Australian White Ensign

Navy helicopter towing an enormous white ensign

The Australian Navy White Ensign was introduced in 1967, replacing the previous practice of flying the Royal Navy’s White Ensign on Australian Navy vessels.

White ensign and tall ship Lord Nelson

On 4 October 1913, the first Royal Australian Navy fleet entered Sydney Harbour. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of that event, an International Fleet Review was held in Sydney Harbour in October 2013. Ships came from around the world — not only military vessels, but other types. One of those ships was the tall ship Lord Nelson, owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust and home-ported in Southampton, England. (And now, sadly, retired, leaving the JST with only Tenacious.) I’d been involved with the JST and ‘Nellie’ since 1993, so was thrilled to be aboard once again, although the mixing of my old UK life and my new Aussie life was odd!

White ensign and tall ship Lord Nelson

Life in Colour (White)


Washing Lines 3: rubber gloves

I always smile when I see this photo.

What does “Happy Hour” mean to you? Reduced prices on wine and cocktails? Well, on the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s two tall ships, it means the hour spent each day cleaning the ship. You can imagine how many rubber gloves end up wet both inside and out! Here they are after a Happy Hour on Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean, 2004.

Monday Washing Lines



Not happy with heights?

Lord Nelson

Looking up, Lord Nelson

Very few people react with glee to the idea of climbing up the mast on a tall ship. I certainly never did! Looking at these photos, it seems like a mad thing to do.


Tenacious: look at all those narrow, wobbly ladders to climb …

In the photo below, you don’t get a sense of the height but you do get a sense of the scale.

Tenacious, with a person for scale

Not happy with heights? Nah! These crew members going aloft on Tenacious have already had four weeks to get used to it, sailing from Bermuda to Southampton.

Going aloft to harbour stow the sails! (tip: don’t look down)

Posted for One Word Sunday: Vertiginous



Me and my shadow

My shadow on the deck of Lord Nelson, 2013 (Indian Ocean)

This week’s Photo Challenge assignment is “focus on the shadow of your subject rather than the subject”. Here are two photos of my shadow back in my intrepid sailor days.

Shadows of me (at left) and other crew members on Tenacious, 2004 (leaving Jersey)


The ‘top’ sails

Looking at the main mast on tall ship Tenacious

I’ve put top in quote marks in the title because, as you can see, these three sails that are set are not actually at the top of anything. However, they do have ‘top’ in their name!

There are five sails on Tenacious’s main mast. Starting from the, ahem, top of the mast, we have the royal (furled); the topgallant (t’gallant, or even t’gan’sl if you want to say “topgallant sail”); the upper topsail; the lower topsail; the course (furled).

Becky is back with her squares, and for April the theme is “top“.


Crossing the Line

The GPS shows we are on the equator.

Back to ‘Lord Nelson’ in the Indian Ocean for this post. During the voyage from Durban (South Africa) to Kochi (India) in 2013, we sailed over the equator from the southern hemisphere to the northern. In nautical parlance, we Crossed the Line. King Neptune looks with ill favour upon those who dare to cross the line without his permission. He (Captain Barbara, in a very fishy disguise) and his court came aboard the ship with much regal pomp, and proceeded to try for various crimes all those aboard who had not sailed over the equator before. All were, invariably, found guilty.

The arrival of King Neptune and court. That’s “his” consort towering behind the “king”, but a keen eye could recognise the first mate fluttering the fan.

My turn came eventually. My crime was to have failed to bring the sun to the horizon using a sextant during a demonstration of celestial navigation. I was, actually, guilty of that. I was smeared with various galley leavings, fed “bad medicine” and drenched with seawater, and was compelled by King Neptune to Kiss the Fish (as seen in the feature image) — a real, dead, fish, blech.

The Royal Surgeon guides me into the punishment pool.

Part of the certificate from ‘King Neptune’, granting me the right to travel the seas unhindered.

Posted as part of October Squares Lines&Squares


Firing Line

Assault rifles on deck. (Clothes pegs in purple bucket.)

