Monday, April 6, 2015

Off the Beaten Path

Kathmandu is a large city that holds so much history and passion but where I am staying is dominated by western needs and wants. Each street is lined with shops that sell the same pashmina shawls and tiny metal trinkets. It's hard to fully grasp the culture and lifestyle of Nepal when so much is being hidden behind consumerism. 

Having felt overwhelmed by everything, I sought to find a peaceful place where I could sit down and reflect on where I was. So, I asked two of my friends to come with me and "get lost" in the side streets. We ended up wandering through a residential neighbourhood that led to the source of our noses' discomfort, the garbage soup river, but getting there was a journey of its own.

As we walked down the streets it was fascinating to watch how people changed the further removed we were from the tourist hub. Children, especially, were more willing to approach us and practice their English by screaming out "hello" and asking us our names rahter than asking for money. There was one little boy whom I will never forget. We climbed up to the roof of a deserted house in hopes of getting a better view. At the top I heard a faint voice yelling out to me. When I glimpsed over the edge, a boy was holding up his baby chicken and proudly proclaiming, "look, it's a cock!" I laughed so hard when he tried to make conversation by telling us about his "baby man" which was his translation for little brother. 

Later in the evening I went out to try street food. My face lit up like a stop light as the spices cleared my sinuses and burnt the inside of my mouth. I could feel the hot burning pepper saturated crepe as it slowly made its way into my stomach. Within minutes both my full 1 litre water bottles had been spared of their last drop. In search of more water and a place to ease my stomach pain, my friend and I wandered into a school yard. Every school in Nepal offers drinking water. 

Once recuperated, we asked a group of boys if it would be possible to join in their game of football (soccer). We were kindly told to wait as they discussed it between themselves and then they asked us to sit on the bench for a few minutes as they finish up their tournament. 

I excitedly ran over to the sidelines and sat down next to Adri feeling the anticipation build inside me. As time seems irrelevant, their tournament didn't finish for another half-hour. In that time, Adri and I talked about everything under the sun. He told me that he was second-boy in his class and how he wants to go to university after +2 (Grade 12 in Nepal) but doesn't know what to study yet. He also told me that he was a table-tennis master and that led to a quick intense game between the two of us. In the end I kindly accepted defeat as he bragged about his skills.

My second chance to be victorious in our rivalry came with the start of a new game of soccer. Adri took leadership of everyone and separated us into two teams. The game started with a bang. Our team scored a goal in the first two minutes. The excitement was unbearable as each team member ran around clapping and giving high-fives with their hands high in the air. My face reflected that of everyone else; a bright wide smile stretched from ear-to-ear. 

The next goal was an assist off a corner. A short while later I was tripped up by Adri's friend and they gave me a free kick that smoothly crossed over the goalkeepers head. It was a glorious game which everyone, even the other team that lost by seven points, enjoyed. By 1900 hours we said our goodbyes and my friends and I walked back to the Tibet Guest House with a group of the boys who we played football with. Each of them asked us for our Facebook and email and then finally we parted ways having to put behind us one of the most memorable moments of our trip. 

I am so glad that I had the courage and want to remove myself from the tourist filled streets of Kathmandu and create friendships that I will not soon forget.

The busy streets near the Tibet Guest House.

Spicy crepes being made by a street vendor.

Adri putting up some good competition.

A few of the boys in Grade 8 who were on the same team as me.
The boy on the right has a wicked kick.

Monday, March 23, 2015

On the Other Side of the World

When I arrived I couldn't believe my eyes. It was dark out but, that didn't seem to matter very much because the narrow streets were still bustling with cars and people who seemingly exist in what I would consider a hair-raising event.

On the first full day in Kathmandu, Nepal I visited the "Monkey Temple". True to it's name, this stupa, 500 stairs up from the street, was littered with monkeys climbing wires, stealing juice boxes and very charismatically smiling at my camera. once at the top, I witnessed a wonderful view of the Katmandu valley. No matter how awfuly dirty the streets may be (there's a garbage workers strike at the moment) the city still contains so much beauty. I've found it increasingly important to look at Nepal through a cultural lens because many things which are acceptable here seem as if they would be invasive or frowned upon in a westernized society.

The Kumari, a living embodiment of a goddess, is a young girl in Kathmandu who is taken from her family at around 5 years old and held in a palace until her first menstrual cycle. When I went to visit her window (the only place that people can see her other than festivals) I couldn't help but feel a sour ache in my heart. She seemed so helpless and bored, like a doll held prisoner. Goutan our guide, made an interesting comparison. He told me that the lotus flower is a symbol for purity and wisdom because it grows up from a very dirty place and like the Kumari it never touches the ground thus remaining pure but once that purity is broken the Kumari is no longer comparable to a goddess.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Venturing to New Heights

Tomorrow morning I will be boarding a plane at YVR airport and embarking on yet another journey. This time it's the Himalayan Mountains with my school's Social Justice 12 class. 

