Cape to Cape voyage, Tristan da Cunha and life on board
Apart from Antarctica and South Georgia, there was one more major destination on our trip. Tristan da Cunha. Known as the most remote inhabited island in the world, lies in the South Atlantic Ocean and it is only accessible by sea. And there was wholelot of time on the sea as we crossed the entire South Atlantic.
Tristan da Cunha
On the 16th of March, we woke up to a beautiful day. The morning stroll on the deck was quite a memorable one. In front of us were the shores of majestic Tristan da Cunha Island. High above the 600 to 700m high coastal cliffs, we can almost have a glimpse of the island’s top. The 2060m high massive shield volcano, that rises up from the abyssal depths of the South Atlantic Ocean, more than 3000 m deep. With such a sight even the morning coffee tastes better. The main island of Tristan has been inhabitedsince the early 1800s. It currently has a permanent population of about 270 people. Accessible only by sea, and more than 2,400 km from the nearest human settlement at St. Helena, it is widelyregarded as the most isolated human community. They live in small town that is named 'Edinburgh of the seven seas', but usually referred to as 'the Settlement'.
We are very lucky that the weather is beautiful and allows us to land on the island. This is not always the case as port is often closed for any landing due to bad weather and high swell. However, we were not the only ships there. As remote as the island can be, today two more ships besides the Europa share its coasts. The French “Lyrial” cruise ship and the small yacht “Jonathan”. For the first day of landing we shared the island with them but the second day we had the island only for ourselves.
The two days at Tristan were memorable. The locals provided the guiding services so our task as guides was reducedto making sure that people go for tours that they signed up for. In the end, we had some spare time for ourselves to stroll around the village and surroundings at our leisure.
Crossing the Southern Atlantic
We covered more than 5000 miles during our Cape to Cape voyage. That means lots of sailing with 4 major legs. Starting with crossing the Drake Passage from Ushuaia to the shores of Antarctica, then crossing the Scotia Sea on the way from Antarctica to South Georgia. Last two stretches were much longer. We covered almost the entire Southern Atlantic starting from South Georgia to Tristan da Cunha and then the last leg from Tristan to Cape Town. We were lucky that we covered the most of this distance under the sails and we rarely turned on the auxiliary engines.
Sailing a square rigger means lots of work on the deck and aloft. It was very rare that we had constant wind for a long period of time. In fact, winds were changing often and there were plenty of squalls to keep us busy with sail handling. When we were not working on deck we gave lots of lectures to voyage crew. The permanent crew also taught the voyage crew sailing theory and practical skills. They learned a lot by doing actual sail handling. On top of that they got special lectures covering knots, rope work, sail and rigging basics, etc. A special treat was the “dungeon tour”, a small excursion into the otherwise off limits areas of the ship such as engine room, dry store, chain locker and others. For those interested in celestial navigation we had a few lectures touching on this subject.
Social life aboard was also very colorful. We had a couple of birthdays to celebrate. Especially Jordi’s birthday was fun. The entire voyage crew dressed in black with dark sunglasses in a heavy metal style which is Jordi’s favorite music. Great fun. We had a pub quiz organised by Rembert and during our last night at the sea, we had a very special event. The South Georgia auction. During our visit to Grytviken, we picked up several items for the auction evening. We kept them out of our sight until the auction day. The wedisplayed all the items in the library. Everybody interested could have a good look at the items and the callingprices. To make the things more interesting, Bark Europa put some special items into the auction too. Those incllude worn out and teared Dutch flag that was on the ship since beginning of our voyage, pieces of the Deckzwabber, canvas that often propelled Europa through furious winds of the Drake Passage and South Atlantic and finally the beloved toaster from the lounge.
The evening started with free drinks to get the bidders into the mood. Sarah and Loek created a great atmosphere during the auction and the whole event was a resounding success. We managed to raise $1.509 that will go to the South Georgia Heritage Fund. We hope that our contribution will help to maintain the beautiful ecosystem of South Georgia for generations to come.
Cape Town baby!
On the 30th of March, we finally spotted the characteristic shape of Table Mountain. We approached Cape Town while enjoying a beautiful sunrise. The view of the city from the deck was stunning with golden light falling across the buildings. It took a few more hours before we entered the port and this was the last chapter of the voyage for the passengers. We all went through the immigration process and most of us who were not on duty went to the city for a beer.
For the crew, it was not the end of the work though. Cape Town is usually the place where Europa is liftedout of the water and gets some facelift in the shipyard. The next day the old lady was out on the dock. I had 2 days left before my flight so I joined the workforce. On the 2nd of April in the morning, I left the shipyard and I was on my way to the airport full of memories and experience. I missed the ship and the fellow crew members the moment I left. The next season is a few months away and I cannot wait to be back again.