Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sailing Along - Curacao to Colombia

This was a rougher sail then the one to Curacao!  We were rocking a fair deal which makes everything a bit harder – anything you put down on the counter has to be on a non-skid mat to keep it from flying, standing in one place is achieved by taking a wide stance and hoping no one trips over your feet, putting on pants is suddenly a challenge and often accomplished by sitting down (toddler style), showers feel risky and sleeping is tough. I don’t feel in danger of falling out of my bunk but the rocking definitely kept me up through the night.  On the last night before arrival things had calmed down a bit and I got 4 straight hours of sleep (plus 4 not so great hours) so felt quite refreshed and ready to go!

On such a short sail the General Store didn’t open but I did visit Slapps for the first time.  Basically the general store for the adults/pro crew, Slapps is mainly alcohol and cigarettes, neither of which interest me, but there were also Mars bars selling for “one money” each.  Balance payable in Euro or US dollars, not that “funny coloured see through money” (ie. Canadian).

I took the opportunity on this sail to stand a night watch with the students.  My goal is by the end of the semester to have stood every night watch at least once.  The only one I might not be able to do is 6-8 as I start in galley at 6:30.  This sail I stood the 2200-2400 watch after a post-galley nap.  It ended up falling on the night we changed time zones so it was a 2.5 hour watch (students normally stand 2 hours of night watch) but I also got to bed a half hour earlier then expected.  It was great to be up on deck with a purpose and great to feel the (relative) solitude of the ship at night.  My helming was a bit wonky to start with, the mate on watch called me out for being 15 points off course but I got the hang of it soon.

A highlight of this sail was seeing flying fish for the first time.  Or rather, seeing them live for the first time as we’ve eaten them on board twice!  They are incredible!  Pretty tiny, maybe 6 inches long, but able to fly through the air for (so I’ve heard) up to 200 metres!  I didn’t see any fly that far, probably 20 metres but still quite amazing.

Overall this sail felt a little more like survival then enjoyment, hoping for smoother waters next time!

Shore Leave – Willemstad, Curacao

Running out of port time so excuse the lack of continuity between pictures and words!

I don’t think I’d heard of Curacao before this trip which is too bad as it’s a really nice place!  Curacao is one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) that make up the Netherlands Antilles.  Although they gained independence, that only happened in 2010 and the Dutch influence was clear as soon as we sailed in.  I love the architecture and the colours on the buildings, a great mix of European (Dutch specifically) and Caribbean.  The city we docked in, Willemstad, was very pleasant to walk around it, lots of little streets to wander down.

Waterfront in Willemstad

In Curacao I had two afternoons off, I spent the first one exploring Willemstad and on the second I travelled down the coast to the beach at Jan Theil.  Again it was a little bus adventure to get there.  I had the right bus but got off too early.  There were a couple guys who made the same mistake and after asking at a local café we got headed in the right direction and made it to the beach about 15 minutes later.  The beach was full of cafes, lounge chairs and white sand.  It was a resort area but very pleasant.  I had borrowed snorkel gear from the ship and after stashing my stuff in a locker at the dive centre I spent about half an hour floating around the little bay looking at fish.  I don’t know the names of any of the fish I saw but there were about 20 different species, some the pale colour of the sand, others that looked like they were wearing camouflage, blue fish, little fish, bigger fish, a brown and white spotted eel, a tiny black fish with brilliant yellow stripes.  There was also lots of coral and a small shipwreck.  I found getting out of the water after snorkelling a much stranger sensation then stepping onto land after a sail! 

Queen Emma pedestrian bridge

After snorkelling I went to the grocery store I’d noticed on my way down to the beach (I love visiting grocery stores in foreign countries even when I’m not working as cook’s mate).  It was lovely! Definitely Dutch and I quickly realised I was going to have to catch the later bus.  Of course I didn’t really need to buy anything, meals are provided on board, but I found some things to snack on (Doritos, raspberry chocolate granola) and some yogurt drinks and chocolate milk juice boxes that don’t need refrigeration. I also got a cake slice (white, with fruit) which turned out to be as delicious as anticipated.