We will be spending a day in Hong Kong, the first week and a half in Kathmandu and then we'll catch a plane to Pokhara and trek along the Annapurna Sanctuary all the way up to the Annapurna Base Camp. It's an exiting but challenging adventure that I can't believe is already upon me. 

I've attached the itinerary below and a picture of the trek. I hope that you will check back here once or twice in the next month for a new blog post and some pictures of this amazing journey. 

Social Justice Nepal Trip 2015 - Annapurna Trek proposed itinerary - Updated Mar 3rd, 2015
(itinerary is subject to change at any time due to weather, trail conditions, health of participants.  Times, elevations are approximate; the walking day will include a stop for lunch)

Day 01:  Fri March 20 - Pokhara to Tikhedhunga (1,577 m): 1.5 h bus, 3-4 h walk
Drive from Pokhara to Birethanti; start trekking following Bhurungi Khola (river).  From there, the trail climbs steadily up the side of the valley to Hille at 1495m, then to Tikhedhunga at 1525m. This trail offers a short & relatively easy day, to adapt to the experience of trekking in Nepal.

Day 02: Sat March 21 - Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani (2,750 m): 6-7 h walk
Leaving Tikhedunga with steep climb to Ulleri village through rhododendron forest (which should be in bloom this time of the year).  Ulleri is a large Magar village at 2070m. Then the trail continues to ascend more gently, through fine forests of oak & rhododendron, towards Banthanti at 2250m, and Nangethanti at 2460m.  After an hour gentle walking from Nangethanti, we reach Ghorepani at 2775m.

Day 03: Sun March 22 - Ghorepani to Tadapani (2,590 m): 6 h walk
Hiking to Poonhill - back to Ghorepani, and trek to Tadapani.   Get up early in the morning, and go for a one hour hike to Poon Hill - superb views of the sunrise, and panoramic view of Himalayas, including Mt. Dhaulagiri, Mt. Annapurna South, Mt. Annapurna I, Mt. Machhapuchhre, and many more.  Return to hotel for hot breakfast, and continue walking to Tadapani.

Day 04: Mon March 23 - Tadapani to Chhomrong (2210 m): 5 h walk
An easy down to Kimrung Khola for lunch, ascend again to Chhomrong village, which lies at the base of Hiunchuli (6,441m).   Offers a close view of Annapurna and Macchhapucchhre.

Day 05: Tues March 24 - Chhomrong to Himalaya Hotel (2,873 m): 7 h walk
Forward to Kuldi Ghar for about 3 hours and down to the bank of Modi river, viewing thickets of bamboo at the bottom of the gorge. Pass by the pasture of Tomo and Panchen Barah; then climb up to Himalayan Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 06: Wed March 25 - Himalayan Hotel to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3730 m): up to 6 h walk
Keeping on west bank of Modi Khola, follow more open valley to side of Machhapuchhre Base Camp: choice of staying to rest, or continuing another two hours to Annapurna Base Camp.  Descend to to Machhapuchhre Base Camp for overnight.

Day 07: Thur March 26 – Day hike to Annapurna Base Camp (4130 m): 4 h round trip
This is usually a rest day. However, glacial moraine, mountain views and other short hikes can be indulged in.  Walk to one of the biggest glaciers ( Annapurna Glacier ) is another possibility.

Day 08: Fri March 27 - Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Bamboo (2310 m): 6 h walk
Descend and follow the same way to a pleasant camp spot at Bamboo.

Day 09: Sat March 28 - Bamboo to Himalpani (Hot Spring) and Jhinudanda (1610 m): 4 h walk
Walk up to Chhomrong and further to Himalpani to enjoy hot spring water and stay overnight on the banks of the Modi river in Jhinudanda.

Day 10:  Sun March 29 – Jhinudanda to Ghandruk - development project exploration: 4 h walk
Walk to Ghandruk town to tour various ACAP projects; overnight in Ghandruk.

Day 11: Monday March 30 - Ghandrukto Pothana (1980 m): 6 h walk
Descend to Modi river and ascend to Landruk, a beautiful Gurung village; lunch at Tolkha and easy ascent to Deurali.   Overnight at Pothana.

