All of our Tall ships offer a hands on, involved experienced in a smaller, more intimate environment. A great way to explore the polar regions! Read about Kate’s experiences of sailing on Europa, who is our Antarctic specialist.
“It’s difficult to talk about intense experiences. I’m English, and we are notorious for our stiff upper lips, so please excuse the lack of hyperbole. As a group, we now know how to differentiate between 5 different types of penguin by smell alone, how to fend off a ‘harem-less’ male fur seal with a raised hand and a hard stare.
And what it feels like to be helmed through fields of ice-bergs by a captain who nobody would want to be in front of in heavy traffic (‘Come on, you could get a three-masted square-rigger through that gap!’). Who will we talk to about these last weeks? Each other? I don’t know; we’ve seen the best and the worst of each other, and that’s not always a comfortable place to be, socially. Can we talk to anyone else about it? Yeesh. Antarctica bores alert!
Maybe we’ll take some time to process these sensations before we share them; the sound like thunder as a glacier creaks its way towards calving, the feeling of helplessness as the katabatic winds sweep off the ice-fields and make the ship heel even though there are no sails up (yes, yes, and they’re all beautifully furled already…), the sight of a quarter of a million penguins choosing to nest in one particular spot. Maybe we’ll tuck these memories away, hoarded like a miser’s gold.
It’s as damned sure as mustard, though, that something in our futures will trigger a memory of this. It might be a mention of some previously-unheard-of-but-now-familiar sub-antarctic island, it might be the smell of a basin full of disinfectant (don’t pack a pest and whatever you do, don’t tread on the moss!),or even just the sight of a teabag in a bar glass, but we now have within us the capacity to call up at will our own, personalised picture of the serenity that we have experienced, and this empowers us- we will be somehow better: serene, content, sorted.
Maybe that’s the whole point. I mean, who’d choose to go on a trip like this anyway? Returnees and retirees is an easy but inaccurate answer. Of the 40 voyage crew on this leg, about half fulfill those criteria, but that’s just who, not why. We are the mid-life crises, the career breaks, the bereaved and the mad-as-a-monkey-on-a-trampoline types. We’re Red, White and Blue watch, helming and looking-out in all kinds of weather, (and Green watch, lying down and groaning in all kinds of weather). We are ruffty-tuffty… oh who am I kidding? A boat full of middle-aged accountants? Nope. Not that either. I’ve been on this trip since Rotterdam in September and the only thing that’s been predictable is the quality of the soup, Yes!
So come on, Europees, and Europites and Europophiles everywhere. Learn the difference between a clew and a buntline, and one day… no, I can’t pretend that will make any difference…That’s the point. When you need a change, or a challenge, come aboard. Don’t cruise the world’s oceans in a floating block of flats with its own casino and cinema. Do it the hard way.
We’ve dodged cross-channel ferries and Brazilian fishermen, We’ve swum in the horse latitudes and in Antarctica, We’ve watched Orion cross the night sky closer and closer to the northern horizon until the southern midnight sun hid him from view. Feel every mile…
That’s why the hardest time is the morning of our departure. The monstrous bags (I never packed that much stuff, surely) , the hearty handshakes, (English- stiff upper lip, remember), the swapped addresses (if you’re ever in Outer Mongolia…), the surreality of wandering around Ushuaia, over 10,000 miles away from where you live, and bumping into people you know all day, (from the ship, obviously, unless you have a fabulous social network,) and that thing that we all say., “Safe trip home”.
And you step out of our tiny, dangerous, intense, unbelievably exciting world, back into anonymity, and the spell is broken. And you go home. And some are ready to go home, and some aren’t, and the luckiest buggers of all realise that we’re already there.
Kate, crew member from Europa