Crossing the North Atlantic Ocean – by Alena

schueler.alenaWe have been sailing around the world for more than five months now. We came to so many new places and also had to leave them again. This is part of a journey, of our unbelievable adventure. Leaving a safe harbour always transmits an incredible feeling, which is always a different one. Setting sails and heading for another adventure with the wind blowing in your face, the blue water everywhere and the ships movements. While the Bermudian white roofs were getting smaller, we were trying to realise what was ahead of us: the wild and unpredictable North Atlantic Ocean. I think that each of us had to confront this feeling by themselves, because it is an individual emotion. From this moment on there was only us on our travelling home and the ocean. And again, we don’t have any ambulance we could call, there wouldn’t even be another ship around most of the time. Detlef reminded us to recall all the rules and to really look after ourselves, the others and the ship. He said that there would be no way back. We would cross the North Atlantic Ocean, also if we would had to go through a gale, which is likely.
Right after we left the calm harbour of St. George’s, the first of us got seasick again. While some were sitting on deck to be next to the ocean and always ready to puke, the others were sleeping with puking-bags next to themselves.
Despite all that, we had absolutely beautiful weather for the first days. We were able to wear our shorts for probably the last time on this journey and we could eat on deck. And also the daily routine began: one day of school and one day of watch followed each other, sometimes also galley duty or internships, long nights in the messroom with hot chocolate and card games. This is the “Thorlife“.
As we were already expecting, it did not go on like that for the whole crossing. After about half of the passage we were hit by the rim of a low pressure area, which brought really high waves (up to 7m). At first, everybody was very curious about living the experience of a real gale. But we quickly realised that it is not as easy as we thought. After we hoisted only the stormrigging, we also installed walking lines where we could attach our safty harnesses to. In case a high wave spills over the deck this prevents us from being washed away from the deck to the sea. For the watches we had to wear our full sailing gear and obviously also our harnesses. Only putting all that stuff on took us almost half an hour. All waterproof doors were closed, so we did not have any fresh air under deck. One night we had to use a radio. When someone wanted to go on deck he first had to call the watch on deck. They told the one under deck if it was possible, because sometimes there were enormously high waves spilling over deck, so you had to wait for the right moment.
Because of the strong ships movements the galley duty and even eating were a real challenge. On the main gale day I also had galley duty. After finally having managed to fix all the cookers full of tomato sauce, while we were cursing Neptun, a gigantic wave came through the bulleyes and went all over the kitchen. The struggle continued when we were sitting in the messroom on the banks which was more like sliding on the banks. Taking a shower was really funny, because you had to move with the spill of the water. Sleeping was a real adventure, too, it was hard to find a position where you would not fall out of the bunk. Well, this did not work out for everybody… And not to forget, there was our good old friend, the seasickness.
But even a storm has an end. After three days the wind decreased. Finally, we opened up all the bulleyes and doors. Outside we could enjoy the sun shining over the wide North Atlantic Ocean. That is what you call the calm after the storm: the following days the wind got less and less. Therefore, we sometimes had to turn the engine on in order to stay in our time schedule. Meanwhile, school was going on, but now we had to concentrate on studying for the upcoming Physics and Chemistry tests. Our teachers couldn’t go anywhere without having to answer questions. The last schooldays passed, and in the watches we saw dolphins and Portuguese Galleers. After the last test and school day we celebrated a Caribbean evening to remember all the food which is an important factor of every island we have been to. After that we went to bed happily and with full stomachs. During the night watches we packed almost all sails. And in the morning we could see the Acores coming closer, this was the first time we saw European ground since we have left Tenerife. Finally, we arrived in the harbour of Horta, a harbour where many international sailors meet. After having cleaned everything, we set foot on the Acores. Kind of happy and proud of ourselves we walked through the harbour into the city. Some called their parents and some just wondered about all the paintings of other sailors on the docks and tried to realise, what a great adventure we’re living. And still, this was not all and maybe it was not the last storm. There is still something left to come.