09/06/2010 - Preparing for the Canal

As soon as we were awake, the call “Hand to the windlass” rang out and we moved to an anchorage within spitting distance of the canal entrance. Final preparations for the passage were started as soon as we were mustered and we were met with a damp start to the day as it drizzled non-stop throughout the muster.  The skiff was lifted out of the water and loaded onto the hatch with even more ease than when we moved the Monomoy onto the galley roof, with minimal yelling and the areas that required final monkey shining were repainted or repaired in preparation for the passage the next morning. 

The Captain mustered us to explain the situation which was that the passage would probably take 12 hours, that the pilot would be coming aboard at about 4am, that we should keep out of the line handler’s way and then proceeded to give us some background info on the canal and how it developed over the last 97 years (it was constructed in 1914!).  The stories were pretty horrendous with accounts of how 10000 workers died due to various diseases (mostly mosquito borne), the explanation of the phrase “chinaman’s chance” (when they sent the immigrants down to light the fuse for the dynamite) and various other interesting facts about the canal which I am going to let you google for yourself!

Having washed myself the previous evening at the yacht club I was disappointed on being told to go down into the chain locker and heave up all the lines for the moorings so that everything would be ready for the dock on the pacific side.  As far as I am concerned, the chain locker is even worse than the hold for humidity and I immediately become drenched with sweat in the hold so you can imagine the state I come out of the chain locker in,.. after 10 minutes heaving the mooring lines around and sending them up to the deck Second Mate Paul popped down to confirm the lines he wanted next and on entering exclaimed “Geez, you guys stink!”,.. to be fair to us I think he was confusing the smell of the oil on the chain with our own manly odours.  Regardless, both Shawn and I decided we probably needed a shower,.. 2 showers in 2 days!!!!???? My skin’s going to start to disappear!!

As I took off my harness I glanced down at my trousers and noticed the sweat had completely soaked the top of my trousers,.. they were going to need a wash!!  I combined them with my other work trousers, borrowed some of Niko’s washing liquid and went to work,.. even after the 3rd rinse, the water was still black,.. which brought home just how filthy they were,.. and they were clean only 4 days beforehand!!

The 8-12’s were on night watch and I was to be on watch with “Mike 5” (or “Jelly” as it had been rumoured that he could be called – later discovered it is spelt Jehle) at 23h,.. I was looking forward to showing him how to do the ship check, check the anchor, fill out the log correctly etc, but within a few minutes Mate Mike had decided that my coffee making skills were more useful than my instructional skills and put me on the 3am watch with Dan with a clear “LOTS OF COFFEE TO BE MADE” note next to the amendment.

After yet another power shower, I was sat in the salon enjoying a small glass of wine with Vía, Leonard, Jimmy, and Tiina.  Whilst discussing peoples strengths and weaknesses, in her normal straightforward, no messing way Tiina piped up with a phrase that I think summed up how most of us feel about our co-trainees “I thought all my friends at home were interesting and incredible people, but since I’ve been on board, they all just seem really normal!  You guys are all incredible!” I couldn’t agree more, it was completely true, complimentary to all us and an indication of the varied and interesting type of people we have on board, I think we are all going to learn as much from each other and about ourselves through that as we will from the pro-crew about the ship!


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