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.
Having now sailed in the square rigger Morgenster and completed my RYA competent crew training I was on the lookout for another voyage when I spotted a trip on classic sailing on a smaller ship, the ketch Irene. The ship was planning a voyage from Oban around the small Isles and Skye, a part of Scotland I love, so I signed up. I joined the ship on Mon 5th June 2017 in Oban. Early next morning the skipper, Ieuan told us there was a storm predicted for later so we headed for the shelter of Tobermory bay under engine power. Spent the day waling around Tobermory, it was a bit wet and miserable but Tobermory is always a nice place to visit we even had the treat of seeing the paddle steamer Waverley in port as well as a most fantastic sunset that evening. Most of us eventually congregated in the pub to warm up and dry off. We were reliably informed by Ieuan that the storm did arrive in the middle of the night although most of us slept right through it and didn’t even notice. The morning was beautiful when we set sail for Eigg this was great sailing with fantastic sunshine, we launched the dinghy to buzz round the Irene for a photo shoot. After a night anchored at Eigg we set off for Skye on another glorious sunny day, dropping anchor in Loch Slappin we went ashore for a wander around and a coffee at the local cafe. There were some great views of the Cuilins and the ship at anchor. The next day was another glorious sunny day but with light winds so we eventually had to use the engine to get us to anchor in Loacaline where we went ashore to the local pub in the evening. the morning of the 10th June was not promising and we had very heavy rain for the first part of the day. I learned to very important lessons that morning hoisting sails in heavy rain, firstly make sure the cuffs of your waterproof are pulled tight otherwise the rain just runs up your arms, and secondly a pair of deck Wellies is a very good idea , my feet and arms were soaked. The weather cleared later and we had a very sunny afternoon, some of us even went for a swim. It was good sailing back to Oban and I took the helm all around Kerrera and into Oban harbour but Ieuan took over when we had to play dodge the ferries when looking for a mooring buoy.
After getting the sailing bug during my first voyage on the Morgenster I was keen to learn a bit more about sailing so I enrolled on a RYA competent crew training course being run by BritSail out of Kip Marina. This proved to a memorable trip, but for very different reasons from the Morgenster. We sailed in some of the most beautiful areas of the West of Scotland, leaving Inverkip we sailed up towards Colintraive practicing anchoring and maneuvering techniques. Then onto Tighnabruiach mooring to a buoy, launched the dinghy then off for a well earned pint. Next day we sailed the beautiful Kyles of Bute then across Loch Fyne to Tarbert with more mooring practice and man overboard drills. We then headed back through the Kyles on onto Gare Loch dodging nuclear submarines and eventually mooring at Rhu marina. Our final sail was at night where one of the other crew who was going for his coastal skipper accreditation had to navigate with only the information we at the helm gave him, depth beneath the keel, heading etc. It was tougher than I thought, trimming the sails, looking out for marker buoys whilst learning what all the different lights and sequences meant, keeping track of headings, depth whilst trying to stave off the cold. But we made it safely back to Kip, cold and tired but well worth the experience.
Towards the end of 2016 I was reading Facebook posts from a friend who was sailing on the Bark Europa tall ship heading for Antarctica. I was not only amazed at the voyage she was on but also intrigued as to how one gets on board these tall ships, so I followed the link she posted to classic-sailing.co.uk where a whole world of possibilities opened up with numerous ships and a huge range of voyages available. Having never sailed in a tall ship before I felt that heading off to Antarctica was probably too ambitious for my first voyage so I opted for a trip to the Canary Isles, which I’ve visited a few times in winter. The ship I signed up on was the square rigged Morgenster, (Morning Star) a Dutch ship built in 1919. I joined the ship in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on 4th Feb 2017. We set sail for La Palma, then La Gomera then finally back to Tenerife. This was a fantastic introduction to tall ship sailing, great crew, great guest crew, fantastic weather and absolutely awesome sailing on a beautiful ship. I learned so much on the voyage about rope work, sail work tall ships in general but mostly I had one of the best experiences of my life, I was hooked!