Den Helder to Stavanger. The first leg of our voyage to Brazil.
Our ‘Shakedown’ dreamteam Crew: Captain Arjen, 1st mate Ruurd, 2nd mate Steven, Bosun Cole, Chef Lucy, Sail trainees Erik, Amorie, Alexandra, Adrian, Alistair, Francois, Biz, Mijke, Tabea, Josepha, Rob, Vincent, Chimra, Amors, Christof
The tug arrived 10am prompt on Friday morning ready to manoeuvre the ship of the harbourside and out through the lock to the open sea. After 5 weeks on the queueside she was ready to sail complete with new sails, spars, ropes and a brand new ‘shakedown’ crew. The departure had been delayed a few days due to bad weather so the crew were eager to get sailing.
Once out of the lock the orders were given to unfurl the sails. Quickly harnesses were donned and the rigging scaled ready to start setting the sails. The was a good breeze and once the sails were set we were making 9 knots in a northerly direction. Leaving the most northerly tip of Holland to starboard.
The watch system was instigated after lunch. The system onboard is the Swedish system of in the day 6 hours on, 6 hours off, with 3 times 4 hour watches in the night. The trainee crew were split into port and starboard watch with Ruurd and Steven as the watch leaders. As the chef aboard I’m not in the watch system. My day runs from 6.30am till after serving supper around 8.30pm. By mid afternoon the swell and the motion began to get the better of some of the crew and a wave of seasickness set in that has taken a full 3 days to shake off for some.
A hearty meal of pasta with vegetables and béchamel sauce was provided for the crew with strong stomachs. The sky was filled with rippled clouds and a bright full moon, which resembled a giant glowing snowflake as the bright rays of the moon filter through the matrix of cloud. The waters are busy in this area of the North Sea and a look out was stationed to check for ships, fishing boats and fishing line buoys.
The following morning I was gently stirred from my sleep by Steven, the 2nd mate. Orders from the top are to wake people gently! Makes for a happier ship. A vat of porridge was prepared to warm tummies of the night watch and fuel the arriving watch. There is a strong wind and lines have been threaded along the decks to clip harnesses along. Everyone on deck is now wearing a harness.
After lunch and much discussion over the weather forecasts, the Captain Arjen made the decision to slow down the ship and stay in the area of sea below the storm.
The warmest place on the ship is galley. This means there is an almost constant stream of sailors coming in to sit down, have a cup of tea and chat. Anything and everything is talked about. We have several young professional tall ship sailors aboard who come with funny tales and lewd jokes from previous escapades. The fact that the galley is in a deck cabin is one of the nicest aspects of the ship and makes for a real community. Saturday night we had a big pot of steaming lentil stew with cous cous, sauerkraut and roasted pumpkin. This made Steven very happy as his favourite thing in the world seems to be sauerkraut AKA powerkraut. I personally absolutely adore it to and it makes for perfect sea going fare as full of Vitamin C and last well in the stores. All meals are washed down with buckets of green tea on this ship. A drizzly wet night ensued. This is the North Sea after all. We could hardly expect sunshine and hot weather in October!
An abundance of bread meant a breakfast of ‘wentelteefje’, which literally translates as ‘turning bitches’ AKA ‘french toast’. The language of the ship is a mix of Dutch and English. We have 11 nationalities on board; Dutch, British, South African, Israel, Italian, German, French, Belgian, Canadian, Welsh and of course Friesland!
A morning of food prep passed lazily in the sunshine. Peeling potatoes, scrubbing carrots and chopping onions. One of the trainees requested plain rice to eat so a big pot was made to settle stomachs and get them back on their feet. Lunch was a pot of soup with croutons and handfuls of cheese sourced locally in Friesland from the lighthouse keeper who is also a cheese maker! Francois caught the first mackerel today. In total we caught 4, which will be making their way straight into the frying pan to complement tonight’s supper of roasted potatoes, green beans and cauliflower. Already the ship feels like a family. This is accelerated by the fact that many of the crew aboard have been working on the refit over the last 5 weeks so know each other well.
After lunch our trainee and onboard weather expert Alistair gave a lesson in weather systems, how to read high and low weather systems and plot your course through the wind changes drawing out his illustrations with a giant piece of chalk on the roof of the navigation house.
In the afternoon (sunday) we sailed through thunder and lightening. As a precaution all the electrics on board were turned off to prevent a direct strike. Whilst lightening struck around the ship, apple pudding and whipped cream was served steaming in the galley.
We thought the storm would pass by that evening and that we would be able to make our course in good conditions. However despite valiant efforts not to, we ended up sailing into the storm. By midday Monday conditions were harsh. The ship was heeling at least 20 degrees and rain was lashing down. A request was made for plain rice for lunch. One by one, wet soggy seamen swept through the galley taking brief respite from the conditions with a mug of tea, biscuits and warm food before heading back out to battle the sails and waves.
The very worst hit in the middle of the night. All hands were called on deck as the ship. A restless night before first land was spotted around 4am on Tuesday. The coastline of Norway was rocky and dotted with pointed houses. We set our bearing for the lighthouse and tacked into the fjord heading up wind to safe harbour where a bright red picture book tug named ‘Buddy’ met us and tugged us into the old harbour. The overarching feeling of this first leg has been how spectacularly comical it has been. As if lifted straight from the pages of adventure story book complete with primary coloured illustrations and animated boats… The level of good spirit on board, which remained until the bitter end, was magical.
Talking of good spirit… as always when safely snug in harbour, the sails were stowed and a bottle of celebratory tres hombres rum cracked open!
An epic start to our trans Atlantic escapades.