Crossing the Ocean on a Tall Ship: What’s in Store for Me?

I’m about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, joining the crew of a tall ship to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. I’m in Bermuda right now, and in a few days time I’ll meet my ship, the Lord Nelson, and set off on a 31-day transatlantic voyage back to the UK. Although I’ve sailed before, the thought of crossing an ocean under sail leaves me feeling rather nervous (fantastically excited, but still quite nervous!).

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Lord Nelson under sail. Photo from Jubilee Sailing Trust.

When I visited the Adventure Travel and Outdoor Show in London at the start of February, I met adventure traveller Tori Howse, founder of Another World Adventures, who made a similar trip in 2011. So, I asked her a few questions to get an insight into what will be in store for me on board Lord Nelson, and what it will be like to sail across the ocean.

Tell me about your trip.

I sailed on the Bark Europa in October 2011, making a 27-day Atlantic crossing from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. I then spent 3 days in Salvador, but decided that I wasn’t finished with tall ship life, so I go back on board for another 18 days down to Uruguay.

 

Europa credit Another World Adventures
Bark Europa under sail. Photo Credit: Another World Adventures

Why did you decide to do it?

Sailing across the ocean had been on my ‘bucket list’ for a while. I’d done a little sailing before and loved being on the water, but it was a travel piece by a journalist who had sailed on the Europa before that really inspired me to do the transatlantic crossing. I just thought it sounded so romantic and exciting, and as a passionate environmentalist, I liked the idea of getting to South America without flying. I cut out the article and had it pinned on my wall at home for a couple of years before I decided to make it the starting point for my sabbatical in 2011.

What did you expect beforehand? Did it live up to expectations?

I was hoping to learn some new skills, meet interesting people and just disconnect from the world for a bit. I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone and I was interested to see how I would react.

The reality was it surpassed all expectations and remains without doubt one of the best travel experiences of my life.

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Don’t look down! The view from the rigging. Photo Credit: Another World Adventures

From the moment I stepped on board I was surrounded by a wonderful bunch of people from all walks of life, some of whom would become close friends and one my future business partner! The ship is beautiful, with traditional rigging, comfortable cabins, delicious food and space to relax. The professional crew of Europa are mainly Dutch, and are an incredible bunch; helpful, relaxed, and loads of fun, so you quickly gel as a team.

Before I joined the ship, I had been worried that I might get bored – but there was never a chance! Working a 24hr watch system meant I got to experience sailing the ship at all times of the day and night. From helming the ship to steer a correct course through a storm at night, to climbing up the mast to help set or strike the sails with amazing 360 views of the ocean, everyday was different. From the deck we saw the constantly changing sea and sky, watched wildlife including whales, dolphins and albatrosses, and at night experienced the sky lit up with millions of stars. We had a film night on board one night, and watched a film set at sea, sitting on the deck… at sea! It was surreal, and brilliant. My highlight was the day we turned the ship into the wind to slow her right down, and jumped overboard to swim with 3km of ocean beneath us!

Sail Shadow credit Another World Adventures
Sheets, lines and shadows on the sail. Photo Credit: Another World Adventures

Apart from the experiences and memories, the crossing also gave me some precious time to reflect and take stock. The lack of internet and phone signal was a wonderful chance to switch off and truly be present in the moment, with no ‘to do’ list. My world shrank to the boundaries of the ship, with no outside news or distractions. It was something that I had rarely experienced before and was very liberating.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about doing a trip like this?

My advice would be don’t put it off – just go! You won’t regret it. Go with an open mind, a willingness to learn and make new friends, and you’ll have an incredible time.

Packing: what did you take that was indispensable, and what do you wish you’d brought?

My main tip would be to remember that you’re going to encounter all kinds of weather, so take layers. Even if it’s hot and sunny in the day, it might get cold when you’re on watch at night. Other things I found indispensable were:

  • a sun hat and sun glasses
  • books to read, then swap with others
  • cards or a small board game (perfect to keep you awake on a late night watch break)
  • small torch (for finding your way back to your bunk after a night watch
  • a journal to write down all your amazing experiences
  • iPod and headphones (because nothing is better than watching the sun go down or rise over the ocean whilst listening to your favourite track)
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Europa at sunset. Photo Credit: Another World Adventures

Finally, what did the experience mean for you?

For me it was life-changing. On board I made a life-long friend, and together we set up a travel company, Another World Adventures, to help more people find epic adventures. I often think that the best experiences in life start with an active decision to do something out of your comfort zone, and for me it was one of the best ones I ever made.

2014 Travel Resolutions #2: Take on a Challenge

Runner. Image from mashable.com

We’re a couple of weeks into 2014 now, and chances are you’ve made a few resolutions. I’ll even go as far as to wager that you’ve been considering ways to improve your health and fitness over the coming year. But the gym can get boring after a while and classes become repetitive, so why not combine the desire to get fit with your love of travel with my second travel resolution suggestion?

#2. Add an active challenge to your travel bucket list.

Some of the best adventures require more than a little bit of exertion, but once you’ve reached your goal you find that the rewards greatly outweigh the effort put in. So whether your thing is running, hiking, biking or swimming, here are 5 ideas to get out and get fit. Continue reading

Meet the Dragon Tamers

This summer I spent several weeks as a crew member onboard Draken Harald Hårfagre, a Viking longship, that is  the largest ever built in modern times.  You can read more about my adventures starting here, but now meet the crew that were the dragon tamers.

The crew members were a diverse group of people, from professional sailors who’d spent a lifetime at sea to others that had only been on one sailing holiday before, from some of the most experienced Viking ship crew to dingy sailors, rowers and kayakers.  We came from all corners of the world, Scandianavia and Scotland, Estonia and England, New Zealand and the USA, France and Canada, Malta and Spain (and I’ve probably missed someone out… sorry!), speaking several languages between us (and only a few able to say døde røde rådne røgede ørreder).

The theme of the weekly photo challenge is community.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blackfish.

There’s a documentary film I’m going to watch on TV tonight.  It’s called Blackfish, and it discusses the story surrounding an orca kept in a SeaWorld theme park that gained notoriety from his involvement in the deaths of three individuals.  It’s showing tonight at 9pm (GMT) on BBC4 in the UK, or you can watch the trailer here and download the rest of the film from various sources.

blackfish As dolphin encounters are an item that often features highly on “bucket lists” and “things to do before you…” lists, I think its quite important for participants to be fully informed and aware of the wider impacts of their choices.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the film and the issues it raises, or whether you’ve visited a SeaWorld theme park or had an encounter with cetaceans in a captive environment.  Don’t miss it!

Dem Dry Bones

Skeletons at Dia de Muertos by Guago on Flickr

Whilst writing yesterday’s post about my memories of Halloween as a child, I learned about another spooky date in the calender.  El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in English, is a two day festival that takes place on 1st and 2nd November each year in countries around the world, especially throughout Latin America.  Whilst superficially the two festivals may appear similar, with the array of skulls and skeletons in their imagery, the Day of the Dead has a rich history of its own. Continue reading