The arrival of this weeks trainees was routine, yet with every ounce of the good old Tucker homelieness. Early arrivals were greeted warmly, shown to their quarters and handed a polishing rag all before the engines were started. With crew, new trainees and Tucker herself blessed with prayers, new arrivals and the weeks provisions, parents and relatives said their farewells and took their send-off photos as their children set off into today’s crisp Bay of Islands.

The inescapable south-east winds brought a chill to the waters and those traversing them. Some of the crew put on an impervious facade in front of their new charges while they ducked below decks to add extra layers to their skins. The name game kicked off our voyages conversation before we divided into our traditional Port and Starboard teams, with portside initially being the more popular of the two, much to our pleasant surprise. After a detailed tour below decks, the trainees began unpacking their bags and moving in aboard the R. Tucker Thompson.

Anchoring in Pareanui Bay the rope swing was unhooked and Lochy, Aiden and Aaron were set loose upon the once-calm waters. The mystery aroma that had been wafting from the Galley was revealed to be a large warm pot of Kylie’s “Super Soup”. With the swimmers keen noses guiding them back on deck and the shivering non-swimmers converging upon the helm, a ladle was procured and cheese scones joined the party. Slurping and “Mmmmm’s and ahhh’s” replaced the previous ambience of splashes, yipping and yahooing. As soup bowls were rinsed and washed our anchor was heaved and we made way for Jacks Bay.

As our helmswoman navigated her course the trainees began to learn the basics of seamanship and the R. Tucker in particular. The top deck was broken down piece-by-piece and the ropes were given their first feel of their new, ready-to-be-blistered hands. With a sound knowledge of Tucker and her operative parts as well as Line Handling 101 under their belts, the trainees were given the opportunity to win big in our first Peanut Slab Challenge. After being briefed on our plan of action in a man overboard situation, the trainees were set immediately into a drill. Fred, our man overboard drill specialist was no sooner bobbing in the Bay as Aaron was hefting the danbouy, Mariah was shouting from the shrouds and Josiah and Lachlan were back-seat driving from the bowsprit. With Fred, our danbouy and life-ring safe on board, peanut slabs were awarded to Josiah and Aaron for their close estimates as to total rescue time and Fred’s rescue time, respectively.

We arrived in Jacks Bay as trainees began to socialise with each other, play cards and dig into the ships selection of books stored on-board. Afternoon tea called in the form of hot chocolate and a spiced apple cake that seemed to exhaust itself all too quickly. With settled stomachs and a slightly subdued mood, the saloon was inhabited by our youth as a daily lesson began. Confident in their new-found knowledge of the abandon ship drill, our trainees were put immediately to the test. Summer hopped straight to her mock emergency radio call as life jackets were hauled on deck by Lachlan and Aidyn. Aaron and Rob prepared the dinghy whilst Andrew attended to the seagate and companionways. The dinghy was boarded and the “alien invasion” escaped safely, earning this weeks trainees a safe place back on board, where a roast chicken still cooks slowly, teasing us with it’s scents and anticipation.

As our trainees wait keenly for their roast dinner, they have begun to find and share interests, stories and tall tales. Though they contrast starkly with last weeks voyagers, it feels all the more like deja vu. The same feeling of uncertainty, discovery and internetlessness frets about below decks.
R. Tucker is on the water and signing off once again!