I had to think of an old quote from my cousin Paul the other day. He had just finished his military service in the Austrian Army, and I had asked him what that was like. He summed up his experience like this: “everything that moves – you salute! And everything that does not move – you clean!”
As we are turning out for our morning watch at 0800, we always do a deck round and check that everything is in its right place, spot things that need maintenance or extra care, and make sure everything is as it should be. Still the novice Europa sailor, I silently salute all the clewlines, buntlines, sheets, tacks, topping lifts, halyards, and braces that I recognise. If we get lucky, there is a bit of sail handling to do, ideally requiring a trip aloft into the rig, but unfortunately the sailing conditions have not been that favourable for our intended direction, so we have been doing a fair bit of motor sailing with staysails as well.
But there is always an upside to everything, and if things are less hectic on the deck and in the rig, conditions are often much better for other tasks, especially the inside areas of the ship. And so, at the beginning of every evening watch, we start with checking the whiteboard in the galley for the list of areas that are scheduled to be cleaned, and some areas just must be cleaned daily.
And that is when you really appreciate a “slow day” of motor sailing on the Scotia Sea, as it is a lot more challenging to properly clean a seating area, corridor, change bed linens in a cabin or wipe down a staircase when “Europa” is moving along with close-hauled square sails and wind force 6-7.
So we get on with it, and literally clean everything that does not move, even though we still have to hang on tight, as well as control our bucket of soapy water at the same time.
And unlike the great many things to keep track of on deck, cleaning public spaces is less demanding to the novice sailor, and in fact quite comforting to get done right, because in this task it does not matter whether you have been sailing on Europa for 10 days or ten seasons. We all clean the same areas with the same buckets and rags and water and soap, and there is only one way to do it, and that is to do it well.
Meanwhile, the smell of freshly baked bread comes from the galley every evening, the sound of boardgames and card games filters down from the deckhouse, and the Caterpillars (our twin main engines) hum in unison below and we keep moving towards Antarctica.