The Road Ahead : February 2013
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU THE ROAD AHEAD FEB/MAR 2013 24 LIFESTYLE | ENDEAVOUR ship ahoy! In the first of our regular series of lifestyle features, Steve Gray joins all hands on deck aboard the replica Endeavour. LOOKING UP AT the vast wheel of the Milky Way, it's easy to imagine we're floating through the galaxy. Her Majesty's Bark (HMB) Endeavour, a replica of the ship that sailed these waters under the command of Lt James Cook in 1770, is edging forward into the blackness under reefed sails. There's a flapping of canvas, the slap of a rope, the splash of a wave, the soft call of a helmsman to keep us alert on deck. Shadowy figures move across the dark deck as the Foremast Watch readies to take over from our Mizzenmast Watch. Most of the 50 souls aboard are paying adventure tourists, but a highly professional crew of 16 oversees the three watches which rotate four-hourly around the clock as we head for Townsville. The Endeavour, recognised as one of the finest replicas ever built, is circumnavigating the continent for the first time and there are crew places available for each leg of the journey. We are taught the basics of sailing a square-rigged ship, climbing the rigging to change sails, manning the helm, rope work, the routines of scrubbing the deck, cleaning and keeping things shipshape. When Captain Ross Matson calls for 'all hands on deck', we also practice the incredible teamwork required to manoeuvre the vessel as it tacks into the wind. It's a glimpse of what Cook and his crew survived and you come to realise how incredibly tough those sailors must have been. After all, we have the 20th century deck down below, with its diesel motors to meet today's hurried timetables, its modern kitchen serving excellent food, refrigerators, and bathrooms. Modern navigational aids can place us accurately to within four metres. Cook sailed for years into the unknown. Nevertheless it's a great opportunity to challenge yourself, scampering up the ratlines to stand precariously on a rope as you lean over the yardarm reefing a sail. Far, far below is the cold, cobalt water and you give thanks for the safety harness that everyone must wear above deck. Then, when scuds of chill rain blow in, you must stand at your post regardless, imagining the real discomforts Cook and his crew must have been through. It's not all hard work, with the Endeavour anchoring at islands along the route for swimming, picnics on the beach and bushwalks. There are also daily lessons on sailing a square-rigger, and lectures on Cook's original voyage of discovery, and the lives of sailors in the 18th century. Our little vessel is crowded, but then you're told Cook had another 48 people aboard, plus two dogs, dozens of poultry, pigs with a litter, sheep, bullocks, cats and a goat. Add to that food and drink for months at a time, scientific samples, plant and animal specimens. It's now 4am -- our Mizzenmast Watch is over, the Southern Cross sits a few degrees above the horizon, the scimitar moon is just starting to rise off the stern. Our hammocks beckon.