I found myself working in North Carolina the very week that Endeavour arrived for a week long stay in Wilmington. I finished work on Friday 17th April, spent the night in Greensboro, where I was working, and then set out to drive to Wilmington on Saturday morning. It took about 3.5 hours to drive out there so I set off early in order to have a full day on and about the ship. I planned on staying the night in Wilmington at some motel and then drive back to Greensboro Sunday afternoon for my flight back to Montreal.
When I arrived in Wilmington, I followed the signs directing me towards the USS North Carolina battleship memorial as I had been told that the Endeavour was close by. I found the battleship but discovered that Endeavour was directly across the Cape Fear River tied up at a city centre dock. After taking a few pictures of Endeavour from across the river, I drove back across the river and parked my car close by. When I reached the ship a few minutes later, a short line had begun to form for visiting. The time was just after 10 am and I did not have long to wait before boarding. Many people visited the ship during the day as this was the first day that the ship was on display and the weather stayed dry. The North American tour is being sponsored by the National Geographic Society, and they had a number of display panels set up that the public could see while waiting to board the ship. This reminds me that there was a small photo and mention of the Endeavour tour in a recent Geographic magazine listing the major ports of call so I imagine that there will be some pretty big turnouts in those cities.
I was very impressed by the ship. Having been a Cook enthusiast for the better part of the last 15 years, it was a real treat to be able to actually step aboard and see the crew quarters, masts and rigging etc. After my visit aboard, I wandered over to the gift shop and had a chat with a Whitby lad (Dom) who sold me my trinkets. I purchased a North American tour guide book, a glossy picture book published in Australia with photos of Endeavour's trip to the UK along with a video cassette of the same voyage. I had previously purchased the Relentless Endeavour video which chronicled the construction of Endeavour from the Replica Foundation in Australia.
By early afternoon, I had taken about as many pictures as could be taken and so went into town for some lunch. Later, whilst in a book store looking for Cook books, I met the ship's carpenter and we had a pleasant chat. I had already begun to think that I must apply for a voyage crew position on one of the legs later this year and my talk with the carpenter just confirmed this inclination.
I had begun to think about finding a place to stay that night and so had a wander about town looking for a B & B but to no avail. I was about to drive to the outskirts of town but decided to have one last visit that afternoon with the ship. On approaching the visitor entrance, I caught sight of a small sign that said... "Spend the night aboard!" That was some luck. I inquired and was told that for the price of some light cleaning duties and standing a two hour watch during the night, I could sleep aboard in a hammock so that's just what I did! I'm really glad that I didn't find a B & B before I saw that sign.
They gave us all watch keepers breakfast before we were turned out early Sunday morning. I drove back to Greensboro later that day to catch my late afternoon flight back to Montreal. Looking back on that weekend, I must say that it was a very special treat and I hope to meet up with Endeavour again some time later this summer. Since my return to Montreal, I've gone ahead and applied for a voyage crew position on the last leg of the North American tour that sees the ship sail from Bath, Maine to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I'm still on tenterhooks as I've not had a reply as yet. Wish me luck!
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1522, volume 21, number 3 (1998).
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