January 9th, 2012
Well, we are finally back at the dock, the last day of my first voyage on Windeward Bound. These last two days have been quite exciting…
The whole voyage, our first mate Donnough had been telling me that we needed to be south at Recherche Bay by Saturday night because a gale from the north-west had been forecast to come in sometime Sunday morning. Saturday night came, and in the dark we felt our way into the little cove with the help of a spotlight and some lookouts. I happened to be on watch at the wheel as we came in, and Donnough stood by and let me steer us in!
Taking commands here can be difficult for me because of the accent; I often have to ask for a repeat. Being called to by the Captain was a bit nerve-wracking, since in a small harbor with reefs (shoals) things can get tight. “One turn starboard!…Amidships!…One spoke to port!” I was really concentrating on listening, trying to will my ears to understand. In addition, I’m not the most experienced helmsman, and I’m still getting used to the way Winde steers. At one point the Captain came back to the wheel to ask my heading, which was a degree or two off the ordered course. She looked at me and said “It is absolutely imperative that you not deviate from the course at all. The waters are full of reefs here.” So, what do you do in this situation? You quickly learn to steer perfectly! Not a degree of deviation.
Luckily, I brought us safely to our anchoring spot and for the rest of the night and the next day, we sat at anchor, keeping entertained with games on board and a shore visit, while we waited for the weather to come in. By early afternoon, with the kids still ashore playing cricket, it did…but from the south, putting us on a lee-shore!
Most of the crew was aboard when the winds started, and we all sort of wandered about as it picked up, sitting in the deck-house for a while, then going outside, casually checking the anchor chain, the wind-gauge, then making small-talk, then checking our shore party out through the binoculars. It’s interesting watching how different people react to the uncertain potential for a big blow: some like to keep busy, others just sit still.
We were all in the deck-house, the captain, first and second mates, the cook and I, when our shore party called for pick-up. With the winds whipping outside, Donnough, with his slurry of Irish and Australian accents, offered to our second mate, Richard, to go pick up the party. “That would be nice, Donnough, if you don’t mind,” Richard responded. Just then a big gust shifted the boat, and we all paused for a beat like prairie dogs alert to an intruder.
“Let the old ones go first, that’s what I always say,” our cook Jan said with typical Aussie humor as the gust lay down. And with a piece of Jan’s home-made orange cake in his hand, Donnough was out the door. “Give me a piece of cake and a whittle, and I’ll be ready for anything!”