Wanderers at dawn, Wanderers at sunset. Abating conditions made for just a few of those albatrosses to show up today, but nevertheless just in time to first greet and then say goodbye to the day. The large flocks of Prions that fluttered around the ship yesterday enjoying the strong winds also became more scarce during the journey. Like us, the wind is what they need. But in the Southwesterly 12 to 15kn and lessening swells, they sure prefer areas a bit further north where at the moment the wind blows harder.
Rolling during the night, the uncomfortable movement gradually gets more bearable during the day, while the Europa keeps a good Northeasterly course under partially cloudy skies, sun shinning now and then.
But the truce with the rough weather and heavy seas is not to last for long. Already in the afternoon it blows 20 to 25kn from the same direction, forecasted to keep increasing. At that point, a portion of an open seam is found at the Fore Top Gallant canvas. A repair will take just a while but sails must come down for it. Both Royals are lowered and the sail is to be mended as well.
Needle, sawing palm, and thread in hand, all ready for stitching aloft. The ship rolls, occasionally some water washes over the decks, all making it not the easiest thing just to move and walk around the ship. Classic sailing usually sounds like a romantic and idealized activity. Once onboard the notion becomes a hands-on experience, facing fair and adverse meteorological conditions, calm and fierce seas, sleepless hours, the challenge of withstanding the swells, the duties of steering and lookout, the joy of the work well done, the learning of a new activity. Everything inside a world created on a 56 meters in length, 30 in height, and over a 110 year old classic Tall Ship.
Facing the romantic ideal, the rig and sail maintenance is purely practical. For many, the convergence between this romanticism and practicality is what can make a trip of a lifetime. Needles, twine, knives, spikes, tar, grease, tools. The mastery underlying the required repair. The teaching and the learning of the skills, the getting the hands dirty on the job, the care and identification with the task.
Soon the sewing is finished and the repaired canvas and the Royals that have been patiently waiting are hoisted again.
The next time for sail handling is during the night when the rising winds turn to Southerlies. Bracing accordingly on Broad Reach Starboard tack to keep a Northeasterly course, is followed by clewing up and furl the Royals, set lower staysails, inner and outer jibs. Wind blowing at 25 to 30kn pull us at a good speed of 8 to 9kn. All in all, during the last 24 hours Europa finds herself 119nm closer to Tristan da Cunha.
A good look at the digital forecast tells about increasing winds backing to Southeasterlies in the next hours. The high-Pressure system, turning anticlockwise in the southern latitudes, gives way to a Low with associated blustery winds and sure associated with them, sea state will rise as well.
Pioneers on oceanic navigation ventured off the continental coasts into the unknown with basic instruments and a great lack of information on what was ahead. Instead of radar, a sailor in a crow’s nest or clinging to a mast or yard up aloft. For positioning Dead Reckoning, experience on reading weather, water characteristics, changes on wildlife behavior, and Celestial Navigation instead of GPS. Weather forecasts worked out from the Captain’s practical knowledge, a barometer reading, a look at the clouds, a read on the albatross flight. The subjective interpretation of the sight of those birds gliding around following the ship sure makes a lasting impression. It could bring connotations as harbingers for good luck, other times possibly indicating strong winds or bad weather ahead.
Times have changed, nowadays in the information and digital era, even sailing in the remotest corners of the world’s oceans, sailors can receive accurate forecasts on their computers and have an idea of what’s to come and prepare accordingly. That could involve changes on plans and schedules, alteration of courses, and adjustments on the rig and the sails.