In the darkness we had set off from the port of Elsfleth with mixed expectations. We have now been sailing for exactly one month. The Avontuur carries us along the west coast of Europe to the south. First stop will be in Tenerife in a few days or maybe longer. At the beginning, storms in the English Channel welcomed us with icy sea air and rain.
We are 15 people onboard. Divided in watches, each four or five, our sailing freighter, the weather, the sea traffic always in view. One hand for the ship and one hand for us. Pulling on the tugging sails we have been working on deck ever since. While the others are resting, swaying back and forth, rocking, partly clutching the bunks, converted to the nest to avoid falling out, we are divided into three watch services twice a day.
In the morning at 3.30 a.m. I am woken up, gently with the weather forecast, so that I can always go on deck properly dressed. Every day we are surrounded by the sound of the departing bow, plunging into the waves, the sound of the sails striking the masts, the roar of the waves, the patter of feet on deck, the hand pump of the toilet, metal and wood rubbing against each other, sometimes squeaking, sometimes throbbing. For the first three days of the expedition, half of the crew was seasick but did their daily watch duty, including me. Most of the journey was and is still to come.
Divide your strength, rest after four hours on deck watch. Steering, keeping course, setting sails, galley duty, nothing left in the stomach, after 5 minutes everything to the fish, brushing teeth quickly and off to my bunk for a short sleep with a stone belly. At this time, I stiffened my legs and supported myself with both arms on the walls so as not to be flung around by the waves while in my bunk. The crashing of the bow resembled a thunderclap again and again, the waves lifted our hull up, only to crash down again a short time later, plunging into the dark waters of the sea. The ropes vibrated, pulsed, keeping the sails taut in wind and rain. Defying the whistling and roaring gusts, the Avontuur made her way along the Netherlands, towards Biskaja (France’s most adventurous coastal area, a challenge for many ships and even experienced sailors).
Depending on the winds, the sea teaches us how small we are and how crucial a single second can be. Far away from our familiar home, a world far away from the reference to real nature, its immense power and rough beauty. Sunrises and sunsets paint an indescribable play of colours on the horizon. Deep red in the course of the orange than the blue changes the stripes of the sky, so picturesque, as if the horizon was another ocean stretching in the vastness of the sky. Lilac tones, silver stripes, fluffy clouds, formed towards high towers, an ever new breathtakingly splendid play of colours. Only to then appear in completely new splendour within a few minutes. We learn to read the cloud formations, sail through billows of mist and become aware that everything takes time. This is also the case of our route to Tenerife that is actually half as long. The wind knows better, the weather forecast the worse. Now we have to pause, alternately drift and sail. We use this time, learn something new every day and recognize that we are still at the very beginning. Attention, respect and acceptance, not playing God, but reacting to the given, interacting harmoniously in harmony with the forces of nature.
The Atlantic crossing still holds many exciting challenges in store. Café Chavalo expects sailed coffee, Choco Del Sol sailed cocoa. We will arrive in Hamburg in the summer of 2020. The timing is planned but, depending on the wind, remains a prediction with a tendency to deviate. Until then, Gulia in the galley (galley or ship’s kitchen) will provide us with a variety of dishes and will keep us in good spirits with a “Ciau my friend”, a promising smile. Our Captain Michael relies on sailing power and always has us in view. Nothing goes unnoticed, so that we learn from mistakes. With good-natured, wise eyes, he always watches over the ship and has often given me clear instructions in a firm, good-natured tone. There is always an explanation behind them, so that the words quickly sink in and manifest into learnt sailing manoeuvres.
For me it’s back on deck for the next sailing manoeuvre. In fog, wrapped up in my red rain gear, it’s time to tackle the task, the horizon in sight, the steering wheel in hand with a watchful eye. One crew, one mission, together on the way to a better future. At the decisive moment we become one, as a team, with the winds and waves, the Avontuur.
Peggy also has a fantastic blog and a podcast for you German speakers out there -> https://peggymerkur.blog/
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