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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

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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.

Seriously.

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

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Buntlines

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

Man climbing the rigging with bagpipes
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Climbing the rigging

Crew climbing the rigging on 'Tenacious', 2006

Crew climbing the rigging on ‘Tenacious’, 2006

Three photos on the theme of Climb. If you’re wondering what’s poking from the bag in the feature photo, it’s bagpipes; don’t ask.

Me climbing the rigging on 'Lord Nelson', 1994

A rare shot of me going aloft! (Safely in port, you’ll notice.) ‘Lord Nelson’, 1994

Crew climbing the rigging on 'Lord Nelson', 1995

Climbing the rigging is hard enough in normal conditions — in unwieldy oilskins and wellies, it’s a real challenge! ‘Lord Nelson’, 1995


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Square Sky 12: A grey dawn breaking

A gloomy day at sea begins.

“a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking”
from Sea Fever by John Masefield

I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that every “sunrise” at sea is like the one in yesterday’s post! This is in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, also taken while sailing on ‘Lord Nelson’.

Square Sky December

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Square Sky 1: Sunrise over Mauritius

Sunrise over Mauritius, 2013

Sunrise over Mauritius, 2013

Becky is back with another month of square challenges. 🙂 This time it’s skies for December — and I’m only a couple days late joining, which for me is remarkable. I’m kicking off with a stunner (if I say so myself): sunrise over the island of Mauritius, taken in 2013 while sailing across the Indian Ocean from South Africa to India on the tall ship ‘Lord Nelson’.

Be prepared for a lot of photos with sky and ocean, though I’ll try to throw in some non-sailing ones too!

Square Sky December

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Admiration: Captain Barbara Campell

Leaving Bermuda on Tenacious. Barbara often stands on top of the deck house to get a clear view ahead!

Leaving Bermuda on Tenacious. Barbara often stands on top of the deck house to get a clear view ahead!

This week’s Photo Challenge is to “depict something or someone you admire”. I’d like to introduce you to Captain Barbara Campbell, for whom I have immense admiration.

I first met Barbara about 20 years ago, and have since sailed with her on a number of voyages on the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s tall ships Lord Nelson and Tenacious. Among the JST’s thousands of voyage crew, she is known affectionately as simply “Captain Barbara”.

In a storm, Atlantic Ocean.

In a storm, Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean.

Barbara began her maritime career as a deck cadet with P&O in the 1970s, a time when a life at sea was not generally considered a career option for women. She worked her way up to deck officer and then in 1986 obtained her Master’s Ticket — the first woman in Scotland to do so. While working on ferries and cruise ships, Barbara also “moon lighted” on tall ships, doing odd voyages on Lord Nelson, for example, from 1992. She became captain of Lord Nelson in 1999.

In conference with the first mate, Atlantic Ocean.

In conference with the first mate, Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean.

Being a ship’s captain is not all about giving commands: Barbara does more than her fair share of rope pulling and mast climbing. She often makes me feel guilty! I remember one morning on Lord Nelson in the Indian Ocean, my watch was setting a sail before breakfast — with more duty than enthusiasm, it must be admitted. A little white blur shot out of the deckhouse and clapped onto the line with us. Yup, Captain Barbara. As you may imagine, our efforts suddenly intensified!

On long voyages such as ocean passages, there’s time for lighter activities, too. Each JST ship carries up to 40 paying “voyage crew”, and Barbara joins the fun.

As Neptune, King of the Ocean Waves, with consort and assorted members of 'his' court, for the Crossing the Line [Equator] ceremony, Lord Nelson, Indian Ocean.

As Neptune, King of the Ocean Waves, with consort and assorted members of ‘his’ court, for the Crossing the Line [Equator] ceremony, Lord Nelson, Indian Ocean.

Dancing a reel with the voyage crew, Atlantic Ocean.

Dancing a reel with the voyage crew, Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean.

Judging a kite flying competition, Atlantic Ocean.

Judging a kite flying competition, Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean.

Barbara Campbell is a true trailblazer and role model for women in what had been very much a man’s job. Physically petite, she has tremendous presence and authority: when you see her with first mates towering beside her, there’s no doubt who’s in charge! I’ll be sailing on Tenacious around Fiji for two weeks in June, and I hope Captain Barbara is onboard.

Leading a church service, Atlantic Ocean.

Leading a church service, Tenacious, Atlantic Ocean.

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