27/04/2010 - The mizzen topmast

Average temp: 7ºC

Woke up today to an atypical Lunenburg morning,.. cold and wet! Feel like shit this morning,.. every day there are more and more trainees feeling under the weather and every day there is yet another person coughing up a lung in the morning


The morning chorus is slightly different every morning!  From the vantage point in my second tier bunk I have the equivalent of a seat in the royal box. The percussion section starts first at about 7am with someone in the toilet “pumping out”; a rhythmic shloosh, shluck, shloosh, shluck, shloosh, shluck sound which continues throughout the performance, the tune itself is introduced through a coughing fit from far left followed by a sneeze chorus from far right, then in unison we have a trio of sniffs from back right followed by the melody as someone lets out a loud drawn out yawn.  The crescendo is reached as more and more trainees wake up and clear their throats, jump out of bed, yawn, sniff and cough! Someone eventually emits a sound other than the yawn, cough, sniff variety and ends the recital!


Talking of bunks, getting into and out of my sleeping bag is becoming less of an issue as I am slowly perfecting the “knees up, roll out” manoeuvre, yet I do still feel like I am emerging from a chrysalis every time I try and get up in the morning,.. not that I am saying I’m a butterfly when I emerge at first light, more like an irritated wasp, I’m fine when it’s sunny and crisp out,.. but give me a bit of rain and mist and a poor night’s sleep and I am not the happiest of campers! 

My bunk has now been organized with a little “stuff” bunk hammock and some line strung up behind it in which I store books etc, and it feels a little more like home.  However, I now understand that we have to have our immersion suit AND our lifejacket in there as well and it is pretty cramped with just me in it!!  To give you an idea, our bunks are 204cm long by 90cm wide by 65 high and we have a separate small storage compartment for everything we own,.. a little claustrophobic to say the least!


There was a fairly big event today,.. the hoisting of the Mizzen topmast, there was a great deal of organization required to lift this 750kg hunk of wood into its place on the mizzen mast (furthest aft/to the back), I was volunteered as a member of the “capstan crew” which means we had to walk around and around a central winch pushing on bars of wood,.. if we had been wearing loincloths and had a large greasy man whipping us we would have been at home in an Ancient Egyptian film!  After 30 mins the topm’st (you’ll notice that a lot of vowels are considered extraneous by sailors and therefore omitted!) was in place and the sail checked… a job well done by the pro-crew (us trainees are still deemed too inexperienced for the complicated rigging – and a good job too!).


One of the bonuses of a trip of this nature is that we can help the remote islands we visit by bringing them hard to obtain items. To this end we are transporting a number of different articles, for example, the Pitcairn Islanders have requested (amongst other things) 14 lawnmowers (you have to bear in mind that there are 30 families on Pitcairn Island – we think they are planning to open a golf course!) and 80-odd bags of 25kg cement, so this afternoon was spent waterproofing the cement so it wouldn’t get wet during the 5 months it will take us to reach them. This involves putting each individual bag in a plastic bin liner and then gaffer/duct taping it closed and also a few extra turns to make sure the bag doesn’t break!  There were 7 of us taping up these bags and for those of you who have seen modern day gangster flicks you’ll recognize the production line we had going, essentially we looked like we were binding up kilos of illegal drugs in watertight bags!  I felt very Colombian!


After we had dinner Yohanna dropped into the salon wearing what can only be described as a fleece smurf suite, there really is very little reason for me mentioning this in the blog except that it is the most fantastic item of clothing I have ever seen,.. it even has a zip that goes all the way to the top (I mean, when the hell would you use that?)!  and she swears that people in Norway actually wear these out, I assume not fully zipped!!!  One of the benefits of such a multicultural crew!  I would never have known this sort of attire even existed if it weren’t for the Picton Castle!

My living space for the next 14 months!

Apparently this is very trendy in Norway!

2 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.

    - Kris

  2. Anonymous Says:

    nice post. thanks.