Ship’s Logs and Stories from Bark Europa as she Begins her Annual Journey from Europe to Antarctica
Leaving the Netherlands – The English Channel
- Leaving the Netherlands – The English Channel
8 September 2018 5:30 UTC – 47 52 N 006 00 W
The fourth of September around 14:00 Europa left home port Scheveningen (The Hague) on her way south for another year of wandering around the Atlantic.
The 4 week visit to the Netherlands was very nice. First Sail Harlingen, then a maintenance period in Zaandam and on top of that a couple of days in Scheveningen. It was warming to see so many people visiting the ship.
Some were new, some had been sailing on the ship before, as permanent or voyage crew. Super to see everybody again and feel the enthusiasm of the
people for the Europa.Many thanks for all the help we received during our stay at home! We hope to see everybody back next year!
Now we’re back at sea. To be precise, we just passed Ile D’Ouessant, thereby left the English channel and entered the Bay of Biscay. The first days after leaving Scheveningen we had a nice Northern wind to push us south with good speed. This wind lasted until sailing south of the Isle of Wight after which it became more variable. We still could sail most of the time, only sometimes the current pushed us back into direction Dover or Channel Islands. It’s a strange feeling to have the sails filled on a heading 245 and see that the course over ground is 120. Every time again the wind came back and we made it under sails until 15 NM of the North coast of Bretagne. That was yesterday afternoon when the wind died, as predicted. Since that time we’re under engine making our way South.
Life on board was a bit bumpy for some voyage crew the first day, but by now practically everybody got used to being at sea. Sails are being set and taken away, for practise or for real. Lines are learned, miles steered and ships spotted. The crew on board get to know each other, all in all there is a good atmosphere on board.
When the wind died the dolphins found us and have been since that time regularly around the ship. Last night it sounded as if it was raining, but the sound came from lots of fish being chased and eaten by dolphins
Now we look forward to meet a nice breeze and set the sails again. Hopefully the daylight will bring some wind.
- The Bay of Biscay
14 September 2018
38 41 N 009 41 W
Before you leave port to start a voyage you have an imagination of the area to sail in and under what circumstances that possible will be. The input of information on weather that we use, can be found in for example books (pilots), pilot charts, internet and stories of fellow sailors.
When we entered the Bay of Biscay some people on board were quite anxious. According the on forehand heard stories, big storms and high waves were to be expected. But the weather shouldn’t be the weather when it wasn’t as surprising as it was. The first day we were under engine on a flat calm sea. The last seasick voyage crew started to feel 100% better again during that day and quite some Finn whales were spotted.
From halfway the Bay of Biscay on we met light airs and were able to sail again. Favourable winds varying from North to East helped us forward. Slowly. It gave us the opportunity to have a lot of maintenance projects going on and of course participate in the Europa famous pinrail
chase. The crew was super inventive and came up with some new ideas.
Causing a lot of laughter during of course the serious business of knowing all your lines and knots. By the time we crossed the Bay of Biscay, we hadn’t had more than 12 knots of wind and lots of sunshine.
Still the temperature was relative fresh, but hey…., we were sailing South along the coast of Spain first and then Portugal, so it would be sunny and warm soon.
The night we got closer to the Spanish coast we sailed under a sky full of stars, until we entered a fog bank like entering a door into a steamy room. From very good visibility to only half a mile. Another surprise for some . Since many were in shorts the day before there were a couple of surprised faces on the deck in the morning before they turned around to get the warm gear out again.
The first day the fog dissipated before noon, but the day after only in the evening. Since then we have had quite some foggy time. Yesterday the sun came out, but while writing this we are sailing in the fog once more. Mysterious and nice, but hopefully later today we’ll be able to see the Portuguese coast before entering the bay of Cascais.
It’s an experience to not always get the weather what you might have been expecting on forehand. For our voyage good because we had smooth sailing. Not always that much wind, but the “expected” Portuguese north wind was there and we have been able to sail all the way along the coast down to where we are now… almost there, but luckily another half day of sailing to enjoy.
- The Seas South of Portugal
The seas south of Portugal hold their promise of warm sun, shining blue waters with ever shifting hues, and steady winds. Time is flowing slowly, as the sun travels above our masts, and I have lost the count of days; the only thing I know for sure is the time of our next watch.
For the first time since our departure from Scheveningen, 3 weeks ago, we barely had to handle the sails in the last 2 days. A light but steady breeze is slowly pushing us towards Madeira, where we might stop for aday, and the Canary Islands, which will be, for me, the end of the voyage.