Day 12: Tues March 31 - Pothana to Pokhara: 1 h walk, 1 h bus
Easy way down via Dhampus village to Phedi on foot, then one - hour drive to Pokhara

Return to Pokhara hotel for shower and lunch; free afternoon/rest.  Dinner at hotel.  Overnight in Pokhara.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The End... For Now.

CAF Graduation Ceremony

The capst'n 
“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, and the wheel’s kick and the wind’s strong and the white sail’s shaking, and a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a bright dawn breaking.” -John Masefield

Saying goodbye is one of the most challenging tasks a person faces when a journey comes to a close. We, the students and crew aboard the Sorlandet, knew that this day was going to come but never thought it would be this soon.

The past 9 months have seen the oceans change colour and the countries vary in landscapes as I sail around the Atlantic, but with these natural changes came the creation of a family which fought hurricanes, fought each other at times (often playful), faced grief in its worst form, hiked mountains, and dove in the depths of exploration, adventure and high spirits.

I hate to say goodbye but as our crew anchored outside Kristiansand and worked together to make our  home an unimaginable sight of beauty we realised that rather than see this as the end and grieve at our closely approaching separation, we should rejoice for all that our family saw and did.

From the 50 year old land in the Azores and the camel rides along the Algerian border to the cliff jumping in Curacao and the climbing aloft in a sea of stars, I have concurred an infinite bag of stories and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The sailing skills I have acquired and the connections I have made with maritime crew have left me with a yearning to return to the world of tall ships.

While this may be the end of an amazing journey with Class Afloat, it is not the end for travel or sailing. I am sure that I will someday cross paths with both my floatie friends and the Sorlandet. When that day is, soon or in the in the distance, I do not know so for now we have with us each other’s phone numbers, addresses, and of course social media (it is the 21st century after all).

Am I sad to say goodbye? Yes. It’s only human to feel some sorrow, but I am happy to have been given the opportunity to see what I saw and feel what I felt. It’s been a wild run.
And with that I give my final adieu. Below is a copy of the first blog I ever came across before I left. Every bit of it sticks true to Class Afloat and the Sorlandet. Thank you for following the journey.

Yours truly,
Sophia Stewart

“You Know You Live On The [Sorlandet] When.. (by Cam)
You know you live on the [Sorlandet] when…
-Showers are noticed like a new haircut.
-Sleeping is dangerous.
-For some people, throwing up is a task that must be done regularly and without complaint, just like cleaning the scuppers.
-You regularly lie down in class for quick snooze.
-You talk to your teachers like you would talk to your friends.
-If someone is wearing two of the same coloured socks, they obviously have too much free time which they should be spending on deck or in the galley.
-You walk against the walls in order to keep your balance as the boat rocks.
-You walk against the walls even on land, by habit.
-Sundays mean [dessert after dinner]
-You hate 8-10 watch even if you get more sleep because you have to miss out on social time.
-Your shipmates are able to sympathize with your mother.
-If you roll of out bed, you hit your face on the plywood.
-You have to find grip points under the desks during class.
-You play a violent game of rock paper scissors with your shipmates to see who has to go talk to the engineers because the heads are clogged again.
-You strive to be picked to ride in the zodiac.
-If you find something that may be important to someone and you don’t know whose it is, you keep it until a reward is offered.
-You’ve been burnt, scraped or bruised by an item in the galley.
-When everything must be stored on non-skid paper in order to keep it in place.
-Changing your sheets reminds you of Christmas morning.
-You’ve ridden the broomsticks on deck while you’re supposed to be cleaning.
-You cry at the sight of land, but it’s not always happy.”

Sorlandet after the final clean

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Optical Illusions and Elephants

Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a cold sail to the land of kilts and haggus, but we made it wthout a single case of hypothermia. As Edinburgh was the last port of call while saiing the Sorlandet, many of us spent a great deal of time on board rather in port. It was interesting to watch the transition through out the year. As we first stepped foot on land in the Azores, each persons goal was to get as far away from the ship as possible. We wanted to see the ports and learn of their history or culture but now we wanted to be with her, the ship and our home. 

I spent a lot of my time with metal bright (acid wash) and brasso, but that doesn´t mean that I didn´t go into port at all. Edinburgh is a grogeous city. The closes are crowded with wondow openings and hanging baskets. Each stone seems as if it were placed with the upmost care. Even the new city contained achetecture that is not even comparible to that of Quebec City. 

While the castle was beautiful, the real joy came from sipping coffee at the Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter books and Camera Obscura where my brain almost split open trying to make sense of the world around me.