Vendors at the round market

Finding wifi is always a premium port activity and we were very lucky in Willemstad that the city provided free wifi about a 5-10 minute walk from the ship.  That makes is so much easier to keep in touch through e-mail, Skype and Face Time.  

Sorlandet docked in Willemstad

Unfortunately our stay in Willemstad was a day shorter then planned due to our late departure from Barbados but I enjoyed the time we had there and would definitely go back.

Beach at Jan Theil

Another beach shot.  Not a bad place to spend an afternoon!

Bus stop!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day in the Life

No two days are the same, on a ship even more so then land. I don't know if there's ever a "normal day" to chronicle so for those who wonder what I do all day this is what my day looked like for  Saturday, January 18th.  

6:30 get my wake up call, half an hour late and 15 minutes after I was planning to be in galley. 

6:37 arrive at galley

7:29 send out the last dish for the first seating of breakfast

7:40 start work on bagged lunches

7:58 watch alarm goes off reminding me about colours in 2 minutes

8:06 Jess and I give our first galley update/report (a new and to be regular occurance on Saturdays)

8:08 get back to bagged lunch making after grabbing a breakfast biscuit off a passing tray

8:30 realise we don't have enough almond butter for sandwiches and quickly make hummus

8:55 put lunch items out for kids to grab on their way out

9:10 wave good bye to the last students and teachers as well as Jess (the cook)

9:20 quick stop at cabin to make bed and tidy a bit from the morning's rush

9:25 pull meat for dinner out to thaw in the sink 

9:40 finish breakfast clean up

9:45 start getting coffee time ready

10:05 grab ingredients for lunch from walk in/dry stores

10:20 clean up coffee time

10:25 veggie peeling and chopping

10:40 get soup started

11:00 set the table in the captain's saloon

11:20 find out provisions might be coming today, not tomorrow

11:28 finish bringing the lunch food out 

11:55 sit down to eat lunch

12:05 finish last bite and get the news provisions are here

12:30 go down to walk-in to organise what's been brought down

13:00 with Jess off the Captain asks me to estimate how much food we have on board (for customs)

13:05 do quick math and return form to Captain

13:40 finish lunch clean up and food storage  

13:45 laundry

14:00 shower 

14:30 scrub potatoes for dinner

14:45 start coffee time prep

15:05 take a quick journaling break

15:20 go on deck to clear coffee time

15:30 head into town for errands like postcard buying

16:50 head back to ship

17:00 start dinner prep. Prick potatoes, make meatloaf, put both in oven

17:30 do dishes and sanitise "e coli town"

17:50 make meat and cheese trays as a head start on tomorrow

18:10 get veggies out of freezer

18:28 get all food on the table

18:35 sit down to eat

18:50 start clean up

19:50 done in galley

19:55 write postcards

20:20 head out for ice cream and wifi with Jess

22:10 return to ship

23:00 bed

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sailing Along - Barbados to Curacao

The first sail of the semester! Bridgetown, Barbados to Willemstad, Curacao.  It took us four days and we had great weather.  Mostly the seas were pretty calm and I continued with my thinking that Sorlandet can be pleasant when she’s moving!  There was one night when the rolling kept me awake but otherwise I can’t complain.

Rainbow over Bridgetown
There have been some awesome moments on this sail.  If I had to pick one it would be when I had the helm for about half an hour (to relieve a student so they could attend a galley orientation class) and for a few minutes I had the aft deck to myself.  Me, the wind, the waves and the ship (oh, and the officer sitting in the charthouse but you can’t see that from helm!).  I thought to myself how incredible it was that I was in the middle of the Caribbean helming a 210 foot tall ship.

During this sail we had a full moon which you really notice out on deck.  I can’t get a picture that comes close to how it really looks but it’s amazing to have the decks lit up by the moon and see the moonlight dancing on the water.  It’s light enough to create shadows from the rigging that dance around with the motion of the boat.

