Out of the fog like oceanic ghosts come today flocks of the grey Southern Fulmars.
Mist, reduced visibility sometimes of just about 100 meters, grey skies that merge with the ocean in yet another almost monochrome day.
Norwegian and Chinese fishing ships in the area talk about an abundant catch where we have sailed since last night. The Fulmars, the many Antarctic prions, the several Cape petrels, the occasional Black-browed and Wandering albatrosses that pass by, and the few Fin and Humpback whales sighted, sure know it very well too.
The thick fog comes and goes but in one way or another has been there the whole day, sometimes even blurring the view from the steering wheel to the lookouts at the forecastle, just a scarce 50 meters away.
Avoiding closing up to the South Orkney Islands and sailing north of them seems that have kept us away from the drift ice, and luckily there hasn’t been much of it around reported by the lookouts in a day of such low visibility like today.
The wind has turned into a light Northwesterly breeze little warmer than yesterday, the air is moist and the mist is wet. The Europa motors in a WSW course on a damp and grey day. The seas gradually turn smooth and glassy but the ship keeps rolling on the long calm swell, originated far away.
Days of reduced sailhandling, where most of the canvas is packed away. Squares are all clewed up and furled but the Topsails, left on standby in case there’s a fair puff of wind to make good use of them. Middle and Upper Staysails are furled. The lower ones now are set, now are pulled down. Fore Top Mast Staysail and Inner Jib are sheeted tight in the bowsprit and the Spanker is set midships.
On days like today, there’s time for the crew to do some maintenance today. On a ship like the Europa, an Ocean Wanderer with a hull dating from over a century ago, the jobs to keep her up and running never stop. From the engine room at the aft of the ship to the fore-peak at her bow, passing by her decks and rig, you can always find a crew member busy checking, maintaining, repairing, and fixing. Being as self-sufficient as it can be has been always a characteristic of the ships that spend long periods of time at sea between calls at different ports. Crew with different backgrounds and expertise run the show directed by Captain and Mate. Engineers make sure the stage is wired, connected, lighted, and supplied with water and power, they run the machinery for the broadcast. Bosun produces the results and makes things happen. His precious equipment and spares are stored and ready to be used when necessary in the bosun-stores area.
…a treasure house of gear that enables the ship to keep the sea for months on end with no recourse to land. A dozen coils of rope, reels of wire and lengths of chain, spare blocks, and sheaves and pins, shackles, thimbles, Pringles; sail twine, needles, and wax; sewing palms and flares, canvas in bolts, oddments of ironwork by the keg. Storm sails and trade-wind sails; mooring lines, hardwood, softwood, brass, and galvanized rod. A bale of tarred oakum at restudy a barrel of pitch, and the tanned hide of a cow. All sorted and lashed in place.
Sterling Haiden. “Wanderer”