A List of Gratitidue

The end is quickly approaching. With only one port left before the grand arrival in Kristiansand I wanted to post a list of gratitude. There are so many people who have helped me along this journey. They have allowed me to grow into the person I am now and have aided me in my discovery of the oceans and tall ships communities which I will forever strive to be a part of. Below are the names of those who have, in some way or another, provided assistance:

- My parents for raising me in a family that allowed growth and exploration. You created a passion for learning and exploring in a daughter that will never forget where home truly is.
- My extended family. To all the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles who have been my biggest supporters from day one.
- Bev for being one of the kindest strangers I have ever met. I am so happy to now call you a friend.
- WVYC for following my journey and supporting me before I took off but also for growing my passion of sailing from when I was little.
- My neighbours for the kind donation that caused my jaw to drop. Thank you a thousand times over.
- All the friends and the kind strangers that helped me financially so that this journey and dream of mine could come true. How can I ever repay you for your kindness?
- Mika and her family for hosting me in Chiba, Japan. I was able to see Japan but also to live it through your willingness to show me all that your beautiful city has to offer.
- Jeff and Charo for providing me the comforts of family when my own parents couldn't travel to Cadiz and visit the Sorlandet. I love you as if you were my own parents.
- Jan and Scott for hosting me in the Dominican Republic. Your house provided all the comforts that any sailor might desire for a few days rest before venturing back into the crazy seas.
- The Maritime Crew for guiding me, being my mentors, and growing the passion that I have for sailing: Drew for teaching me how to use a marlin spike and how to make my first splices, whippings, and servings, but also for showing me that it is possible to have a career in the tall ships industry; Jason for all the laughs and for being my punching bag when all I needed was to let off some steam; the Captain for providing us a safe journey and enlisting in me a type of trust that I have never experienced before coming aboard; John for all the talks that opened my eyes to a new and different perspective on life; Erin for believing that I might just have what it takes to be a deck hand, and to all the other maritime crew that made this past year what it was.
- The teachers that were more than just teachers but parental figures and friends that I felt comfortable enough to talk to about anything; Jenn and Megan for being the ears that patiently listened to all my rambles; Bryn for the friendly competition in the board games that acted as an escape from the sometimes chaotic banjer life; Chyzyk for the laughs and the really bad jokes but also for the bear hugs that warmed my heart every time; Kim for teaching me that there is no right or wrong in our society but also that sometimes we just need to deal with it; and Rafael for his comforting words that caused tears to roll down my checks (they were tears of love).
- My friends on the ship, my floaties, for helping me grow into the confident and ambitious teenager that I am today and for putting up with me through thick and thin. You are and always will be my family.
- My friends back home who send me messages and emails and keep me up to date on the life that I will soon return to.
- You, the person who I may or may not have ever met, but continues to read my blog and follow my journey.Thank you for being the inspiration to keep writing. I cannot show my gratitude in words alone.

Thank you.

Seas of Orange

Amsterdam, Holland. Seas of orange crowd the streets as I make a feeble attempt to walk off the ferry. It's the craziest time of year for Holland citizens - King's Day. At every corner a musician is blaring their punk rock or smooth classical music and the chants from surrounding crowds echo through the canal tunnels as booze tipping over the rims of plastic glasses and beer cans stains the cuffs of my pants. The streets are lined with residents who have each taken up a square piece of property and are attempting to sell their belongings on what the king calls the "free market".

This sounds like a nightmare for some, but as an annual celebration in honour of the king, I take every moment in and breath steady. "It will be over tomorrow and for now there is no better option but to party", I whisper to my friends who are also wide eyed and bushy tailed. 

King's Day (also Queen's Day if the queen is in power) is the monarchy's holiday in the Netherlands (Holland). Every year on the day of coronation people take to the streets and adorn themselves in orange as a sign of admiration for the royal family. It is the only time of year that residents can sell their belongings without a permit and so they take the opportunity to clean out their houses - it's essentially a Salvation Army that stretches for miles and miles. It is said that rather than belonging to the monarchy, King's Day belongs to the people and as for what I have seen, I couldn't agree more.

It was a great opportunity to be able to participate in a national celebration and despite feeling as if my insides would tear away from every morsel of my body which attempts to contain them, I returned to Sorlandet with a feeling that can only be described by the warmth that glowed in the veins and arteries of my body and the strength that was contained in the grasp of my friends arms as we cheerfully walked home, linked together with the bonds of friendship and family. We survived King's Day - it was a blast.

Monday, May 5, 2014

From Modern to Traditional

Brest, France. The city of today. There was no story to be told from the crisp clean-shaved buildings that resided on the streets. The city was eradicated in World War II and rebuilt via the combination of German efficiency with American aid. To most, it was not the France they expected. It was city replicated from the midst of a picket-fence paper town. Every street was identical to the next. Only in certain alleyways was there any sign of culture or pride; people came and went, trains passed by on rumbling tracks, the buses kept to their planned schedule, and I was bored.

