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24/12/11 - Lord Nelson
"Land Ho!" greeted us as we wearily hauled ourselves out of our slumbers this morning. The night watches had passed quietly. This morning an air of excitement began to spread. With the wind set fair (and just a little help from the engines, for the last part) the outline of La Palma climbed from water level into the cloud ahead of us.
As we sailed on, preparations for our Christmas Eve arrival took full attention. The Secret Santa draw was made and hushed conversations took place as secret presents were prepared in the darkest corners of the ship. Volunteers mustered in the galley to help baking cakes, biscuits and other fine fare. Even the ships compass binacle got decorated with tinsel.
Shipboard routines continued, with watches on the bridge steering, keeping lookout and recording the log. Happy Hour cleaned through the ship until the correct level of happiness was achieved and galley rats slaved over hot washing up and preparing the next meal.
Suddenly, word spread that an enemy ship was detected!In the chartroom, work by the navigating team found that she was also headed to our destination of Santa Cruz de La Palma. With honour at stake, preparations for battle took priority. Notices appeared carrying terms of SMS (Silly Misbehaviour System) covering UK registered sail training ships passing at sea and technical teams took advice whether the mark II funnelator complied with the terms of the Geneva Convention. Ammunition for water cannon was filled in quantity and deck hose fittings were tuned by the engineers. Bungy cord became suddenly in short supply and knicker elastic prices reached a record high.
As the island drew nearer, the excitement settled to a cold determination. "England expects…" was dropped into conversation. This may turn out to be Captain Neil’s last voyage with his ship but this crew are backing him all the way. We plan to see honour upheld- we’re going in fighting!
Things can get confused in battle. "Lost in the fog of war" became more than a phrase. As we approached the land, the enemy ship was unable to sail fast enough but manouevred so that "Lord Nelson" entered port first. Is this permitted in the "rules of battle"? Waiting until we were secured to the quay the enemy then approached at extreme range.
The funnelator was called into action and had to be relocated on our foredeck whilst water issued under pressure from our hoses. Suddenly our Mate was down, felled by a wayward shot from his own crew. Shore crew were directed with buckets of freshly filled water bombs to welcome the other ship to port. As they returned to us confusion in the ranks left our own crew under fire, or was this just the voyage crew seeking revenge on the permanent crew? Friendly fire is not just an American phenomenon. Water jetted across our decks and bombs flew in all directions. Shrieking screaming mobs ran amock as cover was sought behind deckhouses. Finally control was regained by engineers shutting off pump pressures.
Soon after berthing plans were made to parley. Before too long the victorious crew of "Lord Nelson" were gathered aboard "Tenacious" where both crews joined in a celebration meal with suitable beverages to toast each other on Christmas Eve, the time of peace and goodwill.
Later some of the crew explored the local town together. We may have been robbed of outright victory but honour was satisfied and a good day had by all. Happy Christmas!
Forward Port’s own literary genius, Peter