Monday, 8 April 2013

Voyage on the Sir Winston Churchill ~ part 2

Tuesday, 18th March

There were various duties aboard ship that one person from each watch would be detailed to perform on a rota basis, and as number 11 I was woken at 0700hrs on the first morning to work in the galley. The galley rat duties are not much fun – serving food, peeling veg and washing up – so it was good to get this over and done with early on.

We left Poole harbour at 1000hrs in spectacular style, with crew members manning the yards and singing shanties, although us galley rats weren’t able to see from below decks. With the weather conditions as they were we were heading west with the aim of voyaging to Ireland, although where along the coast we would make land was entirely dependent on how the winds held. To begin with the weather was windy but not too rough, however it got choppier as the winds rose and many people were struck with seasickness. I was reminded of my father telling me that there are three stages to seasickness: you think you are going to die, you know you are going to die, you wish you could hurry up and die!

The galley rats had one break before the evening meal so we got fresh air and took some photos of the white cliffs we were leaving behind, however this left us feeling ill on return to the galley. I could only pick at supper after seasickness overcame me, and it was bed at about 2000hrs for me and the other sick galley rat.

Leaving behind the white cliffs of southern England


Wednesday, 19th March

I was woken accidentally at about 0300hrs as Mizzen Watch was urgently needed up on deck, however as a galley rat I wasn’t on Watch duties yet, and so I wasn’t required. When I was woken at 0730hrs for my galley duties (after my disturbed sleep I was late!) I found out that during the night the winds had risen considerably. The Captain had judged that the strong, gale force winds were too much for us, and in the process of wearing ship (turning) in order to return to shelter under the cliffs the sail at the rear, the mizzen sail, had ripped. This was the emergency Mizzen Watch had been called for, as the ripped sail had to be taken down to avoid causing any damage to the ship. We had been forced to return under motor to Swanage Bay on the south coast, where we had anchored in the shelter overnight. 

Later in the morning we continued on under our remaining sails, with the assistance of some motor power, along the coast to Weymouth so we could offload our damaged sail and collect a new one. This was essential as the mizzen is the most important sail for providing power to the ship.

At 1000hrs that morning my galley rat duties came to an end, and it was bye to Ben and Becca my fellow 11s from the other Watches, and hello to my own Watch. I’d missed out getting to know my fellow Watch members and learning about the ship during that first day under sail, but I was still glad to get my galley duties over and done with early on.

On entering Weymouth our Watch was the duty watch, and the two off duty watches got to man the yards as we entered harbour. Our duty was soon over, and the next duty watch had the job of folding the torn sail to carry it off the ship, before loading on the new one.

Folding the new mizzen sail...

... and carrying it aboard

After this we had the first of the inter-watch competitions that were to take place throughout the voyage, beginning with a heaving line contest (which we won) and a tug o’ war (which we lost). In the evening shore leave in Weymouth was allowed from 2000 to 2300hrs, but Weymouth was very strict about age limits in the pubs so unfortunately the only place I could get in, let alone get served in, was a McDonalds!

Inter-Watch tug o' war - our team

A two-man harbour watch was kept up throughout the night with each person on duty for one hour. I headed back to the ship for my hour at 2200hrs, then afterwards sat up in the half deck awhile, getting to know my fellow crew members before bed.

The voyage had not had the most auspicious start, but the winds had changed and it was exciting to sleep listening to the water lapping at the hull of the boat, wondering where the new winds would take us.

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