Having had enough of the late 20th century town, I took a train to Quimper. Located two hours from Brest in the bottom of a valley, the city was crowded with broken closes (a walk way between buildings), canals, iron railings, and crooked rooftops. The gothic tower, instigated in 1240 and finished in the 1800s, rose to a bone chilling height so that the width of a football field was need for it to be seen properly.  I spent the day eating macaroons, baguettes with cheese and meat, and fifty cent crepes. The sun shone through the gaps of spring trees and blooming bushes as my friend and I hiked up the side of the valley cliff to watch the shades of orange, red, burgundy, crimson and yellow dance on ice particles and copper fields. The conclusion of a delighted day came calmly as I pressed flowers into books and watching country sides pass as the train slowly raddled along its ordinary path to the perfectly modern Brest; to the temporary dock of my temporary home. 

The Loss of a Brother - Rest In Peace

This blog that I have kept as I travel in my teenage years has, for the most part, been about the places I’ve visited and the adventures I have had. Rarely do I write of the people I have met or the personal struggles of adolescence, but last night I was notified of the passing of my crew mate, friend, brother; James.

In the evening he veered off the road while riding his motorcycle and hit multiple side street objects. James, a first year university student, was declared dead at the hospital later that night. It was surreal to be delivered the news at colours that gloomy morning. I let my jaw drop and for the few minutes that we stood there the only words that echoed in my head were persuasive voices telling me “it’s not possible” and “she must be lying”. I shakily walked away only to collapse against the wall of the galley house with a burning salt liquid running down my cheeks.

The following few days were, at times, a struggle. It’s hard to think that our lives can end within seconds. Each day could be the last. I’ve been told the same thing over and over again as I make friends, lose friends, move away, say hello, say goodbye. They always tell you “Carpe Deim”, to treat every moment as if it’s your last and that sometimes what you say to someone may just be the last thing they hear.

Inspiration; they say that’s your middle name. Usually I’d play devil’s advocate, but this time I can’t. It’s true. You taught me to see the other way. I wasn’t the only one. You grasped the heart of every soul who walked in your presence.
I’ll never forget all the times that we lay down next to each other under the stars so that I could feel the warmth radiating from your spotted skin. We would talk for hours about how unjust this world is but how at the same time it brings with it all the wonders and joys of life. We talked of how dreadfully weird people are but we’re just the same, if not more so. Insanity was the basis of conversation and that made us sane in its consequence. I’ll never forget how you were there to listen when my mouth did nothing but run and how the words you spoke left an impact on my constantly moving train of thought.
You touched the hearts of everyone you met and you changed a little part of this world. There is something to be said of those who can leave doing what they love.
Your fellow floatie,

If you’re reading this blog, make sure you show the people you love that you appreciate them. It doesn’t need to be any great sign of admiration, bouquets or chocolate, just a hug will do. Know that while you may sit comfortable in the moment, time is a tricky thing. Within seconds the pocket watch might slip and the tock might no longer tick. I didn’t believe it was possible until I heard about James. 

Shining Bright - Food for Thought

Class Afloat is a microcosm of real society. Each person is drawn from a different background and has a different story to tell. We rarely change who we are, rather our lives and attitudes are amplified in a microscope that’s angled directly on the most minuscule parts that even in the dimmest of lights, continue to shine clearly. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Forces of Wind


Over the last 36 hours the Sᴓrlandet has faced hurricane force winds (65 knots); blown out a sail, shredded two other sails, flooded the m/o’s room, flooded the banjer, rendered the main deck unstable and unsafe, and blocked all access to the galley (kitchen) house. It’s been chaos! Even now, as I sit in the banjer writing this blog, I can feel the ship shake with every wave that slams against her hull and hear the water race across the deck while the freeing ports slam shut causing a boom to echo through the ship.

Yesterday I was woken a half hour early for watch and told to report immediately to the officer in the bridge. I was not to go onto the main deck (had to use water tight doors and work my way to the aft deck via the laundry room) and I was required to wear full foulies as well as my harness.

