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A Sailor's Log - Duyfken PDF Print E-mail
Alexandra Pinkham (Deckhand) recently set sail aboard Duyfken as it sails from Sydney to Fremantle. Read her story as it happens here. 


Alex's blog 21 August (the last one!)

It's been another busy day aboard Duyfken - having finished all the repairs
to the fore tops'l we raised the fore tops'l yard this morning (an 'all
hands' job) and got the fore mast and yards looking ship shape again.  There
was lots of oiling to be done as well as some of the timbers were in need of
a good drink.  There was also a fair bit of shopping to do as our new cook,
Paula, came aboard last night and had to get all of the stores in order.  We
were lucky enough to be able to get a lift from the jetty to the ship on a
port authority vessel, so the seven trolley loads of food got back to the
ship intact!

We'll have a few new crew members coming aboard tomorrow and then it's off
to Geraldton on Thursday.  I'll be leaving the ship tomorrow morning to head
back to Sydney.  Although I'm looking forward to sleeping in a proper bead
and catching up on the news I've missed while I've been away, I'll be sad to
leave Duyfken.  It's been an absolutely fantastic experience and if I had
the chance to do it all over again, I'd jump at it.  There are millions of
places you can visit on land where you'll see some pretty fantastic sights,
but after the last four weeks I can safely say that nothing compares to an
adventure on the high seas.  Waking up every morning and seeing nothing but
ocean as far as the eye can see is a unique experience and I'm happy to
report that Duyfken is well and truly keeping up the tradition of the
'romance of the sea'.  The Age of Sail may have passed, but no-one told the
crew of Duyfken!  As I sign off for the last time, I'd like to take the
opportunity to thank all of my fellow crew members and especially our
skipper, Matthew, who has done a terrific job getting the crew and the ship
all this way.  To the Duyfken and her crew I wish fair winds and happy
sailing all the way to Fremantle - it's been an absolute blast!

Alex Pinkham 



We've had a very busy couple of days moored in Port Hedland harbour - the
fore tops'l yard has been brought down completely for some maintenance and
there has also been some work done on the main yard at deck level.  We've
also had a few crew members come and go, with a few leaving us in Port
Hedland and a few new deck hands and a cook coming aboard over the next
couple of days.  I speak from experience when I say it's been nice to get
ashore for a day - tall ship sailing is great fun, but there's nothing like
getting ashore and having a shower where you don't have to hang on to
anything to stay upright!  Port Hedland is mainly an industrial town, but
there's still plenty of sights to see, and a few of us went in to town today
and stopped off at the Port Hedland Seafarers Centre, now that we're
officially 'seafarers'!  It was only today when motoring away from Duyfken
in the inflatable, and seeing it alongside all the huge bulk carriers that I
realised just how little the 'Little Dove' really is!  We've still got a bit
of maintenance to do aboard over the next couple of days and there has been
plenty of runs back and forth to the public jetty to load up the inflatable
with food stores, but we're getting there - next stop, Geraldton!

Alex Pinkham 



The wind that had blown fair for us for most of yesterday dropped off in the
early afternoon and although it would have been nice to sail all the way
into Port Hedland, it was not to be and we motored the last few miles.  We
anchored outside the harbour at about 1930 yesterday evening, with the
lights of Port Hedland tantalisingly close.  Having weighed anchor at about
0530 this morning we motored into the harbour, past dozens of huge bulk
carriers, and found our way to our mooring buoy.  It's a bit intimidating
being moored near all of these enormous carriers (some around 300 metres
long) and we've certainly been creating a bit of interest with the locals,
with boats coming past to check us out all day.

We were visited this morning by a group of naval cadets from TS Pilbara, who
came aboard for a couple of hours and were given a tour of the ship.  They
also gave us a hand to hoist our bosun Andrew up into the rigging where he
was end-for-ending the fore course and tops'l braces!  I've mentioned before
that our cook John has been doing a magnificent job, but the jam and cream
filled cupcakes that one of the cadets made for morning tea would give him a
run for his money!

We've had a couple of crew members pay off already and there are a few more
(including myself) who will be leaving the ship in Port Hedland over the
next few days.  We'll be able to come along side the wharf for a few hours
on Tuesday but apart from that all of our runs in to shore will be done via
our small tender.  The crew are all looking forward to getting ashore for a
day or so and checking out Port Hedland before sailing on to Geraldton later
in the week.

