Sailing the Endeavour: Day five

By Aaron Cook 7 November 2013
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Sailing an 18th century ship down Australia’s east coast is far simpler in the year 2010.

TO AVOID GROUNDING THE Endeavour in shallow waters, James Cook cast a lead line overboard at frequent intervals to measure the depth of the water in fathoms (units of six feet). When the ship was grounded on the Great Barrier Reef the water depth had been fluctuating, and then disaster struck:

“Before 10 o Clock we had 20 and 21 fathoms, and Continued in that depth until a few minutes before 11, when we had 17,” wrote Cook in his journal on 11 June 1770. “Before the Man at the Lead could heave another cast, the Ship Struck and stuck fast.”

By comparison, we travelled into Broken Bay yesterday with the aid of modern navigation charts and sonar. The Endeavour replica also has a modern propulsion solution when winds are unfavourable — in the form of a diesel engine.

AFTER A PANCAKE breakfast up on deck, we’re granted permission to swim off the side of Endeavour. The water temperature is pleasant and I amuse myself with a few laps of Endeavour while others dive off the side of the ship. I haul myself up some netting to get back on board.

As we leave Broken Bay she is as tranquil as we found her — a hidden gem on Sydney’s northern flank. The “iron staysails” carry us south past Sydney’s northern beaches: Palm Beach, Narabeen, Curl Curl and Manly.

Captain Cook did not call into any of these places, but he reported frequent sightings of fires as he travelled up the NSW coast. Later discoveries of large middens of shells and other food scraps suggest that the area supported a significant indigenous population.

SYDNEY HEADS ARRIVES ALL too quickly and soon the iconic sights of the harbour loom large in the background. After five days of sailing an 18th century ship, the view from Endeavour of a 21st century skyline is just a reminder that the trip is almost over.

After we dock, we’re presented with voyage crew certificates to acknowledge our achievements. The last five days have turned mizzenmast watch into a tight knit group.

We’ve conquered our fears, bunked down shoulder-to-shoulder and looked after the seasick, but, most importantly, we sailed the Endeavour together. As a final salute, I share a couple of ales with my watch-mates as we trade war stories and memories from our time at sea.

AG would like to thanks the Australian National Maritime Museum for the Endeavour experience.

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