Arrived in Rio at 1715 today.
Welcome to day 56 of the Voyage. I know that I said last night was the final Log for this voyage but I was wrong!! . I was reminded by the lovely Fiona that she had put together the final Lof for the voyage and how could I deprive her of that. She is not only a fantastic person, amazing cook but also a very talented writer. Please enjoy the final log for this voyage beautifully writen by Fiona. Thanks Fi!!
Captain’s Log, Saturday 14 February 2015: When my baby smiles at me, I go to Rio.
Late this afternoon we reached our final destination in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with sweaty brows, truckie tans and a lifetime of “when I sailed to Brazil” stories tucked away for just the right conversational segues. The end of any long ocean passage is a time for reflection and deep introspection, but never more so than on this long awaited, but bittersweet occasion.
If one were to sit down and ask Young Endeavour’s twelve thousand or so alumni what they took away with them from their eleven day voyages, the collective response would tell a tale of empowering, path-altering and life-affirming lessons. Destinies have been rewritten within these forty-four metres of teak and steel; for some through the formation of lifelong friendships or the opportunity to challenge physical and mental limits, and for others it is has been the realisation (perhaps for the first time) that they are both a valuable and valued member of a high-functioning team. Marriages, children and major career decisions—including taking the plunge to join the Navy and the Young Endeavour Staff Crew itself—have been just a few of the Young Endeavour forks in the road.
When we consider the long-lasting impact of our original eleven day voyages, and multiply that out to fifty-five days and a Southern Ocean passage, we begin to dig a little deeper into the reasons Young Endeavour holds such a significant place in the hearts of so many young Australians. The journey doesn’t end with leadership, self-esteem, accountability and teamwork; through the dark, cold nights and beautiful bright sunsets of the Southern, South Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, this vessel and its crew have imparted to us lessons that go far beyond the self-actualising power of conquering the Topgallant.
For posterity, and for the benefit of our friends and families at home seeking to better understand the somehow altered, sunburned zombies with imminent homeward journeys, included herein are just some of those esoteric life lessons, growth observations and anecdotes of our learning aboard this old girl over the last two months…
On a practical level, we have collectively increased our sail handling skills and understandings of day-to-day ship management by a margin of around three thousand per cent. We have shadowed and taken on the roles of our mentors in the capacities of Captain, Sail Master, Navigators, Officers of the Watch, Watch Leaders, Chefs, Engineers and a range of other important roles. We have been cheered along, coached, listened to, nurtured and fostered; these factors, a pinch of tough love and the high level of trust placed in us by the Royal Australian Navy crew have been critical ingredients for us in making the transition between a motley crew of strangers and a tight team of friends. Importantly, we have also learned there are ways to tack the ship and set a jib that do not involve waking the entire crew in the middle of the night. Needless to say, when we cast our mind back to the thirty-seven 3am wakey wakeys we gritted our teeth through on our original voyages, we were not very impressed with this revelation.
It turns out that for most of us, about eighty per cent of ocean sailing consists of heat regulation (sometimes extreme heating, sometimes extreme cooling) and heat or cold injury avoidance. The remaining twenty per cent cumulatively consists of fatigue management (daytime nap capability assessments), understanding the weather and wind, speed eating, double duffing, airing things out to avoid stench accumulation, stealthy slip recovery techniques, shower stabilisation, breaking stuff, fixing stuff, dad jokes, sail handling, navigating and helming. The exception to this rule is Karri. He is either part polar bear, not of sound mind, or (more likely) a combination of both. Regardless, we envy his lunatic polar abilities… but I still maintain that helm dancing is a perfectly legitimate heat retention strategy.
Matt has given us a lesson or two in interpretive helm dancing along the way, but his mad skills extend far beyond his busting of grooves. So many of us have taken away a virtual bibliotechque of knowledge from Matt’s mind, and we thank him for sharing so much of his experience with us. Also, we are convinced he has missed his calling as a singer and encourage him to pursue his X-Factor audition dreams.
