For the past ten days I've been traveling with the Antigua, a dutch tall ship sailing from Hamburg, Germany to Bodø, Norway together with my good friend @rubiojr from Barcelona, Spain. We've traveled 2328 kilometers and to cut it short, I had a blast!
I've learned a lot about the Oceans (tl;dr: They're huge!), about sailing a tall ship, I've been climbing the Torghatten and touched the Engabreen glacier. I can nothing but highly recommend to hop on a non-cruise ship for a while for gaining new insights and to completely disconnect from the rest of the world.
The Antigua is a three-masted barquentine built in the UK in 1957. She's roughly 50 meters long, 32 meters high and weights 212 tons. With optimal sailing conditions she makes 9 knots, by motoring approximately 7. The ship is mainly operating in northern Europe. More specifically she's touring Svalbard for several months during the arctic summer, allowing people to observe polar bears, wales and other animals of the Arctic.
Its crew consists of seven people. Three of them (the captain, the first mate and an experienced sailor/sailoress) operate the ship in eight and four hour shifts. The remaining four are the cook and three waitpersons, working in eight hour shifts. Guests are encouraged to help operating the ship, most notably helping to hoist or lower the sails and to help out with the watches.
As the Antigua had to be transferred up to Svalbard the trip we've booked wasn't exactly a cruise, but more of a sailing trip to collect sea miles. We've been sailing 24 hours a day and made only two stops at the very end of the trip due to the good wind conditions we've had after entering the Norwegian Sea.
The exact route (1257 nautical miles) was:
Hamburg, Germany -> Kiel Canal -> Kattegat -> Skagerrak -> North Sea -> Bergen -> Norwegian Sea -> Holandsfjord -> Bodø, Norway
Thanks for tracking, @rubiojr!
Since the wind forecast predicted NW wind conditions for the first few days the captain decided to skip sailing the North Sea and opted in for the Baltic Sea route instead by traversing the Kiel Canal. Initially, we've been a little bummed to hear that as it takes almost half a day to pass the canal, but it was all forgotten when we hoisted the sails after leaving the Kieler Foerde late afternoon on the same day.
During the night we've passed the Great Belt Fixed Link, making our way further north entering the Kattegat. Traversing the Kattegat and entering the Skagerrak took us another full day, but on the fourth day we've finally reached the Norwegian coast.
We followed the coast until the Wind turned around and made our way out to the open sea then, suddenly interrupted by an unexpected quick stop in Bergen due to a leak in the ship's cooling system. A few hours (and a Land-sickness experience at the local Starbucks) later we've left Bergen and headed for the open sea again where we've spent the next two days. Two days before we arrived in Bodø, on the 18th, we've stopped by at the Torghatten. On the 19th we've entered the Holandfjord to visit the Engabreen glacier, before arriving in Bodø in the evening on the 20th.
Taking over watches
While not mandatory, taking over regular watches was encouraged as it usually makes everything easier for all people involved. We've enrolled for two hour watches every eight hours. As an example, our first watch started at 9 am and lasted till 11 am. The following watch then was from 7 pm to 9 pm, followed by another watch from 5 am to 7 am, 3 pm to 5 pm, 1 am to 3 am and so on.
In short, after doing watches for a day our regular sleep schedule was completely wasted. It quickly became apparent that on a ship sleep seems to come in batches.
That said, watches were pretty interesting. We've been usually sitting on the bridge together with the other two persons on watch helping to hoist or lower the sails, spying the
land ocean, periodically checking the general situation on the radar, listening to the communication between ships or even taking over the steering wheel for a while.
There was one particular night I'll probably never forget when we've been on the watch between 3 am and 5 am during WMO Sea State Code 5/6 (up to 6 meters wave height). This night the foresail snagged with the rigging and had to be made loose again. So, @rubiojr took over the steering wheel while the sailoress climbed into the rigging to untie the foresail. I've been helping on deck at the time when the foresail detached from the rigging with a loud bang right above my head, letting me clearly experience what wind is capable of.
Sailing all around the clock is something you'll have to get used to, it's definitely not for everybody. From WMO Sea State Code 3/4 on (wave height up to 2,5 meters), the ship is constantly rolling from one side to the other, preventing you from doing pretty much anything except eating, sleeping or working if you're not used to these conditions. Furthermore, even these basic activities need quite some practice and patience. Out on the open sea where we've experienced waves up to 5-6 meters height it took me almost two days until I was able to finally catch some sleep again.
Have a look at the short video below to get an idea of what it's like when the sea gets rougher.
As stated, we've made two stops before finally reaching Bodø: One at the Torghatten, a mountain on Torget island in Brønnøy with a gigantic hole right in the middle of the mountain which is 160 meter long, 35 meter wide and 20 meter high, and one in the Holandfjord to visit the Engabreen glacier. Both, Torghatten and Engabreen, were a whole experience on its own and won't be forgotten. I've never been so close to a glacier before. Touching the (hopefully) perpetual ice after a 10 kilometer hike a couple hundred meters high above sea level was as impressive as I've imagined it to be.
From the Wikipedia article about Torghatten:
According to legend, the hole was made by the troll Hestmannen while he was chasing the beautiful girl Lekamøya. As the troll realized he would not get the girl, he released an arrow to kill her, but the troll-king of Sømna threw his hat into the arrow's path to save her. The hat turned into the mountain with a hole in the middle.
There're a couple dozen pictures on flickr with impressions from various stages of our journey. A few more photos can be found on Instagram. Once @rubiojr has finished processing and uploading his GoPro footage I'm also going to provide links to his pictures and videos.
Update: @rubiojr's GoPro footage is now on Flickr!