Thursday, October 3, 2013

First Atlantic Crossing

Nothing is better than life at sea! Just after coming off the continental plate the rainstorm had died. A rainbow, reflected from the sunset, showed its full colours. Bioluminescent lit up the ocean as we disturbed it with our presence. From 0.5 to 11.2 nautical miles through the water, the Sᴓrlandet picked up its pace. Wave after wave the ship rocked fore and aft. Until swells came along, safety lines went up, and a sleeping standby watch was put in place. The excitement was riveting and our adventure, it seemed, had finally started.

September 23rd                              
Seasickness, nausea, and a spinning head for the past three days! I had the unfortunate luck of being in the top three for most seasick. No matter what I did, every moment I was working harder than ever to divert my attention from the rolling boat. The worst part was the fact that we weren’t even moving. The ship had only reached a speed of, at the most, four nautical miles. Funnels are located all over the Sᴓrlandet and I got quite familiar with each and every one of them. It was catch-22 because they say that the more you eat and the more you keep hydrated the less nauseous you will be, but every time I sat down for a meal I was forced to get right back up and head for the funnels.

September 25th  
I’m over seasickness now and the best part is that I made it without any aids! Today the rolling ship is barely noticeable. Only moving at three or four knots through the water leaves plenty of time to work on deck. Sand paper has become my new best friend and I rarely have time away from it. However, it does leave my home looking much better.

September 26th
The wind has finally picked up and we’re really starting to move.  Thirty knots is due for tonight. Coming off the continental plate the wind has been quite shifty. A large sail boat, such as the Sᴓrlandet, is incapable of a drastic course change unless the sails have been brought in, and to do this fast requires the hands of everyone. For the first time in three years the Captain has called not one but two “all hands”. This means that everyone, regardless of whether they are sleeping, in class, in study hall or eating, must report immediately to deck. Due to the shifty winds a sleeping stand-by has been created. Half our crew must sleep with harnesses by our bed side and in the case of an emergency we will be required to climb aloft. It’s an exciting prospect but whether or not our sleeping standby gets called on is a wonder. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed though.

September 26th
Today also brought rainbows galore. I was standing lookout at the time and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was marvelous to see such a beautiful aspect of our planet. The rainbow had a double arc that formed a flawless semi-circle. Even the captain thought it was something out of the ordinary because he made an announcement over the PA system and brought out his camera. As the sun began to set the rainbow faded away and the depressing rainstorm returned, but that one moment made my entire three-hour watch worthwhile.

September 27th
I have realised how powerful the ocean is and how vulnerable I am among its waves and currents. The weather has held and the Sᴓrlandet continues to move a constant 10-12 nautical miles. The swells, however, have grown and it is now mandatory for everyone to be dressed in full foulies (foul weather gear) as well as a harness. Even the buddy system has been introduced. Everyone must be partnered up when they do safety rounds of the boat. Nobody is allowed on the foredeck at night, and the entire watch has to remain on the aft deck once the sun has set.
I felt quite at peace with the rolling swells and was enjoying hanging over the rails feeling invincible. It wasn’t until night watch that I realised you can never be in total comfort on the ocean, if so something must be wrong.
John, the chief mate on the Sᴓrlandet, was relaying a story to our watch of his experience in the Bounty ship wreck during a hurricane a couple years ago. He talked about what it felt like to be stranded in the middle of a storm with nothing to hold on to and no one to keep you company; how the giant swells swept him from one place to another and how it was a strobe light that saved his life. When the Bounty was struck the crew became separated and John was forced into exhile. He swam for nearly five hours towards a strobe light and waited to see if anyone would come. Fortunately, someone set up their search around that single strobe and it was because of their decision to do so that John is now a chief mate to my crew. The way he told us the story, it was obvious how little of that night has been forgotten in his mind and it made me realise that while I might feel invincible, the ocean is a lot stronger than I first perceived it to be.

September 29th
Today has been the hardest day of my entire voyage aboard the Sᴓrlandet. It has been physically and mentally exhausting. I really had to dig deep just to make it through until bed. One aspect of Class Afloat that is often left out of the equation is the lack of sleep and free time. Classes take up five hours out of the day. There is four hours of deck watch, one hour of cleaning, on average two hours of homework, and whatever time is left over is either given to meals or idle hands calls. Wake ups are done at seven o’clock, and I never get to bed before midnight. While I enjoy my time aboard, every little thing had eventually boiled up inside and I reached my breaking point. I couldn’t do it anymore! The books in class slide off the tables every few minutes, loud crashes and bangs from the pantry disturb sleep, homework overload catches up with me, idle hands calls leave my arms feeling like jelly, the port holes leak water all over my laptop, and worst of all I was vomiting every meal into the funnels. I had enough! I had let the little things get to me and I was now paying the price. Fortunately, one is never alone when the living space is shared by forty, and a couple friends just talked me through it all and comforted me, because no matter how tough things get, sometimes you just need to cry. I’m better now that it’s over. I’ve realised were only three days from the Azores so it has become a little bit easier to cope, but don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love sailing!

October 1st
Finally we’re under full sail power. Every piece of fabric we have is attached to a yard and the wind has been captured. 11 nautical miles through the water and spiking to 12.5, it has been a goal of the crew to be under full sail and now that it’s happening we are all on the edge of our seats with excitement. I had the glory of being one in four to set the fore royal. Climbing to the top of the mast is frightening. There are no safety lines that I can hook into when I climb and very little room for error. One slipup and I’m as good as dead.
Being up that high becomes surreal. It feels as if I’m dreaming and the only person who exists in the entire world is I. As the boat sways side to side I hold on for dear life praying that I can make it back down safe and sound. The people on deck, my peers, are mere ants to me; I’m infinite and superior and feel as though I hold all the power. The mast and the yards try with extreme effort to through me off but I keep a firm grip. Within the hour the sail is furled and I have conquered my fears! It’s time to climb down the shrouds. I eventually reach the deck and because of the effort four of us put in, the Sᴓrlandet has picked up its pace. We’re now averaging 12. The royal really is a place that contains some magic. I can’t wait until the next time I can climb sky high. Hopefully it’s soon!

October 2nd
First sighting of land! I woke up early this morning to go to the heads (washrooms), and on port (left side) there was the Azores.  After no sight of land for two weeks it was a wonderful surprise. Everyone was full excitement and the prospect of arriving three days early led rumors to be created and spread all across our banjer. Will we be able to dock early? Does this mean that there’s no Chemistry test? Is our port programming tonight? What’s the port activity? And so and so forth.


  1. Your writings on your blog are so descriptive!! I can relate to many of your feelings, and relive those emotions for myself. The wonder of it all and feeling of pride in doing it, will make those first few days of miserable seasickness fade in your memory. Believe me! My love to you - Nana N and love from Grandad N also.

  2. Nautical Miles is a distance measurement, not a speed! Speed on Sørlandet is measured in knots.

  3. Sophia, you are a fantastic writer ! I have tears in my eyes ! I'm looking forward to following your journey ! Enjoy ! - Chris - Dylan's Mom who you used to babysit for !