Saturday, 26 October 2013

Voyage on the Sir Winston Churchill ~ part 6

Thursday, 27th March

We arrived in Swanage after travelling across an angry sea, with high winds whipping foam off the waves. As in Fowey we were at anchor rather than moored in a dock, but this time shore leave was impossible as it was far too rough for the small tender to go ashore. Instead, everyone stayed aboard and worked on their acts for the Sods Opera to be held that evening.

After lunch all hands assembled aft for the next part of the inter-watch competition: the quiz. The Mate asked the questions while the Doctor ensured fair play. Each member of a Watch was pitted against their opposite numbers from the other Watches, and were asked questions that involved locating something technical on the ship, or tying a particular knot correctly. Our number 8 Charlotte scored first for us, but the point was disallowed. I was next to score, and this time the point stayed. Throughout the quiz we made an amazing recovery in the rankings. We had been about 8 points down against the other Watches at the start, but by the end we were second to the leaders Main Watch by only one point.

At 2000hrs all were watches were abandoned again, and all hands were called to the afterdeck for the evening’s entertainment. I had been in the galley again, this time on mess duty, so was very glad to be called out. The Watch Officers distributed bottles of Becks to their Watches, and charismatic trainee, Ben, was called upon to be Master of Ceremonies.

The running order for the night was:
Mizzen Watch: ‘Sailing on Churchill’ (I wrote our song to the tune of ‘Waltzing Matilda’. The writing of it compensation for the fact I am so dreadful a singer!)
Ben: reciting a poem he had written
Main Watch: ‘Main Watch People’ (Their song to the tune of Pulp’s ‘Common People’)
Fore Watch: ‘Sailing Over the Sea’ (Their song to the tune of ‘The Animals Went in Two by Two’)


The permanent crew members then sang a selection of shanties and comical songs. Requests were taken, and a good time was had by all, laughing, joking, drinking and singing in true sailor fashion.

Friday, 28th March

We upped anchor and left Swanage Bay for our final day of sailing back to Poole. There was an air of sadness as we entered harbour, knowing that the voyage was over and this was to be our final night together aboard the ship. We were to wake up and bang our heads on the ceiling or bunk above us for the last time.

We had our usual tidy up once the springs and mooring lines had been secured. We also had to put up a small marquee on the aft deck as there was to be a cocktail party for the Sail Training Association trustees that night while we all went out in the town.

Once all aboard was ship shape everyone sat down in the marquee for the wash-up, the Captain’s debrief of the voyage. He covered all of the gruesome details, even shaming those seasick individuals who had puked into the wind and “got their own back”! The Doctor had organised a sweepstake for how many nautical miles we would cover during the voyage, and the winner who guessed nearest to the actual total of 623 nautical miles claimed a huge £5 prize. The inter-watch competition results were also revealed: first was Main Watch, followed by Fore Watch, and last but by no means least was my Mizzen Watch. A crate of Becks was awarded to the winners, and silly leaving gifts were also given to the Watch Leaders. More Becks was distributed to the rest of the crew, and everyone hung around taking group photographs and swapping postal addresses.


Once everything was finished we all went out, trying to find a pub that would let us all in as we were quite a large group (the Cook’s Assistant was supposed to have booked somewhere, but hadn’t). We were finally allowed in the Poole Arms, so while I settled down to a coke as I couldn’t get served again, although one of the older trainees did smuggle a drink over for me, giving me my first ever taste of a G&T, and two of our Watch went off to buy our Watch Leader’s leaving present of a bottle of rum.

Things got going full-swing, and the night was certainly cheered up when trainees Ben and Gordon arrived in skirts and make up! Soon everyone was drinking and singing, and the 0000hrs end of shore leave quickly came around. Our Watch had clubbed together for a sneaky bottle of rum and some coke though, and our Watch Leader managed to sneak us off ship for a few more hours during the changing of the watch. The revelry continued, and the last of us managed to stagger back aboard at about 0300hrs.

Saturday, 29th March

We woke up at 0500hrs and just about managed to roll out of bed. We packed all of our things eventually, no mean feat as my bag seemed to have mysteriously shrunk during the voyage, though looking around I wasn’t alone as several others were also jumping on their bags to get them closed.

We had an extra long, extra thorough happy hour, took down the marquee and loaded on fresh stores before signing off and collecting our valuables back from the Purser. Everyone had ordered lithographs of the ship, and we all signed each other’s as a memento of the great time together.

Skippy, who came aboard in St Malo having cycled from Greece to France

Before our Watch signed off we presented Amanda with her token bottle of rum. We then had to hand back our smocks, harnesses and pillowcases to Rupert, the Boatswain’s Assistant, which seemed to prove it really was all over. There were big hugs all round on the quayside as people began to leave to return to their lives on land. My family arrived too to bring me home again, a slightly more worldly teenager than the one dropped at that same quayside just two weeks before.



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