One of my roles on board is Chief Baker and this sail I’ve gone into bread production mode.  I’ve baked bread twice now and it’s not as intimidating to bake for 60 as I thought it might be.  The industrial stand mixer definitely helps!  Good thing too as we do go through bread quite quickly (I mean a round of sandwiches is 120 slices minimum).  One of the loaves from the last batch was quite huge and ended up yielding 40 slices! It was one of my “free form” loaves and when I cut it I sliced in in half before cutting the individual slices.

Classes started the day before we departed and there is an incredibly detailed schedule for the students to follow every day.  There is a 5 day rotation for classes and day watch and a 6 day rotation for galley.  Day watch is broken down by the hour and no two students will have the same schedule!  Every morning we have “colours” at 8:00.  This is when we raise the Norwegian and Canadian flags and then have a short assembly/morning announcements time.  After that the students clean the ship until 9:00 when classes start.  Classes continue until 6:00 with a 2 hour break for lunch. 

Fun fact: I attended my first ever high school class this week!  (For those who don’t know I was homeschooled from grade 5 so never “went” to high school although I did the work).  Not your typical high school though so I probably shouldn’t base ideas of high school on my experience here.

I also attended “Clubs Night” when the students and teachers proposed clubs they want to run this semester.  In total 30 were mentioned but we’ll see how many get going.  At the end of the night I found myself leading or co-leading Penpal Club and Crafting Club (not too surprised, are you?).

Students gathered around the store
Something I didn’t know we had on board till this sail is a General Store! It’s student run and generally opens once per sail or once per week on longer sails.  There are 3 main categories: sweet, salty, healthy and you’re only allowed $2 worth of merchandise from each category though you can buy as much soap, deodorant and laundry powder as you want.  I was unreasonably excited the day they announced the store would be open!  In the end I only ended up spending $3 as there wasn’t too much in the salty or healthy category that interested me.  Much better then the crew “slops” (duty free when we cross borders) which is mostly alcohol and cigarettes.
Contents of the store
The last evening before arrival is Port Presentation night. The teachers rotate through who does these talks about what to do, where to go, and other travel basics – currency, language, tipping expectations, transportation etc.  Curacao looks like a great place to spend some time and I’m looking forward to my day off.

So overall the school programs are keeping me busy when galley is not and I try to play around on deck when I can.  At the least I take some time before bed to go out on deck and just enjoy where I am.

Shore Leave - Bridgetown, Barbados

Sorlandet in the Bridgetown Harbour

We arrived back in Barbados on January 5th after our week long island hopping adventure and said goodbye to the alumni who had been with us.  Then we had a couple days of quiet before the students arrived back for the second semester. The first night they were here was a combination of first day of school, return to summer camp and that intense camaraderie that happens on a ship.  They were clearly thrilled to be back to this once in a lifetime adventure they are on.  There were lots of hugs, squeals of excitement and bags of belongings all over the place.

Street view just outside the harbour

Due to the storm in Canada & the States there were a number of students who had flight delays which resulted in them arriving over the course of 5 days, including the day after we were due to depart.  We still departed on time but instead of setting sail for Curacao we motored for about half an hour and then anchored within tendering distance of Barbados. We hung out in sight of where we had been docked for a day and a half.

Palm trees everywhere!
In Barbados I had an afternoon off and used it to go exploring.  First of all a walk around Bridgetown including some streets that were definitely off the usual tourist path. 

Lots of discount stores and variety stores.  A couple fabric stores and little stalls selling produce on most corners.  

I found myself at a bus terminal and decided to take a bus along the south shore as that had been recommended by a local as a good way to spend a day off.  I wasn’t sure exactly where I was headed but figured I’d get off when I saw something that looked interesting.  The south shore was beautiful but unfortunately it was raining so decided to wait for the rain to finish before getting off.  By that time the bus had turned away from the coast but I continued to ride it for about an hour total and saw parts of the country that I wouldn’t have otherwise! 

I’m not sure where I ended up but when I got there I walked back along the bus route a little and then went into a small shop and bought a banana while I waited for the return bus. 

It was a cheap way to spend the afternoon!  A bus ride costs 2 Barbados Dollars which is equivalent to $1 US.  Perhaps not the outing I had planned but it was enjoyable.  I got to see some countryside I wouldn’t have otherwise and to be out in the country, where all is calm and quiet was nice after the hustle and bustle of the city.  On the trip back to town the bus was filled with school kids who had got off for the day. They were all in uniform and it was fun to see the variety of colours that the schools use.