Altough navigation is not keeping us very busy, there is plenty of work to do to keep Europa in good shape. In the last days, I have spent hours, up in the rigging of the main mast, replacing mousings (tiny knots of metal wire that prevent the shackles from coming loose) and painting shrouds with a thick black tar, while others were busy changing blocks on the lines, fixing the ladders that lead to the top of the mast, or varnishing old blocks that would go back into the rigging. From the first platform of the foremast, with the afternoon sun playing between the sails, I could hear my fellow shipmates singing old sailor songs from all countries, down below, in the deckhouse, the indistinct sound of conversations, on the foredeck, and the whispers of the waves against the hull, a sound that has become so familiar, over the last 3 weeks, that it seems to be part of the air itself.
When I looked up from my task, for a moment, all I could see were the white square sails and the impressive stunning sails of the foremast, and all around, in every direction, the deep blue of the ocean. Apart from the maintenance of the ship and between our watches at the helm or the lookout, we had time to practice sail handling with the permanent crew, setting and striking the royals and the headsails, and doing our best to learn the names and places of the dozens of lines connecting the sails to the deck: clewlines, halyards, sheets, outhaul, braces…
As the sun is setting on the Atlantic, I am getting ready to go to bed; I will get up at midnight, and be on watch until 4 in the morning, hoping for a little shift in the wind, that would demand sail handling… Otherwise, I still have those shrouds to paint!
A surprise visit to Madeira
Back in time, sailors fleeing from a storm stumbled across an island in the Atlantic which was part of an Archipelago known as Madeira.
It was not a storm but good sailing conditions that allowed us to pay a visit to marvellous Madeira. The capital Funchal welcomed us with beautiful weather and friendly people. After a cup of coffee, we hopped on a bus that took us east along the Southern coast, passing beautiful mountain villages and breathtaking scenery all the way to Baia d’Abra. The view that presented itself to us was fundamentally different from the view from the city.
The dramatic cliffs in various shades of brown and red were in great contrast to the clear blue ocean glittering in the hot sun. A hiking trail lead to the end of a peninsula offering another awe inspiring view at every turn. Traces from once hot flowing lava served as a reminder of the volcanic origin of the island. Vegetation was sparse and fitted neatly into the color scheme of the landscape.
A bit hungry and thirsty we made a spontaneous stop in a nearby village named Carnical which was currently hosting a flower festival. Blossoms made from paper in many colors decorated the streets of this lovely village. The garlic bread together with a fresly prepared local Maracuya Punch was really welcome after the long hike in the morning. With only a few buses heading back to Funchal we decided to hitchhike back to the capital city, which wasn’t a problem at all with plenty of people offering us a ride to the next town. Three rides later we made it back to Funchal where we met up with a few friends of the Bark Europa for a lovely dinner, including some very tasty Madeira wine and local fish, freshly caught in the morning.
The next morning at 8am, after 24 hours in the harbour, we were happy to set the sails again.. oh what a nice wind we had and with a good speed we headed to our next destination.. Tenerife? or maybe the captain has another surprise for us.. let’s see
Isabella & Moniek
- Selvagem Grande
We landed at Selvagem Grande, a Portuguese island located between Madeira and the Canaries.
Being of volcanic origin, it’s other-worldy and almost deserted. If it weren’t for regular staff – two marine police officers, two rangers and a mechanic – with their dog Selvagem, only wildlife was to be found on the island. Attempts were made to colonize the island centuries ago, but the lack of water made the endeavour unsuccessful.
Regular staff stay at the island for periods of up to 15 days. Biologists may also be working on the island, but aren’t always present. Hence, rangers help biologists in surveying the island. They may do technical work such as blood sampling or biometric studies, among other. Man-made structures are limited to staff houses and landing facilities, apart from the walls and the wells built during the colonization attempt.
Despite being a somewhat remote island, visitors are accepted and can use a barbecue facility upon requesting for permission.
Being the only Portuguese person on board, I was asked to act as a translator and help facilitate the communication between the EUROPA crew and the island staff. We were suggested to trek the island on an one hour tour, guided by one of the rangers.
While walking on partly steep and small paths, which were delimited by volcanic stones, we experienced breathtaking views of cliffs, bays and volcanic peaks.
There are no trees on the island. Fauna in Selvagem Grande is limited to sheerwater birds, lizards and geckoes.
All in all, this was an experience which seemed to have happened far from the European continent. Having EUROPA laid anchor close to a remote island and having gone ashore on small rubber boats, it somewhat reminded me of my trip to Antarctica in 2006.
Going to Selvagem Grande was a big and delightful surprise, and I feel thankful to the Bark EUROPA crew for such a wonderful experience.
We arrived in Tenerife and yesterday we had to say goodbye to part of the voyage crew! We had a fantastic time all together and what a beautiful goodbye from our voyage crew with this poem
POEM by Moritz, Dave and Elly
The journey started in Portugal,
where we got to meet us all.
