Sailing from Tristan da Cunha, UK to Cape Town, South Africa

Posted on 21 February 2017 @ 6:38pm

Sailing from Tristan da Cunha, UK to Cape Town, South Africa

Our visit in Tristan da Cunha, however brief, was an experience I know none of us will ever forget.

As we embarked on the second and final leg of our journey, our spirits were flying high after the port, and because of the prospect of seeing our parents in Cape Town, South Africa. As we looked back at an island that we had visited so briefly, but had provided us with the break we so desperately needed, we waved our last goodbyes to the island and it's people. Captain Robert got us the deal of a lifetime, bargaining with the locals to get us enough Tristan red lobster for the whole crew twice over, plus a few fish. We set sail and let the breeze carry us south towards the real winds of the south Atlantic, the ones that would take us to Cape Town.

The stern faced, dark feathered albatrosses followed us for miles after our departure. Classes resumed, and everything went back to normal; we were back to our ship life schedule. At first, we were sailing a little slowly, so we managed to get a lot of maintenance done on our watches. In preparation for a full deck repaint, we busted rust until these wasn't any rust left to bust and then we primed all of the exposed areas. The professional maritime officers were getting busy preparing the ship for an important stop in Cape Town, collecting all sorts of information for arrival, preparing all of our documents for immigration, and probably so much more that we can't even imagine. The deck crew was busy with maintenance - making sure the ship was in shape and all shiny for the grand arrival with the parents.

During the time at sea, with the strong winds of the south Atlantic, we ripped several sails. We ripped our forestaysail, as well as both our inner and outer jibs, which were essential for the balance of our ship; so, the able-bodied seamen and the boatswain took them down, stitched them up, and set them again in the blink of an eye. All the while, as our maritime crew worked tirelessly, our maritime apprentices watched with careful eyes, following every step, observing and learning everything they could in preparation for the takeover day.

 Takeover day was when the students who applied for apprenticeships filled the shoes of their mentors, and served as real ship officers, sailors, engineers, medical officers, and even cooks. The takeover day, on Feb 10th, was met with much anticipation. Serving as our Captain was Peter Palmer himself. Throughout the day, student apprentices followed a schedule (put together by Sam, Aviva, and Sarah, shipboard director's apprentices!) that resembled working hours for Gulden Leeuw Maritime crew, fulfilling all of their duties. They put into practice the training they had received for weeks before as Captain Robert and his professional crew stepped back at 8:00 p.m on the February 9th.

The ship was handed over to Captain Pete through transfer of the 'Captain's Shirt', only to be returned to the professionals at 8:00 p.m the following day. The student Officers made all the decisions on the ship: they decided whether to set sail or to take it away; whether to sail or to motor; what course should be steered, etc. Student Boatswain and Student 'Able Bodies' (ABs), led by Antione, made sure that maintenance work was running as needed; helped with leading sail manouvres and making some decisions; and even did some ship repairs during the day.

The student engineer, Kerrin, was hard at work keeping up with the ons and offs of the engine, keeping the generators running, monitoring the engine room, and helping the officers with anything technical. The medical officer's apprentices had the job of dealing with any injuries onboard, even staged ones! The student cooks Shannon and Bella made us wonderful meals, waking up at a preposterous hour to make the whole ship cinnamon rolls at the time we needed them most. The day went extremely well, and we were all proud of what our fellow students had achieved. 

Students take over the Gulden Leeuw

The pirate flag was hoisted soon after the students took over the ship.

The last few days of the passage were filled with late-night games of Jungle Speed and a lot of anticipation. We were jumping with excitement at the thought of seeing land. The first time we spotted the coast of South Africa was an indescribable moment. It marked the arrival of a long-awaited break, but also the end of many people's favourite part of Class Afloat, a long passage. We approached Cape Town, anchored in the bay, and settled down, arriving a few days early, to wait for the parents to arrive. As we waited comfortably in the bay, making final preparations for port, we came to realize that this port was a particularly special one. This port marked an important waypoint in our journey: it was the last time we would be working with some of our maritime crew.

Captain Robert himself was set to depart the ship in Cape Town, this having been his final passage with us. Along with him, we were losing 3 other valuable members of the crew: Esther, our 2nd mate and navigator; Tsjerk, our chief mate; and Patricia, our engineer. They decided to treat us with a wonderful surprise on the last night of calm before the hectic proceedings of docking. The Captain himself took charge as the four of them locked us out of the mess, secretly setting up a full dinner in the crew mess. We came in later to find clean white tablecloths, sets of plates we had never seen before, plastic wine glasses, and small trays of bread and olives. It was an astounding sight to see. 

Captain’s final dinner!

Captain’s final dinner!

We sat down and enjoyed our last moments together, all dressed in our best clothes, as we were served parmesan risotto and lobster tails with garlic butter sauce. The night was a great success, and everyone was happy to celebrate and commemorate our memories with the four crew members leaving us for good, off to doing something completely new and different. We settle into bed, knowing that tomorrow, the chaos of getting into port would ensue.

- Written by Grade 12 student Tommaso