Tall ship sailing: Schooner Oosterschelde Tenerife to Cape Verde

On my last three sailing trips I was island hoping, firstly in the Cannaries on the Morgenster then off the west coast of Scotland on the Irene and the Chimere. I wanted to experience a longer open ocean voyage to see if I was cut out for such trips and whether or not I’d enjoy it.  I found suitable trip on classic sailing on  the schooner Oosterschelde,  a Dutch ship out of Rotterdam.  Unlike the Morgenster which was a square rigger the Oosterschelde is a three masted  gaff rigged schooner with only one top sail and upper on the fore mast. So there would be much less sail on the yards. I joined the ship in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Tue 2nd Jan 2018, met the crew and other guests then spent the night in port. We set sail the next day heading South for the Cape Verde islands.

This voyage gave me my first taste of the watch system, on previous voyages we were never at sea long enough to warrant it. The watches were split into red, white and blue, the colours of the Dutch flag. I was on blue watch and our first shift was 00:00 – 04:00  which wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, probably on the flight to Tenerife I had picked up a virus and developed a very bad cough  which meant I barely slept for the next four or five nights. I felt like crap and coupled with the rolling watch system (00:00-04:00 / 04:00-08:00 /  08:00-14:00 / 14:00-20:00 / 20:00-00:00) I was only vaguely  aware of the times and on at least two watches I was completely flummoxed, one time getting out of bed convinced I had missed my watch thinking it was lunchtime only to find everyone having breakfast. The other time I was really struggling through my watch feeling really weak but I kept my spirits up by thinking of the breakfast I would have quite soon, only to find out it was nearing 04:00 and not 08:00 as I thought.  I slowly started to feel a bit better and finally got some sleep. I read a lot on this voyage as there was a lot of sitting round with not much to do on the open ocean. The captain, Maarten kept us amused, entertained and educated with a variety of ‘classes’ on the ships rigging, weather patterns and navigation .

On one particularly clear starry night he a gave a captivating talk on the constellations and the Greek mythology associated with each of them.

After 6 days at sea we caught sight of Sal, where I would leave the ship. Sal was as featureless  as I’d expected and my only reason for leaving the ship here was the international airport for flights home.  When we arrived in the port of Palmeira we performed the ‘where can we moor’ dance after first being told to move by the harbour master, then by the harbour police and once again by the harbour master, before finally being allowed to stay in one place. Many of us were due to leave the ship the next day so in the morning the first mate Jan-Willem took our passports off to the airport to get our visas. This also proved to be a bit of a to and fro when he was told at the airport he had to get the visas at the port then at the port being told to go to the airport, then they closed for lunch.  Eventually Jan-Willem returned and we each made our way ashore.  Antoine and I grabbed a taxi bus heading South to Santa Maria and I parted with him at his hotel. I then spent the best part of a couple of hours trying to find my hotel which was hidden away on one of the back streets.  As I said before Sal is rather featureless and there’s not a whole lot of things to do, If you like beach holidays then it’s fine, but not for me. Luckily I was only staying a couple of days.

The day I left the island I had another bit of a hiccup when the border guard at the airport wanted to know where I got my visa, why I didn’t have a receipt etc. etc. for a brief moment I thought he wasn’t going to let me leave.  If I go back the the Cape Verde island then I think I’ll join the ship in Sal and sail around the other islands which have much more to offer and well worth a visit according to the crew of the Oosterschelde…next time.

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