Taking over the ship – written by Korbinian

schueler.korbinianWhat does “taking over the ship“ mean? Taking over the ship means that we students take over all the heading positions on the Thor Heyerdahl, for instance head of watch, captain or project manager. One week before we have to start writing our application for our favourite position. On the final day, we have to put all our applications in a box and the crew reads them all. In the end, they have a meeting and discuss which person they should choose for a position. When everything is ready, a ships assembly is called. On this occasion the new captain, the two project managers and mates, the boatswain, the engineer and the four new heads of watch are presented. Now the heading positions have to prepare a presentation on the next days, such as the course and the upcoming events. The new project managers have to make new plans for the watch and the kitchen duty. After two hours they have to be ready for the presentation and if everything is okay we students can take over the ship.
On our journey we have three occasions to take over the ship. The first time between Tenerife and Grenada, the second time between Cuba and Bermuda and the last time between the English Channel and Kiel. Until now, we have already taken over the ship two times. Both of the times, it was very interesting and difficult for us, because of different issues.
The first time took two and a half days and it did not work as we hoped it would, because we had only spent less than two months on this ship and thought we already knew almost everything. But we were wrong and therefore had a difficult start. Also, it was not clear what the real crew was supposed to do. They observed us all the time and were ordered not to intervene except in dangerous situations. But after the first day everything improved and in the end everything worked like always.
The second time was much better and much longer. We took over the ship for five days, nearly twice as long as the first time. From the beginning until the end everything was calmer than two months before, because this time we had much more experience. We knew what to do, where to look for help and when to be quiet. But this time the challenge was that we were not allowed to use electronic devices, such as the GPS. Instead, we used the traditional way, the astronomical navigation, where we determined the position of the sun and the stars in order to identify our position and course. Luckily, our captain knows how to do that and taught us this traditional way of navigation. This took a lot of time every day, but in the end there was a competition where we compared our position calculated with the help of the stars and our actual position, which we could see on the GPS. And surprise, surprise, we were very near to our real position, namely less than a mile away. We were all very happy.
Now we still have one more possibility to take over the ship and we are already very excited. The difficulty this time will be that it is the longest period of time we will be responsible of the ship. It should take 5-7 days and during the last days of the journey, the last days with this group on this ship. With 50 persons we have known for six months and now are like family to us.