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

Central Queensland News - - OPINION - WORDS: MICHAEL JA­COB­SON

“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.

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