At sea again, I am looking back at the last port stay In Douarnenez. Douarnenez is, like Horta, a great sailingship port. From this town there are currently three larger size (for the industry) sailing cargo ships operating: Grayhound, Lune II and Gallant. Also it is the town of origin of one of the French sailing cargo ship shipbrokers: Towt, with as her dedicated director Guillaume Le Grand. Of course, apart from visiting the different crews, I had to visit him, and his partner Diana. The real reason we stopped here, was for a crew change. Old sailors, who had just crossed the Atlantic ocean signed off. New sailors, signed on to join the ship, for a voyage through the English channel. This is the final leg of the: Tres hombres Atlantic roundtrip of this year, and brings our clipper brigantine to the discharge docks in Amsterdam.
So, how does this, signing on, go? There are three different options to sign on: joining as a professional crewmember, this is, if you have enough experience on squareriggers, applied for a position, and where selected by one of our Captains. Second, being on the right spot at the right time, really meaning applying for a position directly on the ship, while taking part of a refit or visiting the ship, and having the luck, that there is a position available. Third, the most straight forward way, of checking the sailing schedule on the website, and applying for a trainee position in exchange for paying the trainee fee.
Back in the days, the real signing on, would be done on board or in a port office. Here the ships articles would be read to the crew, and everybody would put a signature under it. Nowadays, you get your contract by email, sign it, scan it and email it back. After that the nice task of preparing yourself for sea begins. You can regularly check the ship, to see if she comes already nearer to your port of signing on. You have to gather your gear, for everybody this will be different, but you do receive a list of suggested gear. Finally some people, read a selection of Maritime literature, to mentally prepare for the life at sea in working sail.
If you are interested to sign on, short term, you can still sign on for a cargo voyage for this summer. Joining the ship, in Amsterdam, the first week of June to sail across the North sea, the English Channel and into the bay of Biscay, for a French port nearby Bordeaux. Here a fine cargo of wine will be taken in, to bring back to Amsterdam again. A great voyage for the beginner, for a first introduction to sail. Or for the seasoned sailor, a voyage to finally experience maneuvering a squarerigger in coastal waters! Also there is the possibility to join for an crossing of the Atlantic ocean, but then you have to wait, with joining, until the 1st of November. Finally, for those, who would really like to encounter the tough life at sea, of „Iron man on wooden ships“ one should sign on to the other ship of our fleet, the entirely wooden Nordlys. Nordlys, built in 1873, is most likely the oldest cargo vessel still operational. Joining her, is an experience with the guarantee that you will never forget it. So: sign on email email@example.com, welcome on board, and bon voyage!
Capt. Jorne Langelaan