It was pitch black, all I could hear were the yells of the chief mate as he commanded us to brace around the main. The helm, like a wild beast, could not be controlled. It jumped from 5 to 10 to 20 degrees off our course. After we braced I stood in front of the charthouse clipped to the railing and looking down on the flooded white water main deck. The ship rocked back and forth reaching forty to fifty degree angles across the horizon. Its rails came below the water’s surface as rain pelted my face and tore through my foulie jacket only to reveal a red and irritated shoulder later on in the day. And the wind, steady at 65 knots (force 12 on the Beaufort scale), caused me to go into a state of temporary deafness. Forty minutes into watch (0400-0600 watch) a loud popping noise could be heard above the sound of the blasting wind and when I looked up I could see that nothing remained of the main upper top sail except a few shreds of canvas. Half of the professional crew arrived on deck at that time and we all set to work trying to bring the yard down. Hours later the fore main sail tore and a few of the head sails blew out their tacks.  

At the watch handover the chief mate and the captain had agreed that it was no longer safe to have any student crew on deck but that we also were not to be stood down in case of any immediate actions which might need to take place and so they barricaded my watch and the 0600-0800 watch in the crew mess.

The rest of the day followed as so: 2 more hours of stand-by, 7 more hours of watch (I took 5 extra hours of watch for my crew mates who felt too sea sick), cold breakfast, lunch, and dinner (galley house was closed off so we could only use what was in the dry stores and walk-in fridge), and a few exciting trips to the main deck where water flowed over the rails and broke its path only once it had reached my waist. There were no classes; just a lot of adrenaline.

Today, watch continues on like normal, classes are back in session, and the galley is still preparing cold meals. The wind has died down, the seas have calmed (but only slightly) and access to any of the decks is still forbidden unless on watch. I continue to take my friends watches and get on deck when I can. These storms that we have and are going to continue meeting up with as we cross the Atlantic are exactly what drives sailors to be sailors. There is no fresher air than the air one breathes while at sea on a crisp and cold Atlantic.
Helming in 50 - 60 knots. Wind died down by the time this photo was taken.

Waves never look as crazy in photos as they do in person. It was amazing watching the seas build. 

The Torn Upper Topsail. It made for great wallets, ditty bags, and book covers later on.

The Third Atlantic Crossing

It has been calm for the past few days. Life at sea is relaxed and mellow. There hasn’t been any excitement since the storm passed. I’ve spent a lot of time on deck lately. Our boatswain is really pushing us to get the maintenance jobs done before Norway. With hands scarred, blistered, and split as well as the grease stains, bruises and paint that remain on my limbs, it is no lie that regular sleep has become an abnormal concept. I don’t mind it though. As the days to France draw nearer the crew mentality becomes more and more gloomy. We’re starting to realise that our time on the Sᴓrlandet is coming to a close and as a result many of us are developing a great sense of pride towards our home, the Sᴓrlandet. It doesn’t matter that we put extra hours into acid washing or are up from 0300 – 2300 some days, because soon there won’t be long days and exhausting hours of work. Soon there won’t be the Sᴓrlandet, and so we spend every moment that we can with her. Although, I still think that one of the best times of the day is when I climb into my hammock at night and as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m out cold. I would continue writing but the officer has just called “idle hands to brace around the main and the fore masts”. It’s 2210.

A warm front has just passed and now I’m indulging in the comforts of high pressure systems with glorious altostratus, cirrostratus, and cirrus clouds. It’s a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius today. I’m wearing a t-shirt and my pajama pants. Being at sea makes it very difficult to actually dress in the appropriate manner for a normal society, but fortunately there is no normal society around. It takes a great amount of effort to pick up the courage and undress for a cold 2 minute shower (although, I often take about five minutes and by the fourth water temperature increases to just above luke warm). We haven’t seen a ship in nearly two weeks.  Dolphins have been friendly though. They often appear just under the bowsprit (most forward part of the ship) and dance around for a couple minutes. Today I saw about 16 come by within the hour. The water, I didn’t realise until watch, is exceptionally clear. Up to 4 metres I can see my sea friends. The boatswain has given me the job of creating a Chinese finger stopper and hopefully that will keep me busy over the next couple days.

