Kaptajnens (b)log 002 - Caught in a low in the bay of Biscay - Denmark to Morocco.
A story from the Crew onboard NEPTUN:
Wirtten By Lau:
So, the plan was to sail from Denmark to Holland, England and then Morocco… As it turns out, it wasn’t that simple.
(in Skive Denmark) The first day I was in very high spirit walking downwards the harbor where my next great adventure were to start, I was about to meet the crew and ship that together were going to, with my help, bring me to Caribbean. I had zero sailing experience, I couldn’t even tie a knot, I still am struggling from time to time but it’s getting better. We met, the crew and I, at 12 in the harbor in Skive and spend the day on getting to know each other and safety training, I was pretty surprised to see that there were people just like me who had no clue what they were doing… sailing wise 😊
(North Sea) Next morning the adventure started, it was a slow start but a start, nonetheless. The ship wasn’t ready to sail, so we stopped at a little island (Fur) to do some preparation work and waiting for the weather to be in our favor, that took a couple of days after which we were heading to the North Sea. The North Sea is infamous for its waves and bad weather but mostly in the fall, which is exactly when we chose to sail out.
After the first days of seasickness and getting used to tough conditions the weather intensified and we had to seek refuge in a little Dutch town called Harlingen, the waves were toying around with the ship like it was nothing. I remember standing in the galley (kitchen) looking out the door, that later blew off, and longing for good coffee and a shower when all the sudden an extra big wave send me from the door opening into one of my crewmates and together we fell towards a window that was pointing more or less directly down into the hungry waves of the North Sea.
When the decision was made to go ashore in Harlingen, everyone was happy about it. It wasn’t part of the plan but that’s not something that stops NEPTUN.
We were in Harlingen for two days. On the first night out, the whole crew went out to get beers together and celebrated being on land again, showered, and clean for the first time in a week, ish. The water maker didn’t work… still don’t. I called my mom from Harlingen, very excited, telling her about the trip so far and not to worry because the riskiest and potentially dangerous part of the journey was now over, at least so we thought.
From Harlingen we sailed to Ijmuiden, our original destination in Holland, a little bumpy but fairly easy ride. The reason we were going there was to get the ship on wharf but when we arrived, our spot had been cancelled. Plans changed once again but we stayed a couple of days to visit Amsterdam and of course work on the ship. NEPTUN has a list of situations (problems) some more urgent than others that all needs tending to, and that list is growing and ever since we ventured out in the notorious Bay of Biscay it’s been growing fast. Something Tobias, our chief mate, likes to say is that we are slowly sinking, he’s always smiling when he says it.
Our next destination was a charming town in southern England called Plymouth, we never made it there. Once again, we had to change our plans due to the weather and head to Portsmouth, a necessary stop before sailing out of English waters and down south. We stayed in Portsmouth for five days waiting for good conditions because we were heading into some of the most feared waters in the world, the Bay of Biscay, and we wouldn’t challenge faith more than we had to. The plan was sailing straight to Marocco a 16-day trip, we left Portsmouth on October 10th and as I write this (October 31st), were still not there…
The Bay of Biscay Sailing down the coast of Europe we had to stop and wait for a storm to pass when we were around France, so we went ashore in Brest until conditions were looking better. The next couple of days were spent mostly for ourselves doing whatever we wanted, some went to Paris, others to Nantes, and some just chilling on the ship learning to sail SOFIE; our traditional rigged little sailboat, which was a lot more fun than I had anticipated. I’m sure SOFIE will be an even bigger part of our adventure as we’re going more and more south. The window came, a tiny whole in the weather forecast that allowed us to pass safely through the Bay of Biscay. Weather forecast and NEPTUN-plans have a thing in common tho, they change… a lot. We left Brest all well rested with the sun on our backs looking forward to going to Morocco. More or less as soon as we came out in open water, a strong wind blowing from east came over us, and with it, a lot of rain. The way it works on NEPTUN is that we work in watches; 4 hours on, 8 hours off, repeat. That meant 4 hours of pissing rain and heavy winds two times a day all while going in the wrong direction. This group on board right now is a bunch of very happy sailors so excited to be on this adventure, really appreciating the opportunity. But in those days tho, where everything, EVERYTHING, was wet, all our clothes, our mattresses, shoes, drying towels, and spare clothes. During those days we had to dig deep to find the excitement, we were good at creating a supportive atmosphere onboard, but the weather took its toll on all of us. After a few days, we had drifted so far out in the Atlantic that we lost connection to the tracking device that lets other people, including concerned parents, know our position. We were now gone in the wind. On the 5th day of consecutive rain, we got the news; we were heading into a storm and there was no way around it. We prepared as much as we could, and we braced for it. It hits us on October 19th at 19:00. The whole time in the Biscay were with big waves but now they turned enormous. Many on board myself included had never seen waves this big, especially not from the angel of being in them. It was calm before it started and then it came without warning and with the ferocity of a Tasmanian devil. The sea went white with foam on waves 10 meters tall, the wind was a constant scream and the rain felt like knives when it hits bare skin. When it was my group’s time to have the watch, so others could rest, we half walked half crawled over the deck. I remember clearly Tobias trying to win a screaming battle with the wind, informing us that there were no room for mistakes and if anyone fell overboard, they would be on their own (SO USE YOUR SAFETY EQUIPMENT RIGHT TO NOT FALL OVERBOARD). Not a lot of information but for Tobias it was still a hard battle considering that he always mumbles, you’ll get to see for yourself if you decide to join us one day😊
After 12 something hours the storm finally died down, we found out afterwards that the storm had measured on a scale 11 on the Belfort scale, that’s when tiles are ripped off rooftops and trees flipped over. No one on the ship has ever been in tougher conditions but it was handled so skillfully I can’t think back to those hours without feeling the respect I have for Anders, Tobias, and James, the three guys who, with the crew as the muscle and bone, navigated tougher water than any of us had imagined we would. The good thing about the storm was that it blew us south and when we were in reach of land, we used the remaining fuel we had (not a lot) to get to Vigo a town in northern Spain, where we anchored for the night. While there we had some hours with long wanted sunshine so we jumped in the ocean all happy and smiling, happy to be comfortable and that everyone was okay. The next day we woke up, got refueled and onwards it went towards Morocco.
Morocco Yesterday, October 30th, was like a miracle. We entered the high-pressure weather system, which means warmer weather, steady winds and exotic experiences and adventures we probably can’t grasp right now. It was like we went from fall to summer in one day! Everyone was so happy and on deck. In the cold rainy days, as soon as we could go downstairs to keep dry, we would. But yesterday we were all together celebrating the end of a time with foul weather and rough seas excited to soon be in Morocco. We were taking powershowers, telling jokes, sharing experiences of our time north, eating good food together and before nighttime we sang together, all very satisfied with how far we have come together and excited about what’s to come.