Monday, 22 April 2013

Voyage on the Sir Winston Churchill ~ part 3

Thursday, 20th March

It was all hands on deck after breakfast to prepare the ship for leaving port. John and I from our Watch were under the Boatswain’s (Pronounced ‘bosun’) charge to let go the mooring lines from the quayside. The Boatswain is a senior member of the ship’s crew who is responsible for the rigging, anchors, cables, sails, and other items that keep a ship running smoothly. They are like a foreman of the ship's crew, as they issue orders to the deck crew.

As we were left ashore from letting go the moorings, we had to return to ship in the dinghy and climb up the ladder aboard, just like something out of a good pirate film.

Mizzen Watch were duty Watch again, and I was starboard lookout and had to keep watch with binoculars for ships and buoys that were on our course. Technically motor ships should give way to sail, but larger ships such as tankers have such large turning circles that it may not be physically possible for them to change course to avoid us. My job was very important as we were heading into some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, as we headed away from Weymouth and south, towards the French coast.

The rest of the day was plain sailing as the wind had dropped considerably from the strength of the previous night – so much so that we even had to motor-sail part of the way. We spent our second night at sea, this one much calmer than the first.

Friday, 21st March

The following day brought another day of plain sailing. The weather was glorious, no-one was sick, and despite being only early Spring most people even got sunburned. As the weather was so fine, the sun so bright, and all but one sail was set we launched the rubber dubby (the ship’s dinghy) and a small party of designated photographers went out with all of the crew’s cameras to take pictures of the ship in her near-full glory.

We did our watches as usual, Mizzen had the second dog watch, from 1800hrs to 2000hrs. Most watches are four hours long, and you would spend one watch period on standby, ready to be called or woken in the event of an emergency, then start duty on the next watch, then have your rest. With three Watches of crew rotating through six work watches in 24 hours, obviously everyone would always be stuck on the same timings each day. Therefore one four-hour period is split into the two dog watches, meaning there are 7 watches in total and the crew rotates onto different timings each day.

We had been up in the rigging setting the square topsail before darkness arrived, and as we were descending the ratlines we were treated to the most beautiful sunset. In the middle of the channel, with no light pollution, the darkness also brought us not only a brilliant array of stars, but also spectacular views of the twin tailed Hale-Bopp’s comet which, although I didn’t know it at the time, was then very nearly at its closest point to the Earth.

We absorbed this spectacular view and enjoyed the calmness for a while, but we didn’t linger too long as by this point we had learned to sleep whenever the opportunity presented itself, so we were all early to bed after watch.

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