National Geographic : 1957 Nov
How We Sailed the New Mayflower to America As the boat from the San Giorgio ap proached our lee channels, the officer aboard flung wide his arms and shouted, looking up at us, "Magnificent! It is magnificent!" We liked that. Later the very same morning four de stroyers of the United States Navy, led by the Ault, came out of their way to speak us. In a gathering Gulf Stream rain squall that broke upon us and sent us scudding under all plain sail at our best speed, foaming along, the destroyers formed up in line ahead and raced past, a magnificent sight in the black rain and spume. A little later came more destroyers, this time British, and with them, afar off on the horizon, a great gray shape like the ambling top of Table Mountain. This was the Royal Navy aircraft carrier H. M. S. Ark Royal, with her accompanying destroyers, Diamond and Duchess. They greeted us with signaled and shouted messages of good will, for they came close enough to yell across the waters, and the giantess of a carrier tore by along my weather side. This left me becalmed, for the great bulk of her took all the wind from my sails and I had no control over my ship for the moment-for many moments, it seemed, for it took a long time for that monstrous gray shape to pass to windward of me. Her flight deck was crowded with ratings who ran about to get a better view, and a couple of heli copters flew off to take photographs. These had the grace to keep clear of me. Extra Canvas Cuts Visibility Sub-Lt. John Winslow, recognizing his squadron commander in one of the helicopters, dashed below and reappeared almost imme diately in his full naval uniform, golden wings emblazoned on his sleeve, and stood in the waist waving and cheering with great enthusi asm. He would have been in the Ark Royal, he said, had he not come with us. Afterward the carrier steamed down our lee side, which gave me a chance to show our paces too, 7 knots, compared with her better-than-30. These were the high lights. On other days the ship's life went on, quietly and pleasantly. I was six weeks at sea before I reached my last important turning point, on 65° West and 250 North, and that day the wind swung obligingly round to south-southwest. But it did not stay there. I had bent all the bonnets in the quiet trade winds to try to give her better speed, accepting the handi cap that forward visibility was then nil from poop and quarter-deck (page 656). The lookout was kept on the foreyard or the sprit sail yard, which were the only places one could see from. Sargassum Weed Gilds Dark-blue Sea Generally there was nothing to see but sea, sometimes a deep and perfect blue, some times dark with overcast or golden with great patches of sargassum weed, with the sunshine streaming in the leaded windows aft and the happy sound of the bubbling wake heard from the big stern windows of the great cabin. I liked the great cabin (page 654). It was the only decent cabin in the ship. It was a bare but invitingly romantic room right above the tiller flat, on the main deck. We ate our meals in there. It was also radio room and recreation space for the watch officers and other persons on board. The mariners had their mess in the tiller flat, which was so hot and stuffy that they preferred to eat on deck and live there too, if they could, and if the rain squalls allowed. There was a lot of rain in the western sector of the North Atlantic, which was just as well. The lads leapt around bare skinned with cakes of soap tied to their heads, and scrubbed and scrubbed and gave themselves a wonderful time. A good shower in falling rain water was a wonderful luxury, though they kept themselves clean at all times. When there was no rain, they washed in sea water with detergent mixed with it, and did their laundry by the same means, washing out the detergent by dragging the garments overside. Sometimes big swells came down into the tropic belt from farther north, reminding me of the wisdom of my decision to go south, for these swells and high seas spoke of heavy gales elsewhere in the Atlantic-right across my path, had I gone the other way. The big swells picked the stiff little ship up and shook her like a St. Bernard shaking a wet puppy, while everything aboard fell over, even Felix the kitten, asleep in the shade under the longboat. Felix quickly learned how to stay asleep while rolling, and did not bat an eye. Mayflower was a happy ship, and I was very glad of that. "This is the first ship I've ever been in where everybody is cheerful before breakfast," laughed Chief Petty Officer Charles Church, from the Royal Canadian Navy. C.P.O.