group mail play plus user camera comment close arrow-down facebook twitter instagram

Meet the Crew Monday: Bosun Nat

Meet the crew Monday: Bosun Nat!

Nat first sailed on EUROPA in 2016 as part of the voyage crew. Join Nat as she shares her most cherished memories, from the dreamlike landscapes of the Weddell Sea during her first Antarctica trip to the heartwarming welcome upon arriving in Scheveningen after an 82-day non-stop voyage. Through her tales, you'll gain a glimpse of the camaraderie that flourishes on board EUROPA, a bond forged through a shared passion for adventure.

What inspired you to join the crew of Bark EUROPA, how did you join the crew?

Before joining Europa I had never really sailed before but I always loved the sea and being out in the elements and had always wanted to go on a ship. So, when circumstances favoured it, I quit my regular job and used my savings to sail as a voyage crew on Europa from Cape Town to Brest in 2016. I chose the longest voyage I could, attracted by the longer stretches just at sea. Once onboard I was super keen haha I just loved everything about it and wanted to learn as much as possible. And the crew were all such amazing people. It was all just so different to my previous life. When the end of the trip was approaching it somehow seemed almost unthinkable to leave this world and never come back. I thought surely there must be some reason why I can't just leave everything and start a new life on a sailing ship, that's not something people do in real life. Or at least not where I'm from! But actually there was no reason why not...So instead of getting off in Brest and going home, I was able to stay onboard as a volunteer and go with the ship to the shipyard in Zaandam. And now here I still am!

What is it like to live and work on a tall ship like Bark EUROPA?

There are moments when I look around and think "wow, this is actually my job!" I can't believe I get to do something so fun in such amazing places. Ofcourse there are also moments when you've had wet feet for 12 hours, are knackered and seasick and just want to get into your bunk.. but that's all part of it, if things were never difficult they'd be boring! There's always something to do and so many things to learn. Since working on a ship I've not only learnt about sailing, weather, rope work etc. But also working with metal, leather, I've learned how to knit... you meet so many different, interesting people with all different skills from all over the world. It really opens things up. 

Could you tell us about a unique destination you've visited on board EUROPA and what made it special?

I guess the uniquest would have to be Tristan De Cunha which is notoriously hard to land on so never a guaranteed stop. This last Cape to Cape we were able to spend two days there! It's very fun seeing it loom into view as you approach: sheer sided cliffs tapering to the cone of the volcano, topped with cloud - it looks like an island from a story book! The big swell makes for a very exciting zodiac ride to and from the ship, adding to the adventurous feeling and sense of being somewhere inaccessible. Once ashore It's fascinating to hear about the isolated and unique community that live there. Definitely a unique place!

Can you share a funny or unexpected moment that happened during one of your voyages?

This is a hard question because there are so many funny moments, I think I spend most of my day laughing. It's one of my favourite things about being onboard. Living and working with a tight group of funny friends makes for much hilarity and plenty of banter. But I don't know if I can pick out anything that makes a good story... 

What's the most memorable moment you've experienced while sailing on Bark EUROPA?

Again such a tough question! Here are some moments:

Working on the cathead in the Lemaire Chanel and a little whale swimming underneath me! I stayed an enjoyed it for a moment but then moved as I was probably ruining everyone's pictures!

Working on a particularly frustrating job, feeling at the end of my tether, but looking up to see what felt like hundreds (but was probably tens) of Orcas swimming with the ship! Not just one pod but several, some in the distance, the closest ones playing in the bow wave. 

My first Antarctica trip, on the 2-8 watch coming out to pink and lilac skies, reflected in the still water, only broken with chunks of ice scattered all around and captain Janke saying "welcome to the Weddell sea"

Arriving to Scheveningen after the 82 day COVID trip and the overwhelming welcome and attention. Quite a bizarre feeling after spending so long in our little ship bubble. But an emotional moment for sure.

What are some of the challenges you face as a crew member and how do you overcome them?

One thing I love about the job is that I'm challenged every day and constantly having to adapt and improve. But one particular challenge I and actually many other crew members have is seasickness! Especially now as Bosun and I have to spend more time on the computer...

As well as the obvious fresh air, water and crackers, I find the best way to overcome it is to just accept it and stay positive, keep laughing, keep going. Again, it's also crew members who keep each other going and look after one another.

What is the most important lesson you've learned from your experiences on Bark EUROPA?

I have gained so much confidence since being with Europa. Maybe the most important lesson is just to try things and not be timid and held back by doubt and worry. There are still plenty of things I have to do that I'm nervous or unsure of but I know I just have to push myself and give it a go and can always ask for help and advice. 

Describe the teamwork and camaraderie among the crew on Bark EUROPA.

You really get to know a person after 50 days of seawatch together! Ofcourse there's lots of fun, action packed aspects to working on a tall ship. But some of the most hilarious times with crewmates can be the jobs that should be mundane - cleaning cabins, moving milk from one cupboard to another, sifting through bilges in the diesel tank area, sorting through biowaste....somehow these tasks become fun with the right people! If you need to shift a big pile of stuff from A to B, all you have to do is call for some hands and a chain will be formed with jokes and songs along the way. You often put your life in each others hands without question. At 2 am you know how best to wake up who for minimal grumpiness...learnt the hard way probably! 

When you're feeling low there's always someone who knows how to make you feel better. And you definitely know when it's best just to give someone some space. When conditions are tough, you need people who can make the best of it. I'm always in awe when we come into the galley and are greeted with warmth and laughter even after they've spent all day essentially defying gravity while trying to cook in a hot galley at an impossible angle. 

There's lots of cheesy stuff to say about how a ship can't sail and function without all the crew working together etc. but that's kinda obvious. For me it's all this other stuff that's most important. If everything functioned perfectly and efficiently but we were all having a miserable time, well it just wouldn't be worth it! 

Are there any unique traditions or rituals that the crew follows on board Bark EUROPA?

A few I think haha 

The first that comes to mind is that coffee time is sacrosanct. 

Another thing unique to Europa, though it's not a tradition, is the language. People think I will have learned loads of Dutch. But in fact what you mostly learn as crew on Europa is a random mix of languages and phrases that are pretty useless or sometimes don't actually make any sense outside of the ship. But onboard are vital knowledge in order to go about your day. I've seen someone be refused the "cutlery basket", when asking for it to be passed, until they referred to it properly as a "bestek bakje"... But I'm not sure how useful knowing that term would be if you visit the Netherlands. Unless you for some reason desperately need to buy a cutlery basket.

Comment on this article