My old friend, Warwick Thomson, has done a firstclass job in recording his reminiscences of his time on board the replica sailing ship Endeavour as set out in his story entitled “Clews, Bunts and Reefs” which featured in the February 2018 edition of Sea Breezes.
My own time in the vessel occurred some weeks before Warwick’s and resulted from another friend asking me for a couple of size fourteen sail needles. At the time, the Endeavour was berthed here in my home port of Tauranga. It seemed as though it was not just the needles that were wanted because that same evening, I received a telephone call asking me whether I would like to do some canvas repairs on board. A couple of pleasant days then ensued.
The next morning while stitching away, the ship’s Master, Captain Christopher Blake, (a former British India man) stopped by for a yarn. In learning of my own brief time in square rigged vessels, he then asked me whether I would like to accompany them on the sea passage from Auckland to Gisborne. Needless to say, I didn’t have to be asked twice. Having accepted the kind offer, I was informed that I would be in charge of the 8-12 watch on deck and that I would be known on board as the navigator.
I, therefore, joined the ship in Auckland and was informed that we should be sailing that same evening. On coming on watch the next morning, it was to find that we were trying to make Easting against a force five wind. When hard on the wind, it was possible to glance aloft and see that the leaches of the square sails made a slight spiral with the upper yards braced in further than the lower ones. Or, in other words, the angle between the upper yards and the keel was less than that made by the lower yards. The bracing of the yards on each of the three masts was also different, but, unfortunately, I failed to note what this was. I did, however, notice that the angle made by the spanker boom with the keel was about the same as that made by the main yard. Perhaps a sailing ship enthusiast might like to comment on these points.
At the end of each board it was a case of ‘all hands on deck’ to wear ship. I never saw the Endeavour change tacks by going about and putting her head through the wind. That is to say, she always wore and never tacked. Whilst up for my certificates, we were taught that a square rigger could, at very best, only sail to within six points of the wind. In the Endeavour’s case, this appeared to be about right. However, she seemed to lose another point or so due to leeway, consequently, she was only making good a course to within about seven points of the wind.
Throughout the four hours of my watch, we appeared to make very little progress to windward. I am now able to understand why, way back, coastal sailing craft tended to spend so much time at anchor or alongside whilst waiting for a ‘favourable slant’ to help them on their way.
A particularly enjoyable part of our trip down to Gisborne was when we hove-to in the lee of White Island in the Eastern Bay of Plenty region. This is New Zealand’s only active volcano and the swimmers commented that the water was noticeably warmer than it was in Auckland Harbour.
The three days passage from Auckland to Gisborne was really gratifying. We received a civic welcome on arrival. No doubt because it is the nearest populated place to where Captain James Cook and the original Endeavour made their New Zealand landfall way back in 1769. Speaking personally, it was good to see Gisborne again since some years previously I had been a harbour pilot there.
Tauranga, New Zealand