Experiences of an Assistant Officer on the AVONTUUR
A personal report by our crew member Max from Voyage 11
The AVONTUUR is a very special cargo ship. Many things come together there that make every voyage, without exception, an intense experience. First of all, the AVONTUUR is a beautiful ship. Every time at anchor, when we go ashore with the dinghy and she rolls very slowly in the long Atlantic waves, you see again what a proud sailing ship you are actually working on! An old, well-proven ship. But not outdated. On the contrary! Our colleagues from EcoClipper in the Netherlands once put it very nicely like this: “Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.” That’s what we do, and we do it with great pleasure! Transporting goods with a schooner-rigged two-masted tall ship has already worked a hundred years ago (our AVONTUUR is 103 years old). Our diesel-powered main engine is only used in exceptional cases or for emergency purposes thanks to our sailing ship rig. So we have two propulsion systems that are completely independent of each other: the diesel engine on the one hand and our nine sails on the other. In the long term, however, the main engine will be electric.
We do not consider ourselves as the solution to all problems. There have been countless other approaches to solving them for years. But we do give a concrete example of what environmentally friendly sea transport can look like. The experience on our cargo ship is also very special because we are living a new reality here. A reality in which it is quite natural to use electricity and fresh water sparingly, to always consider the impact on our marine environment and to sail as much as possible to avoid using fossil fuel. The operation of the ship itself requires a new environmental awareness.
Sailing on the AVONTUUR means sailing with a very special and motivated crew. This is because each and every one of us here has some commitment to our goal: environmental protection. Sailing and the common goal of covering even the last nautical mile to the harbour or anchorage under sail not only bonds us together, but also makes us a little proud every time we manage to do it with the right technique. On Tenerife, we sailed out of the harbour, completely with the wind. It was a great manoeuvre, which attracted a lot of attention from some of the spectators on the pier. Of course, this only works if we work together flawlessly as a crew.
After we left Santa Cruz, the wind alone took us and our ship over 3,100 nautical miles across the Atlantic. It is worth watching the rushing bow wave (the wave that is created at the front of the ship by its motion) from time to time. There you can see the power of the wind pushing our ship forward at speeds of sometimes over ten knots. Fascinating to see every time! Especially when luminous plankton give the wave a bright shimmer at night or dolphins swim back and forth in front of us.
For many of us it was the first “Atlantic Crossing”. With such a great crew, 43.50 metres is quite enough space to live on for a few weeks. Our crew is very close-knit. We spend a lot of our free time together on deck, having chats, tying knots, or playing music. The mood is consistently good, and problems are addressed and quickly solved.
The general enthusiasm was great when we reached our mooring in the Baie de Marigot on the Caribbean Island of Saint Martin after the crossing and, during an “all hands”, we also had apple pieces for dinner, which our cook Lara had just baked for the occasion. Thank you, Lara!
There is no other ship I would rather serve my time as an assistant cadet officer on my way to becoming a captain than on this one. It’s been a valuable experience and an inspiring time here. There is still a lot to be done in cargo sailing and we still have a long way to go before we have enough environmentally friendly ships to implement the energy turnaround in the shipping industry as well. Here on the AVONTUUR, we are committed to this every day. And it’s fun!
The pictures for this feature are all from our ongoing Voyage 11 and were taken on board the AVONTUUR by our Shipmate Rita, who accompanied the crew up to Puerto Morelos.