Combining the whole of the crew are the hands, muscles and brains sailing the Europa across the oceans. From galley to captain, all are working for the common goal of crossing from South to North Atlantic. Decisions about the sail configuration and course changes must be continuously taken, maintenance projects always go around in a never ending cycle, several jobs must be finished and in the end, individual and group projects fit together for the common goal.
It’s a bit like finding yourself the figurehead of a huge ship - you are feeling each one of her sailors as you cleave through the water with your own body. Just imagine being the ship’s captain and the figurehead on her bowsprit at one and the same time. You have no arms or legs - but it’s still up to you to decide how the sails should be rigged Victor Pelevin. ´Empire V’ The Prince of Hamlet
And labouring all together to sail the ship safe and sound to the Netherlands, at the mercy of the wind, we have been through many different situations already. From good, rough sailing, riding the back of a large low pressure system, to afterwards ending up in a windless area. sailing downwind, on a beam reach and close hauled on variable winds, under reduced canvas in the forceful winds, or setting more sail when the breeze slacks. From the cold Patagonia to the good subtropical and tropical sunny and warm weather. We endured high seas and lately much calmer conditions which make for an easier life on board. Nevertheless, leisure time during the watches is always seldom. When possible, just the Sundays are left for personal discretion to continue jobs and individual projects, besides sailhandling and necessary repairs.
…it may be well to define a day’s work, and to correct a mistake prevalent among landsmen about a sailor’s life. Nothing is more common than to hear people say -“Are not sailors very idle at sea?- what can they find to do?” This is a very natural mistake, and being very frequently made, it is one which every sailor feels interested in having corrected.
… With regards to the work upon which the men are put, it is a matter which probably would not be understood by one who has not been at sea. When I first left port, and found that we were kept regularly employed for a week or two, I supposed that we were getting the vessel into sea trim, and that it would soon be over, and we should have nothing to do but to sail the ship but I found that it continued so for two years, and at the end of the two years there was much to be done as ever. Richard Henry Dana. ´Two Years Before the Mast´
Sails must be set and trimmed, or taken down and furled, yards need to be braced, there are always some ropes to pull or tie and crew can be seen climbing aloft all over. The rig has to be checked and replacements must be continuously be put aloft, rigging has to be overhauled and repaired, damaged lines spliced or changed, chafing gear must be put in place depending on how the sails are set and the point of sail. Also to consider small projects like seizing blocks, the making of grommets, gaskets, greasing masts and keeping an eye on freeing ports. In addition to navigation related jobs, on a trip like the one we are on, there are also countless maintenance undertakings. Door frames to scrape, wooden panels and bunks to sand, embellishment projects all over the interior of the ship, rust busting, grinding, chipping. Engineers are always busy to keep generators, bilge pumps, water makers, fridges, freezers running plus other innumerable jobs. Cooks keep going on all day long in their galley and stores. The service and upkeep of the ship usually has to be reduced to the minimum necessary while sailing in high latitudes and during the Antarctic season, but takes over again during long voyages across oceans, warmer temperatures and when in port. But when the winds momentarily seem to completely abandon us, there is always some time for enjoying a refreshing oceanic swim. And while sailing in good conditions, also to set a fishing rod and to try our luck to add some fresh fish to our diet, when petrels, albatrosses and other seabirds have been left behind and there is no peril of hooking them on the bait.
Enduring storms or calms, cold or hot temperatures, we live through constant physical and psychological movement ahead, towards our destination. Even though lately we find ourselves frequently in areas with light and calm breeze, flat seas, just with the remains of a long low swell. When the wind starts blowing we set sail again, wear ship or brace accordingly to be back in motion, trying to reach areas with more fair conditions. We passed rich oceanic areas and main bird migration routes, and now not many companions join our track. Now and then a turtle can be seen close to the ship or a couple of Sperm whale blows break the endless sea surface.
When one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can cause one to feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly unravelling. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes more and more difficult to keep a balanced grip on one’s being. The mind expands to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self. Haruki Murakami
Relying only on the power of the winds for our progress, many days are already at our backs, but many more to come with the broad untamed sea and the unlimited horizon as our only landscape, under sunny days and incredibly starry sky, or braving countless squalls and pouring rains.
Pictures and text by Jordi Plana Morales