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Meet the Crew Monday - Cook Gjalt

Meet the Crew Monday

Introducing Cook Gjalt! 👨‍🍳

Gjalt's journey with EUROPA began in the year 2000 when his father, Captain Klaas, asked him if he wanted to work as a bartender on board. Gjalt quickly fell in love with the experience and continued sailing on the ship, eventually transitioning from a bartender to a deckhand. After a break from sailing, Gjalt returned to Bark EUROPA in 2015 and has been working in the galley as a cook since!

What inspired you to join the crew of Bark EUROPA? 

Great question, in the year 2000, after giving up on studying, my father Klaas asked me if I would be interested to work on the Europa as a bartender. Of course, I knew the ship, and I had been on board before, and even did like a week trip in the late nineties together with a friend of mine. But that was all voluntarily. So, I was nervous at the start, especially because it was also the first Antarctic trip in the ship's history. So it was all new, challenging, and special for every single crew member on board at that time. Anyways, I LOVED IT. And even stayed on board after the Antarctic season and sailed all the way back to Holland. Then they offered me to try and become a deckhand…and so I tried, and did for about 2 and a half years. Sailing the Pacific in 2002 and even officially rounding Cape Horn at the end of that same year. In the spring of 2003, I left the sailing for what it was and found myself a job in The Netherlands. 

Since 2015 I am back working on board, but now in the galley. In the first 3 years I sailed as a cook assistant, learning so many things from Marianne and Rensje ( the famous lady cooks on Europa for more than 25 years ) After that time they told (pushed ;)) me to go down it myself. And guess what, I'm still doing it and loving it!

What is it like to live and work on a tall ship like Bark EUROPA? 

First of all; It’s hard work. BUT! It genuinely makes me happy, which I find the most important in a job. I do make the joke with one of the captains sometimes, telling each other that we have such a great hobby….this especially appears (sarcastically) when 'the shit somehow hits the fan'. But it's true, most of us do this job not to become rich, but  because we love sailing or cooking, or both, and cleaning of course ;)  

Living and working on board can be very intense though, you don't have a lot of privacy, the ship looks huge, but if you are on it with 55 people, there are not a lot of places to hide. On the other hand that also makes it that there’s always someone you can talk to you if you’d want that.

Sailing Europa is an absolute team effort, and in my opinion, being a team is what Europa crew does best. With so many nationalities it’s always such a thrill to see that so many different people from all over the world can make such a great crew. Helping each other wherever he or she can. And of course don’t forget the shore crew, who always try everything in their power to make life easier for the sailors and guests. In my opinion, this whole bunch of people is the true strength of Bark Europa. 

Could you tell us about a unique destination you've visited on board EUROPA and what made it special? 

We visit so many unique places, so it's hard to pick one. Antarctica is of course very special, even after visiting the places so many times, it's different every time. The trip we did in 2002 from New York, via the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Costa Rica, and crossing the Pacific is one of my old-time favourites though. Including visiting some remote Atols and the islands of Pohnpei and Saipan.  

But South Georgia is probably on top of the list. The mountains and glaciers in combination with all the wildlife are absolutely astonishing. 

Can you share a funny or unexpected moment that happened during one of your voyages? 

To be honest, you never really know what to expect, which also makes the trips exciting. I could pick a funny one, but the most unexpected ones stay in my mind a lot longer. 

Like getting struck by lightning, making a 80-plus days non-stop sailing trip from Argentina to the Netherlands during the COVID outbreak in 2020 was also quite an unexpected (long) moment ;).

What's the most memorable moment you've experienced while sailing on Bark EUROPA? 

Probably one of the many moments encountering whales around the ship. Especially Killer whales. The only whales I will drop all my galley tools for, are to go out and admire them (yes, lunch or dinner might be ten minutes later in that case). They are so majestic!

What are some of the challenges you face as a crew member and how do you overcome them? 

The first thing that comes to mind is of course the weather circumstances. Things can change so rapidly sometimes. Of course, we, as the galley team, are always updated by mates, captains, or deck crew about possible weather changes. But I just always like to be prepared for the worst. So with everything you do you have to think twice or three times before doing a job. Where to put dishes? How to keep your knives and cutting boards on the counter instead of on the floor. Can I use the oven? How much soup can I put in the pan? Is all the dry stores' food safe in our wonderful supermarket belowdecks? All things that go through our minds when the weather is rough.

