The Endeavour

Ultralight racing machines built of space-age materials grab most of the headlines in the sailing press these days. Yet there's still no shortage of romantics whose hearts soar at the prospect of sailing aboard a relic of olden times, built of traditional materials like iron and oak - especially one with a prestigious pedigree like Captain's Cook's HM Bark Endeavour.

Capitalizing on the fact that many modern sailors and 'lubbers alike seem to have been born with a 'nostalgia gene' that shifts into overdrive at the sight of such vessels, a determined group of Australians painstakingly constructed a faithful replica of Cook's famous ship, and have now sent her on a an around-the-world goodwill voyage. Launched in 1994, the new Endeavour will make port calls along the Pacific Coast this spring, arriving in the Bay June 11. Built to exacting details, she is regarded by British National Maritime Museum historians as the most accurately reproduced replica ever built. While at sea, her professional crew teaches 18th Century sailing techniques to (paying) 'voyage crew' members who sign on for individual legs. She then functions as a museum ship while in port.

To refresh your information-overloaded memory, Captain Cook was, of course, one of the greatest explorers of the Age of Discovery. An experienced British naval surveyor and navigator with a penchant for science and mathematics, at 40, he was given command of the original Endeavor in 1768. Sailing on behalf of the King and the London Royal Society, the first part of his mission was to pilot Endeavour from England, around Cape Horn to Tahiti, where his scientific team would observe important astrological phenomena. Most sciences were anything but exact in those days, and European scholars were thirsty for new information. Back then, for example, navigation was done without even the aid of a chronometer.

Part two of the mission was to confirm or refute the existence of the illusory 'southern continent' of Terra Australis Incognita, which many geographers of the day believed did exist. Sailing south from Tahiti, deep into unknown waters, Cook didn't find the fabled continent, but he did 're-discover' New Zealand, and like no one before him, he circled below the southern island, disproving the long-held belief that New Zealand was a northern promontory of the southern continent. Sailing west, to complete his circumnavigation, Cook then explored and surveyed the entire east coast of Australia (then called New Holland), which set the stage for English migration 18 years later. On two later voyages aboard the Resolution, Cook conclusively disproved the existence of Terra Australis, in addition to discovering and charting dozens of Pacific islands - including the Hawaiian archipelago, where he died - as well as exploring the Alaskan coastline and venturing deep into the Bering Sea in search of a 'northwest passage'.

It is his first voyage, however, that naturally endears all Australians and New Zealanders to Cook. So it's no surprise that despite earlier failed attempts to build authentic Endeavour replicas, Australia's National Maritime Museum actively promoted the idea during the heady days preceding their national bicentennial. Sailor/businessman Alan Bond - of '83 A-Cup fame - soon took up the challenge, offering to fund the ambitious project in grand style. Endeavour's keel was laid in the Bicentennial Year of 1988, in a Fremantle shipyard with a specially-designed gallery so passersby could observe the progress day by day. When Bond went bust two years later, however, work temporarily came to a halt. But eventually the non-profit HM Bark Endeavour Foundation was established, funded by corporate, governmental and private sources.

While certain aspects of the original's construction were compromised for increased safety and longevity - like use of laminated ribs rather than solid oak timbers - her design was exhaustively researched and duplicated to accurately represent Cook's ship, right down to interior detailing and furnishings. Whenever possible, traditional methods of construction and rigging were used. A long-established Aussie cordage factory refurbished antique machinery in order to manufacture authentic, four-strand, cable-laid manila rope, while riggers produced more than 700 authentic blocks, deadeyes, belaying pins and cleats, and blacksmiths forged a seemingly infinite quantity of iron fittings. It was a tough decision to use laminated - rather than solid - spars for most of Endeavour's masts and yardarms, but the result has been minimal breakage during the first two-thirds of her world tour. And we musn't forget, it was a broken spar that forced Cook back to Hawaii where he met his untimely end. Aloft, Endeavour carries acres of principally hand-sewn sails, all of which are trimmed without the use of modern winches. She carries square sails on each of her three masts, in addition to stay sails, sprit sails, stunsails and three jibs. And how does one get a closer look? If you're fit, have a good attitude and are over 18, consider signing up for a stint as one of 40 'voyage crew'. You will be expected to pull your weight - standing watch, going aloft, hauling lines and helping with maintenance chores - but you'll undoubtedly come away with a bounty of traditional seamanship skills and a renewed intrigue with nautical history. Although you'll sleep in a hammock alongside the rest of the 'swabbies', discreetly hidden modern accessories like hot showers, refrigeration and engines insure that your trip won't be t-o-o authentic. If this all sounds a bit too rustic, several 'gentleman's cabins' are also available for 'supernumeraries' who are free to participate as much, or as little, as they like.

This month, Endeavour sails northbound for San Diego from Cabo San Lucas (January 25), followed by five short coastal hops prior to entering San Francisco Bay June 11 (Newport Beach, Oxnard, Ventura, Morro Bay and Monterey). Yes, the wind does blow from the wrong directing along our coast, but as a Foundation rep said, "We sail on every leg - even if we have to first motorsail to seaward in order to find a favorable wind angle." At each port stop, informational dockside displays and signboards emerge from the hold and the ship's interior is transformed into a living museum. Between June 12 and 20 the ship will be on public display in the Bay Area (at locations yet to be announced). In addition to simply viewing the vessel, members of the public are invited to serve as volunteer guides at each port o' call. While Endeavour's visit has no affiliation with the Mervyn's Gold Rush Race, which is expected to bring 30 or more tall ships to the Bay on July 4, the arrival of this historic craft will certainly serve as an impressive and well-timed 'opening act'. From the Bay, Endeavour will continue north to Vancouver, B.C., then return home to Australia via Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand.

At this writing, there is still availability on most voyage legs. For more information on crewing or volunteering, call: (619) 223-9477;
e-mail: crewman at ibm.net; or visit the Foundation's Web site at: http://www.barkendeavour.com.au.)

- latitude/aet

© 1999 Latitude 38