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The depression

The breakfast porridge was thick yesterday morning. Anyone who has sailed onboard with Europa before will know what that means. The galley team makes no mistakes.

For those who don’t know, thick porridge means big swell. Lotte plans every detail meticulously, so that despite the fact we all stumble along the corridor sideways, still waking up from a night of rolling around the bunkie, our porridge won’t spill over our bowls. Yesterday morning, however, there were other problems. Clara saw the entire porridge bowl sliding across the sticky mat and ran to it’s rescue- as any good deckhand would. But she later told me that there soon were more pressing matters, as she heard a gushing of water and slamming of doors.

Ayden, the birthday boy, had woken up to a birthday surprise. As he dragged himself groggily from bunkie to bathroom, a plume of water erupted from the vent and flooded the small room, giving a new meaning to the term, ‘water closet’. This commotion forced Clara to abandon the porridge and check that no other, less waterproof areas had flooded. Luckily, it was only one vent on the main deck, hidden behind a mooring line, that had been left open. After profuse apologies, it was decided that this was a rather funny start to Ayden’s birthday morning. The commotion of the morning was soon explained when we ventured out onto the poop deck. Harnesses on, oilskins already leaking, we were greeted by the long-promised, much-dreaded depression.

It is hard to explain to someone who has not been to sea what 50-knot winds and 9-10 sea-sates look like. Photographs never capture the looming height of waves as they swell past, the screaming wind battering sea spray and rain into your face isn’t even something I noticed until I went back inside and everything was quiet and still. I was hypnotized by the roll, the deep allure of the glassy blue waves topped by light froth as they churn, the occasional patch of serenely still, Mediterranean blue waters, and the railings slipping further into the boiling ocean with each passing wave. While at the helm, the periodic dull thud of water slapping Europa’s hull indefinitely forecasted a showering of seawater.

I marvelled that there were still petrels following the ship. Inside, you had to fall in step Europa’s dance in the oceans. The sailors all know this well. There would be a pause at the top of each role before a move was made, the door opened, the step forward. A mis-placed foot would lead to stumbling, slamming, sliding. This happened remarkably little but there were inevitable occasions when a bowl dropped or crewmember stumbled. The beauty of the dance showed when someone was there to catch the other, but this was not always the case and led to some amusing scenes. But still, nothing and no-one was badly damaged- a great relief to our self-proclaimed ‘lazy doctor’ Rudy. The most remarkable outcome of the swirling depression came in the form of food. Lotte, as always, came fully prepared with a ginger-carrot soup for lunch, and hearty spinach stampot for dinner. Cato presented us with a special birthday-dessert for Ayden- her dad’s apple pie. I am amazed they could serve us with the perfect meal under the conditions they had to prepare it in, with ingredients that have been onboard for over a month.

Ayden grinned as we presented him with pie and presents, while singing happy birthday songs in various languages. I may have dropped two sets of forkies on the ground during big rolls, but the amazing thing about the galley is they always have just enough for everyone, so no-one had to suffer the indignity of eating a pie without a pie-fork. 


I felt the heaving of the deck, the slap of a wave striking the bow, and the sting of fine drops of wind driven rain on the face. This really brought me back. Thanks for the memory.

Don Kenefick  |  15-11-2023 14:05 uur

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