We have also learned the apparent duration of the twenty-five minutes that exist between shakes and the commencement of your watch varies according to whether you’re on deck waiting to be relived, or below deck struggling to layer-up and conquer the harness of extreme inflexibility. The general rule of thumb is that the apparent time lapses at half-speed when you’re waiting to be relieved. If the weather is particularly cold or wet, the duration of this waiting period increases by an additional forty per cent. This results in apparent watch-relief waiting periods of more than an hour during storms and cyclonic winds, which is both pleasant and character building.
Our ever-rotating watch leaders and their charges—Jodie, Taffy, Sandy, Lauren, Shaun, Aaron, Tenille and Kenny—have been instrumental in fostering our love of sailing, our safety at sea and our ongoing motivation when the times were rough. They have shared their war stories, dished out the hugs and given us a boot in the behind when we needed it most. We are in awe of your resilience, wisdom and wealth of knowledge. It is no mean feat to keep 24 youth crew of diverse ages, interests and backgrounds happy, healthy and fed for a passage of this length. You should all be extremely proud of the role models you are.
The paradox of feeling as though you have done nothing but sleep, but somehow still have not achieved actual sleep, is a situation that many of us are yet to figure out. Many of the crew have experienced runs of wild, lucid dreams at different times throughout this passage—and for some, it is the vague memories of these unusual sequences that form the only evidence that sleep of some sort has occurred. We have also learned the true and confusing impact of nap regret—that is, the misjudgement that squeezing in that hour of rack time in between duties will somehow alleviate your fatigue level (she’s a cruel, cruel mistress). In spite of this, we have somehow managed to maintain overnight watch rotations (albeit including a number of well received stand-downs) for the (seemingly ever-increasing) duration of this journey. It is truly amazing how little sleep the human body really needs in order to function… alternatively, we may have in fact perished from fatigue some time ago and my theory that we are sailing a ghost ship is pretty close to the truth.
Our navigator and meteorologist Paige has taught us that we are, in fact, living the dream—winning. at. life. She is quite right here too; in the midst of working hard to keep the ship running, it is easy to forget that we have been afforded an opportunity that very few (if any) will ever be presented again. The experience that has become normalised for us through fifty-five days of watch-keeping and the ship’s routine is in actual fact unique, temporary and reserved for only thirty-six individuals on the face of the earth. Paige has also brought us up to speed with complex technical terminology such as the wind directions of “clacker” and “date”. We will be lost without you.
Lindsey has taught us a very important lesson in engineering, and one that we learned only after thirty long days of enduring the saga of the sticky shower curtains. The lesson is: bother him immediately when something breaks. You’ve made your own bed there Lindsey… expect satellite calls from Australia in the coming days and weeks.
An important lesson to be taken away from long periods at sea without landfall is that there is a point at which one will actually crawl over the corpses of one’s comrades for a sliver of canned pineapple or a scoop of steamed broccoli, carrots or cauliflower (once hot, now stone cold). (The answer is day 22 of a Southern Ocean passage, in the midst of food rationing, with still more than a week to go). The lesson within this lesson? You will never understand the true value of fruit and vegetables until they’re unavailable.
Seasickness reared its head with a furious force very early on in our adventure, and was indiscriminate about its victims. But what we have learned about this is: when you’re out of order, Zooper Doopers (icy poles) are the elixir of life itself. If the machines or zombies ever do rise up, this is what I’m stockpiling in my shelter. After more than two days of hugging the deck following our departure from Botany Bay in December, Taffy handed me one such gift from heaven. In that moment, I can distinctly recall thinking he was the demi-God of the sea. Salt water and seasickness makes you think crazy thoughts—obviously he’s really only a semi-demi-God. His work in teaching us whipping, splicing and mousing gets him a long way, but there’s still some work left to reach full demi-status.
We have also learned to open our elixirs without scissors or a cutting implement of any kind. It’s part art, part science, but mostly just sheer desperation for the goods inside.
Sail Master Kenny taught us very early on that we must never shoot the albatri. The bottom line is: nobody has time for the 16 page poetic fallout, wedding invitations and purgatory that follows.
