What is your name, where are you from and how old are you?
Hi, my name is Loek van Haaster. I’m from Haarlem, the Netherlands and I am 27 years old.
What is your role on board?
I sail on the Europa as a Deckhand. Herein I’m doing maintenance at the helm of the bosun, setting sails, sharing and instruct everything we know about the Europa and the seas with our beloved voyage crew and of course cleaning. Past trips I’ve also put into practice my experience on the IT on board!
What inspired you to join the crew of Bark EUROPA, how did you join the crew?
I joined the Europa as Voyage Crew. I finished my bachelor's and wanted to go out for a bit. I did my best and helped out the permanent crew with setting the sails and doing the maintenance. Only then I learned that I could become part of the permanent crew! I let go of my plans to go back to school and volunteered during a shipyard period in Zaandam. Luckily the ship wanted me to sail on to Montevideo, so off we went. During that trip I was offered a permanent spot, and my first Antarctica season as a proud Deckie could start!
What is it like to live and work on a tall ship like Bark EUROPA?
It’s for me an art to see a ship moving through the waves to a next destination. Being out at sea gives me the feeling of independence, but also that you need to be able to do everything with the people that are on board. That is what makes a crew such a strong team. Everything depends on everything. We constantly happily share and gain knowledge with the voyage and permanent crew. Everyone is driven to learn in order to keep our Lady sailing.
What do you do when you are not on the ship?
I’m from the area in the Netherlands where the flower bulbs are grown. I help out farmers harvesting, processing and delivering them. So, you’ll find me driving tractor or working at the farmhouse! Next to that I love doing odd jobs around the house and sailing through the canals of Haarlem with my own boat.
Could you tell us about a unique destination you've visited on board EUROPA and what made it special?
Definitely the most unique destination is South Georgia. It’s such a busy visited place by huge amounts of penguins, whales, sails and much more! It feels very privileged to be welcomed by those animals in their homes with the beautiful Bark Europa. I remember especially one night, where we were at anchor in a bay surrounded by green hills. During the sunset there was an immense cacophony of barking sails. An incredible sound I never heard off!
What's the most memorable moment you've experienced while sailing on Bark EUROPA?
There are so many! Memorable are the daily routines of watching the sunset or sunrise, drinking a beer at the end of the watch or helping voyage crew on a yardarm for the first time. Just to name a few! One particular moment can be when we sailed unto Madeira. It was in the middle of the night with a full moon lighting up the skies. The voyage crew was sent to their bunks to sleep well for a day of visiting the island. We were just with 3 deckies and mate Finn on deck to steer the ship and lower the sails as we closed in on Madeira. Because of the dangling lights of the streets and houses spread across the mountains, the island looked like it was an active volcano that popped up out of nothing in the middle of the ocean. It was a beautiful sight on a beautiful night.
Can you share a funny or unexpected moment that happened during one of your voyages?
When I crossed the Drake Passage for the first time, I was amazed by the forces the Europa can brave. We were wet, cold and miserable and were working hard to set and lower sails while waves were splashing over the railing. I was in a full believe that we were in a big speed heading towards the promised land: Antarctica. This to find out, after the watch, that we were only doing one knot.
What is the most important lesson you've learned from your experiences on Bark EUROPA?
What has certainly become natural while sailing is that you achieve the best results together in a team. Knowledge and skills multiply when people work together.
Are there any unique traditions or rituals that the crew follows on board Bark EUROPA?
The Bark Europa is a Dutch ship. In the Dutch language we can add ‘tje’ behind a word to make the thing smaller. So that’s what we do with every possible English word we use on board. For example, if you need a small rope, you can ask for a ropie. You go to sleep in your bunkie. Cut something small: knifie. Deckhand is Deckie. The possibilities are endless! During the trips we come up with more and more. Usually unpractical, sometimes useful.
Can you share an interesting behind-the-scenes story or fun fact about the ship that most people may not know?
On the ship there is a fear of throwing things away. You might never know if it might be needed when you’re 2000 miles away from the nearest shop. So, every once in a while, when we clean up a storage compartment for example, we’ll find interesting spare parts. But! They are not really working anymore and have probably been put away with the thought of “if you just fix this little element, it works fine!” We joke with it when something breaks: “just put it at the broken spares”.
“Sailing is what we love, cleaning is what we do” is a quote we use often. We do like the cleaning nonetheless! If you clean really well in hidden corners and cracks, you’ll find a picture of our beloved mate Dan telling you, you did really well.
How has being a part of Bark EUROPA's crew influenced your perspective on the ocean and the environment?
Being out at sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and seeing pieces of garbage floating by definitely made me more aware of what direct impact people have on the health of the seas. Same counts for engineers accounting that they have to clean the water filters of microplastics every once in a while.