perjantai 7. syyskuuta 2007

Estelle on the North Sea

In the Kiel Canal North Sea lock one of the workers asked whether we had flack jackets. After getting a positive answer he said: “Have fun.” At that moment we did not know quite what he meant.

The river Elbe opens into the North Sea becoming very wide at the estuary. There are large shallow areas that calm the waves. The tide took Estelle at a fair 6 knot speed towards the west even though the wind was against us. We were eager to meet the sea.

Suddenly we were met by waves more than two meters high coming at us from two directions. This was a shock for most of the crew. Even our experienced sailors were feeling bad and needed some fresh air. At this moment we realized what the German worker at the Kiel Lock had meant. Our speed was a mere 2 knots against a wind of 15 meters per second.

The cook dropped his knives and disappeared saying: “I’d better go to my accommodation while I still can.” After that we did not see him for two days. When the cook reappeared, something had happened. Somehow our bodies had got used to the constant rolling. Moving about on the ship was still hard but the sickness was gone. Life went back to normal.

Three of the headsails were out of use after the collision in the Kiel Canal so we could use only the front sail and the mainsail. Also the wind was so strong that we had to raise them reefed. The engine was on. Together this gave us a fair speed of 5 knots even though the wind was not so favorable.

We ran 6 hour shifts for the deck crew. After six hours’ work there was 6 hours’ rest. This meant work both day and night. Steering the ship in the darkness is really interesting. You see very little but the occasional lights of passing ships or drilling rigs, the moon and the stars and the glow of the meters on the deck. The night brought some memorable moments.

Each of us had developed a personal sleeping strategy. Alix and Cristine tried to sleep perpendicular to the rolling motion. Sometimes it meant sleeping sideways on a one meter wide bed. The ones that had a narrow beds with walls on both sides put pillows and blankets on the sides, which prevented them rolling back and forth during the night. Jari slept on his back the hands close to the body so the movement of the ship affected symmetrically all the parts of the body: “If felt like being a baby in a cradle”, he said.

After four days we were finally near the coast of England. The pilot directed us upriver near the centre of Newcastle. We looked forward eagerly to the happenings of the weekend.