One of the engineers we have on board, Niels, is a professional firefighter and emergency response electrician. The first benefit we
received from this was an interesting lecture on disaster response, how operations are organized, and some examples from missions he took part in.
The second benefit was the enthusiastically prepared fire drill with a charging phone catching fire in one of the cabins as the scenario. Fire drills are routine occurrences but the benefit of having Niels around is that he can give some extra details based on his own experiences as a firefighter, helping the crew prepare even better for the unlikely event something goes wrong.
Talking to Niels, James, and Thando teaches me more about how the ship is built, what makes it worthy to venture into the Antarctic seas, and what systems keep us safe and comfortable every day. It will probably still take a few trips before I could tell you I talk with the engineers as if I understand what they are saying, so for now I will just remain proud on the new knots and stitches I picked up.
This trip I have finally reached the point where I can walk over deck without the permanent confusion all beginning sailors are confronted with. I think anyone who has set foot on the Europa without much prior sailing experience knows exactly what I am referring to. The feeling you entered a new world where everyone speaks a different language and obeys different rules. Finding others for whom it is all foreign as well gives some sort of relief, confirming you are not confused alone. Then there are a million pins with lines made fast on them. There is a point when you think you know where they lead to and when to pull them until the moment you actually need to touch them and all memory of what they are for dissipates in your brain. This trip is better; I know the names of the sails and their parts, where to find most lines, and how the process of setting a sail works. This may not sound impressive to everyone but it’s a massive accomplishment if you had seen me set foot on Europa last year.
It almost sounds like I am a confident sailor now, but don’t be misled. I still forget lines, make mistakes, and make a fool out of myself regularly. My respect for the knowledgeable bosun and deckhands still grows every day. But with managing the basics I have some brain capacity left to learn new things. With so many knowledgeable people on board, I try to soak in as much as I can. At the moment, Frank, from the voyage crew, is teaching me some tricks for sewing neatly; just in time as my favorite pants are ripped and stormy weather will approach us by the weekend.