It has been calm for the past few days. Life at sea is relaxed and mellow. There hasn’t been any excitement since the storm passed. I’ve spent a lot of time on deck lately. Our boatswain is really pushing us to get the maintenance jobs done before Norway. With hands scarred, blistered, and split as well as the grease stains, bruises and paint that remain on my limbs, it is no lie that regular sleep has become an abnormal concept. I don’t mind it though. As the days to France draw nearer the crew mentality becomes more and more gloomy. We’re starting to realise that our time on the Sᴓrlandet is coming to a close and as a result many of us are developing a great sense of pride towards our home, the Sᴓrlandet. It doesn’t matter that we put extra hours into acid washing or are up from 0300 – 2300 some days, because soon there won’t be long days and exhausting hours of work. Soon there won’t be the Sᴓrlandet, and so we spend every moment that we can with her. Although, I still think that one of the best times of the day is when I climb into my hammock at night and as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m out cold. I would continue writing but the officer has just called “idle hands to brace around the main and the fore masts”. It’s 2210.
A warm front has just passed and now I’m indulging in the comforts of high pressure systems with glorious altostratus, cirrostratus, and cirrus clouds. It’s a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius today. I’m wearing a t-shirt and my pajama pants. Being at sea makes it very difficult to actually dress in the appropriate manner for a normal society, but fortunately there is no normal society around. It takes a great amount of effort to pick up the courage and undress for a cold 2 minute shower (although, I often take about five minutes and by the fourth water temperature increases to just above luke warm). We haven’t seen a ship in nearly two weeks. Dolphins have been friendly though. They often appear just under the bowsprit (most forward part of the ship) and dance around for a couple minutes. Today I saw about 16 come by within the hour. The water, I didn’t realise until watch, is exceptionally clear. Up to 4 metres I can see my sea friends. The boatswain has given me the job of creating a Chinese finger stopper and hopefully that will keep me busy over the next couple days.
An all crew meeting that was held today ended in a cloud of sorrow gloomily hanging over the Sᴓrlandet. We were told that this crew, our crew, would be the last of Class Afloat to ever sail the magnificent pearl of Norway. The contract between Kristiansand and CAF was soon coming to a close. Although I knew very little about my home when we were docked in Collingwood, over the past 9 months I’ve grown to love, respect, and take pride in her. I couldn’t imagine ever having sailed another ship. There were times when I dreaded the 15 square sails and the effort it took to brace them at 0200 but at the same time there were the glorious moments when climbing aloft I could look out over the barren seas and watch their steady rolls while imagining that I was the only one in existence or sitting on the yards doing maintenance jobs for the boatswain and bending on sails. These are all things that made the program what it was: amazing, adventurous, and exhilarating. Sure, the next crew will still be able to climb aloft on the Dutch barquentine and brace around their fore mast but the main and the mizzen are fore and aft sails. They don’t require as much attention or maintenance aloft. The ship itself doesn’t have the same history. It hasn’t been to war or sunk while still attached to its dock. IT hasn’t been deemed the world’s oldest still sailing tall ship. It isn’t the pride and glory of a nation for nearly a century. IT will be sad when we arrive in Amsterdam. There, they plan on removing all CAF materials from the ship and putting it in storage until September when the new crew casts of the bowlines and stern lines, setting sail for the most outrageous moments of their high school careers. Can I say that I too am as sad as the rest of my crewmates with the new learned knowledge? Yea, of course, but I am also extremely fortunate to have been able to sail the Sᴓrlandet and take her home to Norway. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll return as an AB or OS and once again be with the first ship to ever have captured my heart. For now, however, there is still a month left to acid wash, paint, varnish, and sail steadily with Sᴓrlandet.
Wow! It feels as if ice is circulating through my veins, my eyes unresponsive to the blunt demands I give requiring their use for lookout. My fingers are incapable of even forming around the rails and the helm. Despite having prepared for Arctic type seas with 4 layers minimum, I still see my breath freeze to the inside of my scarf making suffocation almost inevitable if I choose to keep it there. It is possible that I am exaggerating but I’m dead serious when I say that night watch today has had me thinking about two things only: a warm hammock and a working coffee machine (ours has been broken for nearly the entire sail). I think that sailing has made me a little bit of a coffee addict. I drink about two to four cups a day and when luck is on my side, the chief mate offers me a shot of his hand ground, hand pressed espresso. I have never tasted anything so rich and creamy smooth.
I have been going hard core with all the High Altitude sail training work lately. Many hours of what could have been sleep are spent in the bridge talking about chart work, safety measures, sail handling, compasses, and electronic equipment. I think my head might explode trying to memorize all 40 some signal flags, Morse code equivalents, phonetic alphabet and their meanings, not to mention collision regulations. However, it does pay off and today I got to drive the capst’n and drop anchor! We’ve arrived in Brest, France! Two hours before calling “land ho” the unfamiliar smell of burnt wood and fresh vegetation filled our noses. It’s beautiful here. From what I can see I think I’m going to really like France, but a part of me does wish that I was back at sea. Fortunately there’s a yacht club 10 minutes from our birth and so I was going to attempt to get on a yacht for a Wednesday or Thursday evening series (fingers crossed!). In one week exactly we’ll be departing and heading through the English Channel… eeks! It’s the busiest waters in the world! Wish us luck.