needed to be on a wheel chair.

Fell into bed about 10pm and surprisingly sleep arrived quickly, cannot imagine why, must have been the early start.

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