Stepping into a different world

July 19, 2018

My first week on the Bark Europa was on the one hand a really long week on the other hand just as long as all weeks are on the main land. Before I went on my voyage and stepped on board of the ship in Horta I spend some time exploring Fajal, one off the islands forming the Azores. As a Dutch citizen I entered the tourist shop to ask information about bike rental. The cheapest and most Dutch way of exploring the island. In the tourist shop a local tourist employee helped me out and a nice long conversation about the history off the island and its people started. The volcanic shaped island Pico is facing the harbor in Horta, Fajal and the tourist employee told me that the locals say to each other on different times of the day or week, ‘Pico is really close today’. He believed and explained it might have been caused by the brightness off the sky and the temperature which evolves in an optical illusion making the distance seems shorter.

The weather on sea causes similar illusions on the ship. On a bright day with the sun in the sky days are shorter. People from different watches stay longer on deck and enjoy the weather and company of others. On gray days people stay longer in their rooms and go earlier back again. Not to be mistaken, they are not grumpy in any way, they tend to sleep more. Then theoretical there is the same amount of hours between the different watches, the schedule is equal divided. The different times the watches take place effects the watches, making them seem either shorter, more fun, easier or lasting longer, more unsatisfying or seem harder.

Time flies when you work on chores around the ship, like sanding wooden parts outside. Sanding jobs like removing varnish from the wheelhouse, the blocks lines run true, banks, tables or sanding the boom of the aft mast of the ship also known as the mizzen mast which is the latest project started. Work continues on this ship every hour of the day. At night time the noise gets reduced to a minimum and when not helming or standing on lookout for anything in particular in the sea or on the horizon, you could be making baggy wringles. Baggy wringles are made to wrap around the standing rigging to protect the sails when slapping against them. The correct word should be ‘sennits’ but everybody knows them by baggy wringles.

The smallest things can be very entertaining and exciting when sailing a long trip like this one. Dolphins can lean over the ship to one side by everybody running to the side of the ship where they have been spotted. It is not uncommon to run out the deckhouse with 25 man in a line on to the main deck to look at the newest spotted issue. After some time, could be days, without seeing wildlife a huge ship spotted far away on the horizon gives the same effect. Everybody gets excited about it, will talk about it and will follow it till it is gone again. Between the total of 500 sea miles we have sailed from the start we have seen three ships. One of them in the night the other two at daytime, so you can imagine the excitement to see something.

Lectures about all kinds of issues involving the ship, wildlife or plastics and the research with the manta trawl could be given by any time of the day. Knots with Toby & Martijn at 3:00 is an example of it. You could imagine the level of professionalism is not up front on those moments. Usually lectures are well beforehand announced and the tasks of helming and lookout are taking over by permanent crew so everybody can join the lectures.

When the notification off a pinrail race got announced three days before, everybody got in some sort off competitive learning state. It became common to see people walking around the ship looking suspiciously at each other and the running rigging talking to themselves. Off course trying to learn all the lines and the pins there placed on. The race held, spot on a week after the Europa left the harbor, was a nice mood booster. Everybody got some good nerves for it. On the competition day people even tried to make excuses to get out of the race. When the race was explained and got a better outline the competition between the groups formed by the different watches, the salty sailors (a group sailors who already sailed on the ship before) and the permanent crew started. In the end everybody had a blast laughing about it. It was a joyful experience on a windless day.

Sailing on the Europa is an experience that is diverse for everyone. Therefor it cannot easily be written down in a few words. There are plenty of books writing about experiences on voyages, and I could write one too. The stories told by sailors about magical appearances such as mermaids are just as unbelievable for people on shore as my experiences with sailing on the Europa. For example sailing through the night with the sky filled with billons of stars or seeing the water glow up on a clouded night because off forphor iluminacense, little organisms that produce light because of movement. The trail of glowing water behind the boot when helming added with sparkles like firework made by slightly different organisms should be experienced since it cannot be explained with words only.

Irene van der Deijl

About Us

The Friends of Bark EUROPA is a foundation that offers youngsters who could really use some time from home, the opportunity to sail a lifechanging voyage on board EUROPA. In addition the Foundation helps to fund the maintenance of the old lady EUROPA.