by Jim Gale
Recently retired RAN Commander David Jordan has spent a lot of time at sea, much of it as the master of all he surveyed. As Captain of HMAS Warramunga, one of the Royal Australian Navy’s state of the art Anzac frigates, David enjoyed a status and privileges few in the modern world, even the most exalted, can aspire to. Think somewhere between corporate CEO and God.
As Jordan puts it, 'a ship is defined by its captain.'
His next ocean passage, his second Rolex Sydney Hobart, will be in much less exalted circumstances. David is going to Hobart on the Tasmanian Jones 40 Quetzalcoatl. He is not even the skipper. He is the navigater and cook.
'From top dog to also ran,' says Jordan.
'I even have to do the cooking.'
Gone are the little things that make a captain’s life so pleasant.
'I cast around the crew for a steward, but there have been no volunteers,' he jokes.
'And in rough weather I have to get as wet as all the other sailors. There is no captain’s chair on a dry bridge, no snug captain’s cabin to retreat to. I don’t get to call a council of war when I feel like it. On Quetzalcoatl it is much more horizontal. A democracy, though we ‘also rans’ don’t get to vote.'
It is all a bit cosier too. Quetzalcoatl’s 12 metres would fit on the quarterdeck of the 130 metre frigate. It takes 170 sailors to get the best out of a warship. Quetzalcoatl manages with ten. Then there is the massive power generated by Warramunga’s turbines. The 4,000 tonne greyhound can sit on 27 knots all day.
'If we could do half that speed we would be delighted,' David muses.
There are some plusses on the smaller boat, though.
'The competition, the thrill, the desire to do your absolute best and the wonderful feeling when you get it right,' he says.
There’s another bonus, too. A Navy captain’s is a very solitary existence. With the responsibility comes a distance from the crew and even his fellow officers. The captain is not a member of the wardroom. He must be invited before he can intrude on what is the officers’ sanctuary from, well, the captain. But on a racing yacht it is all different.
'The drinks at the end of the day, when the team has worked hard, it’s wonderful.'