Day 1 – Townsville

Day 1 – Townsville

Today I began my sailing adventure – I’m going to be spending the next 7 days living aboard the replica HMB Endeavour as it sails from Townsville to Cairns. This has been the culmination of a long held dream, to sail aboard a replica 18th Century ship. As a child I’d been fascinated by the early explorers who sailed the seas, especially Cook and the Endeavour.

Growing up that interest faded a little, however when the replica HMB Endeavour was launched and the museum started to undertake voyages it rekindled my interest in the early explorers and I was determined to one day take part in a voyage – it sounded like the adventure of a life time. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t always the best – it seemed that each time a new voyage was announced I was either changing job, buying a house or something else came up!

A few years ago now, I saw the Peter Weir film “Master and Commander – The Far Side of the World” starring Russell Crowe and that was when I became really interested in the world of 18th century sailing – I soon found myself reading the works of Patrick O’Brian and others. Once I learnt that the Endeavour would be undertaking a circumnavigation of Australia in 2011-2012 I was determined to be a part of this, and to experience life on an 18th century sailing ship.

The day started early – earlier than I’d expected in fact. I told Deanne and the kids about the lunar eclipse that would be visible this morning, so they rang me at 5 to see it I’d seen it! I didn’t have a view from my room so I went back to bed! Got up early for breakfast at the hotel, the kids texted me to say that they saw the lunar eclipse, I’m glad that they got to see it and enjoyed it.

After checking out from the Ibis I grabbed my gear and walked the short distance to the Reef HQ. I saw a few other people struggling with big bags and so on and figured they must also be on the cruise. Arriving there I found a few people already milling about near the ship and we made the usual introductions and so on. Its an interesting group of people, with different backgrounds and interests but all here for the same reasons.

The professional crew soon greeted us and we went inside to have our formal briefing. We had all been assigned into groups or watches, my watch was the fore watch, and we’re responsible for the foremast and bow spirit. We have two professional sailors looking after us, “Bouncy” (interesting nickname) and Lucy who is from the UK. Very quickly we were on board and stowing our gear, basically each person gets a locker down on the 20th century deck below which has all the mod cons. Each of us received a voyage shirt which we changed into and we were soon underway using the diesel engines to safely get us out of harbour. One of the officers fired the cannon as we left, which was all good fun. We then very quickly got started learning the various things. 

First was ropes and we learn the basics of rope handling etc. We also had a tour of the boat and saw the various decks etc. Today was all under engine power and we continued our trip until we reached the lee side of Magnetic Island. Here we lowered anchor and what a messy dirty job that is. The anchor rope is absolutely covered in tar or tallow, it’s brown and sticky and pretty revolting!

After this came the fun, we were each fitted out with a safety harness and after going through the safety drills we were climbing the shrouds of the main mast. You have several clamps and at all points you are safely secured but it’s still pretty scary climbing the rigging, especially at the futtocks where you are basically climbing back past 90deg! Once you’re up there but the view is absolutely amazing. I’d secured my camera so I got some great shots from up there. Getting back down wasn’t too bad but it was the initial step out, trying to feel down with your foot to the first rope. I’ll have plenty more times to do that, and at sea next time. 

After this we were supposed to have helm training with the captain, but we were called to dinner – you don’t dally the or you miss out. After dinner we got to hang up our hammocks – you double check the knots because the last thing you want is to be the guy who falls out in the middle of the night. It wasn’t too hard actually to get in, and once you are in apparently it’s really hard to fall out which is good to hear!

The view out on deck was absolutely amazing, I missed sunset tonight but I got to see after glow on the horizon and also watched the moon come up over Magnetic Island. I think watching the moon come up over the ocean will be even more amazing.

It’s now 730pm and I’m absolutely stuffed! We have watch at 10pm so I’ll probably get some shut eye first before then. Interesting group of people in our watch, it’s interesting to see that we’re bonding so fast – don’t really get to know the other watches too much yet. Tony is an older bloke, and he’s here as a “supernumerary” which means he gets a proper cabin, doesn’t have to climb aloft or work and only pays twice what the rest of us did for the privilege 🙂 John is a worker in the mines, I met him first when I arrived so got to know him a bit. Sam works at the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) so her trip is paid for by them and she just needs to learn and write up about her trip. Hard life!

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