Tenacious journey part 3
I got a little caught up in the covid-19 crisis and then a week on realised I’ve managed to completely throw my own routine, and missed my usual blog deadline. Now suddenly it’s two weeks on! We are in stage four here in Bermuda, only essential services are open, and everything else should be closed. My lovely husband is working from home, which might be why I’m a bit out of kilter. Of course nobody knows how long this will be for. I hope while writing this, you are all well, doing the right thing by staying home and away from germs, even if it is causing financial headaches, throwing your routine and being highly inconvenient. We have had news a man my husband worked with in the UK has died from the virus, so it’s very real. Meanwhile I’ll try and take your mind off everything for a few minutes.
So where did I get up to in my journey? I think it was day three, so by day four we would have been about to leave St Barthélemy for Anguilla.
Now transport your mind to ocean for miles, blue seas, birds calling out and playing amongst the sails, and land coming into sight as the sun comes up. Just magical. When we arrived it was too late for immigration, as they had closed early for the day, so they let us swim off the ship. Now that’s cool. We put down the anchor out in the Bay where it was deep enough. We didn’t dock at any of the ports because it was always too shallow to bring the ship in close. The gate to the usual gangway was opened, the platform put out, and then anyone that wanted to could either jump in or climb down the ladder on the side of the ship and swim off. The inflatables were sent off a little way to watch us for safety, then in we went. It’s quite something swimming in water that deep, and so clear I could see the bottom with my snorkel and mask on. I was kicking myself for not bringing my fins, but I’ll know next time. It seemed going overboard when I was packing, but now I was going overboard it seemed like a very good idea. The water was quite warm, a lot warmer than Bermuda currently, and there was a lot of turtle grass floating about where they had been feeding quite close by. Branden decided after climbing down the side assisted at first, then on his own, would try to jump in. I was a bit nervous about doing this myself, but if Branden did it, I’d have to. Good grief he jumped in as though he’d been doing it all his life. Now I had to do it. I stood on the platform and tried to sum up the courage, until someone said ‘do you want us to count?’ and I said very indignantly ‘no!’ and jumped off. I thought I was never going to surface because I was surprised how long it took to come back up, but there was the surface suddenly, and I was alright. That was my only one time though. While I was puddling around, I saw a fish below me, it was about three metres long, grey and black, with a very distinctive shark shape, and a dorsal fin! I was a bit shocked at first, but realised he was just having a look about right on the bottom a long way from us. Being careful not to panic, I watched it swim off, then kept my eyes peeled just in case he brought back his friends. I mentioned it when I got out and was told there’s a kind of fish that looks like a shark but is harmless. Well okay, if you say so, but it looked like a shark to me. My plan was to swim to the ladder, climb it calmly and then tell the permanent crew there were sharks in the water. Imagine the panic if I announced it while swimming! They had Jamie out there in the three wheeler chair, and I didn’t want to spoil it for him. He was having a ball splashing everyone and kicking in the water. It was a joy to see. It’s designed to float in the ocean, or wheel along on sand, with its fat wheels that don’t sink in. I think I read somewhere that they are going to purchase another one because it was so successful with our voyage.
So we did our watches, I think my hardest one was the 4:00 am to 8:00 am one. Most people like this one, because it’s dawn and nice to see the sunrise, and you get to go straight to breakfast afterwards. Being woken by wobbly pillow by the watch we are taking over from, is quite nice that no alarms have to be set. Harriet my watch leader talked about how she could relax knowing she would be woken and quite liked that. I still woke before the time, and had my self up and ready for most of the watches, before they got to me. For the early morning ones, I slept in my clothes, it was much easier than trying to get dressed in the low lighting without waking up others. I had a turn waking up people for their watch. Being very careful to get the right bunk numbers, I sneaked in and wobbled their pillow as described. One man I was waking completely argued with me I had it wrong. In the end I had to get his watch card out and point to the little black square to show him it was his turn. Later in the day he sheepishly apologised to me, explaining that he was in such a deep sleep and got such a shock to be unceremoniously shaken awake by a stranger in the dead of night! Not to worry he wasn’t the only grumpy one.
On day five we had a wait until we got permission to go ashore around lunch time, so we ate lunch on the ship then were transported in. To fill in the time the ones needing assistance got to have a go at climbing the main mast. Branden got his climbing harness fitted and then went up assisted by Stan from the Permanent Crew. He did so well and climbed to just under the first crows nest, which is a long way without sight. I was looking forward to my turn when it was announced. My climbing harness was checked by a permanent crew member, we were given instruction on how to use the ratchet that works like a seat belt and attaches to a safety line at all times, and then all the rest of us climbed from starboard up the foremast to the first crows nest and down the port side back to the deck. The ship was swaying a bit even though it was at anchor, but I did it!