Although it feels strange to commit this to text, it has become apparent that many of us did not think through the full reality of taking on the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn before we committed ourselves to this adventure. For some of us, it was simply the reality of wrapping up all the loose ends of our jobs or studies in time to set sail, for others it was the momentous task of getting every aspect of Young Endeavour herself ready in time for her departure, and the distraction and logistics of working towards the December 22 launch date in between Christmas engagements and other every-day life commitments. Fond memories of voyages-past, and a sort of blind confidence that we were inherently capable of achieving this feat were some of the other factors that clouded our pre-thought about this adventure.
In the process of physically and administratively preparing ourselves for December 22, many of us simply didn’t find the time to emotionally or mentally prepare ourselves (and our loved ones) for the passage ahead. The reality sunk in for some of us like a tonne of bricks, about a week out of Wellington, as the Chatham Islands faded over the horizon and the Antarctic chill hit the thermometer. The revelation for some came in the form of an unquenchable weariness and fascination with the simple pleasures of home: real coffee, a walk around the block or the always regrettable lure of the burritos from the food van down the road from our local pub. But if we had consciously taken stock of what keeping four-hour watch rotations for a month in the bitter cold and wet would truly feel like, I daresay many of us would have never entered the world voyage ballot in the first place. We are collectively pleased, relieved and grateful for our lack of foresight here, and are henceforth committed to not fully thinking through all future odysseys.
The Southern Ocean taught us loud and clear that hot water is equal to and possibly greater than happiness itself. You may never fully appreciate the co-dependent relationship between hot water and happiness until you have stood nude and shivering in a moving, stainless steel shower cubicle at 55 degrees of latitude and felt disappointment in ice cold liquid form. At 4am. The opposite is true once the mercury reaches 25 degrees, which brings us to our next observation…
Witnessing the ebbs and flows of the staff and crew’s morale over the course of the voyage has been something of a meteorological study. It is incredible to see how a few rays of sunlight warming the deck for the first time in weeks are able to pluck even the weariest sailor from their melancholy. These simple moments were transformative for us; they gave us hope that Ushuaia was a real destination, and that we were making real progress towards arriving on her shores. Once we began to sail north again, the two-hourly tea-wees, cold-induced sleeplessness and fifty-six layer dressing routines turned into on-deck pool parties, heat-induced deck sleep-overs and some pretty interesting tan lines with surprising velocity. This is what happiness truly looks like.
With this in mind, we have also learned that happiness and excitement can somehow exist in the same breath as uncertainty, discomfort and desperation. Most of us experienced this paradox to some degree, either personally or through observation, in the last stretch before our long overdue arrival in Argentina. The tipping point could be best characterised by the feeling that spilling your Milo is a disastrous, irrecoverable incident. You wonder for a moment whether it is possible to call in the helicopters. Ridiculous, right? Not when you haven’t seen land in three weeks and you’re uncomfortable, cold and fatigued in a way you didn’t know was possible.
Seeing happy faces around at this point is a unique kind of challenge; trying to reconcile within yourself how you could be reacting so differently in the face of the same obstacles is difficult thought to dismiss. But in that very same moment, you look to your left and there’s a shipmate mopping up your rogue brew. You look to your right and there’s another friendly face that has recognised the anguish in yours, and has already reached for a fresh cup on your behalf. Chances are these people were feeling this same weight yesterday, or will do tomorrow. The milk and teaspoon fairies do their thing and you’re suddenly restored to your pre-spill glory. This is the kind of teamwork you can’t learn from a textbook.
On a personal note, Chef Aaron has held an important mentorship role for me that has tangibly contributed my physical and mental voyage to Brazil. He has taught me to smile when the chips (or sausage rolls) were down, and how to plan, coordinate and cook 120 meals per day with that smile still in tact. My voyage experience would have been a very different without your sage counsel and advice about steamer times.
On that note - it must be said that he who controls the Milo and Nutella effectively controls the crew. We discovered very early on that the rationing of sugar in any form causes an immediate surge in Milo and Nutella consumption—I’m fairly sure the good folks in Ushuaia heard about our little supply/demand situation and adjusted their reprovision prices accordingly. That sure would explain the $145 per jar inflation rate.
