Hydrographic Report


by Peter Ward

Trade Instructor

In February the Endeavour replica visited Devonport for 3 weeks. I answered a request in the newspaper for volunteers to guide public tours over the vessel during its stay alongside. It was interesting to learn about the original Endeavour's travels under Captain Cook and experience the 18th century ship and museum exhibits onboard.

After 5 years in building the replica was launched in Freemantle in 1993. It is a finely detailed and authentic reconstruction made from original drawings obtained from Royal Naval archives. The ship, based at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, is run by the associated Endeavour Foundation. She is presently on the final stages of a three-year millennium global voyage to Britain, North America and the Pacific.

I accepted an offer to sail from Auckland to Gisborne. The four-day voyage allows for a passage speed of 4.5 knots, which is achievable with favourable winds from abeam or abaft. In practice the ship motors at 6-8 knots for around half of its passages on its two 400 HP CAT diesels.

There are 15 permanent crew under the command of Captain Chris Blake, CEO of the Endeavour Foundation. They consist of the Chief Officer and two watchkeeping officers, 3 captains of the tops (sailing watch captains), the shipwright, the bosun and his mate. Others are the catering officer who doubles as medic, Captain's steward/secretary, the sail-maker and the engineer.

There are about 12-trainee crew, young people, mostly Americans taking a break from their college training. Their parents pay a considerable sum of money to enable them to spend several months onboard. They work on OJT task books, learn to sail and in various parts of the ship. They are referred to as idlers as they generally day-work.

I formed part of the voyage crew of 24 people ranging in experience from merchant foreign-going shipmasters to youths finding their sea legs the hard way. Any interested able-bodied person can join up for a trip, typically 5 to 10 days. We slept in hammocks (quite comfortable) in the large mess-deck.

There are berths for about 6 supernumerary passengers who don't have to stand watchers and relax and enjoy the cruise. They pay a premium fare and sleep in the gentlemen scientist's cabins aft.

Upon joining the ship about 4 hours of familiarization was given. This included a climb aloft up the rigging onto the topsail yardarms. We sailed from Devonport exiting through Motuihe channel. An Italian film crew was onboard shooting some footage to fill TV coverage during the windless race days of the America's Cup Final. This gave us plenty of practice wearing ship (gyhing), sail handling and doing general drills. After 12 hours of excellent sailing the wind dropped and changed to an unfavourable direction.

We tacked back and forth between Cape Colville and Great Barrier Island but made only leeway as the current counteracted any headway progress.

On day two, we furled the square sails and motored through Mercury Island group and Hole in the Wall. Some of the staysails were kept set to steady the roll and prevent the masts and rigging whipping.

In the forenoon of day three we reached White Island. The ship hove to for hands to bathe the seawater being very warm and clear. We motored around the island to view the impressive steamy volcanic activity and colourful rocky scenery and then on to the East Cape in deteriorating weather.

Day four brought very foul weather and swells. Heading into a southerly rainstorm all watchkeeping crews became cold and miserable. The replica vessel true to the original has no deckhouse or shelter for the watch on deck.

The voyage crew was kept busy on the trip. Cleaning stations for 2 hours in forenoon was followed by the chief officer's white glove inspection. After lunch, another couple of hours were spent on maintenance such as sanding, painting or preservation of woodwork and rigging. We kept watches one-in-three so didn't get too much time to play cards or read.

We also had to smartly 'learn the ropes' such as the scores of tacks, clews, bunts, braces which enable the sails to be controlled from the deck. Our watch captains kept us busy remembering the drills and commands for handling the ship.

On the last evening at sea the Captain managed to position the ship of the coast near Gisborne with a day to spare to do some sailing in the improved weather. The sense of self-preservation comes to the fore as we climb aloft to unfurl and set sail in the choppy seaway.

On the final day of the voyage the summer weather returned. We approached Gisborne in light airs. Enjoyed entering the harbour on a topmast yardarm, panoramic view is impressive from 20m above the deck. In Gisborne the ship's officers officiated at the unveiling of the statue of James Cook on the foreshore.

An enjoyable time was had by all, even the chap who spent half the voyage in a neck brace after his hammock came loose one night. The chef's catering was excellent. I heartily recommend a voyage to anyone interested in sailing. The contrast of 200 years of naval life and technology and the step back in history for a few days gives an interesting perspective.

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