Life on board a tall ship: the night watch and keeping clean on the ocean

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Twilight on board Breeze
It’s not all fun in the sun on board tall ship BREEZE! Here mate James Brock explains what it’s like sailing at night, as the crew make their way from the Bay of Islands down to Marsden Cove Marina for another week of public sailings. 

“Night sailing is new for almost everyone in the crew as BREEZE has only just gained her life raft. After a lazy day’s wallow across from the Poor Knights to Whangaruru, we tacked just off the coast and went on a long reach across a dying northerly wind out to sea and into the night.

I took the first watch and ran through until 2am. It's a magical thing being under full canvas, rolling across a deep black swell with a full moon rising over the bow. We ran north-east by east for several hours keeping Orion's Belt just off the topsail yard to start with, then picking other convenient stars as clouds feathered across and the Belt rose.

Just before midnight and around 11 nautical miles out from the coast the wind died and we sat, wallowed and waited. Fifteen minutes in of sliding over waves with apparent wind filling the sails and giving us false hope, a breath of wind rushed in from the south-west. We brought the helm over and the bow swung to the north-west, the sails filled and we changed course without touching a sheet.

Top hand Dan Brown came out with a great quote as he manned the helm- something about 'give me a tall ship and a star to point it at'? The morning after when you feel like hell, the poetry escapes you for a while...

We sailed into the Bay of Islands with five hands in the rigging stowing the sails in the warm orange dawn as the outgoing fishermen swarmed past us staring at the crew hanging off lines high above the deck."

When the sun comes up there's plenty to keep the crew entertained during daylight hours, including the challenging task of keeping clean! James explains.....

"Everywhere you look off the coast of New Zealand you find awesome wildlife. We've seen dolphin pods galore, flocks of shearwater, silently gliding petrels, flying fish, sharks. The crew got to hang over the bows and almost touch a pod of common dolphins this afternoon.

Swimming off the side of the vessel in the Poor Knights we saw snapper, trevally and something deep and dark. The crew got jumpy when they confused plankton with jellyfish - they need some marine life education..."

Life on board
"Washing - a little more prosaic, but every day when we can we roll over the gunwale, jump off a pontoon, fling ourselves bodily off a wharf and roll around in the warm seawater. It's not as effective as a shower, but it works. A layer of salt and sunscreen prevents you from getting too smelly.

And there's nothing more satisfying than jumping over the side from a tall ship that is now idle and becalmed on a glassy ocean, and getting rid of the morning’s sweat from heaving lines and climbing around the rigging."

Dolphins swim alongside Breeze
Keeping clean on an ocean voyage