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 Madera, where we might stop for a day, 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,
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!