Ship Life: Ascension to Barbados

Posted on 21 April 2017 @ 12:40am

Ship Life: Ascension to Barbados

On the 20th of March we left Ascension Island.

After having spent a couple of days on the incredibly diverse island, hiking around the jungle of Green Mountain or lying on the beautiful beaches, leaving was not the most popular topic. A 20-something-day sail, all those school days in unbelievably hot temperatures created some mixed feelings about the departure. Little did we know that events, activities, and the weather would make this one of our most memorable sails, if not the most memorable one. The longest sail of the whole year. You can imagine what this means, especially at a time when our final Grand Arrival in Lunenburg is drawing closer at way too quick a pace.

Soon after our departure we heard the exciting news: Watch Wars would be happening during this sail. In a series of different challenges that tested the knowledge, sailing abilities, physical strength, creativity and team spirit of the different watches, a winning watch would be crowned and glorious prices would be won. The Watch Wars stretched out over almost all of the sail and made everyday life a lot more special and exciting.

A very unfortunate accident brought us back to the familiar island of Fernando de Noronha. Although we could not set foot on land during this short stay at anchor, the view of the island provoked heaps of nostalgia in us all, since Fernando was the favourite port for many students and staff. Sadly however, seeing Fernando also meant saying goodbye to Denise who had travelled with us since Cape Town, and who in this short period of time, grew on everyone.

Sunset on the foredeck

Sunset on the foredeck. Photo Credit: Béla

Anchoring also had its good aspects too. Everyone enjoyed a little bit of service to call home. In the short time that we spent there we also had two swim calls, which in this heat were definitely needed. The second one featured the Watch Wars rope climbing challenge, where the competitors had to climb up a rope that was hanging down from the bowsprit.

Since the boat was not rolling that much student council organized a coffee-house. It was probably the most diverse coffee-house yet, since it was packed with surprises. Kyle, Tommaso, Klaus and Andrew presented their newest release; Megan impressed us with a singing talent nobody knew of; Brody read some deep poetry and Pete and Andrew totally nailed the comedic aspect of the evening.

One of the stories that will definitely stay very clear in all our memories was the all-hands call on our way to Fernando de Noronha. We all got woken up at around 0500h because we were in a big storm and the main preventer broke. As soon as the call came to the dorms, everyone jumped out of their bunks, put on their clothes and hurried upstairs. There we were met by pouring rain, lightning and roaring wind. Even though everyone was woken up in the middle of the night, not a single person complained. Everyone helped as we took in sails in record time. It was definitely a lot of fun and everyone was super excited, for we finally got to show that everything we did so many times in nice weather, fooling around and taking our time, we could actually do fast and proper on a more serious occasion. Still, we were all glad once we were finally able to pass out on our bunks again, soaking wet and tired but pumped up with adrenalin and super proud of what we had achieved as a crew.

The rain, however, did not leave us too soon. In fact it accompanied us, with barely any brakes, almost all the way to Barbados. Soon all our clothes and shoes were wet. Foulies slowly lost their water resistance and even rubber boots accumulated lakes in them. With the rain there were squalls and we got a lot of practice in sail-handling, since taking down sails in a squall became a daily routine. As discouraging as the rain seemed at times, it also made this sail a great deal more exciting. After all, hauling on lines as the weather suddenly changes from beautiful and sunny to a pouring rain that soaks you within a minute and strong winds that make the boat heel over as if to test just how well your balance is, is actually quite epic and a lot of fun.

In the time from Fernando almost all the way to Barbados, Watch Wars was going on. Almost every day a competition was held. These were things like: Frozen t-shirt contest, bucket challenge, sail-carrying challenge, wall sit competition, wheel-barrel race, rope climbing challenge and a trivia game. For each of these events, points could be won. Additional points were earned on watch, in classes, or in the galley. After about two weeks it all concluded in the famous Watch Olympics of 2017. The Watch Olympics took place on our second snow-day of this sail. As the finale of the Watch Wars, the Watch Olympics featured a series of different competitions mostly related to maritime things.

The day was started off with a sail dousing and setting competitions, and a rope coil race. After that, the physical strength of the watches was measured in the chin-up competition, which was won by watch four’s very own Jeremy Kretz who pulled off an impressive total of 25 chin-ups. Next up was a challenge designed to test each watch’s memory and reflexes. The name of a line or pin was called out and the first one to touch it would win. Just before lunch, the six watches had to demonstrate their seaman skills in a knot-tying race. After an afternoon off spent with much sleeping, relaxing and guessing about which watch would win, the Watch Olympics were finally concluded with the all-deciding tug-of-war. Well what can I say - we had the winning mentality and the looks for sure too. We had the wits and the muscles. The spirit and the wisdom. And I think all those characteristics were an incredibly big help, but we from watch four had to accept that we did not quite make the ranks. The winner of this year’s Watch Olympics was none other than Watch Six!

During Watch Wars, we also hosted a couple of other events. One of them was Mr. Gulden Leeuw which demonstrated all the ridiculous stereotypes of guys and which was won by Megan in the role of Ethan.
Another one was the Equator crossing. It was a blast.

Watch 4

On 0600 to 0900 Watch with Watch 4. Photo Credit: Liz

Now as we slowly approach Barbados, and with it the end of the longest sail of our journey, everyone is getting excited about finally seeing land again. Everyone here can be proud of how far we have come and what we have accomplished and appreciate that we have all earned a couple days off school. Spirits are high and craziness is slowly overtaking the daily school life, as everyone’s minds are filled with ice-cream, coke cans and the beautiful white beaches of Barbados.

Sunrise on watch

Sunrise on watch. Photo Credit: Béla

- Written by Grade 12 Student Béla