TNS417 Hello to you all.
This is Forward Starboard watch. It’s our turn to keep you all up to date with our high seas shenanigans. After a reasonably quiet watch we all turned ourselves in for a well needed night’s kip. I think most of us didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep. Over the course of the night we had to bring the sails in as we were beginning to run out of water (We would’ve come to an unceremonious halt on the French coast had we kept going, most embarrassing!). To make sure we made it to Tilbury and then London we had to turn into wind (The wind was blowing right on the front of the ship) which meant we couldn’t use the sails. It is quite an exhilarating experience to hand the sails on a square rigger at half eleven at night, in the pitch black, with nothing other than deck lights on!
All this meant that we woke up to the dulcet tones of the engine and the glorious half seven wake up call. Breakfast served (poached eggs today, it’s almost like being on a luxury cruise!). Tea consumed and we’re good to go. For happy hour. This basically means that everyone cleans the boat, keel to mast! Not as daunting a task as it seems when there are 40 of you doing it. All part of the JST way, everyone mucking in. Now, I’ve been on boats before, but never a Tall Ship, so I’d never heard of Smoko (The name is probably steeped in maritime history somewhere along the line) but it’s basically elevenses.
Now although we were chugging towards Margate under engine power we can still get a sail fix. To this end we were given a sail talk by Ali the mate. One of my big concerns of the whole trip was the apparent complexity of all the Rigging/Sails/Terminology/What goes where and what not. Turns out, it’s not all that complex, there is logic to how everything is laid out and how everything is named. Amazing how an hour’s talk can help clear things up! And then we’re off on watch. Generally it was quite a quiet watch, but as time went on the visibility closed in…we’re in the busiest shipping channel in the UK, the container ships move fast…everyone has their eyes peeled looking out for the shipping traffic and the Captain and permanent crew are glued to the radar. Other than a somewhat brave (or is that reckless) German sailing yacht which seemed intent on tacking back and forth across the channel in front of us causing us (the much larger boat) to make adjustments to our course, the watch passed without incident.
16:00 and everyone (who isn’t on watch) is down in the lower mess for a talk by Will the 2nd Mate about being on board The British Antarctic Survey which, the lucky fellow, is his day job!! I have a confession to make at this point, I didn’t go to the talk as I had to report for Mess duty at half 4. Mess duty being the bit that on paper (at least when on a sailing trip) doesn’t seem like the most enjoyable exercise. But, I really enjoyed it. For those of you not 100% sure what I mean by Mess its kitchen duty or rather galley duty, and you’d be amazed how popular you are when you’re handing people food!
The evening didn’t end up going to plan. We’d come around the corner past Dover and were now motoring northwards towards Margate. A decision was made to Anchor off Margate, with our ETA around 22:00. As such our watch designated for 00:00 – 04:00 would be an anchor watch, which in turn meant that it would be reduced in numbers. Myself and three others where stood down, which meant a night off!! The funny thing about sailing in general and Tall Ship sailing specifically is how much energy you use up without realising. The bonus of this is that when you do get the chance to get a good night’s kip you have no trouble whatsoever falling asleep! My bunk has been my best friend over the past few days!!!