An all crew meeting that was held today ended in a cloud of sorrow gloomily hanging over the Sᴓrlandet. We were told that this crew, our crew, would be the last of Class Afloat to ever sail the magnificent pearl of Norway. The contract between Kristiansand and CAF was soon coming to a close. Although I knew very little about my home when we were docked in Collingwood, over the past 9 months I’ve grown to love, respect, and take pride in her. I couldn’t imagine ever having sailed another ship. There were times when I dreaded the 15 square sails and the effort it took to brace them at 0200 but at the same time there were the glorious moments when climbing aloft I could look out over the barren seas and watch their steady rolls while imagining that I was the only one in existence or sitting on the yards doing maintenance jobs for the boatswain and bending on sails. These are all things that made the program what it was: amazing, adventurous, and exhilarating. Sure, the next crew will still be able to climb aloft on the Dutch barquentine and brace around their fore mast but the main and the mizzen are fore and aft sails. They don’t require as much attention or maintenance aloft. The ship itself doesn’t have the same history. It hasn’t been to war or sunk while still attached to its dock. IT hasn’t been deemed the world’s oldest still sailing tall ship. It isn’t the pride and glory of a nation for nearly a century. IT will be sad when we arrive in Amsterdam. There, they plan on removing all CAF materials from the ship and putting it in storage until September when the new crew casts of the bowlines and stern lines, setting sail for the most outrageous moments of their high school careers. Can I say that I too am as sad as the rest of my crewmates with the new learned knowledge? Yea, of course, but I am also extremely fortunate to have been able to sail the Sᴓrlandet and take her home to Norway. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll return as an AB or OS and once again be with the first ship to ever have captured my heart. For now, however, there is still a month left to acid wash, paint, varnish, and sail steadily with Sᴓrlandet.

Wow! It feels as if ice is circulating through my veins, my eyes unresponsive to the blunt demands I give requiring their use for lookout. My fingers are incapable of even forming around the rails and the helm. Despite having prepared for Arctic type seas with 4 layers minimum, I still see my breath freeze to the inside of my scarf making suffocation almost inevitable if I choose to keep it there. It is possible that I am exaggerating but I’m dead serious when I say that night watch today has had me thinking about two things only: a warm hammock and a working coffee machine (ours has been broken for nearly the entire sail). I think that sailing has made me a little bit of a coffee addict. I drink about two to four cups a day and when luck is on my side, the chief mate offers me a shot of his hand ground, hand pressed espresso. I have never tasted anything so rich and creamy smooth.

I have been going hard core with all the High Altitude sail training work lately. Many hours of what could have been sleep are spent in the bridge talking about chart work, safety measures, sail handling, compasses, and electronic equipment. I think my head might explode trying to memorize all 40 some signal flags, Morse code equivalents, phonetic alphabet and their meanings, not to mention collision regulations. However, it does pay off and today I got to drive the capst’n and drop anchor! We’ve arrived in Brest, France! Two hours before calling “land ho” the unfamiliar smell of burnt wood and fresh vegetation filled our noses. It’s beautiful here. From what I can see I think I’m going to really like France, but a part of me does wish that I was back at sea. Fortunately there’s a yacht club 10 minutes from our birth and so I was going to attempt to get on a yacht for a Wednesday or Thursday evening series (fingers crossed!). In one week exactly we’ll be departing and heading through the English Channel… eeks! It’s the busiest waters in the world! Wish us luck.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I apologize for the lack of updates over the past months. The ports we have visited are not very internet friendly and so I have had troubles with blog posts and photo uploads, but I am now up to date. If you would like to see more pictures feel free to click the link on the side bar that is titled "Photo Time" or click the same link that is below. Again, I apologize and I hope that you enjoy the latest blog posts and photos.

Best regards and I'll post more in France after the crossing,


Home (minus the palm trees) and Peanut Butter Provisions

Hamilton, Bermuda. First impressions? I'm home again (minus the palm trees). Everything here is very North American. As a result, rather than put my efforts towards exploring the culture and indulging in local delights, I took to the stage and with a few of my fellow crew mates we performed "A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer." It went well. People came out to watch us and the abuse help center were able to spread awareness along side our performance. Even the town prior came to watch and support.

In the evening we gathered a team large enough to play soccer against the Saltus Grammar School Boy's U19 team. Things didn't go so well for us. We weren't nearly as fit or skilled as they were but everyone still had a great time goofing. I was just happy to be able to dribble the ball and be back out on the field. We lost 4 to 9, but everyone still got to indulge in the pizza party afterwards. 

The final day took me to Horseshoe Bay. It was one of those sights that you always imagined you would see but never thought they actually existed. The towering coral rock formations which rose up like daggers in sand made for an easy and deserted climb. Looking out over the horizon and then down at the rainbow of blue sea had shivers crawl up my spine. It was a gorgeous natural sight. I spent hours exploring the landscape and watching the sun set, taking in all that I could of land before I go a month without sight of it. I'm not timid to be leaving this time. I'm actually quite excited. When at sea it is as if the whole world slows down a little. Everything is just as it should be. And, I have a jar of peanut butter stored in the back of my locker so this time I think I'm set. Next port of call is Brest, France. 
News Paper Article

