Ship Life - Atlantic Crossing

Posted on 30 November 2016 @ 7:09pm

Atlantic Crossing: Ship Life

As many of you know, the Gulden Leeuw has made it safely past the first of three trans-Atlantic crossings for the 2016/17 school year!  Class Afloat students were eager to set foot on the most breathtaking island of Brazil: Fernando de Noronha. This passage was incredibly busy, as students continued to work hard in both their academic studies and sail training.  Although these last two weeks were an unforgettable adventure for us all, filled with stress and excitement, there is no doubt that time off in Brazil is exactly what students, faculty and maritime crew needed.

 After successful homestays and port programming in Dakar, students were ready to resume regular watch and class schedule for the 13-day passage. The one-minute showers, early morning cleaning stations, and late night watches were back, and students managed to keep motivated throughout the voyage. Besides school there have been many activities and clubs, as well as our Movember fundraising that took place. Student council had the opportunity to host “Twin Day” where students were asked to dress up with another shipmate, for a chance to win some chocolate. Asta and Lukas were the winners of the competition, both dressed in blue leggings, and Klaus and Tommaso were close runner-ups.  

 As we neared the equator the temperatures continued to increase, and it seemed almost impossible for anyone to keep cool. It was a true blessing for the captain to grant us a swim call; it couldn’t have been a more perfect opportunity to cool down our bodies and brains before classes. Since we were in the doldrums (area with minimal wind), the water was ideal for swimming. The Maritime crew set up a Tarzan swing for the students, and it definitely turned out to be a huge hit.  Once we had entered the water you could gaze down into the never-ending crystal-clear abyss below, praying that you didn’t actually see anything. Since the sun never failed to let us down, the average temperature remained around 30 degrees Celsius, and the following day we had a fire hose party. Students went out on the foredeck for just under an hour and blasted each other with the enormous salt-water hose. It almost felt like we were little kids again, playing in the sprinklers on a hot summer day. Perhaps we had gotten our message across, and after numerous days in the scorching heat, there ended up being some rain showers. Students were so thrilled and set up their hammocks in the rain, or sat up on the bridge deck waiting for every last drop to fall.

Although celebrated two days late, on Sunday we had a Hawaiian-themed classic American Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was dressed head-to-toe in Hawaiian attire, and everyone had cleaned up extremely well. Traditional Hawaiian music was met with delicious Thanksgiving food, and everyone was content with the mass amounts of food they were able to consume. Alysha spent the day preparing a surprise dessert, and once everyone found out it was pumpkin pie and ice-cream, students went crazy.  Later on, students went about playing various games or watching “Remember the Titans,” which was projected outside on the foredeck. 

Finally, one of the most amazing experiences this passage was the pollywogs’ initiation as they crossed the equator to the South Atlantic Ocean. The night of the equator crossing, all the crew members onboard the Gulden Leeuw stayed up until the fog horn sounded, indicating we had finally reached the equator. We ended up crossing the equator around 2200h and students were ecstatic to begin a new adventure on the South Atlantic. Skies clear, fair wind, and well rested. Students could not have asked for a more perfect “Snow Day” and initiation. Since it is maritime law that we do not speak of what happened during initiation, it would be impossible to explain what happened on this very day.  After the initiation was complete, each new shellback (someone who has crossed the equator by sailing) received new names which closely reflected each of their personalities. Some of the names were truly bizarre! Many students admitted they felt a new connection to the ocean, and King Neptune had honoured each one of us with the opportunity to call the sea our home.

As we neared Fernando de Noronha it appeared that once again we would be arriving early. As it happened, we pulled up in the dead of night and students had the pleasure of waking up to our new paradise for the next few days. Whispers of beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters floated through the student mess and there was a sense of adventure in the air. We brushed up on our Portuguese and slapped on our sun screen. Sailing shorts were ditched for bathing suits, and t-shirts were left behind all together. The Southern Ocean had been good to us and we found ourselves in the perfect destination. 

 sails set

This was a photo taken just after the first rainfall of the South Atlantic crossing!


land ahoy

Land Ahoy! This is what we got to base our first impression of Fernando on!  It was absolutely breathtaking!

- written by English 12 student Hailey