And most important, don't get hurt yourself. For example….don't try to catch and save those knives, pots, and plates that sometimes start to fly around during a huge wave or so….;)  

What is the most important lesson you've learned from your experiences on Bark EUROPA? 

The fact that you can achieve so much by working as a team. I realize every time, that without the help of everyone on board (from engineer to bartender) Bark Europa would not be what it is today! 

Can you describe the teamwork and camaraderie among the crew on Bark EUROPA?

As already mentioned a few times in previous answers, it's all about working together. And whilst doing that you will get an amazing bond with all the crewmembers. As long as we respect each other in our jobs, and help each other where we can, life on Europa is Great! 

Are there any unique traditions or rituals that the crew follows on board Bark EUROPA? 

I guess every ship, or even every company ashore has traditions or rituals. Europa has a lot. The best way to realize that is by asking this to a crewmember who only sailed 4 or 5 months with us. For me, a lot of the traditions are so “normal” that I don't see them as rituals anymore. But we have a daily meeting where we can tell each other what’s on our minds, or share work-related issues. Which can be very helpful to keep all the noses facing the same direction. And of course the equator crossings…..but I can't say anything in detail about that….Neptune will hunt me down for that…. 

How has being a part of Bark EUROPA's crew influenced your perspective on the ocean and the environment? 

It did only confirm what I already knew. The way most people on this globe treat this planet is ruining it. And that can make a person sad. I wish more people would realize this, but if you see, for example, the amount of plastic in oceans, (and then I don't even mention the microplastics that you can not see) it's obvious that not everyone does. 

Of course, on Europa we also have engines, generators and we use plastic as well. But we do everything in our power to bring all the waste back to shore. So we have a whole book of rules about what to do with certain kinds of garbage. For example, we clean all empty milk and juice cartons before storing them, we separate tins, glass, plastic, and paper waste. Not only so we can deliver them to garbage companies ashore. But also to make it possible to store 52 days of garbage of 55 people belowdecks in the “dungeons” of Europa. Without making it smelly and messy.

Is there a specific food or dish the crew always looks forward to during a voyage? 

Of course, after cooking on board for so many years, I do know a little bit about the crew's preferences food-wise. But we are all just human after all, so everyone has their own preferences. And besides that, the crew does not have the habit to come and tell me that they don't really like something….of course, I know that some don't like broccoli or mushrooms…..but they are definitely NOT picky about food.

But if I have to choose a few meals that the crew mostly look forward to, it would be; Pasta Bolognese, Bami (Indonesian noodles with homemade ginger sauce), or of course STEAK with oven potatoes and caesar salad.  

What was the most peculiar incident whilst cooking in rough weather? 

The story of the flying HOTPOT is a classic. 10 minutes before dinner time……HUGE wave…just filled up the HOTPOT with Cauliflower……You could feel the ship already be lifted up and then you know the next thing will be moving down and  (on this occasion) to port …… I yelled HOLD ON…..HOTPOT did not listen to me, got lifted up from the counter and flew through the hatch into the corridor….electrical cord snapped…..Cauliflower all over the place…….our response:’Sailing is fun'.  But we still managed to have dinner with Vegetables, only 10 minutes late or so...

What is the best way to keep our ships' cook happy? 

Make sure there is fresh coffee at 0530 when I wake up. And don’t  talk to me before my first 2 coffees and cigarette in the morning…all crew know that by now, I think ;),

And most of all be happy yourself and be helpful where you can. 

What is the biggest challenge when cooking aboard?  

Stay focused!!!! There are so many things you have to think of during the day, that focus is very essential I believe. That does sometimes influence the way people see me….they think I am sad or grumpy (and of course sometimes I am like we all are once in a while) But most of the time I'm just trying to organize all those thoughts...

What have been the worst sailing circumstances in which you had to prepare a meal? What did you prepare?

Probably one of those days of 50 knots of wind, close hauled, in the Southern Atlantic…..the trick is to just stay cool and not make it too hard on yourself. Doesn’t mean we eat tosti’s or dry rice, but we do adjust the meals to the weather circumstances. So pasta, or rice with curry, for example, would suit these particular days. 

How many eggs do you buy for a cape to cape voyage? 

