Last night was not the hottest of the year so far, but the ship had been warming all week and, being made from wood, it stores heat very well, so it was baking below…
Stores arrived early while we were still saying good bye to the off-going volunteers from last night’s event, the cadets and supernumeraries leaving us. Storing requires a huge effort by everyone; dry stores to the store behind the bar, all date-marked and in order, frozen food to the big freezer below the mess, fresh produce into the walk-in chiller in the galley. This was scarcely finished before the new voyage crew came on board, having navigated the Docklands Light Railway into the maze that is Canary Wharf, then finding their way through the skyscrapers to West India Dock.
There was just time for introductions from Captain Simon and the Permanent Crew and the briefing on water, heads, fire and where to make a cup of tea before we slipped our lines. Turning in the dock basin is a miraculous process, the width of the basin seeming scarcely bigger than the ship itself, then into the lock, a quick mooring and we were out into the river. As the ebbing tide gathered pace we slipped downstream past the O2 and Boris’s aerial railway, through the Thames Barrier and on down to Tilbury and Gravesend where we dropped off the pilot.
The helmsmen were kept on the toes with a mix of fast helm orders ‘port 5’, ‘starboard 10’ and increasingly precise courses ‘steer 182’ ‘steer 157’ as we wound our way down the navigation channel, deceptively narrow in a broad stretch of river.
A sumptuous dinner, then line training and finally the anchor went down off Southend. Not close enough to pop ashore for an ice-cream. As night falls a tired crew prepares for sleep and night anchor watches. Good night…
Woke to discover there had been rain in the night but miraculously the sun had returned. Following gorgeous breakfast we did a ‘not so quick’ evacuation drill, but we still passed! Then we went climbing up the main mast. The view was amazing. We went on to the yard towering over the sea and untied the gaskets ready for sailing later. After lunch when our trusty watch was on duty the anchor was pulled up and away we went, down the estuary, passing ships, and then up with the sails – much pulling involved by everyone. Boiling sun all day. Steering was interesting with many changes of direction – intentional please note! We carried on sailing into the sunset, took the sales down and prepared to anchor, an early night and then up for anchor watch at midnight.
Harriet, Barbara, Sam, Joan, Rachel, Eleni and Matt – Aft Port