We began our intrepid adventure across the British Channel with a beautiful sunny day. Stepping aboard Stavros S Niarchos, we found our bunks before beginning our seamanship training. Kim, our highly trained Bosun, showed us the ropes with an introduction to round turns and figure of eights on the pins. Following this, some sweating and tailing helped us heave into the next lesson. We had a helm of a time learning with Second Officer Neil the art of helmsmanship.
After learning our port from starboard, we mastered taking bearings off of a look-out position as well as commanding the vessel from the stern. The final lesson in preparing us for going aloft was receiving oilskins and harnesses. A quick bit gfor lunch put us on course to ready ourselves for a little “up and over” practice. Despite the swaying mainmast and slight breeze, all 38 voyage crew managed to climb up and over the yard. On a high we finished our first day on Stavros with a Chili con Carne, a great end to a great day.
At this point, we are all starting to realise what we have gotten ourselves into as all the rope pulling we did yesterday has left some of us with either red raw hands or rope burn. Although, we are all in different watches we have all come together as one massive family, everybody on the ship are nice and they try their best to help with whatever they can. Today and yesterday have been the two main days that we can work out everything such as what are the quicker ways to get around and what the daily routines are. In all honesty, I did feel a little sick today but that was probably because I haven’t been on a ship for this long before. I’m just happy that I’ve met those that I now know and I can’t wait until tomorrow so that I can find out who everyone else is.
Today, we arrived and anchored at Alderney, and the view we had was spectacular. It was also the first time that the on-board shop was open and although there was a massive queue everybody enjoyed it even some of the watch leaders went to the shop too. It was a massive laugh after as our youth mentor Len planned an exciting night for us as it was something for us all to do as it was too late to have shore leave. It was one of the best nights I have had in a long time and I cannot thank the captain, the boson, the chief officers, the watch leaders and our youth mentor enough. I think that this is going to be the best trip that I will ever have and it has only just started.
At the start of day 4 we were already docked in the port of Braye, overlooked by skies of grey. Just before lunchtime, we set sail for Cherbourg in dire conditions. Our brig took a lashing from the heavy rain and wind the sky had decided to unleash upon us just as we left. With the help of the now trained voyage crew, however, we were successfully on course for Cherbourg. Serving lunch was quite the task for the mess men due to the sickening motion of the boat – luckily the plates stayed on the tables. When we finally tied up to the quay in Cherbourg, it was about 5 and still raining, it ceased however as we departed the ship after dinner.
The town of Cherbourg was a quaint one with a picturesque centre, albeit very empty apart from a few intrigued locals. The first destination for most of the voyage crew was a supermarket that happened to still be open. After stocking up on chocolate (which there had regrettably been a lack of) we wandered around town for a while before locating the Domino’s pizza place and the McDonalds. We arrived back on the Stavros at 10pm.
Gale-force winds, turbulent seas, and sails in desperate need of furling. Two were chosen and up the mast they went, along with deckhand Emily and Len. The brutal swaying was made worthwhile by the view waiting for us at the top. Silhouettes against the burning horizon. The sunset created an all-round loss of words from permanent crew through the voyage crew. We reluctantly descended, yet with beaming grins, to a waiting crew on deck.
A one in a life time and never to be forgotten experience.
An early start for some, Stavros motored on through the night toward Brixham. With a high wind battering each watch who dared step foot onto the open bridge. Awoken for breakfast, the hazy view of Tor Bay came to light. After another successful Happy Hour and an equally joyous lunch, we anchored in Tor Bay. This was to the relief of many after a hard night journeying and somewhat not sleeping. Our next activity was a spot of rowing around the ship. All teams successfully made it around the ship, some ever so slightly more successful than others. Blue watch sprung on the competition like an Olympic rowing team, showing everyone how it’s done. After the roar of the crowd ebbed away, all three watches took to the skies and staysails for a harbour stow. Clewlines successfully hoisted and folds concertinaed professionally Stavros was looking shipshape in the warm glow of the evening sun. We had a short lecture from Second Officer Neil on the use of Distress Signals as well as the Dos and Don’ts of them. Our Youth Mentor, Len, provided a quiz for us after dinner. The quiz tested our knowledge on all the weeks lectures; Buoyage, Ship lighting, Sail Handling and Distress Signals. The quiz was brutal and tough however all three watches shined in their seamanship skills. This signed off the penultimate day of what has been a fantastic opportunity for all crew.