The zodiac brought us to the Bark,
where we saw the BBQ to spark.
We started our journey on the deep,
we steered the ship and lookout keep.
Everybody was working fine,
until Rembert called for “coffee time!”
The nights were too “dark to see the sun”,
on the watches we had a lot of fun,
we saw dolphins, turtles and also whales,
coming to see the stunning sails.
Sloopy pulled us all ashore,
where we found cute birds, 5 guys and not much more.
The sea was calm, most stomaches too.
Always restless was the Crew!
They had been busy day and night
and always had been so polite.
Thank you to the galley team,
the food was always like a dream.
And now from “red”, “white”and “blue”
a big THANK YOU to this entire and amazing Crew!
- Leg Tenerife -Sal
This is my first trip on a tall ship. I’m participating on the small leg from Tenerife to Sal (Cabo Verde). We had last Sunday under a blue sky a smooth start from the pier in Santa Cruz, with a nice breeze from the north-east, allowing us to put sails directly from the beginning and sailing out of the port with the motor just in a stand-by modus !
All Sunday we sailed south alongside the east-coast of Tenerife and spotted some small pilot whales (3.8-6 m), which were going up north.
The daily life on this beautiful lady is a new experience to me and in no way similar to the life ashore. It is a nice challenge to get used to the rhythm of a 4 hours on and 8 hours off watch system, to get along with 6 guys in a small cabin of about 10m3 (having different watch schedules) and trying to link about 53 names to the correct faces.
A small but international community of people from Holland, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Russia, France, the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, U.S.A., Australia (most probably I’m overlooking some others?!), all having their own stories. A lot of interaction and very nice atmosphere.
I was lucky and had before-yesterday the dog-watch (00.00-04.00 o’clock) when our captain decided to put the clock one hour back. In other words 5 nice hours on board, enjoying a clear sky full of stars and on top of that a nice moon rise.
The days are being filled up with nice meals, assisting on setting/ taking down sails, assisting on all kind of small maintenance activities, all kind of trainings related to sailing, reading and trying to do my daily small workout on the sloopdeck,.
We are actually sailing at about 150 miles alongside the coast of West-Sahara, wind is expected to remain north-east, meanwhile picked up a bit and we seem to be on schedule for arrival to Sal by next Sunday/Monday.
Life is good on board of this historic vessel. Every morning freshly baked bread, Dutch cheese, cookie time at 10.00 a.m, snacks at 17.00 p.m., lunch buffet on deck in the open air and every day (sofar) fresh soup, fresh vegetables and delicious deserts and even a small box with fresh herbs on board (!!), what else can one wish on the Atlantic Ocean !!
A big compliment to the professional and enthusiastic crew with a lot of youngsters, always busy and putting a lot of energy and love into this vessel.
Johan van der Burgt
- The Atlantic
Walking around as teletubbies!
6 days ago we left Sal. With favourable winds the first 24 hours we sailed in between the islands. Finally the last land disappeared behind the horizon and all on board knew that no land is to be seen for many days. Phones were put on flight mode or switched of and then we were in our own small world on the big ocean.
The wind has been on and off in force and the direction varying between East and North, mainly being NNE. A perfect wind to set the stuns’ls, next to almost all other sails, and leave them there till last night. In the daytime it was clear that we were in the tropics. From sunrise to sunset the temperature was high, the sun burning and the water temperature rose quickly up till a 29 degrees now.
On Sal just a few new voyage crew joined, the other 28 all stayed on board from earlier in the trip. After departure the new voyage crew got to learn the basics. The others are very helpful in teaching and helping them out. Next to lectures, by permanent and voyage crew on a great variations of topics, drills are part of the weekly routine. It was fun, and a bit warm and sweaty, to get all immersion suits out during an abandon ship drill and have everybody try a suit on. A good exercise for everybody. With lots of laughing to see fellow travellers walking around as teletubbies.
At the moment of writing we just passed the first vessel in days. A fishing vessel with working lights so bright that no other navigation lights could be discovered. We guess it’s a long liner, but without AIS and no name visible the vessel stays a mysterious bright glow in the dark. The lookout was extra sharp to see if we could detect buoys with stroboscope lights around the ship, luckily we encountered none.
Last night the sky was filled with squalls and for the first time since departing the Netherlands we had rain that lasted till the morning. The sky was filled all night with lightning and sometimes thunder could be heard. Only at the end of the morning the sky cleared. Till noon there was wind to sail with. The direction and force changed often and kept everybody busy. Good fun!! Just before lunch the wind died and after a “refreshing” swim stop we went from sails to engine.
