29th January 2002
We serviced with the Santa Isobel today, taking three crew off along with a few parcels and supplies. Then, this afternoon the long awaited final trawl came.
I was wondering around the factory extracting otoliths and cutting up fish when the order to heave up came over the tannoy. It was almost dinner time and I wasn’t wearing warm gear so debated whether to watch the haul or not. I decided that I would. After the haul came up I went up to the bridge to defrost a while before dinner. The captain told me that that was the last haul and we’d start steaming back straight away (I think he had an attack of the nerves because a spotter plane flew over earlier). He’d previously told me that on the last haul it was traditional for the captain to give a speech thanking the crew for all of their hard work during the trip. I’d kind of been looking forward to that; marking a milestone event in the trip. I was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t, in fact I was the first to find out other than the Mate. As we spoke the crew were below processing fishing oblivious to the exciting news. I asked when he would tell the crew and his reply was “Fuck the crew, they will find out when they see we are steaming off”. I was disappointed and disgusted.
Happily, by the time I got down to the factory again after dinner the crew had been told, and they were all happy and singing songs while they worked. So all’s well that ends well.
When I first came on board there was no tea at all and I was forced to sustain my caffeine addiction with lethally potent coffee which gave me the shakes. I was talking to the Chief Engineer one day saying how much I miss tea when he said that there is some on board, if only I had asked. So I was delighted when the Baz told me he’d bring some from the stores. The tea took a couple of days to surface from the depths of the ship, and to my great disappointment I found that it was herbal tea. It was better than nothing so I supped my way through two boxes of it. Suddenly, one very fine and memorable day, there appeared a box of proper tea. I was delighted and made myself a cup with great anticipation. Again I was disapointed; the bag hardly coloured the milky water. It is the kind of weak wish-washy tea you get in hotels abroad. I drank it anyway but still couldn’t wait for a proper tea bag to arrive with my parcels. So can you imagine then how it felt to see a cup of ginger tea and swill it down with chocolate? Bliss.
Anyway, I now have more tea than I can possibly drink for the remainder of the trip so when we serviced with the Santa Isobel this morning I sent over a package of tea and sweets and some remaining books for the observer onboard – Lydia. I had a long chat to Lydia tonight over the radio, she was grateful and we spoke mostly about tea. Watching from space somebody might wonder what these parcels which are swapped from ship to ship might contain, and if they were to then listen to our conversations over the radio they would think there was something much more intoxicating and illegal than just tea, but I’m telling you, there’s nothing more rock and roll than a cup of tea.
The autopilot packed in completely again tonight, if only it could hold out for another week! This necessitated a constant supply of helmsmen and I was glad to have a go myself just before midnight. It’s one of those things that is very easy providing you don’t think about it too much. I was going along grand checking the gyroscope and helm indicator to see how much rudder I needed. I kept exactly on course until Miguel rather uncharacteristically praised me for doing so well. Of course no sooner had he said that it all went to hell and I veered off course, but managed to get back fairly quick.
It’s quite a feeling knowing we are sailing home and feeling inspired I wrote a poem:
I’m coming home to the place I belong,
I’m coming back to what I’ve known for so long.
The rainy fresh smell of fallen leaves,
And the salty stinging tears; the sea breeze.
Familiar faces with stories to each,
That only I know and never will speak.
I sailed across the Atlantic, I know it so well,
Every storm, every weather, every Atlantic swell.
Some sights and experiences I will bring back,
And carry, para siempre, around on my back.
Of weather and sea creatures the scale I’ve not seen,
Raging hurricanes and sperm whales always serene.
With time and experience my stories will grow,
For what is a life if there’s nobody to tell?
Like a sapling now and later a tree,
A good tale grows tall and becomes part of me.
A lifetime is an album of stories to tell,
To children and grandchildren if all being well.
A landscape of memories is waiting for me,
Of beaches and countryside; my history.