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Eye of the Wind - Newsletter NO. 10

JUNE 1990

In AucklandOver 12,000 miles have been left in our wake since departing Sydney on 11 November 1989. We have experienced the full range and moods of the Great Southern Ocean - from being becalmed with the repetitious and aggravating noise of the sails slatting as one searches for zephyrs, swimming over the side in a sea so impossibly blue, to running before a tropical cyclone which whipped seas into white, foaming mountains with winds of 60-70 knots.

Our heavy work schedule in Auckland was somehow achieved, thanks to the generous assistance of the 'Spirit of Adventure' organisation, which kindly donated the use of their berth and shore facilities, to say nothing of their valuable local knowledge.

Once again, a 'knight in shining armour' with a dab of diesel behind each ear, came to our aid. PK, with a group of friends, assisted Bill, our engineer, to do a major overhaul on the ship's machinery.

New Zealand gave us the opportunity to meet up with 'R. Tucker Thompson' and 'Søren Larsen'.

On departing Auckland we filled our complement with three Pitcairn Islanders, who wished to return for the 200 Year celebrations. Ray Young and his wife Eileen had left the island in the late 1930's and for them it was to be an emotional homecoming. The third person was Glen Clarke who had departed the island soon after our first visit in 1977.

the crew - click to enlarge! Good winds carried us forth and within the first week we had logged over 1,000 miles, with two days' runs exceeding 200 miles. The Met Bureau and the weather experts suggested we keep below 35'' S to gain the best prevailing winds for us to make our passage to the east.

In fact we did get down to 42 1/2° S but were plagued with two massive highs which dominated the weather patterns for the South Pacific Ocean. The hoped-for Westerlies never eventuated. As the wind became even more fickle and everyone was anxious to get there, we powered the last 2 1/2 days to make landfall. Pitcairn Island was sighted late in the evening of our 29th day at sea.

It was our first Christmas at sea for many years, but thank goodness this did not stop Santa from finding us; the wreckage of his sleigh was sighted and he came climbing over the stern of the jolly boat - rather wet - and bedraggled. Luckily his supply of presents and lollies was still dry, and these were distributed to everyone.

In true seagoing tradition, eight bells were struck at midnight on New Year's Eve. The end of the decade was heralded in by Ray Young dressed appropriately as the old decade. He struck the first four bells. Quentin Keeble rang the next four - the commencement of the last decade of this century. A good time was had by all, with a few hoarse the next day from shanty singing, and a few more with sore heads from the champagne.

No ships of any description were sighted on the voyage, and even sea birds were scarce. However, one day whilst becalmed we had 49 albatrosses paddling frantically around our stern in search of scraps from the galley.

The Pitcairn Islanders' new aluminium boats, christened 'Tin' and 'Tub' (they don't waste words) were alongside us early on our first morning, and everyone except six of the crew were taken ashore to become family members for the duration of our stay.

It was a tremendous feeling to be greeted by the Pitcairners and you could - tell it by the way they held your hand and looked into your eyes that they were genuinely pleased to see you. Those of us who had been lucky to visit the island previously in 1977 or 1982 were told by our foster family that our rooms and beds were waiting. One honestly got the feeling that you had never left the island. This type of hospitality and caring has been lost in many places in the outside world today.

The young men we knew in 1977 are now the leaders of the community and the decision makers. Since that time the numbers have dwindled to around the fifty mark, but the numbers sometimes drop even lower - since our second visit ten people have had to leave temporarily (which often means many months before they can get a passage back to the island). The big question is what is the minimum number of able-bodied workers to keep the island viable? This is brought home as you ride the crest of the waves into Bounty Bay in the longboat - one serious accident and the able-bodied population could be decimated.

Day to day life and the associated commitments of maintaining public facilities has been made easier with the introduction of aluminium longboats and also the 3- and 4-wheeler motorbikes, which save them the long hard slog up the 'Hill of Despair' and to their gardens, which are spread all over the island. The tropical climate combined with the rich volcanic soil produces a bountiful harvest, but this requires hours of toil in one's gardens.

On the voyage to Pitcairn countless hours were spent with Ray and Eileen as they reminisced about the old days and the old ways. When they departed the island was home to over 200 inhabitants. The gardens and the seas around Pitcairn had to provide food for these people. At least one cargo passenger ship en route to New Zealand would lay off the island every two weeks, to trade and discharge goods. This cargo was then manhandled up the 'Hill of Despair'.

Idle hours are not really known on Pitcairn. The day commences at first light with a journey to the gardens to bring back the fresh fruit and vegetables for the day. A breakfast cum lunch is enjoyed at elevenish before work begins in earnest.

To supplement their small income and to provide the finance for all the goods and luxuries which need to be imported, the islanders commit many hours to the production of wood and basket handicrafts. We were able to see the complete cycle involved to produce these goods. For a carving, it begins with a trip to Henderson Island with ideal conditions required to cross its fringing reef. The peace and solitude is then shattered by the roar of chain saws as suitable trees are felled and dragged to the beach. They have to be hauled out across the coral reef and into the breakers to be loaded aboard a vessel like 'Eye of the Wind' for transportation home. Then they are manhandled into the long boat, handled ashore, loaded into the tractor and finally dropped at everyone's front door.