Hopefully the weather forecast is right and the wind will return soon from the SE. For the moment the lightning is visible but far away. We keep on sailing on a southern course, looking forward to meet the favourable winds. And of course to cross the equator with a ship full pollywogs..
- Night Sailing
The things we see at night
At night on the ocean it is not as dark as you might think. On Europa, you may enjoy the night even more than the day, when it comes to the lookout duties we do during our watches. At least I do. It is hard to describe the beauty of the light effects mother nature has created for us, and some are probably hard to imagine when you have never seen them with your own eyes.
Between the sail handling or other duties on deck, there is plenty of time for stargazing. We have seen clear skies with the most magnificent starry nights. The sky of the northern hemisphere now losing more and more terrain, with Big Bear (Ursa Major) long gone and Polaris (the Northern star), slowly sinking below the horizon. Near the equator, I have developed a much better understanding of the rotation of the Earth within the galaxy, when you see the stars moving overhead during the night.
Looking at the planets and the stars, you see differences in colour. Of course Mars has its orange/red colour but there are more nuances: Sirius is in fact green and others have a blueish colour. As I understand it from some fellow sailors the southern hemisphere is even more overwhelming.
Almost forgot to mention that I’m out of wishes, since I have seen countless shooting stars. And one could argue that, in order to reach the true zen state, you should not have wishes, since they only lead to envy. But let’s not get into that. I support the theory of one of my fellow sailors that the chances of your wish becoming true are increasing if you repeat it with the next shooting star.
Currently we are sailing in the region in between the northeasterly and southeasterly trade winds on either side of the equator, where the atmosphere is unstable. It can mean either hot days with no wind or bad weather with lots of wind and rain. Especially at night squalls develop easily. This means we can see lightning almost every night. Often it looks like somebody is taking giant photos behind the horizon. But when thunderstorms are more close by, the thunderbolts are an awesome sight.
Last night we had the first rain poring down on us since we left the Netherlands.
Maybe you have seen algae lighting up at the beach, when waves are breaking in the sand. At sea, you can see the algae most of the time. At least I have seen it almost every night since we left Scheveningen. It is like fairy dust, sprinkled on the bow wave of the ship. The effect is fantastic when we are discovered by dolphins, who take a little time to accompany us. The abbreviation LED-light stands (at sea) for Light Emitting Dolphins, as the wake of their tails light up under water. The first time I saw this, about twenty years ago, I thought for a second that a submarine had fired torpedoes onto our yacht.
But it becomes even more astonishing when you see the wake of the ship, the trail we leave behind in the water. The wake is lights up most of the time by the algae, up to thirty meters behind us, sometimes with little underwater explosions, as if some crazy diver is throwing fire crackers under water. The last three nights there are glowing lights in the wake visible for several seconds, in green or blue fluorescent colours, about the size of a football. We think that it might be jelly fish, but up to now it remains unclear. No one knows what the creatures of the deep have in petto for us.
- The Doldrums
Doldrums. This crossing it was not so much about no wind, but about the direction of the wind. We met the SE’lies at 5 degrees North and when the wind stabilised we changed course to the SW. This part of the voyage was completely according the Ocean passages for the World. Winds of 10 knots, varying between SE and SSE, forecasted to shift to the ESE. That last part did not really happen for a while. Certain bits we could sail, but in the end the Equatorial current pushed us hard to the west. We spend a bit more time under engine, to prevent us ending up to close to North Brazil.
It were squally day and nights. Wind shifts into various directions with a great variation in force and big warm raindrops poring down every once in a while kept the crew and voyage crew busy. Setting all sails, taking them away, bracing, setting sails, bracing again… Putting on foul weather gear, taking it off, apply sunscreen, get wet, put on dry clothes, apply sunscreen again… A widely spreading invention was the “pull up your shorts so high that they fit underneath your jacket so that they don’t get wet”. Which looks a bit weird, causes a good laugh and is above all highly effective.
Upon closing in onto the equator the wind finally decided to shift and our position was east enough to set all sails and keep course in a southern direction. Close hauled sailing we crossed the line the 20st in the morning. The Pollywogs on board looked happy, but started to get a bit nervous at the same time. Uncertain when to expect a visit from Neptune they speculated about the time and tried to bargain and bribe to make sure not to end up bold. They should have know…it doesn’t work…
Today was the moment that Neptune and his court arrived on board. By the end of the afternoon all were relieved. With a lighter hart, crimes paid for and a Shellback name, all are ready for the second half of the voyage to Montevideo. The atmosphere is good, the nights are moon lit and the winds favourable. Let’s see what adventures the upcoming week will bring.
Stay Tuned for more updates from the Ship and the Crew as they Approach Montevideo
If this article has inspired you to try an ocean voyage, then take a look at our related voyages just here: