ABOARD THE H.M. BARK ENDEAVOUR -- She's a beauty who'll cut you up.
She'll force you to your knees, make you labor for her, respect her.
Tall ship H.M. Bark Endeavour punishes workers with rope burns, blisters, bumps and bruises, but blesses them with adventure, friendships and star-speckled scenes.
The Australian replica of Capt. James Cook's 18th-century exploration vessel embarked from Brunswick, Ga., last month and docked in Charleston, S.C., on April 2 as part of its North American voyage.
She flaunted her broad frame, fancy rigging, billowy sails and painted skin to lure a new crew aboard.
Then she put them to work. Lots of work.
"I expected we'd be doing some things, but the first day we were soaking wet sweating, and we didn't even leave port," said Robert Hawkins, a St. Simons Island surgeon. "We didn't get any sleep. It's definitely not a luxury cruise.
"I learned what life was like on a ship in the 18th century, no doubt about that. It was hard work."
Dr. Hawkins, or Hawk as he was called aboard, stepped onto Endeavour with 11 other Americans who paid several hundred dollars to obey commands for four days: climb 100 feet above deck to furl sails and return hours later to undo the work. Wake up at 3 a.m. for bow watch. Swab decks that had been scrubbed 24 hours earlier. Wash dishes. Tie knots. Untie knots. Belay lines. Pull rope. Furl sails one more time.
Take the wheel and steer awhile. Climb the mizzenmast at night and watch for men overboard.
If you get sick, do it over the top deck -- preferably on the lee side -- and don't look for sympathy from your watch mates who have to pick up your work.
Ask permission for everything. It's like being back in school. Or in the military.
"We need to know where you are 24 hours a day," one crew member said. "If you want to use the bathroom, you have to ask."
Measure the bilge in the engine room. Make sure refrigerators, one of the few 20th-century additions, aren't freezing. Fire alarms are installed, but sniff for smoke anyway.
Sling hammocks close to the ceiling for a tight bed and to avoid bumps from 2 a.m. night watchmen passing through.
Those in the mess deck, where Cook's marines separated the crew from the officers, crouched under a 4-foot, 7-inch-high ceiling and ignored head butts against beams. Fears of falling overboard turned into fears of getting concussions.
Rope hung everywhere. From the foremast through pulleys, down small wooden tunnels and around cleats where it ended in a neat coil.
"With regard to 18th-century technology, we tend to underestimate the genius of the minds who designed ships like this," said Jim Manring, a former dean of the college of technology at Georgia Southern University, who paid to be a supernumerary and was allowed to work only when he wanted.
"They had limited resources and technology but they accomplished so much."
For 29-year-old Michael Friedman, an experienced sailor from Weston, Conn., the trip was the ultimate test of one's sailing abilities. It also was the best way to determine if he would enjoy living on a tall ship full time.
He bailed when he docked in Charleston.
"I'm able to perform the duties necessary to work on a tall ship," he said. "I just think I'm very routine oriented and working on a tall ship requires a certain amount of flexibility and energy I don't have.
"Any boat, but especially a tall ship, requires constant love and attention, almost like a person, and the attention that needs to be given is very physically and mentally demanding."
Endeavour's craving for attention is fed by 17 permanent sailors from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada, most of whom had just finished a 2 1/2 -month trek from England to Florida.
They resembled the cast of a Broadway play.
There was the producer: Captain Chris Blake. Standing 5-feet 7-inches tall, he often strode from his cabin dressed only in shorts.
He checked the compass, set a course, told the novice at the wheel she was doing fine and let her steer alone. Engines off. Nothing but sail.
He called the cell phone at his side a pain.
"That's why we sail, to leave that all behind," he said.
Dominic Hannelly, one of the show's directors from Sydney, wore a killer whale tattoo on his shoulder and constantly shouted, "Collapse your coils. Take your lines down to one turn. On your port sheet, haul away."
His commands incited a chorus of "two...six....heave" as muscles pulled rope as thick as snakes through platter-sized pulleys.
"All hands to bracing stations," he screamed. His crew appeared like fire ants racing to fix a smashed nest.
Hannelly, a 26-year-old ex-Outward Bound instructor, simplified sailing with body language. He spread his arms to his side and moved them up and down to describe "halyard." He twisted his torso to demonstrate "braces" and tipped his arms to show "lifts."
