Picture this: A dark night in the lively capital of Barbados. Street lights flaring orange and white with the odd flicker every now and then. Taxis, lined up at the port waiting for customers and blasting their speakers to drown out the Sunday night parties.
I was tired when I boarded the tender that was to take me to my new home for the next 4 months, as I had just arrived from a delayed, 9-hour flight. My drowsiness got pushed to the side though, as I laid eyes upon the orange-lit sails of the Gulden Leeuw. I was overwhelmed, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The dark sea behind her as she was anchored just outside the harbour. Quite intimidating for sure…
My thoughts were all over the place on the short ride to the Gulden Leeuw, I was having conflicting thoughts about it being a dream, about it being unreal and waking up in my bed at home in South Africa, but the soft splash of the waves and cold wind on my face told me otherwise and before I knew it, we were pulling up next to the starboard side of the mighty Dutch Tallship. I was surprised to see so many new faces all peering at me from all over the ship, all of them excited to greet this new person. It was quite the sight, as everyone started shouting with joy and excitement, offering to help me with my bags and show me around the ship. The social build of the ship felt ecstatic right off the bat (and has been quite consistent since then, except night watches).
Once I had been led to my bunk, introduced to everyone and told who I would be working with on the ship during watches, Dallin took me on a tour of the ship, showing me around and showing where to go and where not to go. After I had been shown around, I got to know a few people and got told stories by the other guys in the dorm while I was filling my sea chest and sorting out my clothes.
Morning gangway watch in Barbados
The next morning was interesting, slightly stressful (as I didn’t know a single rope on the ship) and overwhelming. We were using the engines of the ship to dock into port. There were a lot of commands being given and a lot of debate about moving forward and backwards to find the perfect position. Then school started.
School on the ship is a new challenge. Trying to keep all your papers together while the boat heels violently during heavy seas and keeping focused on minimum amounts of sleep. Both which I have… nearly mastered. During my first day, after we finished classes, I was getting ready to set out with a group to go surfing, little did I know, I had gangway watch and had to stay on the ship. I was so distracted I forgot to put sunscreen on for the whole 2 hour watch, in the sun. I burned quite badly, but…yeah, no it wasn’t worth it. Later on, after gangway watch, I joined a group with Nico, Esme, Mya and Dallin who were nice enough to invite me along with them. We ended up at an amazing pink-sand beach called Carlisle.
Carlisle Beach, Barbados
The second night wasn’t as hard as I though it’d be, as I had a relatively good sleep and easy night watch. Today was the day we would be departing from Barbados and make way under sail to the Dominican Republic. We followed a simple departure day schedule and physically left the port at around one in the afternoon and set sail to the Dominican Republic.
The next two days were soul draining. Most of us were seasick and even those who didn’t usually get seasick, did. We were all relieved from the torture when we anchored at a small island called Iles des Saintes, just south of Guatemala. Everyone was stunned by the views and taken aback by the lifestyle of the people on this tiny island. People who lived on the island took 4-hour lunch breaks and closed shop whenever they liked it seemed. They drove around on bicycles, bikes and over sized golf carts. Don’t forget the rare appearance of a car.
We weren’t the only tall ship in the bay! The old Class Afloat ship, The Fryderyk Chopin, was there too!
Everyone jumped with joy when the crew told us we would be allowed off the ship to go explore this tiny island (you could walk from one side to the other in under an hour). We found an amazing little store that sold the best baguettes I had ever tasted, we all bought so much that they ran out of bread! On the second day we all were let out again to enjoy our last day on the lush, green island.
Written by: William, Class Afloat Student, 2018