April 2013

(It’s been nearly six months since I last wrote about my adventure at sea, and I could give you a million and one reasons as to why I haven’t finished the intrepid tale, but quite frankly I forgot. You can catch up on the rest of my adventures at sea here)

My first night shift had been… eye opening. I’d seen the stars like I’ve never seen them before and felt a rush of adrenaline that only comes from being completely convinced that you’re about to die.

After not nearly enough sleep we were all back on deck again, desperately trying to avoid the colony of seasick casualties below, (who, by this time, weren’t even pretending to hide the fact that they were milking it)

As always, the day was smooth sailing. The sun was shining and – with all of us on hand to help – there was actually time to relax and enjoy a life at sea. The night, on the other hand, was much different…

tall-ships-liverpool

It was our last night shift and my watch was covering 12am-4am; the graveyard shift as it’s known by seasoned sailors – that one that drags but nothing major ever seems to happen.

It got to quarter to four, (with nothing to report but a harsh wind and a devastating case of ‘hat hair’) and although Dominic, (a budding skipper, rum thief and all-round decent guy) had come up ready for his shift, there was absolutely no sign of the rest of his watch. It looked like we were set for an 8 hour stint on deck.

Naturally, I was fucking fuming. Not only was I still bitter that they had polished off the whole ship’s supply of ginger biscuits to ‘settle their stomachs’ – leaving me, the only vegetarian on board, to eat nothing but mashed potato and my own supply of pear drops for the remainder of the trip – but now they expected me to pull an all nighter on their behalf.

Finally, about an hour later, two stragglers came up insisting that they “probably wouldn’t be much use”. By this point I, quite frankly, I didn’t care whether they did nothing but throw up over the edge of the ship – I was going to bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow I drifted off to the sound of waves hitting the ship.

I’d only been asleep for twenty five minutes when I woke with a start. The waves I’d fallen asleep to less than half an hour earlier now sounded like they were crashing into my bunk and it quickly became clear that the ship was nearly on it’s side.

The ship was groaning as I lay in the dark of my empty cabin, breathing deeply to combat the roller-coaster effect of the ship was swaying from side to side.

“Everything’s fine” I told myself, as I tried to fall back to sleep, “if the was any trouble they’d wake us up.”

Suddenly I heard a crash. The lights were turned on and the Captain burst into my cabin like the incredible hulk, carrying Hannah, (just 17, the youngest on board and the only other female under 45). Confused and trying to adjust my eyes I sat bolt upright – obviously forgetting where I was and smashing my head against the top of my bunk.

I leapt out of bed – luckily the fact the nights were so cold meant I was sleeping in thick wooly tights and my Boyfriend’s jumper, otherwise clambering out of the top bunk like a baby rhino in front of the Captain would have been a completely different kettle of fish. Hannah had lost her footing, fallen across the slippy deck and narrowly avoided going overboard by hitting the bow full-force.

We put her to bed and as the Captain left I said “If you need any help on deck let me know OK.” I was obviously just being polite. Not only did I have absolutely no interest in getting back on that deck in the middle of a storm, but trying to change back into all of my ‘on deck’ layers whilst the ship threw me around like a rag doll was a suicide mission in itself. 

“Erm… yes, we might do. I’ll see how we get on first, but… we could use another set of hands”

Shit.

He left. I climbed back into my bunk; “well if they need me he’ll come and get me” I thought, closing my eyes.

I lay there for thirty seconds while the waves crashed above my head – with my eyes shut, the increasing more violent swaying of the ship was even more noticeable than before.

I opened my eyes.

“For fucks sake” I murmured, trying to steady myself as I dug my life jacket in out of the pile of clothes that had fallen as the ship blew on it’s side. Before I knew it I was back on deck, and drenched within a minute. The starry sky that had mesmerised me the night before was now nothing but thick, black storm clouds. The heavens had opened; the unforgiving wind blowing sheet rain in every direction – and waves spilled onto the deck. This was not what I signed up for.

The next hour was a blur of pulling ropes, running around the deck trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing and desperately trying not to fall overboard. Until, finally, the sun began to rise and with it the storm seemed to settle.

At 8am I finally crawled into bed; exhausted, hungry and soaking.

A few hours later I climbed back on deck in time for the last leg into Liverpool – and was greeted by a blue sky and a blazing sun. I sat down with the rest of the crew – people who had been strangers less than a week ago but now felt like family – and pulled out the hip flask of rum that my fella had given me for ’emergencies’.

As we pulled into the dock, the Captain came over to congratulate each of us for our hard work. “…and you” he turned to me, “you surpised me last night! I wouldn’t have expected it, but you did well… sailor.”

“Yeah well, this pirate stuff isn’t too hard” I said as I swigged my rum in the sunshine – and right at that moment, it wasn’t.

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