KEEP A SHARP LOOKOUT
INFORMER’S PAST SAILING ENDEAVOURS DID NOT PRECISELY PROVE HE WAS SHIP SHAPE, BUT NEWS THIS WEEK HAS GLADDENED AN OLD SEA DOG’S HEART
“WHAT BENEFIT COULD THIS POSSIBLY BESTOW UPON OUR VOYAGE TO MYSTICAL BUNDABERG?”
Shiver me timbers, splice the mainsail, swab the decks, walk the plank and raise the Jolly Informer, for as an old jack tar with saltwater in his veins and access to many other annoying maritime cliches, my sea dog of a heart skipped a beat with the discovery off Rhode Island of what is believed to be the wreck of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour.
While confirmation is still to be officially recorded in the captain’s log, I hope it’s her because, 240 years after the ignominy of being scuttled during the American War of Independence, Endeavour deserves to be verified, raised and restored. Pardon the pun, but it would be a most worthy endeavour.
Not that I’m obsessed with such matters, although I still own a sailor suit, the children pipe me into the house and much of Mrs Informer’s cooking has weevils in it. I also once drove several hundred kilometres just to look at a ship’s nail — yep, a single nail — purported to be from the wreck of the Bounty, subject of one memorable mutiny and four forgettable movies.
Mrs Informer doesn’t understand my interest. She wouldn’t drive to the corner shop to buy me a chocolate Bounty, even though she knows how much I love coconut.
As for the Endeavour, I have written several times about suffering a hernia while aboard the replica Endeavour in 1995. However, my experience was greater than this one incident. There were times when, metaphorically and actually, I was all at sea.
Negotiating my hammock, for example, was fraught with peril every time I tried to clamber in and again when clambering out. On one occasion, having completed my early morning watch, I succeeded only in slingshotting myself across the deck of the sleeping quarters, waking several angry crewmen and raising fears I might be in for the lash. My watch took place between 2-3am and required inspecting the ship from topmast to bottom deck. The most important task was to not wake the captain. Informer woke him twice in two nights, mainly because I kept swearing after bumping my head on the ridiculously low deck ceilings, proof that all 18th Century sailors were midgets.
My duties during the day included polishing the mizzenmast. When first assigned I wondered if it was a euphemism for something else. Would they send me to a special room to “polish” away to my heart’s content? What benefit could this possibly bestow upon our voyage to mystical Bundaberg? Would there be copies of Ye Olde Playboye or Wenchhouse?
Turns out “polishing the mizzenmast” meant exactly that, and so I did, admiring the views from my lofty perch until I climbed down the rigging and felt something pop. It was a fittingly naval navel hernia and two days later I was in hospital. When I woke from the anaesthetic, for a moment I lost my bearings and thought I was back on board the Endeavour. What a sinking feeling it was to realise she was sailing without me.
Still, and speaking of sinking, news that the real Endeavour may have been located has been a landlubberly reminder of those few days when history and Informer were shipmates. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I will value it forever. As they say, whatever floats your boat.