Morgenster, July 2018
Being a trainee on board a tall ship is an experience you can’t compare with everyday life. This is my short article about how it is to sail with the Morgenster before and during the Tall Ships Races.
We all met in Esbjerg on Friday the 6th of July and boarded the ship Morgenster. I got to meet all the new trainees, the mentors and the crew. We got an introduction about the ship and were assigned beds by the crewmembers. Later on we got to climb the mast and pack all the sails, some people thought it was a bit scary and others loved it.
The next day we left Esbjerg harbor and set course to Sunderland. The waves were quite high, about 1,5 – 2 meters, a lot of people became seasick. Not me, I walked around feeling fine and smiled all the time while the others were sitting on deck half asleep with buckets it their arms. But after a few days it was over for the most of them.
I’m sure there’s people who wonder what you actually do when you’re out sailing. Also at night, when do you sleep?
Let me tell you how it works. As you might understand it is not possible for one to be awake 24 hours a day during sailing, so instead you have a watch system. We had three different watches, each one is 4 hours long and you have it twice a day. As the colors in the Dutch flag the three watches were red, white and blue. Red watch was between 08.00-12.00, white watch between 12.00-04.00 and blue watch between 04.00-08.00. I had the blue watch which I like very much. You wake up at 3.40, get dressed and then up on deck. You get to see the sun rise and get that fresh morning air. It’s just you and your watch, everyone else is asleep. So quiet and peaceful. And you know that you have the whole day ahead of you. Last year I sailed with Morgenster so I already knew how the watches worked. But then again, you get a new experience every time you sail.
When you’re on watch you do various things. You pack sails, you unpack sails, you steer, take position, coil the ropes, make toasties, help preparing food for breakfast/lunch/dinner, and much more. It all depends, you do different work every time.
I had such a great time on the ship. I love to meet new people, from different nationalities. The crew was great as always, and we all got along very well. We all learned from each other, well it was mostly us trainees who learned from the crew. They taught us how the ship worked, the different sails, how to belay and coil the ropes, how to take the position and place it on the map, how to steer, climb the mast and pack or unpack sails, the purpose of all the ropes, what to do in case of fire, make coffee, cook food and also fun games. I have never made coffee before and I’m not a good chef so I learned a lot of new things.
Because we were trainees from different nationalities we had a day for each country. You made a short presentation about where you’re from, and you cook a dinner and a dessert that is typical from your nationality. It is a very fun and interesting initiative to have a national day. It was appreciated by everyone.
When we arrived in Sunderland and Esbjerg it was a party all around the harbor, especially on the parade. It was an experience beyond the usual, let me tell you that. We had a Hawaii theme prepared. We got face paint and put flowers in our hair. We wore Hawaii shirts and flower necklaces. We had speakers and played music all the way. We did not sing our songs, we shouted them louder and louder. We danced through the streets of Sunderland and Esbjerg. Everyone had a smile on their face.
During the trip we did a lot. The days felt so long and you had so much time. People were fishing, one day they got about 30 mackerel which became a fish soup later. We played games to get to know each other, many games. We learned a lot about the ship and seamanship. We got to write a letter to ourselves and it was a very interesting activity, you got to really think of what you wanted to say to yourself. We saw ‘mareld’ as we call it in Sweden, it’s a bioluminescence algae. We grabbed a bucket and filled it with water from the ocean, and when we splashed around in it with our hands, we could see the algae shine. One of the crewmembers told us to go flush in the toilets with the lights out. We did, and as we could see in the bucket and in the ocean, there was mareld in the toilet as well. It’s because on the Morgenster they flush sea water in the toilets, that’s why we could see the algae shine there too.
Three years ago, I did a month’s internship on a Swedish navy sail training ship. There you are numbered:
‘424 Giese, hoist the square!’ On the Morgenster we don’t walk in uniform and it is not as strict. Even though you have a different experience every time you sail. The feeling you get when you’re at sea is still comparable, you get away from reality at any rate. You can sit down and peer about your life on the shore, but nothing can change it from here. I used to think a lot about that, but I stopped when I realized that, as I played my future in my head, real life passed me by. Soon I’m back to life on dry land, back to work and back to normal. I’ll put my wetsuit on and the air bottles on my back. I work in an aquarium in Lysekil where we dive to feed our fish. What I really like about sailing is the feeling. You are here and now. I disconnect from everything at home. Whatever happens on land, at work or at home doesn’t really matter, because I can’t do anything from here anyway. I don’t know what it is with the ocean, but she keeps pulling me back. The sea makes me calm, gives my body new energy. And under the water there’s no sign to show you the way, so you can go wherever you want.
When the last day arrived, we packed our bags and cleaned the ship. Then we had to say goodbye to the ship and everyone. It’s always hard when that day comes. You just spent two weeks and lived together with 40 other people in the same ‘small’ space that you’re not used to. Some you get really close with, and others not that much. But when you look back on this trip you will still remember all of them, no matter how close you got with them. Everyone made their own imprint on you.