Alex Pinkham



We had a few bouts of decent breeze during the night and early this morning
a fair wind picked up and we've been doing a good 4-4.5 knots since
breakfast time.  Our estimate of arriving in Port Hedland tomorrow night has
been revised and if the wind keeps up we expect to arrive sometime this
evening.  We're only about 20 miles from Port Hedland at the moment and
we've had a busy morning looking out for bulk carriers.  We're about to pass
by the anchorage for carriers before they enter port so there are lots of
other vessels to be seen - and they're all a lot bigger than us!  The bulk
carrier that was bearing down on us at breakfast time was a 'Cape Class'
vessel with a length of 300 metres (Duyfken is just under 22).

We've also had a busy morning of whale watching with groups of humpbacks all
around the ship, and some very close by.  If you'll excuse the pun, they
seem to be having a whale of a time, and have spent the morning shooting out
of the water and splashing down again - we've even observed a couple of them
trying their fins at what looks a bit like backstroke!  We're hoping that
the wind holds until this evening so that we can sail as far in to Port
Hedland as we can before we drop anchor - here's to some great sailing!

Alex Pinkham



Despite not having much breeze with us for most of the day, it's been
another productive day aboard Duyfken.  The main yard was lowered to deck
level before lunch for some maintenance and then hoisted back up in the
afternoon.  We were able to catch a light breeze in the afternoon and we've
also passed another milestone in our journey to Port Hedland - we're on to
the last chart!  It's encouraging to be able to look at our position on the
same chart see 'Port Hedland' in bold type.  
We are expecting to reach Port Hedland on the afternoon of the 18th, so it's
not long to go now.

As far as wildlife is concerned, we're still spotting the occasional
jellyfish floating past the ship and some crew have seen jellies the size of
basketballs!  We also, rather ominously, had two sharks circling the ship
for a couple of hours this afternoon, but as long as they're "down there"
and we're "up here" I don't think we need to worry!  One of the fishing
lines that has been dropped over the side for much of the voyage came good
the other day and we had fresh fish for dinner, but apart from that it's
been a quiet leg as far as fishing goes.  We've had radio contact with a
nearby ship today and as we get closer to Port Hedland we're expecting more
marine traffic.  For a city-slicker like me it's been a novel experience not
to see any other "'commuters" for such a long time, but I can't say I'm
looking forward to getting back into peak-hour...!

Alex Pinkham 


The breeze that we had with us yesterday kept blowing until well into the
evening last night - a nice change, as for the last few weeks the pattern
has been for the wind to drop off by mid-afternoon and not pick up again
until the early morning.  We've had a slower day today with only a little
breeze but once again the calm weather has allowed for some ship maintenance
and our bosun Andrew and leading hand Dave have been up on the main mast
cross trees doing some work for the last hour or so.  Although we're only
moving quite slowly at the moment, we have cracked the '100 miles to go'
mark and are now just over 85 miles from Port Hedland.  I think I could
count on my fingers the number of other vessels we've sighted over the last
two weeks, but as we get closer to Port Hedland we'll expect to see a lot
more traffic.  Duyfken looks a bit like a model boat alongside some of the
big iron ore ships that come out of Port Hedland, so whoever is on lookout
at any given time needs to keep a sharp eye out for traffic.  You can never
have too many lookouts at sea, although we do have the advantage of a VHF
radio, modern radar and AIS to help us track other vessels, something I
doubt the original Duyfken would have had...!

Alex Pinkham




We've had a steady day of sailing today, with a good breeze arriving at
around 0500 and staying with us until late into the afternoon.  We've been
averaging about 3 - 3.5 knots all day so although we haven't been rocketing
along, we've kept up a good pace and, as one crew member pointed out, 'slow
and steady wins the race'.  We've now got only 100 miles to go before we
reach Port Hedland and 5 days in which to get there.  We spotted a white
glow on the horizon last night and there was some conjecture as to whether
it was a town or a mining operation (a UFO was also suggested) but after a
look at the chart and much discussion we're still undecided.

