I saw the name Europa and, as it had throughout the week, my stomach gave a bit of a flip.
It was a combination of excitement and nervousness. I had never sailed before on a ship like this and some logistics worried me.
Would I get seasick? I squeezed my sea bands on my wrist, reassured by the advice I received from others who are more acquainted to a life at sea that they would indeed work. I also had three yellow pills in my backpack as backup.
Would I fall overboard? Those concerns were wiped quickly as I saw the high sides of the 60-metre vessel. It would take a lot to accidently fall overboard.
Later, during training of man-overboard procedures, I was told the only time this had ever occurred the person was able to swim back to the ship, which was only edging through the water at the time.
So that was the nervousness.
The excitement part was easy.
From the crowds that gathered to spy the Europa’s majestic beauty, I knew I was lucky. Not only would I get an up-close look, but I would be living aboard her for the next few days and seeing what stories might shake loose. I climbed aboard and began to explore the barque Europa.
Stepping backwards down the steps, I entered my cabin, where six bunks and a bathroom somehow fit comfortably into a small room. The long hallway had rooms veering left and right that stretched across her length. Later I would find the sleep that would come after my last midnight shift would be deep and comfortable.
The passengers aboard the ship had either been aboard since Newfoundland or Quebec and were several days into their journey, or were just embarking on their adventure that would end in Saint John, New Brunswick.
They’ve come from all over the world.
One passenger, Leslie Williams, first sailed a tall ship in her 40s in 2001 in Antigua and was hooked.
“I wanted to run away and be a pirate. I still want to be a pirate when I grow up,” she laughed. Since that first encounter she has been on one tall ship per year, but the Europa is her favourite.
Some of the permanent crew have been sailing various tall ships throughout their lives, moving from one vessel to another and sailing throughout the world.
I got a pang wishing when I was younger I had thought of trying that type of lifestyle.
There is a balance of duty and fun that is appealing – the seriousness of keeping all souls safe and the complexity of sailing such a vessel, coupled with the excitement of new adventures at every turn.
And the responsibility isn’t only for the permanent crew.
BEING PUT TO WORK
This isn’t your typical cruise. The Europa is a working ship. To me, this is what changed the prospect of sailing aboard the Europa from being a vacation to an adventure.
The first day, as we left Lunenburg headed to Shelburne, the captain decided to motor the first leg of the journey. The wind wasn’t blowing the direction he wanted the ship to sail.
The rain was falling aboard the middle of the ship. Not wanting to miss anything, I gathered with a group and watched the Europa cut through the water.
Sirius, the boat dog, barked loudly at the water right before a whale surfaced.
The next time the dog barked an hour later, I knew to look for the whale.
My duties that first night included being at the helm twice and a stint as lookout.
That was fast, I thought to myself, first night on board and already I’m sailing this magnificent ship.
It is just as much fun as you’d suspect to stand at the helm with the long ship stretched out before you. The captain or shipmate shouted out the directions. It took my first shift to learn not to overturn to port side when the ship veers a few degrees off to starboard. If you were to map my course, I’d have to admit it would have been erratic. I could just imagine my shipmates below deck heaving from the unnecessary back and forth motion. The next shift I held steady on course.
We were given new coordinates as the captain decided to hunker down for the night outside of Port Mouton.
As my first day came to an end, I knew there were more adventures to come.
I hoped that in day two I would be able to see the true majestic wings of the Europa unfurl with her sails stretched out in all her glory.
I feared already after only one day at sea, I too was getting pirate fever…Arrrrgh.