We left Denmark, our good friends at Hawila, our old ones in Bornholm and Copenhagen and our new ones in Hundested, behind.
We also greeted quite a few fellow shipmates who are badly missed on board and made our journey very special till now.
And I left the galley as well, swapped it for the deck, and passed on the apron to my friend Shani, our new cook, who I happily introduced to the joys and sorrows of the rolling galley. I can finally begin my deckhand season as planned.
A new chapter of the summer voyage of Tres Hombres started: the ship is bound to Ireland, the longest leg of the entire season.
We cast off the lines from our last shore on a sunny morning, winds were fair and so was the weather as much as our moods. Lately, we have spent many days in harbour, moving from port to port, delivering cargo, and accomplishing our main mission. But we go sailing to be at sea and to be out here is what many of us long for the most. After a month and 4 stops, it was definitely time to fully dive into the Big Blue again.
We sailed on in Kattegat for a couple of days, heading North, making way decently, steadily, smoothly. Awesome favourable conditions to begin the training of our newbies in the watch: learning a whole new language, the names of the sails, all the lines, the sail handling and the manoeuvring theory. As much as the familiarization with all the details of the life on board our good ship: wake-up calls, deck washing, galley cleaning, bilge pumping, bread baking, coffee making…
An ocean of information that has to be properly dosed to be efficiently metabolized and not too overwhelmed for those amongst us who are completely new to this world.
We reached Skagen, the cape that marks the zone which connects the North Sea with the Baltic and stretches between Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
One last sunset tack at a golden hour just half a mile from the wild Norwegian coast, the fjords looking stunning in their unspoiled ancestral beauty. And then the ride began…
A depression coming from the Atlantic was moving fast towards us. It was pretty soon clear that we would have to earn our way to the North Sea tack after tack, watch after watch. The gentle cruising of the summer trip was over, and the time for the real action was finally on us. Tension was rising as the pressure lowered.
Once in the North Sea, the conditions didn’t improve.
The open waters created a mighty swell, with waves up to 4-5 mt high.
On Monday, cook’s day off, we were still confident the weather would remain challenging but still decent, just to end up experiencing a pizza party at dinner in a raging sea, with aplomb sky striped in sudden rainbows, the waves flattened by heavy showers, the bow rising and diving, smashing the surface of the sea with violence, the ship feeling like a wild mad black horse riding in the fast free wind. We felt excited as kids, contaminated by the madness of the Elements surrounding us. Cooking, sharing and eating pizza in such rough conditions has been hectic and felt insanely good. I was happy to take on the challenge to stick to my plan and bake pizza for a whole crew in such weather to finally succeed but I won’t do it twice. Once was more than enough, believe me.
For 5 days the ship has been washed from side to side, as much as all of us from head to feet. Heavy rains, strong howling winds, sudden squalls, and finally, the gale came in a dark casted night. Suddenly, at the midnight watch change, the wind picked up and reached a raging force 8. We dropped sails as fast as possible, furled the royal and gallant with gusts up to 30-35 knots. Full and by, helming hard, the rudder struggling, beating the currents, the legs anchored on the deck, the harnesses clicked in, the gravity becoming heavier as if we were walking on another planet. The cosiness of our wooden home kissed by the golden summer solstice sun was no more than a far away blurry memory.
That dog watch has been epic, even for those of us who already experienced such scenarios. It is always impressive to experience the force of Nature in this way, being and feeling no other than a bared and naked and tiny and fragile human in front of it in the middle of a dark sea. Do your best, keep the focus, and trust one another and the strength of the Black Lady. Hold fast.
And then, eventually, like every storm on land and at sea, also this one got tired and calmed down. Or at least it seemed…
Just this morning, we were still surfing waves up to 5 mt high. While I was steering the ship, a wall of water smashed on the aft deck, swallowing everything on its way. It was so ridiculously big and mighty that all we could do was just explode into loud laughter at our own shared wet misery (especially our first mate Jules, who choose the perfect timing to go inside the washroom just behind the helm to clean the toilet!). We were literally soaked. But the wildness of the Nature around us was fullying us with awe, and big exhausted smiles could be spotted all over the deck.
We are free, wild and alive. And we are where we want to be doing what we love. And we have each other and the precious fellowship that we build together watch after watch. What shall we do if not laugh?
Unfurling the gallant, a gannet (my favourite ocean bird) flew so close to me on the leeward side yard while the ship was heeling on her flank as if she could melt down into the water and I felt so alive, again, I could explode.
And now, as I write these lines, it is the end of the day, around midnight, the wind dropped almost completely and our tired sails who did so well over the last days, flap and release the tension, as we do too. The sun sets behind the biggest wind mill farm in the North Sea. Ironically enough, after few years sailing in this area, I can say I experienced many times wind holes in this zone. Funny place to set up a wind mill farm…
With the quitness of the night watch and cozy intimacy of my watch around me, I feel blessed.
We laugh loudly on the aft deck around the helm, we share the last bar of chocolate and we feel full. Full of life, full of joy, full of all sorts of emotions, feelings and impressions. We look into each other’s eyes and we don’t need words anymore. In only a few days this weather made what months of shining sun, smooth sea and trade winds could seldomly provide: a bunch of badass sailors out of newbies, a group of random strangers into forever fellow friends. A pod of very, very different souls matching and melting into one another beautifully, embracing who we are, simply. The biodiversity of our spirits couldn’t be greater and yet, we learnt how to happily and efficiently cooperate, to live and work together day and night, tired and soaked, supporting and accepting, embracing and appreciating fully who we really are without having to fit in a box to please one or the other. When givin up the ego we can finally see one another, dropping all arrogant judgement to set our eyes free and able to stare amazed at the true beauty and the real value that each of us can bring to the ship and into this world. My family grow bigger after this gale as our hearts wiser and stronger. I feel the Love I can give and I feel the Love I receive too. I can’t count my blessings anymore. All the rest, it’s just dust in the wind…
Thank you Miss Gale, thank you Black Lady and thank you once again Mister Big Blue. You are our true and only one Masters.