"To sail around the world on a square-rigged sailing ship is unbelievable," he said. "I've learned how incredible people are. People are afraid of heights and they'll still go (aloft).
"It scares me that one day I'll have to leave and find something better. It's going to be hard to move upwards."
Upper Yardsman Tina Jackson would win a role in "Cats." She scampered from rigging to yards like an acrobat, often ignoring safety lines that the crew was ordered to hook onto with their harnesses.
The 27-year-old from Bognor Regis, England hopped on the ship nearly two years ago to hitch a ride home from Fremantle, Western Australia, where she was visiting a friend.
"It gives you a sense of freedom to be away from the land," she said. "It's wonderful to see no land at all."
"Joey" made the meals. She stood in a tiny kitchen chopping green peppers as seawater rocked the galley.
Some nights she served potato and smoked fish casserole, other times she dished out beef stir fry. She plopped broccoli on plates to protect sailors from scurvy, a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency.
Nicknamed Joey, Joanna Mannington left her home on New Zealand's north island two years ago to live on the ship. She had resigned from a job in food management and had her bags packed for London when she heard a radio advertisement for the cook's job.
"It's such a unique way to travel," the 28-year-old said. "I get to see a side of the world I wouldn't see if I were a tourist. I get to see real people, real homes. If I were backpacking, I would never have that opportunity."
If she were backpacking, Mannington may not have found love. Like other crew members, she has developed a relationship with a colleague. They call it the Love Boat, she said.
"We keep it professional on board and do whatever on shore," she said.
Tight quarters may spur love, but it also demands patience. Escaping an annoying shipmate is tough when your home is floating at sea.
"It's a close, intimate environment and you have to be tolerant of people," said 25-year-old Shelley Morgan of Perth, Western Australia.
At sea, sailors talked, played board games and read. A bookshelf held "The Horse Whisperer," the Bible and National Geographics.
On long voyages, they threw alcohol-free parties, set up a 16 mm camera, watched "Blackbeard the Pirate" and "Woody Woodpecker" and ate popcorn.
At port, they walked to the pubs, toured the area and pulled in-line skates and bikes from the ship.
They shopped but didn't buy much. Most had only a sea chest for storage. Officers slept in tiny private rooms. Others shared rooms big enough to hold only three-tiered bunks, known as vegetable racks.
They generously hugged and kissed each other, wore small hoop earrings and sported Maori talisman carved from fish bone, one of which symbolized strength and a safe return home.
"Everyone has a great rapport because we have to work together, sleep together and socialize together," Mannington said. "If anything, we don't get to see enough of each other because we're always working."
The cast continued prepping their stage March 30, after 6 a.m. wake up.
Scrub against the deck's grain, please, to remove dirt that had settled during nine days docked in Brunswick.
"This is our friend, the canvas bucket," said Esther Smith-Mitchell, an 18-year-old paid crew member from Perth, Western Australia who joined the ship in Florida.
"We use salt water to scrub the decks because it's better for wood and we have a lot more of it than fresh water when we're at sea. Trust me, you put on a lot of muscle. I'm not a ruffy tuffy sailor yet."
Endeavour started her performance before an audience of locals who lined Jekyll and St. Simons islands.
She swaggered northeast 25 miles under the spotlight of a quarter moon and rested for her second showing in Savannah.
Her backdrop Tuesday was a sunrise of peach and lavender. The crew had little time to notice. The galley needed a rubdown again and Endeavour's costume, her surging sails, needed rearranging.
Soon she swayed past Tybee's lighthouse and Fort Jackson to an orchestra of cannon firings and a fife rendition of Yankee Doodle.
The antagonist appeared hours later. Port Royal Sound tried to suck her in as she wobbled toward Charleston.
But she paid it no mind. She started her engines for extra muscle and escaped.
Tugs and dolphins escorted the leading lady into Charleston Harbor on Thursday and a four-masted schooner skirted along her wake like extras. Revolutionary War re-enactors fired muskets and men played bagpipes as if asking for an encore.
The crew had little time to notice. They were climbing the rigging to pack Endeavour's dress.
Americans and Aussies who were strangers days earlier hugged goodbye, like a Broadway cast ending a tour of hard work.
"It's such a special ship," said Hannelly, the captain of the tops from Sydney. "It's a very positive ship. It's always going somewhere.
"The people make it special most of all. This ship attracts something in people. There is some kind of spirit involved in it and every new person who comes on adds to it."