While we’re on the topic of food: please just take my word for it that you should never have lemon-lime cordial and lemon-lime dishwashing detergent on the go at the same time: it’ll put you off cordial for life. Also remember: drink until you are no longer thirsty, and then a little bit more. But, do NOT force yourself to continue drinking once you have slaked your thirst. We thank the Royal Australian Navy for this heat injury avoidance advice, but we have absolutely no idea where the line is between no thirst and a true slake. Can anybody please clarify this? Have we been over-slaking?
In the midst of all the cold, wet and Milo drinking, we also learned the importance of taking care of our feet at sea. It sounds obvious in hindsight, but anything even remotely questionable multiplies very quickly under the extreme incubation powers of thermal socks. Also, we have unfortunately discovered that extreme cold followed by extreme heat results in extreme cankles. Special thanks to Lauren and Tenille for their medical advice in rectifying these blow-outs. All photographic evidence of this phenomenon is currently in the process of being destroyed.
As a crew we have struggled with mental and physical fatigue, the constant need to find more wind, knowing when (and when not) to sleep, trying to find our place in the group, monotony, being able to choose our own meals and mealtimes, restricted access to exercise, wifi rehab, maintaining our patience and understanding everyone’s point of view, the Saussaman, putting on a happy face when the going was tough, being cold and damp for extended periods—then being hot, sweaty and sunburned, living in close proximity with thirty-five other sailors, limited time in ports, missing our loved ones and the inability to reach out to our home-based support networks when we have needed them the most. But we have made ourselves proud by conquering the day-to-day operations of this ship, climbing in 40 knot winds, helming, secret eating, sail handling, forging new and trusted support networks, stepping well into our discomfort zones and putting in 110 per cent even when we only had 30 left in the tank.
Captain Gav has kept us on the straight and narrow for longer than any human should ever have to, through thick and thin and winds so unexpectedly low it was akin to sitting in a traffic jam by ourselves. He has seen our sorrow and our excitement, our sweat and our tears, and has guided us safely through our physical and emotional journeys—always reminding us that it’s okay to have bad days, but that the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is our attitude. Thank you Gav for getting us here. Your strong but gentle leadership has kept us moving at a constant ten knots… even when we weren’t.
We were very grateful we packed that extra set of thermals, lidded brew-mugs, our neck warmers, beanies, ski gloves, merino wool jumpers, hot water bottles, iPads and iPods, quick-dry deck shoes, sandles, seaboots, sunnies , hats and hoodies. But we wish we’d brought still more thermals and socks, down jackets, sheets for our racks, extra pillow cases, more shorts and t-shirts, extra soap, more chocolate and if only they could have fitted in our already bursting kit bags—our nearest and dearest.
Let us not forget that the gatekeepers of our Milo supplies and the caretakers of safety and wellbeing for the last 55 days will not be ending their journeys in Rio today as we are. Their families, friends, cats and dogs are waiting at home just as ours are, but will have to wait a little longer for their reunions. To those waiting at home, this crew of world voyagers thanks you for your patience and sacrifice; please be proud that your loved ones have taken first-class care of the hearts, bodies and minds of these 24 otherwise rudderless souls.
Thank you also to all the mums, dads, partners, families and friends who have helped behind the scenes to make this adventure our reality; whether those nudges were financial, logistical or motivational, we are indebted to you. All those euphoric Cape Horn Facebook status updates couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have happened without you. Please know you were in our hearts and minds all the while—definitely during the cold, wet guts watches, but never more so than during the good times: rounding the Horn, arriving in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, seeing the temperatures slowly creep up, and finally in reaching Rio. Our only regret is that you couldn’t be here with us in body as well as spirit.
As we prepare to let our hair down and say our goodbyes this afternoon, we all are beginning to realise we are now a little closer to that toilet with leg room, real coffee, loved ones’ faces and all the simple pleasures we have been craving since our departure. This brings me to the final lesson we have learned aboard this salty dream sequence, and it is one we will revisit and relearn many times throughout our days: no matter how exciting the big bad world is, there really is no place like home.
After fifty-five shared sunrises and sunsets,
With a grateful heart, weary eyes and fearless spirit,
One final aye,