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March 31, 2014

After a peaceful day at sea Sunday night proved to be busy. The captain gave the cook’s assistant the night off and donned an apron herself, which meant table setting and washing up was done in double quick time. Post-dinner entertainment came in two parts. First we handed all the square sails, which meant everybody on the foredeck had several saltwater showers. The waves were splashing up from all directions, so both forward watches were equally soaked.

Once everybody had changed into dry clothes we gathered in the bar for a talk by Boson’s Mate Fred Normandale, about his childhood growing up in the fishing port of Scarborough and tales of people he’d known there. He had us enthralled as he described his first trip on a herring drifter at the age of ten, when he’d been terribly seasick. “You think this is bad?” he said as everybody in the bar clutched their drinks in one hand and held on with the other to counteract another of Nellie’s huge lurches. “The drifters were bad enough when underway but when we stopped and turned the engines off they positively wallowed.” Fred has written four books about his experiences- see www.frednormandale.co.uk

Our evening watch was exhilarating, with the wind gusting to above 30 knots and a confused sea producing irregular huge swells. Stars came and went as cumulostratus clouds gathered and dispersed, and with no Moon it was a very dark and wild night. Although the motion made it difficult to balance at the wheel, it was probably far more uncomfortable for those trying to sleep below.

We were no longer alone in an empty ocean; a ship passed ahead of us, starboard light clearly visible, and two more were identified on the radar. The captain appeared on deck in the last 15 minutes of our watch and announced that we needed to square the yards and set the main staysail, so the combined forces of Aft Port and Forward Starboard did some midnight sweating and tailing.

When Monday dawned the sea had moderated a little and Uruguay was in sight off the starboard bow. Several ships were visible in the distance on the port side, and as we got closer we could see they were anchored cargo vessels. We counted at least 22, which is more than the total number of ships we’ve seen between leaving Ushuaia and arriving here. Post-breakfast exercise was provided for all hands when we braced the yards and set the fore topsail.

Down below several days’ worth of furious sewing activity was underway as Jenny, a member of Aft Starboard, put the finishing touches to a handcrafted Uruguayan flag. Fortunately it was ready to be hoisted by noon and we were able to make our approach to our anchorage in Piriapolis with the correct courtesy flag flying.

We are now anchored, rocking gently in the swell, looking forward to a BBQ this evening and the opportunity to explore Piriapolis tomorrow.

Forward port; Robin (W/L), Pip, Don, Geoff, Dave, Murray and Georgina

 


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