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The Rock-itt : November 2011
HOBART TO HOLLYWOOD Sirocco left Lizard Island after leaving the marooned people who they had cared for, in the safe hands of the customs authorities who had eventually come to rescue them. Errol climbed to the cross trees of the mast and kept lookout for the entrance to Cooks Passage which would allow them a clear run through to the Barrier Reef and out into the Coral Sea . Finally the passage was sighted and Sirocco motored through the same waters that her predecessor HMS Endeavour had 200 years earlier, captained by the world’s greatest of all navigators, Captain James Cook. As the end of “The Passage” neared, a school of playful dolphins led Sirocco out into the open sea. Her bow was turned eastward and in the direction of Papua New Guinea. Errol was somewhat sceptical whether or not Sirocco would handle what lay ahead. The area between Australia and New Guinea was known for cyclonic conditions and Sirocco wasn’t built to handle that kind of weather, but there was no turning back. They would have to take their chances. The sails were hoisted and now with a stiff breeze giving them good speed, Sirocco’s knife like bow sliced through the green wall of water leaving a foaming furrow in her wake. By nightfall they had covered good distance but now the swell had risen and the skies were darkening. The black clouds looked anything but friendly and with the swell breaking over Sirocco’s deck, they were taking water below which made a roster of hard pumping necessary if they wanted to stay afloat. The hatches had to remain battened and pumping in the stinking environment of diesel fumes and the smell of rotting fish was intolerable. Soon everyone was seasick and even if they could cook they would have brought it back up again. But as they steered Sirocco, trying to hold a course, the weather worsened and soon the waves were thumping into Sirocco threatening to tear her hull apart. The pumping out went on throughout the night exhausting all onboard and the seas remained merciless with their pounding force working on the aging timbers of Sirocco as she creaked and groaned under the fierce continuous pummelling. The next four days weather wise were unrelenting as well as sleepless. Apart from leaving the cramped wheelhouse at the stern to pump out, they huddled in the only dry part of the boat, hungry, seasick and exhausted. Still the Coral sea vented her anger on the boat and her crew as if giving a nasty welcome to intruders to her domain. Errol’s greatest fear was that Sirocco’s mast would come down as on many occasions the wire stays which held her from toppling, humm ed like violin strings before snapping, the broken ends slashing crazily at the air, quite capable of decapitating a man if he were near it. Finally, it was decided that instead of fighting the gale they would let it take them on with it, hoping it would not take them too far off course and with