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On our way to Aalborg

Over the last few days at sea the voyage crew have been getting to grips with the art of sail training through many information bursts and practical instructions lead by the permanent crew. At about midnight on Saturday the order was given for all sails to be set after having furled most of them a couple of hours before; the on-watch trainees and crew flew into action and it wasn’t long before we were under full sail – a state in which we remained for the rest of the watch and into the early hours of the morning. Also through the night, on the horizon were hundreds of blinking and shimmering lights of oil rigs, new wind farms and ships at anchor occupying these waters. All the lamps together were so bright that it could have been a coastline! However, the stars still shone through the cover of night with Cassiopeia and Delphinus (amongst many others) making particularly spectacular appearances. Yesterday we launched the ship’s plankton net which we trawled through the waters of the North Sea for 1 hour, before we hauled it back on deck to allow for analysis of the net’s contents. I (Jess) am one of the current deckhands on board and am also a marine biology & oceanography 
student at Bangor University (UK); I sailed as a researcher last year on EUROPA’s voyage from Cape Town to Horta, so it was therefore my mission to sift through the contents of the cod-end and show the guests what we’d caught. The outcome was as follows: there were many crabs in their final stages of development, lots of copepods and other shrimp-like organisms, chaetognaths (arrow worms), fish eggs and other little blue fish. The species of phytoplankton present were harder to identify as we are still on a bit of a heel so the water in the petri dish kept splashing about, but we did see some macroalgae - namely Ascophyllum nodosum (egg wrack) floating on the surface. I rigged up the ship’s microscope in the library for everyone to use and show them what plankton really looks like!   It wasn’t all life in that net though… plastic also haunted our catch: pieces ranging in size from the tip of a pen nib to the chip on a bank card were floating around amongst the biota and polluting their home. The impact of plastic pollution is so far-fetched and invisible at first glance which is one of the many reasons why it’s vitally important to act now and save the oceans from this detrimental substance - just like we saved the whales! Today began bright and breezy with all sails set. Potato peeling and chopping was in full swing on the main deck during coffee time, and just before lunch the ship’s heel was so spectacular that water was flushing through the scuppers! Work continues on replacing the port bow net and all the crew are happy: life is good. This evening we are steaming 
through the canal towards Denmark from Germany and practicing sail furling – each time one gets a little better and more confident.  Practice makes perfect! It won’t be long before we join the rest of the tall ships in Aalborg for the Races. 3 days to go…

Written by:
Jess Fox | deckhand

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