Sunday, September 29, 2013

The legend behind the figurehead – Dutch tall ship EUROPA

In classic Greek Mythology, Zeus, king of the gods, took many human lovers. He attracted these maidens by changing himself into various forms.
When he first cast his eyes on Europa, daughter of the king of Pheonicia, she was walking along a beach. Disguising himself as a glistening snow-white bull, he approached the maiden.
Being so gentle and tame, Europa stroked the bull and draped a garland of wild flowers around his curving horns.
Feeling no fear of the beautiful beast, she climbed on its back and let it carry her down to the shore.
But once his feet touched the water, the bull leapt into the sea and carried Europa to the island of Crete, where the Greek God took her for his bride.

In Metamorphoses, the poet Ovid (born 43 BC) wrote:
…slowly, slowly down the broad, dry beach—
First in the shallow waves the great god set
His spurious hooves, then sauntered further out
'til in the open sea he bore his prize…

Today, the goddess Europa is remembered through her presence as the figurehead on the Dutch sailing ship which bears her name.
And like the young princess, who was transported to sea on the back of the glistening white beast, today's voyage crew show the same faith and fearlessness as they are carried to sea to sail the vast oceans of the world aboard this magnificent tall ship.

1) Europa and bull - Greek vase Tarquinia Museum, circa 480 BCE (Wiki)
2) Europa and the bull, by Fredericus de Wit (1700)(Wiki)
3) Figurehead (MM)
4) Bark EUROPA - photo courtesy of passenger on Oosterchelde.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tall ships reflect Hobart's by-gone era

September 2013, Hobart, Tasmania was visited by a group of Dutch Tall Ships and several other ships as part of the Tall Ships Festival. Some of these ships had travelled half-way around the world as part of a circumnavigation of the globe.

This was Hobart's greatest assembly of tall ships since the bicentennial celebrations of 1988.
The old poster of a photograph taken in 1895, shows cargo and passenger ships, plus whaling ships berthed along the New Wharf (now called Princes Wharf).

Last week, Princes Wharf hosted the magnificent Bark Europa – a Dutch tall ship built as a lightship in Germany in 1911: the topsail schooner, Oosterschelde (early 20th century), and the Lord Nelson, Britain's Jubilee Sailing Trust STS especially constructed for people with limited abilities.

Across on the Elizabeth Pier another 5 ships graced the Hobart’s waterfront.

The Lady Nelson (replica 1798 colonial brig) was built on the Derwent and is a permanent feature on the harbour.
Behind her is another Dutch ship, Tecla, a 2-masted ketch built 1915. Having seen her on the water, I can confirm she is very fast.

On the other side of the pier, Hobart's Windeward Bound (earlier pic), a two masted brigantine built in Tasmania.

She is followed by the Young Endeavour STS whose crew ‘dressed’ the ship as she came into dock.

And last but not least, the Soren Larsen - Danish built but now based in Sydney, which was made famous in various movies including The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Onedin Line.

Hobart's Tall Ship Festival also hosted a fine display of wooden boats and a Viking ship, which I will include in the next post.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

BAGGYWRINKLES fit for a Tall Ship

When I was aboard the Dutch Tall Ship, Bark Europa in Hobart harbour, conducting visitors around, the question I was most frequently asked was “What is that fluffy thing around the rigging?”
Having sailed aboard EUROPA for an extended voyage recently, I not only discovered what a baggywrinkle was, I also learned how to make one.
Baggywrinkles are made from old rope and their purpose is to stop the sails from chafing on the metal stays when they come into contact.
Stays are the ship’s fixed/standing rigging which support the masts.
You find smaller versions of Baggies on fore and aft yachts.
They serve the same purpose, but on a tall ship, such as EUROPA, everything is BIG including the baggywrinkles.

How to make a giant-sized Baggywrinkle.
Take a length of old rope and cut it into 12 inch (30 cm) lengths.
Unravel the rope down to single strands of spun fibre (sorry the pic is a bit fuzzy).

For a giant baggy, string-up 4 parallel lines of twine to two uprights – smaller yachts usually only use two lines of twine.
The twine needs to be a few meters longer than the length required.

In principle, the pieces of unravelled rope are tied to the two outer pairs of twine-lines and also to the inner pair thereby securing all 4 lines together.

