Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Norway to Ireland 2011: Day 4

This continues the journal that I kept on my passage from Oslo, Norway to Waterford, Ireland during the prelude to the first events of the Tall Ships Races 2011.

Norway to Ireland
Tall Ships Races 2011
Day 4     Wednesday      June 22, 2011
I’ve had so many experiences at this point I could write a book and we’ve only been underway about 22 hours. I woke up Monday and decided that I needed a couple more articles of clothing. Got directions to a nearby sporting goods store from the hotel front desk clerk and bought a couple of tees and a coat that’s in between my foul weather gear and my windbreaker.

Oslo harbor with City Hall in the background
Showed up at noon to board the ship. The crew was frantically trying to stow all the recently arrived supplies and make preparations to depart so they didn’t have time for the trainees. They told me to come back at 2. When I did, family members and friends of the Christian Radich were on hand to help load our gear and get ready to shove off. At 4 p.m. the group on the pier began to wave goodbye and we were underway shortly after 4. The tableau of Oslo Harbor was exceptionally beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine.

Soon the First Mate, a Dutchman named Marko, assembled everyone on the main deck to welcome us, outline the activities for the rest of the day, and divide us into the three watches for the journey.  Everyone on the ship except the cooks and the captain has to serve on a watch: 8-12, 12-4, or 4-8.  Not sure how I lucked out, but I was assigned to the 8-12 watch, by far the best watch (the most forgiving as far as sleep goes.) Next was a tour of the ship (familiarization) followed by dinner.  After dinner we had an alarm drill and learned of all the dangers the ship and crew might face: fire, man overboard, medical (illness, falls), etc.  A trainee (Christian Eriksrud, he’s been on the ship before) demonstrated how to put on a survival suit in case we all end up in the water.  We practiced donning life preservers.  There’s a life preserver and survival suit for everybody on board. (That’s reassuring!)

Now it was about 6:30 and we had just enough time before the first watch (mine) started at 8 to climb the rigging. Wow! I went up the mizzen shrouds as far as the upper topsail yardarm and skinnied out onto the foot rope about halfway to the end.  What a view and what a feeling!

My one assigned duty on the watch (after returning to the deck) was to take the helm at 2100 hours.  Keeping a ship this size on course required a ton of patience.  It takes the rudder a long time to respond to the helm and I did a lot of over-correcting back and forth until I got the hang of it.

I could hardly stand by the end of the watch at midnight. I had jet lag, my feet hurt and the sea was really active. Took every bit of concentration I had left to stay on my feet trying to adjust to the 5 meter seas. The poor woman on lookout got absolutely soaked (and seasick) in the brisk wind and water. We were driving right into a SW wind.

I didn’t manage a minute of sleep, although I was in bed for six hours. Light came in the porthole most of the night and I felt like I was riding a rollercoaster in a supine position. I think my feet rose 15 degrees and then my head rose 15 degrees in rotation until about 4 a.m. Or maybe it was a wild horse I was riding!

Breakfast at 7:30, watch at 8. I was safety watch at 9, patrolling the ship for signs of fire, medical issues, or just making a report of unusual circumstances. After that it was another practice run up the rigging. I climbed the main mast as far as the topgallant yard. One member of our watch (Christian again) has been on the ship before and he scampered to the top of the main mast. Impressive!

Before lunch we had a lesson in the names of the sails. Christian Radich is a full-rigged square sailor and carries 27 sails. Our watch leader is a Dane named Henrik who’s always apologizing for not knowing the English names of the sails. He really does know them, he just has to think a little harder when he’s teaching. Alan, the Irishman, and I, think the Norwegian sail names are easier to remember than the English ones, so we’re trying to help Henrik by only using the Norwegian sail names.

For lunch the spread on the buffet was extensive. In fact, contrary to what I thought, I think I’m going to gain weight on the ship, not lose.

After lunch we gathered on the main deck to meet with the captain. He’d told us yesterday that he needed to make a decision sometime today about whether we go south through the English Channel to Ireland or go north around the top of Scotland. Consensus among the trainees was that the northern route would be more fun and scenic, but it’s not going to come to a vote I think.

Kristiansand Harbor
An hour or so later we stood off Kristiansand to allow a journalist and a member of the crew and his son to disembark.

After dinner we started our evening watch by setting two sails, the fore mers and the kryss mers (the fore upper topsail and the mizzen upper topsail). I assisted ably with both although I started to feel some steadiness issues in my legs on the second one. This activity requires part wire-walker skills, part monkey flexibility, and part rock climbing thinking (what’s my next move going to be?).

I had dressed for lookout duty before going aloft so now with all the climbing I was completely soaked from within. I spent the first five minutes in the bow with my jacket off so I could evaporate the sweat, but was soon chilled and donned the jacket again. Good thing, too, because then it started to rain.

Standing watch in the bow
My hour as lookout was fairly active. We were now intersecting shipping lanes and we had four freighters on the starboard side on parallel paths, two in front of us going at right angles, a fishing boat on the port side going by us into land, and a tiny sailboat motoring east. I had to ring the ship’s bell each time I spotted new traffic to alert the helm and the mate in the charthouse.

Once again at the end of the watch I could hardly stand. We spent the last hour on deck under a lamp learning about properly showing maritime lights at night, but I fell asleep twice and don’t know how much I’ll remember!

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