My 2013 sailing voyage on Lord Nelson from South Africa to India took us through a corner of the internationally recognised area of pirate activity in the Indian Ocean. The ship could not have obtained insurance to enter that area without taking anti-pirate measures. Unknown to any of us crew before the ship left Durban, the Jubilee Sailing Trust had arranged for three former UK armed forces personnel to masquerade as crew members. The men joined the ship in Durban; the assault rifles joined the ship in Mauritius.

Our route through the official pirate danger zone. (Note all those lovely latitude and longitude LINES!)

Our passage was uneventful with nary a pirate to be seen, although we all paid more attention than usual to nearby shipping! What to do with those deadly rifles and all that live ammunition? It was obvious, really: let the crew have a go.


We signed up for “weapons handling” (seriously, again) in which we were taken through checking, loading, firing and unloading, but without ammunition (sensible precaution!). In my journal, I’ve written that when it came to considering letting us actually fire ammunition, the security team “had conducted a formal risk assessment and concluded that barely trained civilians firing live ammo on the deck of a rolling ship would be ‘extremely dangerous’ but the chance of anything going wrong would be ‘highly unlikely’.”

Well, that was reassuring.

Firing Line the line of positions from which gunfire is directed at targets.

We each had three shots at a target being towed 50 metres behind the ship. By the time my turn came, the poor thing had been caught in so many LINES of fire that it was barely visible.

The target (a weighted life jacket) towed behind the ship. It’s attached to the ship by a — yes — LINE.

Again from my journal, with names removed: “The duty watch was removed from the bridge and [the two ex special ops men] did one-on-ones with us as we came up to the bridge in pairs. Before that, in a sort of holding area, we had a reminder from [the third security man] with the other rifle on how to hold it properly and aim, and what to expect from the kick.”

Ex SBS (UK Special Boat Services) man LINES the target up in his sights.

Despite appearances, this is not a pirate threatening one of the security men! Just a misleading camera angle.

Here’s how my turn went: “I put on my ear defenders and safety glasses, and he walked me through the firing. Using my newly acquired training, I executed a Normal Safety Procedure to first ensure the rifle was not ‘live’, then inserted the magazine (at the wrong angle, so he made me re-do it) and cocked the rifle to bring a round into the breech. With my knee braced against the life jackets locker and his hand on my back, and the ship remarkably stable, I had no trouble tracking the target with the red dot. Through the defenders, I could hear him calmly advising me and reminding me to breathe slowly and evenly. Then I slipped off the safety and squeezed the trigger. When done, I removed the magazine and made the rifle safe.”

And if you’re wondering — I hit the target on my first attempt. Pirates, beware!

Posted as part of October Squares Lines&Squares



main course buntlines (starboard) (plus, at left, the fore royal brace and the fore t’gallant brace) — ‘Tenacious’, in a bit of a storm, Atlantic Ocean

Here are some ‘lines’ I’ll bet none of you have heard of! On a ship, ropes are known as lines. The ‘bunt is the middle part of a sail. I’ve hauled on buntlines more times than I can remember, but I can’t explain what they do as well as wikipedia : “buntlines are small lines fastened to the bottom of the sails, in the middle part of the bolt rope, to the cringle; and so are passed through a small block, seized to the yard. Their use is to trice up the bunt of the sail, to better furl it up”. So, all clear?

fore course buntlines (port) – ‘Lord Nelson’, New Zealand

You can expect to see more nautical-themed lines as the month goes on.

Posted as part of October Squares Lines&Squares


The last spike is a bristle

This is one of the many bristly brushes used over the decades (quite a few by me!) to scrub the wooden decks on the tall ships Tenacious (seen here) and Lord Nelson (there’s a photo of ‘Nellie’ in the gallery below).


March’s square theme is Spiky Squares (spiky, jagged, pointy, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and/or barbed). As always with a Square challenge, thanks are due to Becky for hosting and keeping us all in touch.
Here’s a round-up (square-up?) of my offerings for the past month: