and so our day ends

“The nights were very still and steady, for it is rarely necessary to touch the braces for days at a time in the Trade Winds. There is just the lapping of the waves, the creak of a block or tackle, the occasional rattle of the wheel box, a sudden splashing of some unforeseen fish in the deep dark waters. For the rest – subdued voices; the measured tread of the officer up and down the poop deck; the apprentice’s less sure tread, heavy with sleep, as he walks the lee side of the poop, as he goes to attend the binnacle light for the helmsman (for these lights are oil lamps and frequently cause trouble).

The changing of the wheel; the giving and repeating of the course; eight bells; the small bell aft followed by the big booming one from for’d; the lookout’s ‘All’s well’; followed by the mate’s ‘All right’. And so our day ends.” – Gladys BallmentThe Heyday of Sail (1908-13)

(This extract is from the remarkable diaries of Gladys Ballment. Starting as a 15-year-old girl, she did three long voyages under sail with her father who was Captain of the barquentines Renfield, Saxon and Heathfield. Ballment spent five years at sea, twice rounding the Horn and at times enduring unbroken passages of more than 120 days.)