The ship – Europa

The steel ship Europa was commissioned for service on the mighty river which connects the landlocked Czech Republic in central Europe to the North Sea. Today she flies a Dutch flag and her home port is Scheveningen in the Netherlands. Her website tells us that

‘EUROPA was built in 1911 under the name of ‘Senator Brockes’ at the Stulcken shipyard in Hamburg, at the request of the city of Hamburg. The ship was put into service as Elbe 3 light ship on the river Elbe and later worked as a stand-by vessel. In 1986 the ship was brought to the Netherlands and was completely rebuilt and rigged as a three-masted barque. Since that time Bark EUROPA has been crossing oceans and seas on a regular basis and has a reputation of a ship that really sails.’


The ship is 56m long and 7.45m wide at her broadest point. The bottom of her keel is 3.9m below the water, meaning she needs at least 4m of water to float, though I expect the skipper would be very uncomfortable in such a shallow puddle. The hull and bulwarks are heavily reinforced to make her safer in ice-strewn waters.

Her tallest point is the tip of the main (middle) mast. The top is 33m (108’ 3”) above the water, so she cannot go under lower bridges. To put that in perspective, the Queen Elizabeth bridge crossing the Thames at Dartford is 58m above the river.

Sails and lines

Europa has a lot of lines and a lot of places to fasten them. I’ve already (in July) been sent the schematic and invited to learn the ropes.

Europa pinrail diagram

Europa pinrail diagram


Of course, how much sail is set at any one time depends on the wind and the sea state. The ship has two 365hp engines, but the crew proudly emphasise she is a sailing ship and they will always try to use the wind to get where she needs to go. My sailing life (on other people’s boats more than my own) has been dogged by dodgy engines and I’m always happy to work a boat under canvas, so that suits me.

Those three masts can carry a lot of sail, up to  1250m2 when all the canvas is up. Sails are defined both by their general type and then named according to their position and job and there are about 30 of them. Europa is rigged with square sails, which are really rectangular of course, on the first two masts. These sails hang from big wooden spars which run across the front of the mast (known as yards) and trimmed to the wind by pulling on ropes suspended from their lower corners.

The mizzen mast is nearest the stern and carries ‘fore and aft’ sails, set behind the mast. The bottom one (W on the diagram) also has four corners and I would call it a gaff, with booms both beneath and above it. Above the mizzen are set loose-footed triangular sails. Between the masts, Europa can set various triangular staysails. Her bowsprit can also carry four triangular foresails. Finally she can set studding sails, big square sails suspended from extensions to the yards, way out over the water on either side of her.

Below decks

Europa belowdecksBelow decks looks pretty comfortable, for life afloat on a sailing ship in the far south. I copied these pictures from the ship’s brochure. There’s plenty of space, from deckhouse and galley to a library and even a poker corner. I will be sharing a cabin, I think with five other people. That will be interesting.

All cabins have an ensuite, though showering may not be that common. In 1933 Lillian Rachelew sailed on the Norwegian whale-oil tanker Thorshaven. She describes her efforts at a wash during one storm and says:

By the time I had finished, I had knocked a hole in my head, almost sprained my ankle and was black and blue on the more prominent portions of my anatomy. I don’t advise anyone to go infor cleanliness during a storm in the Antarctic.’  (Quoted in Women On the Ice, by Beth Chipman.)

I will be packing wet-wipes.






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