After lunch we travelled ashore, exploring in our original Bermuda group of six, some souvenirs purchasing, and then off to the beach for a swim. The water was lovely, really warm, and gentle waves like our Pounawea back home in New Zealand. Beach bars bring you drinks as you sun yourself, and there’s restaurants built right up to the sand. We managed to order dinner in the nick of time, five minutes before the kitchen closed. I’m so glad we did, I was so hungry, and because we’d told the Cook on board that we were eating ashore, there would be no dinner waiting for us when we got back. Suddenly it was time to meet the transport and zoom away off to the ship again.
We slept through the night, and up and about on day six, the Captain announced that we had good conditions to try sailing off the anchor. It was a lot of heaving and sweating to bring the yard arms and sails into the right position, then drop the sails as the anchor was brought in, to sail off without using the engines. There had been another tall ship that seemed to be following our journey anchored near to us, and I think it was a demonstration of abilities. Fair enough, it wasn’t nearly as nice as ours.
So off we went again this time headed for Nevis. For most of the sailing times we left on or around mid morning to after lunch, sailed right through the night and arrived early the next morning. The wind conditions were not too favourable so we sailed right through day seven, arriving at Nevis on day eight. The island of Nevis is actually two islands of St Kitts and Nevis. Nevis is steeped in Naval history like Bermuda, and was the home to Lord Nelson. We docked in the Bay at Charlestown, which is very British, and once ashore secured a local taxi driver named Barry, who was not very British at all, to drive us around the island as a tour then up to a restaurant for lunch. Nevis has a volcano which is listed as dormant, but by all the natural hot springs, I would guess it’s not. We went there first, and on the way Barry offered to marry any single girls in his van. It must be difficult to find a wife in Nevis, he wasn’t fussy, just keen. No one seemed to take him up on that deal, so we got to soak our feet in the hot pools instead. They were really hot, and it took a few minutes to get accustomed to the heat. My shoes got a good soaking and my feet were delighted.
It was then back in the taxi and off to Montpelier, up to the estate which used to be a sugar plantation and the place where Lord Nelson married Fanny Nisbet in 1787. What a lovely place, and the size of that tree. My boys will be amazed, there actually is a money tree. I used to send them down to the bottom of the garden looking for one, when they asked me to buy ridiculous things well out of my budget! For all the time they spent, it wasn’t wasted after all – I just hadn’t planted it yet! We then went to the Golden Rock restaurant which was up the top of Mt Nevis, for a delicious, but very expensive lunch and a chance to unwind a bit. When we got back to Charlestown, we had just enough time to go along to the beach and a have a quick swim. Then it was off back to the ship again for a bar-b-que tea onboard. I had to check in with the Cook’s Assistant because I was on mess duty the next day, which meant my training started the day before at 4:30pm, in time for dinner. I wasn’t quite there on time, but when the ship is at anchor they expect that, and I felt like I did enough to make up for being late. Enough dishes that’s for sure.
The next day we would be sailing back to Antigua, and being day nine, I had an early start, with a wake up wobble and a cup of tea at 6:30 am, then into the galley to start mess duty. So when you go into the mess, you are not allowed in the hot room when the Cook is cooking, only the main galley and the cold store. The galley is designed to enter from the left and exit on the right in a big circle with a work bench in the middle. There’s a lower bench top that wheelchairs park nicely underneath, so their users can help with the dishes drying, and sorting. There’s non slip surfaces, and strict instructions for hand washing, working the steriliser, and the dumb waiter that’s connected to the lower mess. The upper mess is through a window in the wall, and can be served directly into there. Having part managed my own takeaways in my former life, way back when my boys were small, I think its quite a good system. The voyage crew don’t cut or cook anything, just set and clear tables, take orders, deliver meals and clear up the dishes. I must have pulled my weight because I got asked to come back on as Cook’s Assistant for their next voyage. That was really tempting, it was six weeks around the Greek Island’s! How would I explain that to my lovely husband? ‘Hello dear, home again, just for a couple of weeks, then sailing again……!’ So I have to say the day went really fast, and I was absolutely buggered by the time the Cook said I was finished after lunch.
So I think I’ll stop there before I launch into my mast climb…….that needs it’s own blog!
More soon – Sally
Authors note: This blog is dedicated to Rosemary, who was amazed that I now live in Bermuda and planned to sail the high seas on a tall ship. RIP Rosemary 💕