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Calm after the storm. Blue skies, sunshine, rig and sail repairs

Luckily the heavy seas and blustery winds abate within just a few hours during the early morning and dawn surprised us with clear blue skies, a great sunrise and calm seas. A completely different picture from yesterday’s struggles to brave the quick and stormy passage of a low pressure system over us. The much better weather situation was a welcomed event for all of us. The crew got immediately started to assess, control and start fixing the damage Europa suffered yesterday. Already before breakfast the crew was busy cock-billing the starboard side of the fore course yard to the fore deck, where our bosun Dan quickly put his hands on the job of welding its damaged turtle block. At the start of the new morning watch the yard was already rigged again on the mast, and the sail awaited for further repairs, all accomplished during the day. In the meantime many were aloft busy with other repairs, like for example un-bending the main upper topsail of which the port 
clew corner ripped. Fortunately the sun was shining and Europa motorsailed at 6kn under light W-ly winds of 10 to 12kn towards South Georgia.

As the mending aloft continued, gradually more canvas could be set and after coffee time many give a hand on deck to set the remaining canvas as they become available. First sheeting down all squares over the still not available fore course, then main course and lower Topsail. With no upper top sail available, nothing is set above it. More staysails are added to the configuration and soon we are able to stop the engine and sail again under the inviting sunny clear skies and good seas. Steady and good W-ly breeze of about 12kn pulled us at about 4.5kn of speed, even slightly increasing when the captain decides to have a look on deck and trim the sails that are set. Today the weather and seas situation was even good enough to serve lunch on deck, an astonishing change for the best if we think on yesterday’s challenges to even move around the ship, let alone to enjoy the delicious meals that Gjalt and Sasha prepared for us in the galley, independently of the storms hitting our path. Enjoying this weather conditions today it was a good time for another of our drills. Right after lunch a loud shouting “Man Over Board” could be heard all over the ship. Continuous ring of the ship’s bell put in quick motion everybody. Square sails must be clewed up fast with the help of all voyage crew, medical preparations must take place, sharp lookouts must be kept over the victim (in this case a small black buoy attached to a life ring), decks must be prepared and safety lines and nets removed and finally two swimmers must jump into their dry suits as the captain masterfully steers the ship as close as possible to the man overboard. Keeping some staysails on, the recovery procedure takes place over the original windward side, but the steering manoeuvre will bring the ship around, so this becomes the lee side, meaning the ship will be heeling over closer to the water facilitating the job of hoisting victim and swimmers.

Once the exercise ended, slowly the fair breeze turned to blow more from our aft, making for an almost downwind sail. By that time all the repairs on the fore course are finished and it could be set. With this, all the squares on the fore mast are taking wind with their yards braced almost square. In the main mast just the course and lower topsail can be set, as from there above, the upper topsail yard is still naked without a sail bent on. On this course that is not a problem. Out on deck, while on lookout or steering the ship we soon realise the sudden drop in temperature. The cold areas close to South Georgia and Antarctica are closer and closer every minute, and with water temperatures plummeting from 11º C recorded this morning to the 6º C at midnight we sure are already entering the Antarctic Convergence Zone. Here the temperate subantarctic waters meet the colder and denser Antarctic water mass. In just a few miles wide area, the surface temperature drops dramatically 
indicating the gate to the Antarctic environment.

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Guide

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