Approximately 2000 eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast every other day, so for a 52-day trip that's 26 breakfasts with eggs in some form. Makes for an average full ship (55 people) with around 1400 eggs. And then we still have about 600 left for all the birthday cakes, regular cakes, some for dinner, etc.. Of course, you have to check the eggs on a regular base….. some also go bad after a while, but you will smell that, no worries ;).

What is your best tip to keep food fresh for a long time? 

It starts with checking all the fresh food upon delivery, on deck before it goes down to the designated dungeons, and after that checking, checking, checking…. that's the keyword. If you forget to check a crate of oranges for 4 days, and on day 1 there is one moldy one…..after 4 days the whole crate is gone. And since there are not so many supermarkets on the oceans, that's the last thing you want.

And of course, there are other tricks, we wrap leeks and spring onions in teatowels before they go in the fridge. Don’t keep bananas with other fresh stuff…..potatoes and onions don't like each other, so keep them separated as well….And treat everything with TLC (Tender Love and Care)! 

Do you fish and cook while on board? 

Not at the same time ;)… kidding, I don't fish myself, I don't really have time to stand next to the rod for a day ;)…. But sometimes the crew or voyage crew gives it a go. We don't catch that much, but if we do, we always try to make something nice out of it for everyone. But you need a lot of fish, or a Humungous one, to feed 55 people.. so most of the time it comes down to just a little bite for everyone during lunch… 

Perfect comfort sailing trip food?

I hope all the food we make is comforting. So this is maybe more a question for our guests and my nautical colleagues;)  

Who helps wash up and prepare food? 

Good Question! Preparing the food is mostly done by the cook and the cook's assistant. But the deck crew has 1 very important task at night. They bake the bread we order for the next day. And if they feel like it, they can bake cookies or cakes as well sometimes. 

During the day we always have one of the deckhands helping us out where they can. You can think of cutting/slicing onions and veggies. Cleaning up, doing dishes, and helping out with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That designated person is known as the GALLEY FAIRY. The main bulk of dishes during and after the meals on board is done by all of us. So the galley crew together with The rest of the deck crew/bartender ON watch at that moment. They are an amazing help to us, and I have the feeling sometimes I can not thank them enough for all their help. Without them, it would be impossible to run the galley like we do at this time. So Thank YOU all…

What's your heavy rolling lunch secret? 

When the ship is rolling a lot and it’s almost impossible to walk around with plates of food or bowls of hot soup, we sometimes serve the guests from the galley, All available crew helps out to bring the soup to the tables, so the guests can just sit and enjoy their soup not stressing about how to bring that hot soup to their table. Of course, we always yell the famous phrase ONE hand for the ship and ONE for yourself, but as you know there are always people who think they are Superman or woman, and definitely underestimate the power of some waves ;). Any ways, we serve food during any circumstances, but sometimes you have to adjust to the situation.  

What is your own favorite dish while sailing on the EUROPA? 

Nasi Goreng, without a shadow of a doubt!

Do you have more questions for Gjalt? Which crewmember would you like to see featured next week? Let us know in the comments below!


What about an interview to the ship doctor? Sure he|she has anecdotes to share about health on board and how applied to the post?

Angel  |  10-09-2023 16:16 uur

Very interesting stories. I'd love to hear from other crew members as well.

Jan Weber  |  30-06-2023 19:28 uur

Mooi verhaal! Ik heb een paar keer een reis op de Europa kunnen maken als reisbemanning. De eerste reizen die ik maakte stonden Rensje of Marianne nog in de kombuis. Elke reis was ik enorm onder de indruk van wat er uit die kleine kombuis kwam. Weer of geen weer. Er wordt met zoveel plezier zo hard gewerkt en zo lekker gekookt. En dat vaak onder moeilijke omstandigheden. Echt heel bijzonder. Goed eten is natuurlijk ook enorm belangrijk om iedereen tevreden te houden op het schip. Zeker als het weer tegen zit. Ik ben heel benieuwd hoe het met Cri gaat. Laatste reis dat ik samen met hem aan boord was stapte hij in Rouen af. Tranen in zijn ogen.... Volgens mij was dat in 2019. Dus als over hem ook zo'n mooi stukje geschreven kan worden zal ik dat graag lezen.

Ritsaert  |  26-06-2023 19:03 uur

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