March 09, 2015

Jakob, an advisor in the construction industry from London; Søren, an insurance broker from Copenhagen; and Theis, a musician from Copenhagen, joined the ship “ACTIV” as crewmembers for the first 3 weeks of an expedition. Their journey went from the North Atlantic pier in Copenhagen to Reykjavik, Iceland. Here’s a short story told by the Captain about their adventure.

Story: The Captain
ACTIV is approaching Iceland. The Captain and expedition leader, describes the life and the adapting to the sea on the first weeks of a long journey.

ACTIV is racing strong winds ahead. At the time of the publishing of this blog post, ACTIV is in the wind. Gale. Going 8 knots for only few sails. Pos. 63 23N - 21 39W at July 1, 12:47 hour.

It’s been a week since our departure from the North Atlantic pier in Copenhagen. Still, it seems much longer now. We were quietly sliding along the Swedish coast at Midsummers eve. Skagen was passed in bright sunshine with a few scattered cumuli. The numerous cargo ships anchored off “Grenen” bore a strong resemblance with sleeping giants. Chained to the seabed with rust streaks along their sides, only a slight rocking to give away the fact that they were not fixed structures. From here a course West-northwest, Denmark faded away behind us and within long, Southern Norway grew, ever so slowly, above the horizon to the North.

The wind changed to the Northern quarter as it gradually increased and soon ACTIV was joyfully performing a dance across the waves. All sails bellowing against the light blue sky, ship soon roaring over dark blue sea, 7-8-9 knots. Topgallant and flying jib down, still 8-9 knots, farewell Norway – this was a brief encounter. With average speeds in excess of 8 knots, Fair Isle appeared sooner than expected. Soon after, Southern Shetland appeared in a haze at starboard. At this speed, Shetlands was to be as brief an encounter, as was Norway. We are still “chasing rattles” and applying chafing gear. The permanent crew whom are in for the long run are getting to know ACTIV, seeking out understanding of the language of the vessel. An odd old language, not in the normal sense of the word. This “language” consists not of words. One has to smell, hear, see, and feel it. Once decoded, the sailor has no doubt, she (the vessel) is talking to you. Like an endless monologue that becomes a dialogue with your interference, the trimming of a sail and applying of chafing gear amongst a thousand other things. In what seems a disorganized orchestra of sounds, the good sounds are separated from the bad and the cause of the bad sounds is addressed. Little by little the language is understood and a meaningful dialogue can take place. A good sailor is not just one whom can take a ship to/from port on a sunny Sunday. He/she must be able to undertake repairs of nearly all damages that can occur to a ship or the ship’s gear. Better yet, the sailor must understand the language of the ship as this will allow, to a large extend, the avoidance of damages. In short, as the British say, “a stitch in time, saves nine”.

Towards Shetlands, it has been growing ever colder, puffins are seen regularly but then there is a shift of winds to the west and then decreasing. The clouds are opening, the sun peaks through; first a little, then more and more. Soon we are sailing on a glossy sea in near flat calm conditions. We have arrived at the Faroe banks bathed in sunlight. As the wind decreased, we have taken in most sails and cranked on the engine. Now we turn it off – it is time for a break. We try our luck with a little cod fishing whilst drifting amidst the slight swells. It is the warmest day since our departure, the cod won’t bite, the glittering sea looks appealing (to most), in spite of it being rather chilly. It is time for a swim. Eight swimmers onboard, again, we let the engine push us across the seemingly endless sea. “There she blows!”, and sure enough, a group of sperm-whales is sighted ahead. We follow the whales for a while, take pictures, laughs, excitement, and I am uncertain whether the swimming or the whales is the highlight of the day. Today, it is overcast, scattered showers, Southerly winds and good speed thus far.

Iceland lies ahead, a mere 200nm and we shall have cleared the SW-corner. The forecast suggests increasing winds turning slowly to the West. If the forecast holds up, we may just make it around the corner before then. The race is on. Anyone who has tried to beat against strong head winds at the entrance of the Straight of Denmark (or in other exposed waters) will need no explanation at to the reason for this race. Those onboard who has not tried such still, has a vivid imagination (likely spurred by the colorful explanations of others) and everyone is now together in this race. We have a need for speed, trim on the sails, attention to the heading and somewhat more concentrated sailing than usual. One may not create the world in 7 days, - Alas much can come to pass. Check out more about the expeditions and the ship on www.ekspeditionen2011.dk.