Across the Atlantic
Dear fine ‘Clipper Stad Amsterdam’,
Well, well what an Adventure I have just shared with you! I am still finding it difficult to deal with ‘reality’ on land again and to try to explain to friends what a wonderful voyage I have just experienced! It was so full of ‘magical moments’!
MOMENTS WHICH WILL LIVE WITH ME FOR EVER
Really, it has been a ‘life-time dream adventure’, experiencing the motions, and emotions, of learning the ropes of sailing such a fine Clipper Ship – the Ship, the Crew, the Ocean and the Sky, the amount of effort it takes to have you sailing fast.
Bracing, trimming, fanning, hauling ropes to the chant of ‘two-six’, belaying on the pins, coiling, coiling, coiling those miles of rope and even getting your Stun’sails set, one beautiful day. Joining and sailing the ‘White Watch’ (4pm-8pm and 4am-8am) was everything I wished for, the ‘moments’ which I know will live with me for ever.
ENDLESS EMPTY HORIZON
On the endless empty horizon, watching the sun slowly setting at the end of day and a new day break with the rising sun, its ever changing colour, was mesmerising. Somehow, it always left me with a feeling of just how tiny we were on this vast ocean space, and thoughts of how the first exploring sailors must have felt as they too looked at this wonderful sight. The Nights Skies were mostly clear and when the moon was with us, it too had its own mystical silver beauty as it passed us from east to west.Overhead, and all around us, the incredibly bright twinkling Stars and Milky Way made me feel that they too were happy to have us sail along beneath them!
ONE HAND FOR YOURSELF AND ONE FOR THE SHIP
Of course, there were also ‘moments’ when the wind and ocean showed us just who was Master but these times too had their own beauty. On deck, with winds in the high forties, the sound of the shrieking wind as it blew through the miles or rigging was like a ‘rampant banshee’, the roll and pitch of the great hull and rig was manageable, even pleasant, and as long as one always followed the words ‘one hand for yourself and one for the ship' it felt very safe.
Then too, there were a few very cold dark nights as we sailed through the dense fog south of Newfoundland. Rain, thankfully, rarely wet our decks. Out there, far away from land, the ever changing colours of the ocean and sky were so, so beautiful.
WHALES TO PORT
At times they seemed to hold you motionless, watching a particular bluer than blue rolling wave or a single wild patch of ‘mares-tails’ cloud as it danced in the beautiful blue sky. And then, there may be a call of ‘whales to port’ and we would eagerly watch for a glimpse of their blow-spray and sometimes even see their rolling back as they dived back into the deep.
Dolphins were never far away and the pure pleasure of watching them play across the bow always made one smile, also, the odd sighting of large Turtles, even ‘fleets’ of Portuguese man-of-war Jellyfish reminded us of who we really shared the ocean with.
COMPLETELY ANOTHER EXPERIENCE
Having sailed all my life, competitively and in many types and sizes of yachts, when it came to ‘learning the ropes’ of setting and trimming 2200 sq. metres of Sail, all 29 of them, well, that’s completely another experience and ‘moment’ altogether! Without my fellow Ships Watch Crew – the Officer, Quarter Master, Sailors, it would have been a complete mystery!
With their help, patience and fun, they taught us the ‘system’ of setting and trimming each square sail, from fore, to main to mizzen masts, and gradually it became understandable. I was amazed at the ‘parallels of method’ in sail trim between those ‘old days’ and today, getting the luff tension just right, the sectional shape looking good and leach not to closed and basically, reading and harnessing the wind is still what it’s all about!
SAILING THE SHIP MOMENTS
I enjoyed immensely participating in ‘sailing the ship’ moments - from coming on watch in the early hours of a dark morning and meeting the crew at the Bridge. To being alone on the Forecastle doing ‘ look-out’, with the feeling that you were the only person out there, completely alone, and heading for the unknown.
Then finishing watch and going down below to the ‘Long Room’ for meals, relaxing times and listening to the Captains evening presentation of progress, or just off to my comfy bunk to catch some well-earned sleep. On deck, morning and afternoon for ‘Smoko’, the time to meet everyone on-board, together, again so many ‘magical moments’.
Before I sign off, I must say what a super group of Great Sailors you have with you on the Clipper and the endless hours they spend looking after you. The Crew - oiling your beautiful teak deckhouses, pin rails and cap rails, polishing your brass work and repairing / renewing your ropes, the Quarter Masters keeping everything in motion, the Bosons, the Engineers, the Officers, your super tactician Captain Moritz.
And then, the Hospitality Crew and House Keeper Jose, Jan the calm Ships Doctor, Galley / Pantry Crew and one must not forget the great Cook Simon who fed us, from his galley deep within the ship, with fine food ‘Fit for Kings’!
A VERY SPECIAL TIME IN MY LIFE
These +/- 4000 miles of ‘moments’ will live within me as a very special time in my life and I do get the feeling I may/will sail with you again, sometime in the future.. I hope so!
Fair winds, gently seas and wonderful voyages to you.
Photos: Mr. R. Jacob