Sunrise today was borne over by foreboding grey skies that formed a palette in the sky of every grey shade imaginable. It was hardly 7AM and day six looked to be bleak. On deck bright and early, the crew were already being battered by bullet-like gusts of wind. Every cloud has a silver lining however, and despite the pounding winds the cold was offset by high spirits and hot chocolate. The trainees went about their morning routine of swimming, scrubbing, breakfast and a little more scrubbing. As the last of the breakfast dishes were stowed safely and the anchor rose almost unwillingly from its sea-bed the crew kitted themselves out with wet weather gear, ready to battle the day’s wind, rain and unruly Bay.

Tucker rocked and rolled her way out of Orokawa Bay and into the open waters with a game-faced Captain at the helm. The ocean seemed to come alive, like some bitter-cold, rolling, unruly creature. As the rock and roll waves turned to an oceanic, heavy-metal mosh-pit our on-board adrenaline junkies donned their waterproof battle-armor and headed straight for the bowsprit. As Lachlan, our adorable ‘Lil’ Rocker’ took up the lead role at the very tip of the ‘sprit, he was backed up by a steely Aidyn, farm-tough Andrew and the no-frills, self-proclaimed Ninja Aaron our four friendly neighbourhood tough-guys bore the full force of today’s weather. They rode high and swooped low as if riding some crazy combination of the mechanical bull, surfboard and carnival rollercoaster that most certainly left them with their feet wet and appetites fulfilled. Their crazed whooping and yahooing brought spectators from below decks, all of whom were colour-coordinated in the ships banana yellow wet-weather kit.

We watched from the bow, somehow as thrilled as our ‘sprit surfers at the rawness and unpredictability of the sea. Yesterday was all blue skies, sun-tans and bushwalks whilst barely twenty-four hours later we were standing at the bow being pelted by wind and sea-spray tucking our cold little fingers and toesies into socks, pockets and gloves. Thoroughly soaked, salted and thrilled our adventurous four youngsters were brought back to the stern as we continued to batter our way through the constant barrage of cold, hard surf.

With loose cargo strapped-down or holding on to their pants and hats, the rain decided to join Tucker and the ocean in today’s cozy little sea-party. The somewhat light shower teamed up with the barreling winds to sting at even the smallest area exposed to the elements. As Tucker and our iron-cored Captain trudged on we set our eyes on our destination for the first time. Whale Bay reached for the grey skies like a beacon signalling refuge. The sight warmed the ship and its occupants and the relief nibbled away gently at the cold dreary day we’d battled through so far. As we drew within reach of Whale Bay’s calm and wind buffing hills, a sigh of relief was breathed by the entire ship, some even say they heard Tucker herself wipe her brow and utter a quiet ‘whew’. Sitting pretty in our breezy little haven, the anchor was dropped and the billy put to boil.

Hot chocolate, ginger slice and banana cake warmed our cores as dry attire set to work warming arms, hands, ears and heads that supported sleeping bags wrapped around torsos. With our little ship full of trainees that resembled giant caterpillars we went about our rainy day activities. Warm bunks beckoned offering soft, refreshing naps whilst decks of cards and our selection of books kept our conscious minds occupied in lieu of the DVDs and computers they longed for.

Hours crept by without so much as a creaking floorboard and before we knew it we’d devoured our lunch of hotdogs, exhausted our arsenal of card games and worn our focused attention-spans thin with hard-cover and paperback novels. The waters of Whale Bay seemed to be warmed by the day’s rain and right on cue fishing lines were being cast over both port and starboardside. A slow start to the days fishing expedition saw our anglers ready to call it a day when the Kahawai stuck, waking the ship. Our first catch of the day, hauled aboard proudly by Lachlan signaled the start of a fishing frenzy. With our anglers heaving plenty of bait-fish on-board and having had a mighty chunk of fun in the process they packed their lines away and headed below decks for a little rest and a handful of soap to offset the smell of squid and fish, which, when commented on was instead referred to as ‘the smell of a hard days work’.

With the entire ship having mixed emotions about the impending conclusion to our voyage, it’s no question that we all feel battered and tired after a rough day. A roast dinner is in progress in the galley and spoons, laughter and smarted fingers occupy the saloon. Looking at the tired faces of this weeks trainees they look back happily. Proudly sporting a week at sea under their belts, they discuss their plans for their arrival at home. A long, hot shower seems to be in popular demand whilst favourite foods, TV shows and pets should all be ready for a right shock when our youth return. It seems that once again, a week aboard the R. Tucker Thompson has been a great success. Sheep have been sheared and turned into aspiring shepherds whereas introverts have become vivid social butterflies.

With another week of memories and callouses added to our collection we’re all looking forward to our return to Opua tomorrow afternoon. The crew look forward to some R&R and the trainees look forward to their friends and family. Be ready for a pleasant surprise tomorrow afternoon as well as stories, gossip and jokes throughout the week and further on. Signing out for the week is the R. Tucker Thompson and eleven new chapters in her vast communal history.