Last century the practice of masses of people standing on wharves to wave off passengers when a ship departed was the norm. Streamers were thrown to festoon a ship and keep the connection between passengers and loved ones onshore intact – until the paper ripped and the ship had sailed. Litter and safety regulations removed those ‘glamorous’ times. Notwithstanding the fact these practices and artefacts are aspects of the past, three of my closest came to farewell me, albeit minus the streamers.
Standing on the wharf I met the other eight passengers before moving on board, being inducted by the First Mate, gradually finding my way around the tiny ship and meeting the ten crew members.
You cannot believe my elation when I won the jackpot; a cabin to myself. Of course the cabins for everyone were tiny, yet each had at least three beds in them of various lengths. At booking time we had been asked for our height and weight in order to be assigned a bed that was sufficiently long for a comfortable fit. The photo below shows my bed set up with the sleeping bag and the two other beds beside/above. There are no ladders and anyone above would have trampled down over the other beds to reach the floor. As I lay in bed thinking about how these cabins had been created for ‘soft’ travellers like myself, I realised that those who sailed 200 years ago in ships like this for 6 months between England and Australia, would never have had the luxury of so much space.
The maroon red fabric hanging over the side was a security layer. Once in bed, I tied this onto a hook on the wall near my head with the expectation that if the ship rocked and rolled I would be supported by this ‘sheet’ and not fall out. Elsewhere hooks on the walls were perfect for my wet weather and other gear; when three people occupy this cabin managing personal possessions would become a fine art.
Other cabins were similar.
Our accommodation was situated either side of a corridor below the galley kitchen and diner. A tiny toilet (the head)and shower combination, the engineers room and the dry store completed the spaces in that area below. Our harnesses, to be used after dark if we were outside and the ship was sailing, were located at the bottom of the ladder (stairs).
All doorways had raised sections to be stepped over, and some of these ‘obstructions’ to potential incoming waves were perhaps 40 -50cm high. I am short with stumpy legs so it was always a feat to move quickly to go down to the cabins or the saloon or move out to the decks. But over the week my muscles became used to the repeated high stepping practice. Nevertheless I envied most with their longer legs making the step-over almost mindless – possibly they don’t even remember these ‘obstacles’. The highest hurdles for me were before the steep ladders to the cabins and the saloon.
The galley kitchen was surprisingly spacious, and while best for one it could accommodate a couple of workers. Because of Covid 19 restrictions the passengers were not permitted to help in any way with food preparation or cleaning up. So we watched from the diner and from the deck.
Fellow passenger Serena took the following photos watching a crew member washing up.
Another toilet (head) was accessed from the starboard side deck, and the Captains ‘office’ from the port side. Crew members slept in an assortment of rabbit holes; four in various places adjacent to the saloon, one at the back of the dry store, and the rest beneath the forward deck. While there was a sense of ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ between passengers and crew this was notional and minor. If we could have ‘worked’ with them we would have. Our collective was generally one happy family where we all talked amiably together at different times.
On boarding, passengers were given either a red, blue or white beanie to mark the 4-hour Watch we could choose to join with the crew. The First Mate never pushed us and I think my fellow passengers observed clearly what was required on a Watch and decided to leave it to the crew. Especially when we were moored for hours, a Watch looked incredibly tedious. These were the times the crew would sit and chat with us between the timing of their various chores. All fascinating and interesting people with worlds of experiences not only on ships and yachts and other sailing vessels.
In addition, I warmed to my fellow passengers almost immediately. They were all well-travelled and broadly experienced, with similar values to my own – especially in terms of the environment. I was pleased there were no ego players, nobody who had to be the centre of attention, nobody who couldn’t stop talking about mush, nobody who wanted to play one upmanship games. Instead, the banter was light and laughter carried us through the days and the nights. Six knew each other but the nine of us melded together and those known to each other did not form an excluding clique. My fellow passengers were fun. I recall suggesting to one that they were a bunch of comedians. ‘No’, he said. ‘Idiots’. And we laughed again. How lucky I felt. And happy.
Before we cast off, colourful macaroons were handed around.
Eventually the ropes were thrown on board not much after 6pm and we motored down the Derwent Harbour into the gathering dusk, each taking our own departure shots. Around 19.30 we passed Kingston Beach heading south. We had a long way to go!
I looked back at Mt Wellington already in shadow. We were on our way to a new adventure!
Time and again, Serena appreciated the dramatic nature of clouds and sky and was able to counterpoint these ephemeral vistas with the solidity of our ship, as in her photo below.
Fellow passenger Rob’s photo below shows a group of us on the aft deck enjoying the day’s end, albeit rather cold and certainly windy.
In the next photo, Serena shows our thoughtful and interested faces as we sailed south.