It's also been another big day as far as the local wildlife is concerned.
Since breakfast time we've been sailing through a huge swarm of jelly fish,
red-orange in colour and pretty large.  A few of the crew have tried putting
a video camera over the side to film them but it remains to be seen whether
they've got any good footage.  We also had a visit from some dolphins, and
Port watch had our closest encounter with a humpback whale yet, with one
passing no more than 20 metres by our port side this afternoon.  Having seen
whales almost every day for the last couple of weeks, we're feeling pretty
lucky - it's one thing to watch television documentaries about humpbacks but
to see them in the wild is something special.

Alex Pinkham 


We've had a very busy night with the south-easter picking up again at around
midnight and staying with us for the whole morning and into the afternoon.
We've been making around 5-6 knots all morning and have managed about 27
miles since breakfast.  Having spent so much time a couple of weeks ago
bobbing about on the same chart for days on end, we are now going through
charts like it's going out of fashion!  Our current chart is the penultimate
one for this leg - the next one has Port Hedland on it.  Our cook, John, has
been doing a magnificent job but even his culinary delights can't stop some
of the crew salivating over what their first meal will be when we get to
Port Hedland.  Some hands are dreaming of rump steaks, others of lamb
cutlets, and still others of double cheeseburgers and a good cup of coffee
(although we have broken into the Nescafe Instant this week, so things
aren't so bad in that department...).  The crew are all well and glad to be
sailing again, and although we've still got a bit of swell with us the
arrival of our long-awaited fair wind has everyone in good spirits.

Alex Pinkham 



We've had a really good day of sailing as the wind we've been expecting from
the south-east finally arrived in the early hours of this morning and up
until lunch time we were averaging around 5-6 knots.  The wind has died down
significantly this afternoon but it's forecast to pick up again and should
stay with us until early Tuesday.  We're still heading south-west and won't
start to beat back eastwards until we get closer to Port Hedland.  We should
pass by Broome sometime tonight or early tomorrow morning.  We've had
another couple of close encounters with whales today, with 2 or 3 of them
passing close by our port side just as the sun was coming up this morning.
The stronger wind has brought the swell with it and we've been doing a bit
of rolling and pitching so whilst those of us sleeping in hammocks are doing
alright, some of the crew sleeping on mattresses on the bricks in the hold
have been doing more sliding around than sleeping!

Alex Pinkham




The south-easterly Force 4 that we've been expecting arrived this morning

and for most of the day we made an average speed of around 4-6 knots, so
it's been a great day of sailing.  The wind died down in the late afternoon
but it's forecast to pick up again overnight and continue until Monday
morning, so the crew are looking forward to another couple of days of fair
wind.  We've had numerous whale sightings over the last few days and
although they've been pretty far off, the sight of the big humpbacks
launching themselves almost completely out of the water and splashing back
down has been pretty spectacular.  The fair wind has given some of the new
hands some experience setting and furling the sprits'l and the mizzen, in
addition to the 'usual' forecourse and tops'l and maincourse and main
tops'l.  All in all, another great day of sailing - bring on that

Alex Pinkham



We've had a pretty reasonable day of sailing today, with a fair wind for
most of the morning and some of the afternoon.  We're expecting a
south-easterly of 15-20 knots to blow for most of Saturday, Sunday and
Monday morning, and after the last week and a half of not much wind at all
the crew are looking forward to making some serious headway.  Some of the
crew took another dip in the ocean early this morning, with the poop deck
the favourite launching pad for some pretty unusual diving techniques...
With the wind blowing fair this afternoon a few of us were able to take a
trick at the helm while sailing full and by.  So far on this leg we've been
steering a compass course only, so this was a great opportunity to learn how
to work at the helm while under 'full sail and by the wind'.  The helmsman
or woman has to keep an eye on the main topsail and try to steer as close to
the wind as possible without losing it.  If you're too close or too far off
the wind, the topsail begin  to luff.  Who knows, if the wind we're
expecting turns up and blows fair, we may be sailing full and by more often!

Alex Pinkham




 We've had another good day of sailing with a reasonable sea breeze staying

with us for most of the day.  Breakfast was briefly interrupted by a visit
from two humpback whales only about 50 metres off the port side - the
closest encounter we've had yet.  It's been a big day for the local
wildlife, altogether, as we've also had a small sea bird on board for the
whole day.  Sadly our feathered friend didn't make it and he was given a
burial at sea late this afternoon.  He had been looking poorly for most of
the day, so although it was a sad occasion for some of the crew, who had
become quite attached to him, his passing wasn't much of a shock.

