Thursday, 4 April 2013

Voyage on the Sir Winston Churchill ~ part 1

Monday, 17th March

We met the ship at Poole town quay on Monday 17th March, and had boarded by 2pm, or 1400hrs as we had to call it, as work on the ship would be a 24 hour affair. We were greeted by members of the permanent crew and the volunteers who we were to be living with on board for the voyage. Upon boarding the ship we were told our watch and watch number, and shown our bunk and locker.

STS Sir Winston Churchill
There were three Watches with 13 trainees, a Watch Leader and a Watch Officer in each. The Watches were named for the ships 3 masts, with their muster stations next to their mast: Fore Watch, Main Watch and Mizzen Watch. I was Mizzen 11 (Z11) and my bunk was next to the female toilets, or heads – yuk! I was in the top bunk, with Z12 and Z13 bunks below me, and opposite were the three Watch Leaders.

My bunk was the top one, lockers were below the bottom bunk and the ceiling was just a few inches above my bunk!

Some of the trainees were late to arrive, so the Captain’s briefing was postponed and instead each Watch did some preliminary training. We learned some ropes, knots, parts of the ship, and went ‘up and over’ – climbed up one side of the ratlines, into the crow’s nest and down the ratlines the other side. When the late trainees finally arrived everybody signed on in order, F1 to Z12 (we were short of crew members and there was no Z3 or Z13) and handed in passports and any valuables to the Purser. We were also given our uniform smocks and each had a badge denoting our Watch and number. While waiting, as our watch was last, we sat at our muster station and all got to know each other a bit.

The Captain’s briefing followed the signing on, and we were formally introduced to the permanent crew and volunteer helpers. We had an evening meal, and continued the training with learning how to ‘make up’ and ‘let go’ the running back stays (runners) which we need to do when tacking or wearing – turning – the ship. We also learned about the ships routine: the watches, or shifts of working, the daily ‘happy hour’ where everyone has to muck in to give the ship a thorough cleaning (“A clean ship is a happy ship!”), and the additional duties working in the galley, mess, or with the Boatswain.

Once training was complete we were allowed shore leave in Poole to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. We found a nice Irish Pub, but everyone had to go easy on the Guinness.  Shore leave ended at 2300hrs, with lights out at 0100hrs, but sleep did not come easy as excitement brewed about the voyage beginning in the morning.

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