12 members of the Marine Rescue Port Macquarie (MR PMQ) unit and one of Fortem Australia’s Community Engagement Coordinators boarded the wooden tall-ship Soren Larsen on the 2nd of April 2022 to sail her 230 nautical miles from White Bay Sydney Harbour to Port Macquarie. Soren Larsen is a 43-metre brigantine, built in 1949 in Denmark from oak and beech. Her current homeport is Sydney.
Our reality for the next four days was limited to the 43 metres of our ship, but team spirit was high and we were all looking forward to learning plenty about seamanship, teamwork, camaraderie, and other new skills at sea.
Due to extreme swell offshore, Master of the ship Marty Woods decided to stay the first day and night in the harbour, which provided the perfect time for the induction. It is all about safety at sea, so all emergency drills were thoughtfully conducted. These included man overboard, abandon ship and fire drills, followed by rope work and learning some strict rules to keep the deck clean of any obstacles, including loose ropes. The calm conditions in the harbour provided a great opportunity for the voyage crew to climb the mast, some 20 plus meters to the platform.
The first night on the anchor was calm and serene, everyone had a good rest. A few of the MR PMQ crew had a chance to join the anchor watch at night, to note the ship position and ensure the stable anchor holding.
Next morning, on the 3rd of April after an early breakfast, the anchor was lifted and off we set off out of Sydney Harbour. The light five-knot NW wind allowed us to hoist two triangular stay sails, having comfortably motor-sailed up North.
We worked on a rotating watch system; four hours on, eight hours off. All voyage crew was split into three watches: red, blue, and white – each with one professional crew member and the watch officer. There were plenty of duties during each shift. Everyone had a chance to steer the ship, stand the lookout, check the deck and perform the galley duties. Every hour somebody was required to go down and record an entry in the logbook – noting our course, speed, wind, sea state, cloud, weather, barometer, latitude and longitude, and engine status including oil and temperature. The morning watch from 8am to midday scrubbed the deck and polished brass.
By day three, everyone had settled into the rhythm of life on board and was comfortable with the daily and nightly routines, having a few moments to relax, to snooze or to read between watches. The night shifts were magical – an amazing sky full of stars, the opportunity to spot a shooting star in flight, and the glow of bioluminescent algae. It was genuinely inspiring, with talks getting more philosophical whilst dark and quiet on deck, and the only other listening is the big Pacific Ocean.
David Iggulden, the second mate and the watch officer, delivered a great session about sailing, how sails work, and the difference between the sloops and square rig ships.
We arrived to our destination – Port Macquarie – on the 4th day of our journey, and were overwhelmed by a big crowd of town residents and Marine Rescue members meeting us on the Lady Nelson Wharf. What an amazing experience. Thanks to Marty Woods of the Sydney Tall Ships company and Fortem Australia for their sponsorship, which made this trip a great success. The unique experience of sailing on the ship together created a camaraderie that forges the long-lasting friendships and tight bonds between the crew members.
For footage of Soren Larsen’s arrival in Port Macquarie, and more on first responder wellbeing, head to Fortem Australia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.