Following the diagram – loop the strand of rope under the outer two lines of twine.
Take the two ends of rope and turn them over the twine and pull them down between the two.
Repeat this process on the other outer parallel twine-lines.
Then, using the two inner twine-lines, repeat the process – this brings the 4 lines together.
Pull the ends of rope tight and slide the knots to the end of the twine.
Continue making these simple knots and your baggywrinkle will continue to grow to the desired length.

Installing a Baggywrinkle on a Tall Ship.
Not a job for the faint-hearted!

Aboard Bark EUROPA, Derk demonstrates how to attach the baggy to the stay.
He does this by winding the length of wrinkles around and around the metal stay (rigging).
Over time the baggywrinkle will be worn down by constant wear from the sail rubbing against it, and it will need to be replaced.
The installation of baggywrinkles is an excellent way of saving massive sails from wear.
It also makes use of old rope.
And making baggies is a good way to spend a few hours when on a long sea voyage.
Happy sailing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The SEA'S MAGIC - what is it?

For millenia, the Sea has been a source of wonder to adventurers, explorers and voyagers alike.
More recently, its magic has stirred the hearts and souls of poets, playwrights, authors and filmmakers.
The essence of the Sea is intangible, yet the Sea embraces all the senses. You can see it, hear it, touch,  taste, feel and smell it. You can even immerse yourself in it.
Yet, what is it about the Sea that transports us so easily to the world of imagination?
Is it the Sea itself?
Its mysteries?
The majesty of the tall ships that roam the vast oceans?
Or the breed of brave seafaring men who dare to venture across its immensity?

Herman Melville (Moby Dick) wrote of the Sea as a place, “...where each man, as in a mirror, finds himself”.
He claims there is a magic in the water that draws men from the land.

I have gazed into the deep and wondered, is it an intrinsic desire to return to the place from whence we came?

One hundred years ago, J. M. Barrie's children's classic, Peter Pan first graced the stage.
With pirate ships, mermaids, Captain Hook and the Jolly Roger, it was an instant box office success and it continues to delight young and old to this day. As a youngster growing up in an industrial town in the north of England, it was my favourite pantomime. What child would not wish to sail across the sky to Neverland?

More recently, Captain Jack Sparrow (aka. Johnny Depp) sailed over the horizon and onto the square screen on his ship, Black Pearl.
The Pirates of the Caribbean movies immediately caught the imagination of the world.
But was it the Sea or Johnny Depp that cast a magic spell on millions of viewers?
In the literary world, CS Forester’s adventures of Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s, Aubrey/Maturin Series have ignited the imagination of generations of readers hungry for nautical adventures offering them the opportunity to escape the humdrum of everyday life, albeit for a short time.

Sailing the high seas under a press of canvas lets you thrill to the thrum of the rigging and the thrap of the bow as it buries its beak into the oncoming swell. And once enfolded in the arms of the sea, you submit yourself to the Sea’s moods and mysteries and succumb to its movement as it lulls you to sleep, where you rekindle the fantasies of childhood, recapture the lost dreams of romance and adventure, and step back in time.

Though the days of fighting ship, fast clippers and even steam ships are gone, there still remain a few ships which today grace the great oceans swimming beneath a pyramid of sails.

The Dutch Bark Europa is such a ship. Built as a light ship in Germany in 1911, this one hundred year old vessel regularly sails from her home port in the Netherlands to the Antarctic Peninsula at the bottom of the world.
When I learned Europa was sailing to the Antipodes, I added my name to the voyage crew and have just returned from a 2,500 miles voyage. What an awesome experience it was.

Under a full press of canvas, sailing close-hauled to the wind, the days drifted by with few changes but the colours of the sunsets, the unexpected appearances of whales and dolphins and the fleeting visit by a passing wandering albatross.
At times, the ship heeled and pitched, and like many good seamen (Lord Nelson included) I was sick as a dog for a couple of days.

Ten years ago, I first embarked on a voyage on a tall ship in the Indian Ocean. It was there I first witnessed the luminescent particles (not phosphorescence) shining, like bright diamonds, in the sea. Seeing this phenomenon inspired my first book, Sea Dust.

Since then, several non-nautical books followed, but eventually the call of the sea drew me back.
All three of my books in the Oliver Quintrell Nautical Fiction Series series (Floating Gold, The Tainted Prize and Admiralty Orders) are available on Amazon as e-books ($2.99).

For the period of this Nautical Blog Hop I will be attending the Tall Ship’s Festival in Hobart, where I will be working as a volunteer guide introducing school children to the visiting tall ships.

