Nordlys blog: Hilde about working as a volunteer

Picture: Martijn Evertse

Working at the Nordlys

There are many things you can do when you have some time off. Normally I spend time on visiting beautiful places in the world to meet new people, and to learn about different cultures and ways of living. I learned the last weeks that you don’t have to travel that far to change your perception about life.

I had some time off and wanted to learn some new skills while being outside. Building on something that effects the world in a positive way is what I wanted to do. When I heard the Nordlys could use some extra hands, I did not doubt for a second and immediately went to Den Helder to work on this beautiful ship. Before the Nordlys is ready to sail a lot has to happen. I was about to find out what needs to be done to make an old wooden boat ready for the rough seas again.

I arrived on a beautiful sunny day at the ship. I was told we had one month to get all the woodwork and rigging ready. Nordlys wasn’t in the water yet but at the shipyard. From the outside you could straight through the side. Where are all the planks? Just 3 people we working super hard to get her ready. It was difficult to imagine that the ship was going to be finished in just a few weeks.

Even though I never build a boat before I could start straight away. The mizzenmast was laying next to the boat and needed to be waxed, sanded, oiled and varnished. After a short explanation by one of the more experienced boat builders I started straight away.

In the beginning I was afraid I would make horrible mistakes. But everybody was really nice and helped me when needed. It took just a few days to completely feel at home at the ship and in the international house. I know my way around and can find all the tools I need. More people arrived so the boat closed super fast. After the mast was done I learned an old technique called caulking. Right now, I even caulk in my dreams but it took some time to get used to the movement. Between all the planks there needs to be hemp hammered in to make sure the ship doesn’t leak. Caulking is an old technique that can be done in many ways so I learned different techniques. It is a great activity when you manage not to hammer on your hand all the time. After trying it for some hours I couldn’t feel part of my hand anymore because I hit so many times. Just a few days later I felt like a caulking expert and my hand started to heal again. Now I even explain it to the new people that arrived. It was great to see that while I was doing my job others worked hard on putting the planks in.

One great team to get the ship ready as soon as possible. So right now, just a few weeks after I arrived only 2 more planks need to be placed and all the rotten planks are replaced by beautiful new ones. More caulking, some putty and paint will make her ready to go back in to the water again. We are on a tight schedule and work as hard as we can to get her ready for the sea. I feel very blessed to be part of the shipbuilding crew and with all the nice boat building/sailor friends I met.

Hilde de Wit

Do you want to become a volunteer now or in the future email us:


Share this post:

News, updates and adventure

Follow our adventures on Instagram