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November 14, 2017

It’s a sea voyage! As I write this we are ripping along in the Bass Strait at over 9 knots. The ship is rolling evenly and comfortably enough and every second or third roll the sea flies up past the porthole in the lower mess. Were we to attempt to go so fast on the ships engines it would use an enormous amount of diesel fuel and would be unsustainable. Sailing is a kind of homage to sustainability, to the importance of remembering that we can achieve so much without destroying the planet.

Voyages have points of departure, ports of call and destinations and people have taken sea voyages for thousands of years. It has been our great highway and the countless tales over centuries have laid down deep pathways in the human mind that have created our sense of who we are. So much of our language comes from seafaring, so much of our world was shaped the way it is today by seafaring.

So it comes as no surprise that when 27 voyage crew and 10 permanent crew of Tenacious find themselves all at Sydney’s Darling Harbour the experience in front of us was going to be anything but a two-dimensional consumption of a travel commodity. Like hundreds of generations before us taking a sea journey, we each bring with us our bundle of life histories, peculiarities, hopes, needs and fears. There are many lines of intersection; youth and age, sailors and landlubbers, but all love being at sea. Or if they left Sydney unsure of how they felt they’ll be hooked by the end.

As the voyage continues we experience two kinds of bonding – firstly with the ship of course and the  permanent crew of Tenacious have a low key way of connecting newcomers with the ship. Its not about building hurdles and dragging us up them, but a matter of fact hands on first and we’ll explain as we go. So on our third day we’ve already gone under the harbour bridge and out to sea, no false starts, motored a little way down the east coast and set our sails late on SaturdayMonday and the wind has grown stronger and stronger. We’re rocketing along and I can hear the propellers rotating at the stern, We’ve braced, furled, written logs, cleaned heads, been at the helm, been well fed and surprisingly quickly settled into the routine of ship life.

And of course the biggest bond of all is between the shipmates. It took no time at all for our little watch group to weld itself into a formidable force for good. Such a motley crew, but that’s been part of the fun. Mikaela proves to be the most tenacious (pun intended) watch leader I’ve ever encountered. NOTHING can deflect her from her Scandinavian determination to do everything as she’s supposed to, and she so skilfully deploys irony and humour and good natured helpfulness to lead us. Some words for the others? Ralph – weaponised understatement. Mel, scares customers with her dog and sees the funny side of things. Lydia, learning about Australia and on a marine command trajectory, Gill – we always know where she is and she bosses me around, me – I’m told I write too much. Brett – discovering sailing and headed for being another Tall Ships Tragic.

David English
Forward Starboard Watch


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