From this raw material the individual carver has to decide which piece of wood is to become a shark, whale, longboat, walking stick or 'Bounty' model. Hours are spent with axe, saw, chisels and sandpaper before the carving is taken to the ships in the hope of a sale. Even a 'Bounty' model fetches only around $100.

The women weave traditional baskets, a process which takes approximately 30 hours. The pandanus leaves are cut and dried every day for hours in the sun before being dyed and split into thin strips. These are then woven into an intricately patterned outer basket, which is then lined with a woven inner basket before being stitched together. Finally, the lid is woven, the women are often lucky to get $12-$15 for their labours. During these long hours whole families work as a group, and the work becomes a social affair from which they all benefit.

Ample work was found for the extra hands ashore, including the digging of several toilet pits. Pitcairn's dunkins (toilets) are famous as they are double seaters! One of our voyagers had quite a distracting moment when, being seated in contemplation, he was joined by a 4-year-old young lady who calmly sat down beside him and held a conversation.

It certainly turned into a hectic ten days, with six vessels calling in at the island. Among these were a French tanker which stayed a couple of days, and the 'Edna', a sail trading ketch. She arrived complete with a Cadillac in her hold but they were having difficulty stopping the mice from devouring the upholstery. A blaze of sail announced the 'Pacific Swift', a 100-foot topsail schooner built at Expo in Vancouver and carrying thirty young Canadians aboard.

An international cricket team from all the ships challenged the Pitcairners. The bulldozer was used half an hour before the game commenced to clear the scrub to make a pitch, but this did not stop numerous balls being lost in the outfield. The challengers achieved the princely total of 21 wickets for 49 runs, and were solidly trounced.

Departing for the final time, even the hardest soul had a lump in the throat as the Islander's longboat lay alongside and their songs of farewell wafted across the water.

evening off MooreaIn the early hours we entered Papeete harbour and were able to go alongside. Not quite the South Pacific paradise that the early explorers found, a sailor these days has great difficulty trading his steel nails with the locals. Just to set ashore he has to dodee hundreds of cars which come whizzing down the expressway.

Tropical cyclone 'Penni' had us departing Rarotonga in a hurry, having disgorged trainees and baggage post haste as she gathered momentum and headed towards the Southern Cook islands. We comfortably rode out the storm - the biggest casualties were the exausted sea birds which dropped onto the deck in hope of some protection from the 70 knot winds. Of the forty or or so we had housed in the empty vegie locker, only eight were strong enough to survive.
The name of Rapa brings a lustful gleam into many an old yachtsman's eye - a kind of El Dorado where Polynesian maidens abound, eight to every male (this according to the National Geographic 1948 when the 'Yankee' visited). Alas, this Utopian dream was shattered for at least one of our voyagers (they are now all 74 years old!)

The wild majestic Marquesas lived up to all our expectations and were the highlight of French Polynesia. Even the countless 'no-no fly' bites which some people experienced could not jade our memories of these stunning anchorages.

Our bow is now headed westwards and we hope the trades will carry us through Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and PNG to Cairns.

SCUTTLEBUTT

Helen Bird is now back in England, working on the 'J' class 'Velsheda' after sailing the the Antarctic Peninsula on the schooner 'Sol'.

Wayne Chimenti, after the completion of our first Pitcairn voyage, has taken command of the hospital ship 'Tole Mour' which works in the Marshall Islands.

Heather Allen ist engaged, and is delivering a yacht from Gibraltar to Southport.

Suzy and Roscoe are still campaigning for Greenpeace around the Australian coast.

Gary Wilson has returned to the big ships in BHP temporarily, in order to get his next ticket. He has square-rigged ships in his blood and we hope to see him back in them before too long.

Newsflash

'In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue!'

                                                ... so we all learned at school.

'Eye of the Wind' has been invited to join 'Søren Larsen' and possibly 'Young Endeavour' on an historical voyage to Europe via Cape Horn. We will then join what has been quoted to be 'the largest gathering of sailing ships this century to commemorate Columbus' epic voyage to the New World'.

The Cape Horn passage will be the first Cape Horn rounding by British square-riggers since the late 1930's.

Eye of the Wind stamp of Falkland IslandsDeparture date ex Sydney is planned for 6 October 1991. The voyage will then continue via Auckland - Montevideo via Cape Horn and the Falklands - Antigua via Brazil and the Caribbean - UK via Bahamas, Bermuda and the Azores.

The sections for the re-enactment voyage are as follows:

Cadiz to Tenerife
Tenerife to Puerto Rica
Puerto Rica to New York
New York to Boston
Boston to Liverpool

Ending in August 1992. This will be a mammoth undertaking for private vessels and a feasibility study is being made to find sponsorship and participants for each of the legs.

At this point everything is in the planning stage, and our proposed 1991 cruising schedule has been planned around this event becoming reality.

We consider this to be a very exciting expedition for the ship.

Eye of the Wind, painting by Bill Mearns

OTHER

Prints of Bill Mearns' magnificent painting of 'Eye of the Wind' are still available from the office. $35.00 plus p&p $5.00
Also Letter Cards of high quality linen with Bill Mearns' painting printed on the front. $2.00 each including envelope
Post Cards are always available $1.00 each

T-Shirts from the Pitcairn voyage, in black only, will be available soon. Navy blue T-Shirts will also be available soon.

 

 

© photographs Greg Aldis and Eric Huffey


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