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Joining the Watch System

EUROPA sails 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sail handling can happen at any moment, so the crew takes turns in being a wake and sailing the ship. The Bark EUROPA is registered as a sail training ship and as such you will be mustered as voyage crew. This means that, more so than on a passenger ship, you will get extensive safety instructions and you and your fellow voyage crew will be placed in the watch system. Participating in sailing and running the Bark EUROPA is a very big part of the overall experience on board. On deck you work together with the permanent crew. The watch system consists of joining the permanent crew for 4 hours, after which you will be off for 8 hours.

As one of our captains put it: 'Although it is a sail training vessels requirement that we don’t pamper you like passengers and have to involve you into the day-to-day running of the ship for safety reasons, the watch system is a valuable addition to your experience. It will pull you out of your comfort-zone and into the world of tall ship sailing!'

Voyage Crew

The trainees are placed in a three-watch system, with four hours on and eight hours off and a split ‘platvoet’. Following this system you will have watch at different times every day so you will see a sunrise one day and a sunset the next. The watches are named after the colours of the Dutch flag and follow up in the same sequence. While on watch you will take turns at the helm, stand lookout and help with sail handling and maintenance.

A possible watch schedule:  

  00:00 04:00 08:00 12:00 14:00 16:00 18:00
Day 1 Red White Blue Red White Blue Red
Day 2 White Blue  etc.        

Following this system you will have watch at different times every day so you will see a sunrise one day and a sunset the next.

Permanent Crew

The permanent crew is divided in two watches, called Port and Starboard. Depending on the Captain in charge, the crew follows a watch system divided in four shifts of six hours (six-on-six-off) during 24 hours or the Swedish Watch system. These Swedish watches work alternating shifts of four hours during the night (2000 – 0800 hrs) and six during the day (0800 – 2000 hrs).

Wake ups for your watch

If going on watch you will be woken in sufficient time to have some food, or in the night to get some coffee, and enough time for a handover from the previous watch. It is very important to be on time, as the previous watch can not be stood down until you have surfaced. It is your responsibility to be awake and ready for action on deck. Not everybody likes to be woken up so it is important to go about the wake-ups with some sensitivity.

It is for you to learn the personal preferences of your fellow trainees regarding their wake up habits. No-one likes to be shouted at while asleep ‘military style’. Others asleep in the cabin may not be in the same watch so turning the lights on is not always an option. Everyone adapts to the watch times differently so try to be patient with those who need two wake up calls.

It is important to pass on general information like what time it is, and what the weather is like so that they can dress appropriate to the conditions on deck. If needed, some extra encouragement can motivate slow risers like “we’re under full sail”, “full moon”, “pancakes for breakfast”, “it’s finally stopped raining!”

Before knocking off watch make sure everyone you woke up has made it out of their cabins and has not drifted off again.