I hope some of the Sea’s magic (whatever it is) will rub off on them.

Thank you for visiting me as part of your Blog Hop.
Here are the other Nautical Bloggers - please hop on.
J.M. Aucoin
Helen Hollick
Doug Boren
Linda Collison

Julian Stockwin
Anna Belfrage
Andy Millen
V.E. Ulett
T.S. Rhodes
Mark Patton
Alaric Bond
Ginger Myrick
Judith Starkston
Seymour Hamilton
Rick Spilman
James L. Nelson
S.J. Turney
Prue Batten
Antoine Vanner
Joan Druett
Edward James
Nighthawk News

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Safety at Sea - a priority for a tall ship

When hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles from land on a tall ship, safety on board is essential.
Bark EUROPA is very conscious of this, so unexpected drills in man-overboard and abandon ship procedures, also how to combat a fire serve to remind everyone how vulnerable we are on the ocean.

The abandon ship procedure is one of the first lessons everyone who steps aboard must learn.
When the alarm is sounded everyone aboard must don a full immersion suit to protect themselves from the cold water. There are plenty of lifeboats on deck to accommodate everyone should the necessity to abandon the vessel arise.

In a man-overboard emergency, the victim must first be located.
Then the victim must be plucked from the sea.

Derk is seen here in his immersion suit after rescuing the man-overboard (in this case, an orange buoy).

Fire is perhaps the biggest hazard on a sailing ship and when the alarm sounds, the crew are well trained to combat the hazard.
With hoses and extinguishers and dressed in full fire-fighting gear with breathing equipment, they are armed to fight a major blaze.

The results of a fire can include injuries - burns or smoke inhalation.
In this exercise, the ship's doctor, Tammi, with assistance from Claire (voyage crew medic) resuscitates a patient suffering smoke inhalation

While any disaster is being fought, the crew must bring the ship to a halt as quickly as possible.
This is no easy task if the ship is flying along making 8 or 9 knots.
Rather than waring or tacking, which can be a slow procedure and covers quite a distance, the ship can be hove to by bracing one set of square sails around and against the wind, to act as a brake.
For a man-overboard, the engines are put into reverse and the ship brought around.
Captain Eric throws the helm over to come about.
My 23-day voyage on EUROPA was uneventful, as far as major disasters were concerned. But it was reassuring to know that everyone knew what to do should an unexpected hazard occur.
Re: Sailing Dutch Tall ship, 'Europa' on Australian Bight - August/Sept 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Setting sun tinges Bark Europa's sails

Looking through my pictures after spending over 3 weeks aboard the Bark Europa in the Southern Ocean, I find I have a collection of magnificent sunsets.
Every one is different.
Here Europa's press of sails takes on the orange of the sunset.
I stand transfixed at the glory of nature.
Just beautiful.
Sailing Bark EUROPA along the Australian Bight - Aust/Sept 2013

Monday, September 09, 2013

Admiralty Orders - "extraordinary for realism and historical accuracy"

A review – ADMIRALTY ORDERS: This novel is extraordinary for its realism and its historical accuracy. You'll never think of Gibraltar in the same way, having read this re-creation. M.C. Muir nails it in a most discomfiting sequence of events.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, sickness and disease killed far more British seamen, marines and soldiers than did musketballs, cannonballs, mortars, sabers and bayonnets combined.
This story, based on fact, manages to create tension from the unpredictable ways of an invisible enemy much more powerful than the French or the Spanish Navies.
In this story the primary enemy is Yellow Fever, the cause and cure of which was not known until well into the 20th century.
The aloof Oliver Quintrell, captain of HMS Perpetual, finds himself perpetually at anchor, in quarantine off Gibraltar, while a fearsome disease threatens his men, the soldiers at the fort - and the one person on Earth he loves, who shouldn't even be on "the Rock." (Linda Collison)

Re-enactiment pic courtesy of Wikipedia
Book cover pic by M.C. Muir - Rock of Gibraltar, Nov 2013.

The Majesty of Sail - Bark Europa under a press of canvas in the Southern Ocean.

After 2500 miles sailing with the 100 year old Dutch Tall Ship, Bark Europa along the Australian Bight, I am home from the sea.
What a magnificent ship to sail on! She creamed the sea making nine and a half knots at times.
After visiting Sydney for the Tall Ship Races in October, she will be heading for Cape Horn.
This pic courtesy of Bark Europa. I will be posting some of my own when I come down the earth.