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The watch system

Bark EUROPA sails 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sail handling can happen at any moment and therefore we work with a watch system. Participating in sailing and running Bark EUROPA is a big part of the overall experience on board. It will put you out of your comfort zone and into the world of tall ship sailing.

Life on board is simple, but ever changing at the same time. As soon as the watch system starts you will quickly find the rhythm of life at sea. You will be divided in three watches, the red watch, blue watch and white watch, named after the colors of the Dutch flag. During your four hours on watch there will be several tasks that will be divided between the members of your watch.

There will always be two people on helm duty. Together, you will maintain a steady course on the helm. The crew will explain how to steer the ship and how to keep the right course. On the bow of the ship two people will stand on look-out. Whenever you see anything of interest in the water such as ships, buoys, icebergs or wildlife this will be communicated to the officer on watch. The rest of the watchmembers will be on deck duty.

During your watch there is also time to assist the crew with the maintenance of the ship. You will learn to work with traditional materials and methods. Woodworking, astronavigation, sailmaker work and traditional rope and rigging work will be part of your sailing experience. This way you will learn something new every day.

Voyage crew on watch

On board we work with 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. You will see a sunrise one day and a sunset on the next. The watches are named after the colors of the Dutch flag and follow up in the same sequence. A possible watch schedule would be:

  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.        

This system also means that your regular sleep rhythm will be off. You might be woken up before a watch at four in the night, while one of your cabinmates might just go back to its bunk. This means that the wake up calls for the watch will have to be done 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’. Try to be patient with those who need to be woken up.

It might help to pass on general information, like what time it is, what the weather is like so they can dress appropriately to the conditions on deck.  If needed, some extra encouragement can motivate slow risers with ‘we’re under full sail’, ‘full moon’, ‘pancakes for breakfast’ or ‘it’s finally stopped raining!’. It is very important to be on time, as the previous watch cannot go back to bed until you are ready.

Permanent crew on watch

The permanent crew is divided in two watches, called Port and Starboard. Depending on the captain in charge, the crew follows the 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).