Report 9: Approaching the Coast – South America in sight
Wind and ocean current favored us since we crossed the equator line and sailed down to the southern coast of Brazil. Yesterday For the first time in my life I had seen an albatross that hung majestically in the sky and perhaps pitied us, how many clothes we had to hoist to transform wind into energy.
I also pitied him a bit, because for the whole hour abeam at port he was alone in the sky, no albatross, male or female, not even a seagull accompanied him and the flying fish were long gone.
But this morning on my morning watch from 04-08 h, immediately after sunrise at 6:27, the sea turned green in color. Strong storm seagulls looked at us intensely. It soon became clear why.
Whenever the cook’s mate tossed anything leeward over board, the gulls would plunge into the sea. The albatross did not do that, though yesterday as always someone eventually threw something into the sea.
During the day the birds got smaller, initially as black-headed gulls, then starlings, larks and, finally, a couple of parrots arrived. But no one from the ships officers and sailors was interested in it. They wanted to catch a few wild ducks there just off the coast – low flying – south between Sao Paulo and Montevideo. There a half-dozen of them stood at the railing on the pin rail with a safety line around their waist and a flimsy net in their hand.
Around afternoon coffee time the ducks came and sometimes flew in a three to six fold lineup in 2 to 10 meters above the sea on the ship’s side from right to left or from left to right .The sailors turned into hunters quickly throwing their nets, like a lasso in the bird-trajectory. Despite several swings and frequent attempts, only seven ducks went into the net. This was too little to supply more than the ships commanding crew. Four decks boys of the watch could be kept busy plucking feathers from 4 to 8pm, trained by the chef himself. We quickly learned: I managed a duck in 14 minutes. Then there came my relief, because I had my turn at the helm.
We sailed hard in a moderate southwesterly wind.
Our port of destination, Paranaque (25° 39′ South, 48° 31′ West) was also in that direction. I had to work really hard to keep the ship on course and sail on a close reach. Even before the end of the watch the ship’s course must be tacked to a westerly course, the captain instructed the officer of the watch, that the next gang for the 20-24 o’clock watch should be on deck half an hour earlier for the maneuver.
Then I heard that we would take a pilot on board tomorrow morning at 09am. That brought a jolt through the team, and even the off duty guards streamed on deck, as it was said: “Man the bream and winches” We set off to a fast maneuver. With a WNW course, we steered directly toward our port of discharge.