Avast ye lubbers!

There was much excitement in the house of Boo over the weekend.

I attended my first induction aboard the Enterprize. I know you’re all thinking it’s some sort of Star Trek gathering, and that my geekiness has finally found a public outlet, but no. There’s a replica tall ship in Melbourne by that name, and I have volunteered as a willing deckhand for two days a month over the next year!

Weigh anchor! Hoist the mizzen!!

The Enterprize is a replica of the original trading schooner that came to Melbourne from Tassie (then still called Van Dieman’s Land) in 1835 during European settlement. They used all original materials and methods to recreate it such as copper rivets, pitch, bronze fastenings and hand-sewn flax sails from Scotland and hemp rigging. All the wood was salvaged from interesting places, such as grey gum mast steps from an old railway bridge, NZ kauri ribs from brewing vats in Ballarat, jarrah floor joists of a wool store in Freemantle and Californian redwood that was planted by Melbourne Water in the ‘20s as an experimental crop.

It is gorgeous. Look at it! It was built to commemorate the founding of Mlebourne, and to educate the public about exciting historical things. It dashes about the bay all week, mostly for school excursions, corporate training days, office parties, overnight excursions and hourly tours. Every now and again it does a grand sail up the coast or over to King Island where it fires cannons at other replica ships, or is received at various historic towns to enthusiastic bagpiping. The crew manual even specifies: ‘on occasion, historic outfits may be issued to crew, and all members are expected to participate.’ Bliss.

They keep it running with a Master, Bosun, Mate and deckhands, as well as a motley crew of clueless trainees such as myself to fill in the gaps. You must admit it’s a damn cheap (free!) way to learn how to sail the high seas. We have to do 20 ‘sea days’ to qualify as a deckhand, which means basically signing up for a voyage and jumping on board. There are more bearded, nautical coves, who have ‘got tangled up jibboom shroud and landed in drink’ than you can poke a stick at. It’s like a dream.

The nautical terminology is thrilling and unfathomable, and I have included below my favourite parts of the official Enterprize training manual:

-Reef pendants are rove through the cringles on the leech of the sail
-The square sail thwartships is the topgallant
-Ensure the vang is free and available for use
-It may be necessary to avast heaving on the peak whilst the throat is sweated off the table

What does any of this mean?? Is it even English? It all becomes a little clearer when you realise that ropes are not just called ‘the big one’, ‘the white one’ or ‘that long bendy bit over there’. In six different parts of the ship you find the ‘pinrail’, with at least eight different tarred ropes, each relating to either sail, rigging, mast boom and god knows what else. Some of the basic ropes are:

Staysail sheet, course lift, clewline, buntline, flying jib halyard, boom topping lift, preventer, anchor stopper, catting tackle, downhaul, main gaff, course brace, running backstay, bowsprit shrouds, martigale, leech lines, foot and tack ropes, gaskets, stern, fore and aft breast lines, aft spring and tricing lines.

When I finally learn what all this is about I will become insufferable. Watch this space.

And here’s some essential references for all things seafaring:

Enterprize website
International Sea Shanty organisation
Talk Like A Pirate Day
Nautical expressions: Pay particular attention to why a boat is called a ‘she’.
Lady Pirates


9 thoughts on “Avast ye lubbers!

  1. Am so happy for you! And looking forward to hearing how it goes.The cannon firing sounds like awesome fun; but you can keep the bagpiping welcomes.I’d be making sure the vang IS free – just in case a few mateys are suffering seasickness. Ooh-aRRR.

  2. Ah, Eleanor, I love bagpipes. Did you know the old Sikh regiment had a bagpipe band?And I love the ocean. When I was younger I dreamed of doing a Kon-Tiki sort of number. Somehow I never got around to it, though.I would so much enjoy being chez Boo these days. Redecorated office, colonial-style stuff, HOT curry, ancient ships, well, old-like, anyway, and a shared passion for long-haired, Aryan-nosed gentlmen with candy-coloured skin.I could almost believe I was 30 again, a very good age.

  3. Arr, vang-lovers.Why is it that everything I want to do requires time (and much of it) but does not reap (financial) gain?? I am destined for a pauper’s grave I declare!Mai: a Sikh regiment WITH bagpipes?? Faints!I believe you and I could cause some havoc in these straight-laced hallways full of nervous businessman in suits and brisk supermums. You may be 30 on the inside but I’m about 80. Or 200. I’m certain i was born in the wrong time, bah.

  4. Arrrh, me hearty. I be thinkin ye would be ha’in some pirate speak t’day. Shiver me timbers, would you be too lily-livered a squiffy to be partakin of such pleasures?Arr, I see I be swashbucklin the seas on me own then.Yo ho ho…

  5. Drool drool drool. I drool. thank you muchly Mai!Arr EB I be waitin’ for another 3 weeks at port before I get a berth on me ship. Until then, tally ho!!

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