Now, whilst all you slubberdegullions have been fast asleep and snoring in your beds Jane and I have been hauling mainsheets, hoisting topsails, standing atop the yardarm and been lashed to the wheel. No, it's not some kinky new game; we're near the spot where Cap'n Cook first made landfall in New Zealand so what else could we do but sign on as lowly Jack Tars aboard the tall ship, R Tucker Thompson.
This beautiful Gaff Rigged Topsail Schooner (see, I'm picking up the lingo already) plies the waters of the Bay of Islands and for a few dubloons (also known as New Zealand Dollars) you can take a day sail around the islands, getting hands on experience of sailing a working tall ship.
The ship is used as a training vessel for youth development programmes during the winter and to pay for this us old folk have to fork out shed loads of money (isn't that always the way!). Actually, because the ship is owned by a trust, the cost is very reasonable and it's not often you get the opportunity to sail aboard such a glorious craft. It's not actually that old, having been built in the eighties to a traditonal design, so it looks like something which might have appeared in The Onedin Line (remember that? No? Oh well, just shows how old I am!).
We sailed with a crew of just 4 plus 17 tourists and most us got a turn at helping to hoist sails and sail the vessel. I must admit that the plethora of ropes was quite confusing to begin with but they all have a purpose and there is a system, albeit not easy for a novice to follow. During the morning there was insufficient wind to move the craft on sail alone so the motor was used. But it was lovely sailing along past some of the islands in the bay, watching Bottle-nosed dolphins and just enjoying the sea air. We stopped off at a small island for lunch. In fact it was the island Captain Cook limped into having run aground on a sandbar a little farther out. This really was the place where a white man first set foot here.
The onshore wind was much stronger sailing back and we were able to hoist all 7 of our sails and run without motor. It was so smooth and just wonderful to be aboard an 85 foot vessel powered only by the wind. Jane and I clipped into safety lines and went out on the bow sprit - the wooden spar that stick out at the front of sailing ships. It was great to see the water rushing by below our feet. Then came the opportunity to shimmy up the rigging to the top mast yard arm. Of course, I just had to have a go at that. In the films it looks easy but clambering up the rigging of a moving ship is a bit of a challenge, especially as we had to clip in to safety lines all the way up. However, I eventually stood above the yards, with the sails billowing in the wind and was able to look down 40 ft onto the deck where Jane was pointing a camera lens at me. When I tired of that I sat on the main spar and just looked out to sea. It was a unique experience, not to be forgotten in a hurry.
We both enjoyed being aboard such a lovely vessel. You can sail from New Zealand to the Antarctic aboard a tall ship. Now wouldn't that be an experience to write home about?
So, what about the sunken ship. Well, that will have to wait until the next blog. Got to keep you in suspense about somethings, haven't I?