Neat flowering plant I found.

That was my big shore leave adventure in Barbados.  The other bits of shore leave I got I spent at the cruise ship terminal at the end of the dock where there was free wifi and an ice cream shop that was open sporadically.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First Week

FYI: This post is a little late going up due to technical difficulties...

Touch down in Barbados

I survived my first week! And by the end of the week I had stopped thinking that the ship is a lot nicer when she’s not moving.  Partially I’m getting some semblance of sea legs and partially the seas were a lot calmer the last day of our sail.

Getting back to Sorlandet is a bit like coming home.  Some of the crew I know from the summer and it was nice to be welcomed back so warmly.  As crew I got some ship T-shirts which now brings my Sorlandet shirt total to 4.  I don’t think I’ve ever owned 4 identical (except that now some have various bleach and other stains) shirts before!

This week was a very relaxed island hopping sail for alumni of Class Afloat and their friends, family, etc. We didn’t spend a lot of time actually sailing, most days we anchored and the tenders (small boats that live on the big boat) got a workout ferrying people into shore and back again.  I got ashore in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Hillsburgh, Carriacou, Grenada.  We also anchored outside Charlotteville, Tobago but we were only there for 4 hours and I chose to stay on the ship and have an unrushed day instead of trying to squish in a shore leave.

That's a tender coming towards me.

On New Year’s Eve we had a BBQ on deck.  Appetizers, beef tenderloin, ice cream with homemade caramel for dessert.  Very fancy times!  It was a lot of work (I finished cleaning after 11 pm) but worth it I think, everyone enjoyed it and it was fun to ring in the new year in a place I’ve never been before.

NYE Menu

The deck dressed up for New Year's Eve

Everywhere is very picturesque and full of palm trees and buildings painted bright colours.  I didn’t spend enough time anywhere to really have an informed opinion but people seem friendly and on the whole I enjoyed Hillsburgh more as it was smaller and less touristy then Bequia.  Both times shore leave has involved provisioning a bit for the ship but I’ve also been able to send a couple post cards, sneak in a swim and try sorrel juice at a beach side café.  Pretty unreal considering it wasn’t that long ago that I was chipping ice off the car!

Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Another view of Bequia

I’m enjoying having a cabin instead of sleeping in the banjer.  This week I have it to myself as the teacher I’ll be sharing with is on her break.  I keep reminding myself not to get used to this luxury! It’s not big but it’s a private space (or semi private in the weeks to follow) with a bunk, ample storage, a sink, table and bench and closet.

Shore Leave on Carriacou, Grenada

Island building

My days are full of galley business – food prep, dishes, supervising others, organizing provisions, shopping for provisions, washing garbage, meal planning, etc. but they are good.  In between galley times I try to go out on deck and enjoy where we are.  Whether we are moving or not there is always water to be seen (close to shore it’s a gorgeous Caribbean turquoise blue, out in the deeper water it’s a darker, almost steel blue) and there’s always a chance of dolphin sightings (so far, I’ve seen them three times).  At night the stars are incredible!  With very little light pollution you can see much more then I’m used to at home.  Given the chance I’ll also jump in with deck work – hauling on lines, coiling, etc.  I went aloft once but just for fun times, there wasn’t any work going on.  I’m hoping as routines get set and we have a more regular galley team I’ll be able to get out on deck more.

At anchor somewhere in St Vincent & the Grenadines

The weather has been great, a few rain showers but mostly sunny and warm (high 20s without humidex).  So it feels like summer but the sun sets around 6 which is not what I’m accustomed to in such warm weather!

View from a beach cafe on Carriacou

We’re back in Bridgetown, Barbados now and hopefully I’ll have some time off to do a little exploring.  The harbour we’re docked in is used mainly for cruise ships. They arrive early in the morning and leave late at night.  Next to them Sorlandet is a small fish in a big pond which is quite the reverse of what it was this summer in the lakes.