At Sea - Departing Iceland Sept. 4
Met the ship at the dock at 6pm along with the other 11 people will be shipmates for the next 3 weeks. A very cosmopolitan group; 6 Dutch, 1 Parisian Frenchman, 1 Australian, 1 Scot, 1 American, and 1 Canadian, me. The captain and the cook are both Dutch, the First Mate is Belgian and the deckie is a young Canadian woman. A variety of ages but tending toward the more senior end of the spectrum and a gender split of 6 women and 9 men. Now, anyone who can tell me the nationality and gender of the red-head will get a prize cheque in the mail.
Ordinarily the first night of a trip is spent in harbour, getting everyone oriented and settled in, however because there is a south-easterly storm system moving into our area in the next 36 hours, our captain decided to get us underway immediately after dinner to try and put us much distance as we can before it hits. Introductions being concluded and the rules of the boat and a safety drill having being carried out, we sat down to a very rich lasagna and a salad, the lasagna will feature later.
We were also assigned to our watches, there are 3 watches with 3 or 4 persons to a watch and the watches are 4 hours on and 8 hours off, so in any 24 hour period everyone has 8 hours of watch duties and 16 hours off. Because we were sailing right after dinner, the watch system started immediately at 8pm and I was very fortunate to find myself assigned to that watch. I was worried that I might draw the midnight to 4am or the 4am to 8am watch, so needless to say I’m thrilled as this system continues throughout the voyage.
Immediately dinner was done, lines were cast off and we were away, the task falling to my watch to carry this out, obviously the permanent crew featured largely but in my 3 person watch the Frenchman and a young Dutch woman are experienced sailors and we were able to conduct ourselves quite decently. The more significant challenge however was raising sails, largely because of the strength involved. Our ship is gaff rigged, which is to say the main and mizzen sails each have a gaff which is a boom to the top of the sail which is required to give the sail its proper shape so that it can power the boat. Most yachts that we normally see have triangular sails so that only the boom at the bottom of the sail as well as the attachment of one side of the sail to the mast are required to give the sail stability, a gaff sail however is rectangular and needs the attachment to the mast as well as top and bottom booms to give it a stable shape. Additionally this is a large vessel so the sails are large and they are made of canvas not nylon. This all adds up to a pretty significant piece of work since the sails are very heavy, it was dark and the gaff must be raised in parallel to the boom since if one or the other ends rises too quickly and takes it out of parallel, the throat off the gaff can jam against the mast confounding the process. It took 3 or 4 people to raise the sails and without winches, tension them. The jib was much easier as it’s a triangular sail.
Underway we were sailing on a very lumpy sea, no breaking waves but swells about 2 or 3 metres in height which were coming at us at an angle to our starboard quarter so that when one passed under us or we passed over it the boat both rolled and pitched, remember the lasagna? A number of my crew mates were having struggles below deck, trying to sleep in preparation for their watches and the lasagna was paying dividends. I however was enjoying the ride, the wind was blowing freshly and suddenly the sky was lit with a massive band of Northern Lights, magic. Not to last however; yesterday was V’s birthday and very good friends of ours were giving her a birthday dinner which daughter Di was attending. I was just on the point of phoning her to say hello and tell them about the Northern Lights when I was asked to talk the helm. Concentrating on steering the heading and looking down continually to check the compass, life lost its bright shine and I felt the revenge of the lasagna begin to take effect. I managed to finish my watch and crawled down to my bunk hoping for a swift death. Pitching and rolling is manageable above decks but below in a tiny, stuffy cabin, orders of magnitude difference. There is a sovereign remedy however called Kwells. If anyone does not know of these pills, get them! They are available in the UK, can be ordered on Amazon and they are as close as anything we’ve come across to manage the dire consequences. I popped one, crawled into my bunk and the world quickly returned to normal.
Tomorrow we will continue to race the storm and leave Icelandic waters. More to come!