Voyaging

Lesley Walker's Blog

Voyaging on the Charles W Morgan – the second part

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My last left me in my berth in the fo’c’sle too excited to sleep, accompanied by snoring and noisy rotation of the large fan. Ryan the Stowaway has commented in his blog about the snoring and even made a recording of the sounds of the fo’c’sle!
http://www.mysticseaport.org/stowaway/2014/06/06/tales-from-the-focsle/

“Yesterday, a woman peered into the fo’c’sle and said “I feel bad for the people who don’t snore. That’s got to be terrible.” It’s definitely challenging. As someone who doesn’t snore, the past two nights have been like sleeping between two running air compressors. As the night drags on, the sound rises to the level of low revving chainsaws”.

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Choosing berths – Susan Funk, our cohort co-ordinator from Mystic Seaport is probably pleased she is staying ashore!

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Fo’c’sle – narrow berth, low headroom, intimate spaces.

Fo'c'sle in model whaling ship in New Bedford Whaling Museum

Fo’c’sle in model whaling ship in New Bedford Whaling Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading The Cruise of the Cachalot by Frank T. Bullen published in 1898, it seems that conditions in the focsle have not altered so much:

“… down the steep ladder, I entered the gloomy den which was to be for so long my home, finding it fairly packed with my shipmates. A motley crowd they were. … Finding a vacant bunk by the dim glimmer of the ancient teapot lamp that hung amidships, giving out as much smoke as light … even my seasoned head was feeling bad with the villainous reek of the place …”

We did have the luxury of electric light, curtains and the fan to move the air about. And no smoking!

Fo'c'sle - narrow berth, low headroom, intimate spaces.

Fo’c’sle – my narrow berth with exotic bedlinen, low headroom, intimate spaces.

0533 25 June 2014
“This day begins. I need to get out of this confinement. I sense a light breeze, feeling the ship move, swaying ever so gently. I extricate myself from the coffin-like bunk, trying not to wake Mary below me as I let myself down, and with bare feet go up the companionway to the deck in my pyjamas. I see the shadowy figures of the Watch talking quietly midships. The light is still dim. I feel the damp wood of the deck planks under bare feet, and notice with delight the beads of dew sitting in droplets on the oily surface. The sun is starting to rise, the wind SW, a few soft cloud puffs in the lightening sky.”

Dawn, Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, 25 June 2014

Dawn, Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, 25 June 2014

 

Dawn breaking over the bowsprit and jib boom

Dawn breaking over the bowsprit and jib boom

This was precious time alone with the ship. From the anchor deck I watched the light creeping up from the East. Shortly after Mary and Vanessa appeared and we three relished the silence. Little did we realise that this time would be the only opportunity for silent reflection!

Early morning, Vineyard Haven

Early morning, Vineyard Haven

Mary Wayss, teacher at Our Sister's School, New Bedford

Mary Wayss, teacher at Our Sister’s School, New Bedford

 

 

 

Breakfast on deck - eggs benedict, hash browns ...

Breakfast on deck – eggs benedict, hash browns …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later dressed and breakfasted, we were ordered ashore as the crew climbed rigging, untied sail ties and sorted lines and halyards. Ashore we met the VIP guests who were to accompany us to New Bedford including the Editor of the New Bedford Standard Times newspaper, New Bedford’s mayor and Steve White President of Mystic Seaport Museum and his wife Maggie, and a man who, as a young boy, had watched the Charles W Morgan leave New Bedford for Mystic Seaport in 1941.

Crew Briefing on deck with Chief Mate Sam Sikkema and captain 'Kip' Files

Crew Briefing on deck with Chief Mate Sam Sikkema and Captain ‘Kip’ Files

38th Voyager Vanessa Hodgkinson, an artist from London, wearing her whites approximating the loose 'slops' worn by seamen (and women disguised as seamen).

38th Voyager Vanessa Hodgkinson, an artist from London, wearing her whites approximating the loose ‘slops’ worn by seamen (and women disguised as seamen).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was time to go! I felt almost reluctant to board, as, with the voyage’s beginning, the ending came that much closer. The wind was SW at 17 knots gusting 20-23 knots. The tugs moved into position, Jaguar alongside to port, Sirius forward with a tow line to help us out from the wharf.

Time to go

Time to go. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, Mystic Seaport staff and Melville scholar, aloft on the foremast, freeing the sail ties on the lower topsail yard

 

Around us, classic yachts including the beautiful topsail schooner Shenandoah (1964),  Alabama (1926) and the William Fife designed Sumuran (1914) and modern, ribs and other boats gathered. Roann, Mystic Seaport Museum’s restored Eastern-rig Dragger was our support vessel.

Shenandoah (1964)

Shenandoah (1964)

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William Fife designed Sumuran (1914) and Alabama (1926)

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Roann (1948) 60-foot long, Eastern-Rig Dragger from Mystic Seaport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I went to board I spotted a familiar face from my walking tour in New Bedford the previous Sunday. Annette Mason and her husband Bob from Solana Beach, California, were the only other participants on the tour and we had spoken of my impending voyage on the Charles W. Morgan. Annette had expressed the desire to see the ship (and stowaway!) but she was booked to leave New Bedford that evening. And here she was now, camera in hand, at Vineyard Haven. She had changed her flight back and taken the dawn ferry across to see the ship leave. Later I discovered she had persuaded the Haven harbourmaster to take her out in his launch as the ship left and she sent me some of her photographs. This is the sort of passion this ship creates in all who come to know her!

Charles W Morgan leaving Vineyard Haven. Courtesy Annette Mason.

Charles W Morgan leaving Vineyard Haven under sail. Courtesy Annette Mason.

Charles W Morgan leaving Vineyard Haven watched by Harbor Master, Jay. Courtesy Annette Mason.

Charles W Morgan leaving Vineyard Haven watched by Harbor Master, Jay. Courtesy Annette Mason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Replacing the bulwarks after the gangplank has been removed. Foreground – one of the iron try pots in the copper and brick try works, used for extracting oil from blubber

Once on board we were allocated a watch, port or starboard, (I was port – or larboard as it would have been during he ship’s whaling days) for the fire and safety drills including man overboard and abandon ship. We went through a safety drill donning life jackets stowed in the former vegetable locker midships. On deck, the gangplank was removed, the starboard waist whaleboat was hauled up, back on its davits, the lines were loosed and the Charles W Morgan was guided gently out.

Hauling up the starboard waist whaleboat

Hauling up the starboard waist whaleboat

Lifejackets stowed in the former vegetable hold on deck. We were allocated port or starboard watches for fore and safety drills. I was in the port watch.

Lifejackets stowed in the former vegetable hold on deck.

There was a fresh breeze behind and we’d hoped to tack out to Vineyard Sound under sail and the crew began working the lines. The order was given to break the tow. But shortly thereafter, with the tide running at 3 knots, it became clear that there was no way we would even make Wood’s Hole against the tide. Orders were given and the tow line was passed back to the waiting Sirius. But even under tow, we were away!

Standing by with the lines and halyards

Standing by with the lines and halyards

Manila everywhere!

Manila everywhere!

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Author: lesleybw

Traveller, explorer, writer, reader, sailor, free spirit, historian and heritage professional, fascinated with the interconnection between past and present, people and places. Lover of the sea and islands, I am happiest on or by the water with the sounds of sails, seabirds, waves, winds and even storms. Currently I am researching the South Pacific in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century - whaling, exploration, settlements, trading, colonial politics, aspirations and conflicts, 'black birding', the Bounty legacy - and writing the stories of my great-great-grandparent's life on a remote Pacific Island. I carry their restless spirits in my bones!

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