Dave, one of the leading hands, has been doing a spot of fishing this trip
and today he had his first catch - a small shark.  The shark was hauled up
on deck and we took a few photos before throwing it back.  It was suggested
that Dave might like to kiss it before throwing it overboard, but for
obvious reasons, he declined (even a small shark, after all, is still a
shark!).  The wind has dropped off a little this evening but we're making
good, if slow, progress towards Port Hedland.

Alex Pinkham



We've had a good breeze for most of today and have been doing some good
sailing - not always in the right direction, but hey, that's tall ship
sailing for you!  Having spent the last week or so on one corner of the same
chart, we crossed 'the magic line' this morning and can start plotting our
position on a new chart - it was such an exciting moment that we broke out
the air horn and some crew members were even seen dancing on the deck...

To cap off today's excitement we've just had a mammoth game of trivia.  Each
crew member nominated a specialist subject and wrote 5 questions, and the
crew were then divided into three teams.  The whole game took just over 2
hours (including wearing ship twice!) and in the end it was the captain's
team ('The Clever-Dicks') that came out on top.  (Of course, no one would
say out loud that we secretly let him win - I for one don't want to walk the
plank!)  Our specialist subjects included everything from polar exploration,
recreational aviation, and European geography to jazz, ska, and classical
music, and of course, there were a few tall ship-related questions thrown in
for good measure.  Stay tuned for more trivia madness!

Alex Pinkham




We had a decent breeze for much of this morning but by 1500 or so it had
dropped off almost completely.  The good news is that it's taken us little
further south-west, the direction we need to head in to clear Adele Island.
The calm weather has given the crew the opportunity to do some more
painting, and even our twin Mercury busts are getting a fresh coat of paint
in readiness for our next stay in port (an unfortunate incident in which one
of them was knocked overboard means we don't sail with them on the bow
anymore!), although the suggestion that they should both receive a goatee as
well has, sadly, been knocked back.  The wind that we've been expecting for
the last few days still hasn't arrived but the general consensus is that it
can't be far off now - everybody can 'feel it in their waters'!  Our cook,
John, has been doing his bit to keep the crew happy, whipping up a delicious
apple crumble for dessert last night (with custard, too!).

Alex Pinkham




The wind picked up a little early this morning so we wore ship and we've had
a nice breeze taking us south west all morning.  The wind hasn't been as
strong as we'd like but it's been fairly consistent so far.  The relatively
calm sea has also provided us with a good opportunity to get some more
painting done.  A ship was sighted during the 0000-0400 watch this morning -
it caused quite a stir as it was the first other vessel we've seen out here
for a number of days.

We've been trying to round Adele Island and the breeze we picked up this
morning has been a welcome change, as we've spent the last few days with
very little wind and not making a lot of way.  It's been frustrating to see
us make some progress in the right direction, only to be taken back the
other way by the tide and currents when the wind drops off, but the ship's
company are all in good spirits and keeping busy.

Alex Pinkham




Another calm day at sea for the Duyfken and her crew.  We had a man
overboard drill this morning just after breakfast and then, as we were
practically becalmed, the crew were able to jump over the side for a swim
(with one crew member still on board detailed as shark lookout!).  We're
expecting a stronger wind to spring up within the next few days and some of
the crew have opened up a sweep betting on wind direction, time of arrival,
and how long it will blow.  The bets are many and varied with some
optimistic punters betting the wind (Force 4 or above) will arrive at
midnight tonight, and others opting for a later arrival.  Most of the crew
have decided it will come from a point between East and South, but our
Second Mate, Darbey, has gone out on a limb and said it will be a
nor'easterly - only time will tell!

P.S. For those wondering how the captain's birthday cake went last night,
the answer is: very quickly!

