Unscheduled Training

I am certain that Funchal, Madeira, is not one of the Captain’s most‑loved harbors to moor his ship in. This was our next port of call.

It was nightfall with the breezes rapidly increasing when we made our approach to the harbor.Rose, with all sails furled, needed to back into a mooring along the ocean wall, starboard side to, close to the harbor mouth. There was a large offering further in, but we were informed by the local port authority it was being reserved for a cruise ship that was scheduled to arrive the next morning.

As the conditions were to prove, this was no cake walk. The increasing winds caused rearward movement, pushing against the hull, mast, yards and rigging, in a way that was overcoming the drive of the engines. The Captain, observing the developing complications, took direct command. In his masterly fashion, he proceeded using several techniques in order to get his ship into position.

The use of engines, helm and sail were being orchestrated by the Captain with fluid calculation. All hands stood by in silence between orders that would be executed smartly. On the starboard rail, a trusted deckhand stood anxiously, poised with his heaving line attached to the huge double braided mooring line, should the Rose get within distance of the pier. The awaiting Portuguese line handlers stood waiting to receive it.

The proper handling of Rose was a matter of pride and determination for everyone on board. With the necessary heave, ho, hauling and tailing needed, the crew went about their tasks with great expedience and precision. The spanker was being used to balance awkward effects of the wind. At one moment, a team of line handlers would be casting loose one line, and across the deck another team would begin to quickly haul its counterpart. Meanwhile, the wind and tide would catch theRose from various angles. One moment from one direction, the next moment another. The spanker would be hauled to one side or the other then trimmed.

I was not aware of how much time had passed throughout this surreal scene, as we and the engines exhaustively attempted to maneuver Rose into her assigned mooring. I waited for orders, my eyes fixed largely on the Captain, the great ship fixed under his feet. Behind him were the surrounding lights of Funchal harbor, passing to and fro, as if we had entered some bizarre carnival ride. Somehow I recall the Captain’s order to a trusted hand to lead a party to make ready the anchor for letting go.

Apart from his formal commands which were quite clear, the Captain’s secondary thoughts, expressed calmly in a somewhat whimsical manner, were especially noteworthy. However, it was understood, the gravity of the situation restrained any offhanded acknowledgments or comments from anyone else. Nevertheless, there was no doubt, to those around him on the quarterdeck, what he thought about the necessary timing and restrictions of our arrival. Without going on into specifics, I believe his sentiments were shared by everyone on that deck.

After further exertions, at last, one of the final cards had to be dealt and the Captain ordered to let loose an anchor while we were still in the channel. I speculate, this was in order to check our drift or maybe to prevent the bow from being forced to either side by the growing wind. With the anchor charging downwards into the bottom of Funchal’s harbor, we continued our efforts to get the Rosein close to the pier.

However, it would become evident that the wind was not going to cooperate. When all peacetime efforts to get the ship right were exhausted, the Captain decided to opt for the mooring further downwind, where the authorities pierside were yelling that we needed to keep free for the cruise ship. As hard as we tried, we were unable to accomplish this formidable task.

Early the next morning when the winds were calm, we hauled the Rose back up to the assigned mooring near the position of the lying anchor. With some hearty heaves around the capstan, we crept up along the sea wall as foot after foot of dripping line led us back to where the anchor lay. Once the anchor was aweigh, we maneuvered the Rose over and into her proper spot.

This whole remarkable event was great dose of excitement and although it was not part of our scheduled training, it helped bind our small company together. As I mentioned earlier, there were only 24 of us manning the ship.

Afterwards, going out on the town to sample Madeira, the one we know in a bottle, was all the more appreciated. Not to mention, of course, we all took in the fine cultural sights and tropical scenery of the beautiful Portuguese island paradise.

Writer’s Note: Out of curiosity, I looked at a photo of the Rose in Funchal. Her port side is towards the pier. As hard as I try, I cannot remember why that is, or how the ship turned around. Six years takes its toll on ones memory. It must have been in the morning after we hoisted the anchor, that we chose to put the port side to.


copyright © 2002 Challen K. Yee

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