Saturday, 19 April 2008

The bats are out again!

It’s like a scene out of Batman Begins as I stand on the wooden deck of the Duyfken looking at the setting sun across the inlet. A few of them gets confused and flies into to mast and rigging of the many boats here in Marlin Wharf, but gets free again without much effort and quickly joins the other in search for food for the night which consists of mangos and other fruits. They’re magnificent to watch and knowing they’re blind and navigating via radar makes me feel a strange connection with them as I’m reminded of my sail over the Southern Indian Ocean to Australia. Not seeing anything else but ocean and trusting the radar to get us there safely. It’s nice to know I’m finishing off my time here in Oz as I first came here, on a wooden tall ship. This is the first ship that reportedly came to Nova Guinea, aka Terra Australia. That puts the Dutch’s 1606 landing in Australia 164 years before James Cook and the Endeavour in 1770.

A normal day for me here onboard begins around 0700, or it would if I was more of a morning person. Usually I roll out of bed ca 5min before I start at 0800. We wash and scrub the deck every morning, not only to keep it clean but also to preserve the deck with help of the salty sea water. Usually a cup of tea follows and morning chat with the ships bosun, the guy who knows how these ship works and what maintenance needs to be done. Our guru is Mr Phillip Rose Taylor, the same man who was the sail maker onboard Gotheborg III during the entire voyage from Goteborg to China. Old, English, very traditional and full of stories from younger days.

During the day we do maintenance and cleaning. When the cleaning has been done below deck (the galley, the heads and the museum), we oil the rigging or work on our gun carriages. You know, everyday sort of job. Soon we will be doing some tarring too, something I look forward to for the wonderful smell and the good excuse to climb the rigging.

From 1000 to 1800 we’re also open to the public, $5 for an adult, $3 for a child and $10 for a family. A personal guided tour is included in that prize and this is my main responsibility. I give tours, train new guides and boss our existing guides around! So when I’m not doing maintenance or cleaning, I read up on the history of the ship. It’s very interesting, and sometimes hard to believe that I get paid to learn about history. Besides the guides, I’m also in charge of the volunteers we have and the backpackers that stay onboard. These backpackers get to stay onboard for free accommodation in exchange for working 2 hours every morning. Right now we have one German, Finn, and one Dutch guy, Feike, onboard. I’ve been pretty lazy myself when it comes to the morning cleaning but as we starting to get busier with the tourist season starting soon, I will start to get more strict. That means 0800 start every morning, so I kick them out of bed at 0730 and feed them brekkie (corn flakes with milk is included) then the deck wash begins. They work until we open at 1000 but they are more than welcome to do some volunteer work after that too. Once a week they have to do shipkeep, which is another one of my responsibilities. I sleep onboard to keep an eye on the ship just in case something happens during the night; a rag self combusts, (has happened before), we start leaking heavily, the moorings come off (has happened before) or the gas bottle explodes. I hope it won’t because I sleep in the Captain’s cabin just next to it. With another shipkeeper onboard I can take the night off and go have a beer with my new yachty friends at Cairns Yacht Club (CYC).

So my responsibilities so far are:
Guides, volunteers and backpackers,
Keeping the ships log book every day,
The merchandise and money onboard,
and yeah, did I mention I’m the curator of the museum too?

No wonder I love my job! The job has a big variation to it, and the people I work with are exceptional.

But in having said that, my visa runs out in less than a month. I love to stay with this job for a while, but if it turns out I can’t, then the rest of the world a waits. I will come back to Oz in a year or two as a helicopter student, which is something I can’t wait to do.

Marlin Wharf where the ship has its berth is the centre of the main marina. From here all boats departing to the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island of Fitzroy Island berths. Every morning I wake up to the Ocean Spirit’s crew talking over the PA system ‘Could the crew please report to the main cabin for morning meeting’. Then Enya’s ‘Sail away’ goes on when the boat departs and also when she comes back at 1700. I know it by hart now. Lol! Hoping to go out with them one day and see the reef. Apparently the Duyfken crew gets a good discount, $15 instead of $150, but you have to get to know one of the captains or mates, and they’ll put you on as family.

My day from now on, as it gets busier, will start earlier, 0700 or 0630 and that’ll start with the raising of the ships flags which comes down every night. The one on the foremast is no worries, just a matter of jumping up on the fore castle and lower/raise it. The bowsprit’s flag is another matter though. Unlike the Gotheborg or the Endeavour rigging, this doesn’t have any foot ropes but since you can lower the yards, it actually a lot safer, except for the bowsprit. That one you have to climb out on top off with only a man rope to hold on too. It’ll take a bit more practice before I feel completely comfortable doing that. A few more mornings of practice and I’ll recon I’ll be there! (Was I to fall, the water is only 5m below me!)

I love seeing mountains again after being in the desert for so long and here in Cairns we’re surrounded by them and they’re all covered in tropical rain forest. I look forward to go hiking in them, seeing the flora and fauna there and maybe a waterfall or two. Things on my to-do list include; white water rafting, diving, parasailing, the Sky Rail (that goes over the rain forest) and a crock farm to mention a few. This will probably have to wait til later, when my visa expires. For now I want to spend as much time on my ship as possible and learn the job! I’m looking forward to the sail we’ll be doing up to Cooktown in June. It’ll be mindboggling to think I’ll be travelling the same coast line James Cook did in a wooden ship just like him and seeing it from the same perspective!

I’ll see you all in July though; I’ll be home for Cecilia Karlsson’s wedding on the 4th July.

Until then I wish you all a great time and a hope you get an early and wonderful spring. Cya this summer!! Don’t forget to e-mail me!!!