Alex Pinkham 



The wind picked up early this morning and we got some great sailing in
before lunch.  We wore ship this afternoon and are now heading in not quite
the right direction, but we've still got the wind so all is well - we've
even set the lateen on the mizzen mast for the first time on this leg.  We
had a fly past from a Maritime Authority aircraft just after lunch and they
have agreed to send us some of the photos they took as they went over.
Today is our captain Matthew's birthday so the crew mustered before
breakfast this morning to sing happy birthday, and in addition to our usual
fare John has been tasked with whipping up a birthday cake for later on this

Port watch have been busy this morning sanding back and adding primer to
some of the paint work on the bow and later on this afternoon starboard
watch will give it a fresh coat of paint to keep the ship looking spick and
span.  There's never a dull moment aboard Duyfken!

Alex Pinkham 



We've had another day with not much wind to speak of but spirits are high on
board.  Our stopover in Broome is looking less and less likely every day
that we are without a good strong wind and we may end up sailing straight to
Port Hedland, as originally intended.  Port watch were treated to a
beautiful sight this morning as the sun rose on the starboard side while the
moon set on the port side.  There was another whale sighting and we also had
a couple of sea snakes swimming by the ship this afternoon.

Our cook, John, has been whipping up some pretty spectacular dishes, given
that the galley is only big enough to walk into, turn around and walk out of
again!  We've been warned that towards the end of our voyage things might be
a little less gourmet than at present, but our menu so far has included
Irish stew, curries, bangers and mash, sausage hot pot, apple pancakes and
plenty of fresh fruit with breakfast.  Our bought bread supplies didn't last
very long (and anyone who would like to do a supply drop of peanut butter
would be warmly welcomed!) so John has been baking bread for the last couple
of days.  We're quickly learning that there's nothing like bread straight
out of the oven to keep you going for a day's sailing!

Alex Pinkham 



The main topsail and topsail yard have been hoisted back into place today,
as has the main course, which had also been brought down to deck level for
maintenance.  There's still not a huge amount of wind to be spoken of but
the breeze picked up a little this afternoon and we were able to set all
sails but the lateen and make about 4 knots for most of the afternoon.  We
had another visit from a couple of whales after lunch, although they were
much further off than yesterday.

As usual, our day began with the morning deck wash, an integral part of tall
ship sailing.  The deck wash not only cleans the deck but also helps to plug
any leaks in the timber.  Our bosun, Andrew, did some caulking on the main
deck before we left Darwin but there's only so many gaps that pitch can plug
up.  Wetting the deck with sea water every day helps the timber to expand
and puts a stop to most minor leakages - the more often the deck is soaked,
the more the timber expands and the less likely it is for small leaks to
open up.  It's a tense moment for the off watch below deck though, as you're
never sure whether Niagara Falls is about to open up over your hammock!

Alex Pinkham 



The sou'easterly that has seen us flying along for the last few days has
died down considerably overnight and the swell has also abated.  Trying to
keep a steady course has become quite difficult this evening as the wind is
trying to push us one way but the tide is taking us the other way.  We
snagged a good sea breeze this morning at around 0400 that had us making
about 4 - 5 knots, so hopefully we'll have some more of that soon!

Although there wasn't much wind about today, there was lots of activity on
deck as we brought the main topsail and topsail yard down to deck level for
some repairs.  Port watch were also lucky enough to be visited by a couple
of humpback whales this afternoon, who swam past our port side about 100
metres away and then disappeared into the distance.  We've had dolphin and
shark sightings but this is the first whale sighting we've had so far.
We're keeping an eye out for more of them as we round the West Australian
coast, as there should be some more of them about at this time of the year.

Alex Pinkham 



We've been making such great progress towards Port Hedland that it looks
like we may even arrive early, so Matthew has decided that we'll stop in at
Broome en route and anchor there for a few days.  Meanwhile, the weather is
fine and the sailing has been great so the crew are all in high spirits.

Both the swell and the wind have continued to ease as we head down the West
Australian coast and a few of the crew have taken the opportunity to have a
climb in the rigging now that we're not battling such high seas.  Our
two-watch system is working nicely and the new hands have settled in well.
One of the skills that the new hands have been getting used to is steering
the ship.  Duyfken uses a very simple but effective steering system: the
helmsman (or woman) stands in the main cabin and uses the whipstaff to
control the tiller, which in turn moves the rudder.  During the last couple
of days while we've had a big swell, the helmsmen has had their work cut out
for them with each big wave threatening to push the ship off course and
making operating the whipstaff a real work out - why purchase a gym
membership when you can sail on Duyfken?!  It might be hard going sometimes,
but the skills you acquire while sailing a tall ship are pretty unique -
after all, not everybody can s ay they've helmed a replica of a 400-year-old
sailing ship hundreds of miles off the Australian coast!

