Easter on passage

Life on board

It was a great passage to South Georgia. We stood our watches, slept, talked, wrote, took photos. On Saturday we painted Easter eggs in true European style. Sitting here now, in Wales, watching the appallingly low level of debate about the referendum it is a calming reflection. Swedes, Dutch, Germans and Brits too all painting eggs. (Admittedly everyone was better at it than me, but that’s not unusual when it comes to a paintbrush.)

This was the time of the famous fall, the one where I tumbled from my bunk across the floor, which became known as ‘the fall from the hook.’ Although it only took a couple of days to recover (apart from the lasting dent in my pride) it did make me less confident about hauling myself up and over the fighting top, so I missed this opportunity to get up in the rigging while at sea. Just as important, I missed the Easter egg breakfast as I was resting my bruises. Europa has eggs for breakfast every third day on passage, an important marker in the calendar, and skipping the celebrations was a shame

Fast sailing

All the same, I thoroughly enjoyed the passage, the watches and helming, watching the sea, listening to various talks about maritime life and chatting with other people on board. After the Drake it was relatively calm and comfortable though we saw winds up to F7 every day and spent most of the time heeled. The quote is from Jordi’s trip log, recording the busy day’s sail handling on 25 March. 

Early in the morning we braced several times on variable winds from 15 to 25 kn. We take down the Fore Top Mast Staysail due to a rip on it, to be set again in the afternoon. On relatively strong winds, Desmond is replaced by the smaller Aap. After breakfast with the wind increasing, the Royals are furled. Before dinner, the wind becomes variable, and when it eases down we set the Royals. But soon under 25 to more than 35 kn gusts, they are furled again, together with the Top Gallants ad the Outer Jib. In the night we still have NW-ly winds between 28 to 30 kn, as we sail Full and By

The fore topmast stay sail is the second highest triangular sail running from the bowsprit to the mast nearest the bows and the outer jib is the next one down. The Desmond is the name Europa gives to the largest, lowest triangular sail between the main and mizzen masts, while the Aap is Europa’s name for a smaller sail in the same slot. (This is a Dutch joke about a comic character which I don’t understand at all! I believe it also explains, at least to Dutch people, why two stuffed monkeys play in the deckhouse.) The royals at this time were the highest of the five square sails then rigged on the main and foremasts, with the topgallants being the next ones down.

‘Bracing’ a square rigged sail means to alter the position of the yard to adjust the sail’s angle to the wind. You move the yard, using ropes at deck level, and then adjust the sheets at the bottom corners of the sail to complete the trim. The hard graft is of course in moving that big beam of wood around, especially on the lower sails. ‘Bracing several times’ means a lot of work for the watch on duty. By the time we arrived at South Georgia, I was beginning to be confident about which rope did what job, but it does take a while. The picture is one of Jordi’s taken on a windy day.

We made excellent time, often sailing very fast. We didn’t set a Europa record but we came pretty close.

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