The V-Day Performers 

The dock in Bermuda

Only a quarter of the rocky landscape

A Shrinking Crew

Drama. Two more kids left the program today. One because he had acquired mono and could not afford to be so far from any help while we crossed the Atlantic and another because of a foolish mistake. Class Afloat has a binding contract that if broken serves some major penalties. Prior to the program it is made clear that there is a zero tolerance policy for drinking. The consequence: expulsion. Of course, teenagers never really follow the rules and so all through the year people have become more and more careless. Last night, however, things got out of hand, and one of my friends came back to the ship intoxicated. She could barely walk and vomited profusely. They rushed her to the hospital and today she was given one hour to pack her bags and leave. It was sad to see her go because of a single mistake, but this woke everyone up. We are now paying more attention to the rules and are much more aware of where the boundaries lie. Our crew is down to a mere 33. This is barely enough to handle an Atlantic crossing and many more hours on deck are going to be expected of us. I think and I hope that I’m ready for it. 24 days of desolate seas, here I come!

Salt, Sun, and Crisp Sails

Provinciales, Turks and Caicos. A very brief port. We anchored outside Provo. The captain called it “the worst anchorage he had ever been at”. We were a mere 100 feet of the break of the barrier reef (third largest in the world), the swell was a few metres high, and the wind was blowing directly onto the reef. The chief mate didn’t sleep the entire anchorage. He continuously talked about how he would doze off and then abruptly wake up to a dreadful nightmare where the Sᴓrlandet had run aground.

As a result of all this, we departed early and headed out for Bermuda. Before that, however, we were still given some shore leave and in those dozen hours I spent all my time at the local sailing team’s clubhouse.

I was allowed to take their Laser Pico out. Words alone cannot describe the emotions I felt as I sailed away from the water break on the sandy beach and took control of the dinghy. The crisp sails, glowing in the midday sun, were propelling me forward as the hull followed along effortlessly breaking the crystal clear water. Below me I could see every shell, creature, and crevice of the coral reefs. I was in total control. Not a single thought went through my head other than where I was in that present moment. I forgot what dinghy sailing was like. I had forgotten what it is like to make every decision for myself and be in total control of all the jibes, tacks, and points of sail. As I raced a motor boat along a stretch of deeper darker waters, I could feel the wind combing my hair, the temperate water splashing my legs and wetting my face. I hiked off the side. I was moving… fast.

In those moments, out on the water, I realized that I will always sail. I will always do what makes me happy and being out on that Pico was one of the happiest moments I’ve ever experienced. I realized that regardless of how old I am or whether I’m in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan or Auckland, New Zealand; I will never stop sailing. It doesn't matter whether it’s racing on dinghy’s, cruising in 30 foot sloops, or living on 210 feet tall ships. There is nothing so amazing as the freedom of a barren horizon, the excitement of a giant swell, or the adrenaline rush from being alone in a situation where strenuous hiking is the only thing that keeps you inches from capsize. 

Service in the DR

Dominican Republic. Our second service project was scheduled for this port and so we joined a local foundation that worked in literacy, town improvement, and female rights. José, the man in charge, had arranged homestays for the three day service project and had talked to the community council about house repairs. We were going to be painting houses for the families who could not afford to do it themselves.
Unlike the Senegal service project, in DR I really felt as if I had accomplished something. It was much more satisfying to look back at the end of the day and see the smiles on the families’ faces and the joy that simple colours brought to the rest of the street inhabitants. My group of 6 managed to get around to a total of 5 houses.

On our second day, we were painting the café a bright green and pink. This time we came prepared. We had bottled water, toilet paper, our lunch, and music… lots of music. By the time I got around to the front side of the building, it seemed as if every child in town had come out to watch and support and play with us. I knew a little Spanish and did manage to communicate with a couple of the children. One girl sat down next to me and pointed at my headphones asking if she could listen. I put one plug in her ear and one in mine. I’ll never forget how wide her smile was when I played Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. After that all the kids lined up wanting to listen to the noise that was coming out of my headphones.

When lunch came around the people across the street brought us a table and chairs so that we could eat. We all felt a little guilty with the amount of food that was presented to us by José. So we ate a little of sight from everyone else. After I had finished eating I went back onto the street and befriended a little boy, Carlos, who had made a game out of a tire and a stick. We spent a good twenty minutes trying to perfect my skills. I never did get as good as him, but I was able to at least get the tire rolling. It’s amazing the games people can create from almost nothing.

Leaving DR was one of the more difficult departures. It was sad to say goodbye to all the great memories and friendships. There are no more service projects scheduled for the remainder of Class Afloat, but a few of us are trying to arrange something for Bermuda. Next port of call: Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Painting Team

Painting the Cafe