Alex Pinkham



For the last 48 hours the off watch has been lulled to sleep by the sound of
creaking hammocks and waves dashing against the side of the ship (and awoken
by the sound of loose pots crashing around the galley after a particularly
large wave!) but the wind began to ease off a bit last night and the swell
has also begun to lessen.  I've just had the Port Officer Of the Watch,
Darby, explain that the reason we've been experiencing such a big swell is
due to a process called 'fetch', which is the term for the distance wind
needs to travel over water before it makes waves.  After leaving Darwin we
sailed a long way out to sea before wearing ship and beginning our westward
course to Port Hedland.  This meant that once we started sailing on our new
course we had to sail across the mouth of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, a huge
expanse of water.  The wind that we've been sailing with for the last couple
of days has been coming more or less from the south east, so before it
reaches us it has all of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf to come across - and plenty
of sea to make waves on!  

Continuing on our present course, we should be nearing Penguin Deep in
around 5 hours and from then on we'll have a leeward shore fairly close by.
Despite the rolling, the last 24 hours have seen us do some great sailing
and our captain, Matthew, is happy with our progress so far.  Starboard
watch had a visit yesterday afternoon from HMAS Glenelg, who requested
permission to pass by our starboard and then our port side so that their
crew could get some photos of Duyfken.  With the main and fore courses and
topsails set, and the setting sun in the background, we were no doubt
looking very photogenic!

Alex Pinkham 


On its way from Sydney to Fremantle, the Duyfken has just left Darwin and is
on its way to its next port of call, Port Hedland.  Open to the public for a
few days in Darwin, the Duyfken received a few hundred visitors on board
during her stay in the NT capital and proved to be very popular with locals
and tourists alike.  A number of the volunteer crew from the Weipa-Darwin
leg were disembarking in Darwin and over the course of her stay we had a
changeover of almost half the crew.  The new hands (the author included)
settled in pretty quickly and had a crash course in the ship's history,
before leading tours of the ship (in 'museum mode') in port.  Having stowed
all our gear and stores on board we cast off at 0900 on Thursday morning and
motored around to Fisherman's Wharf to refuel, heading out of Port of Darwin
at 1100.  Our first day at sea was fairly easy-going with not much wind
until the evening, which allowed the crew to adjust (or re-adjust) to life
at sea.  

Duyfken runs on a two-watch 'Swedish' system, with watches of between 4 and
6 hours.  For the new crew members, many of whom are new to tall ship
sailing, the watch system has taken some getting used to - learning to kip
while you can has been easier for some than for others!  The new hands have
also had some practice runs going aloft while we've had calm weather,
although we haven't been required to go aloft 'for real' yet, as most of the
Duyfken's sail handling can be done at deck level.

The lack of wind for our first day and a half at sea had some of the crew
yearning for a bit of action which, of course, we then got in spades.
Starboard watch had managed to catch a decent breeze by about 2200 on Friday
night and had all sails set except the lateen.  By the time Port watch were
half-way through their 0000-0400 watch the wind had come up quite a lot and
we were making a respectable 5 knots.  We continued to make good way,
reaching a top speed of about 7 knots (and even in the right direction!) but
by 0400 it became clear we had too much sail out and would need all hands on
deck to take in some sail.  There followed a hectic hour in which the whole
crew battled strong winds and an increasingly large swell, getting
everything ship shape just after 0500.  Port watch were dismissed for some
much-needed shut-eye while starboard watch stayed on for another three hours
of very hard work!  A stint below deck in some substantial swell has left
some of the crew a bit worse for wear and the debate as to whether you are
more likely to suffer sea sickness sleeping on the deck of the main hold or
in a hammock rages.  (There have also been some rather unorthodox
suggestions for sea sickness cures - we'll keep you posted...)

As I write this we're still rolling around in a fairly stiff breeze and the
swell has eased only a little, but we're making good headway and although
some of us are feeling a little less than our best, everyone is in good
spirits and glad to finally be doing some sailing.

Alexandra Pinkham (Deckhand)

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