Denham, Shark Bay
Since joining Duyfken I have been asked a lot of questions about how effective are her anchors. They are great unwieldy looking things lashed up in the beakhead. The port anchor weighs 250 kilograms and the starboard one is 350. Modern mariners often express scepticism about whether they will hold the ship in a strong wind, especially considering we only use rope cable, rather than chain which is universally used on anchors in the modern era. To the sceptics I have this to report: so far so good. We have not dragged anchor yet on this voyage. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised because anchors and cables like these served seafarers very well for centuries. Out of curiosity, after dropping anchor last night I put on my mask and snorkel, swam out to the anchor and dived on it to see how it was sitting in the sand. One fluke had completely buried itself and the big jarrah stock, the cross member, was resting on the seabed. I slept more soundly confident that it would hold us through the night. Even so, good seamanship dictates that we have someone awake at all times to check our position. Garry, the mate, draws up a roster and we do one hour anchor watch each. We made an early start this morning, and started heaving up the anchor at 0600. This involves all hands heaving on the cable in a line down the deck. It's hard work. The first few pulls feel hopelessly difficult, but then the ship starts to move upwind towards the anchor and, provided the crew keeps heaving in unison, the ship's momentum makes the job relatively easy for a while. The cable is marked in lengths of 75 feet so we know how much we have out, provided we can remember our imperial measurements. When the mark for one length comes aboard Garry calls out 'Vast heaving! Shortened up!' We are now ready to get the sails prepared for sailing off. We have some shoal water to our starboard side which we must avoid, so it is important that the ship sails off the anchorage in the opposite direction. To achieve this we set the fore topsail aback, braced in such a way as to push the bow to port as soon as the anchor lets go of the seabed. This is called 'boxing off' in the old lingo. So the fore topsail is aback, the ship is straining to sail away on the starboard tack and we are ready to heave up the last of the anchor cable. The anchor is dug well into the sand as I found out yesterday, so we have to use the windlass for the last bit. The windlass is a horizontal winch made of an oak log which lies across the bow of the ship. It has a wooden pall, or ratchet, which allows it to turn in only one direction. Mechanical advantage is gained by inserting wooden bars into slots cut into the drum of the windlass and heaving down on them. Duyfken's windlass is just big enough to allow four people to bar it over at once. It is hard work for these four, and they must work in harmony or nothing happens. There are four on the bars, two or three tailing, or feeding the rope off the drum, and Garry directing the operation from the bow. The rest of the crew are stationed on various lines ready to brace the yards and set more sail the moment the anchor breaks out. The bow of the ship is a very crowded place and a jumble of rope. I stand on the aft deck with my eye on the shallow water. All is quiet on the ship except for the simple shanty of 'Two-six-HEAVE' coming from the four on the windlass bars. The anchor cable strains even more heavily, and Garry calls that the cable is 'Up and down', meaning that the ship's bow is directly over the anchor. The four at the windlass, who have already worked up a sweat even though they have not had breakfast yet, are now lifting the half-buried 340 kilograms of iron out of the sand. It was hard work before but it is harder now. Sometimes they heave down until the pall nearly falls into the next notch but they can't quite get there and have to let it back having wasted that effort. Slowly the anchor breaks out of the sand and the job goes from very hard back to hard again. Garry calls 'Anchor aweigh!' and the bow of the ship falls away to port, towards safety. We brace the fore yards around onto the starboard tack and set the main topsail and foresail. We are sailing away towards Denham using only human muscle and wind power, just like in the olden days. Garry, Nic and Greg toil for another half an hour stowing the anchor on the beakhead using tackles and medium level coarse language. I wonder if technology changes just because people get lazy.