After 18 days of school at sea, the students and crew needed a break. The patience of everybody was getting short and our full night watches were catching up to our tiredness. This sail was not our best one, but at least we tried to make the most out of it.
It all started in Bermuda, approximately 1700 nautical miles away from our destination: the Azores. The parent port did us some good and gave us the opportunity to gain our energy back from the previous sail and to start this one on the right foot. The 59 students and 17 crew members were ready to raise sails and leave the harbour of Hamilton. After the last goodbyes to our family, the Gulden Leuuw was back on track and the students quickly came back to their old habits. The Atlantic Ocean didn’t leave us the privilege of doing half watches and due to rough seas, the rocking boat had to use every idle hand it could get. The waves were invading the breezeways and even reaching the very top of the bowsprit. Although they got to a maximum of eight meters, the Gulden Leuuw attained a top speed of twelve knots! For a training vessel that weighs more than four hundred and eighty-seven tons and is sailed by a bunch of teenagers, I would say that that is pretty impressive.
Half way through our sail, the sailing conditions just kept on getting worse and worse until a sudden wind change made the boat unexpectedly jibe. A few seconds later, a huge noise thundered threw the entire boat. I ran out of my bed to see what was going on. I soon saw that the main stay sail and one of the jibs were completely ripped. The captain came running up in the bridge and with his confidence, he first made sure that everybody was safe and sound. Then, he quickly analyzed the situation and turned on the engine so that everything could run smoothly again. We took down the two injured sails and sent them immediately to Jesse, our best sail’s repairman. Unfortunately, with the limited resources on board, we were unable to repair the damage done to the outer jib and the main stay sail. However, Jesse thought of a genius idea and proposed to set our spare storm jibe where the main stay sail previously lived. With only a few hands and couple of hours later, a new sail replaced our main stay sail and made us gain a couple of knots again. This made it another great day for the Gulden Leuuw and I could finally say that it felt good to be back at sea. The ocean state had become calmer, the winds were smoother and most importantly, the students and crew gained their strength back.
As a reward for our hard work, we had a day off after 12 days of school and full night watches. My tiredness had caught up to me and gave me no choice but to sleep during my full day off. Even if everybody had a day off, the boat continued to sail which forced some idle hands to help during squalls.
Then, a full week later, the look-out spotted land for the first time in eighteen days. It was at that moment that I reached my peak of excitement. The only thing I could think about was to go on shore and finally touch land again. I was craving a good pizza with a cold soda and a good mango gelato as a dessert. As I stepped off the boat, I first got what I was craving to satisfied my stomach. Then on the next day, a couple of friends and I went on another island to climb mount Pico which is the highest point in Portugal.
This volcano reaches a height of 2300 meters and even with my laziness, I successfully climbed the mountain in a couple of hours. It might sound really easy, but in reality, when we reached the top, my legs were killing me. The volcanic rocks were warming us up while a few meters away from me, a bit of snow laid on the ground. The sky over the clouds was a clear blue and it was the first time in my life that I could admire the nature without getting disturbed by anyone. Overall, even if the hike remained extremely difficult, the view certainly paid off and made it all worth it. The Azores did us some good by relaxing everybody and letting us start our next crossing on the right foot once again.
Written by: Class Afloat Student, Vincent V.
Featured image, photo credit: @mattbergstrom