Crossing the Atlantic on a full rigged ship 1996

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a full rigged ship in the trade winds is a dream for many people. Very few are able to really do it, as there are less than 10 such ships left in the world, and most of them do cadet training or similar. It also takes longer time than most regular worker's vacations will allow. It was decided that the Norwegian ship "Sørlandet" should do a grand tour from Norway to the canary islands, cross over to the West Indies, visit USA and return to Norway approx. 5 months later. A fantastic way to shorten the winter season by 6 weeks.

I joined on the Canary Islands, and spent a few days there. This is the small city of Puerto de Mogan, popular as a last stop for private yachts crossing over to the West Indies around Christmas. This is a nice little city with very sensible tourist development. Many other places on the canary Islands are destroyed by extensive tourist resort developments. I was going to sail across the Atlantic to Barbados, and continue to the Dutch Antilles.

50+ men at sea for at least three weeks require lots of supplies. The ship had it's own cook, but all men and women aboard were required to assist in various daily activities including assisting the cook. One of the reasons to go by this ship is to participate in the operation of the ship, including sailing operations which are the reason most people come here. Less popular tasks also had to be taken care of.

This is the full rigged (i.e. all masts have square rigged sails on them, and there are at least three masts) ship Sørlandet somewhere in the Atlantic. Photo is taken from a small Zodiac on a quiet day - didn't like the idea of being left in the Atlantic in the little Zodiac.

A less quiet day, and a huge wave is on its way in. One of the crew is paying attention,probably ready to run if it is big.

Gee, I got wet, and my picture was blurred as I jumped away to escape the water. The crewmwmber probably underestimated the wave, and got real soaked. In the trade winds, you dry up real quick, so it doesn't really matter unless it's your camera.

Going aloft was the only task you were allowed to give up to others, but most people became comfortable up there. I enjoyed it very much, even if the sideway movement of the mast could be up to 15 meters (45 feet) in heavy seas. We had some heavy seas that were remains of an old storm, but never experienced strong winds while I was onboard. A lady 70 years old did also go aloft.

One of my friends took this photo of me close to the top of the mast. This is about 30 metres (90 feet) above the deck, and you are too far up to talk to those on the deck. As you can see, I became quite accustomed to the work aloft. The work aloft is quite easy if you master the heights. The complicated part of sailing a square rigged ship is selecting the right of almost 200 ropes running down to the deck, and do the correct adjustments there.

The helm seen from aloft. Yes, the sea appeared as blue as this picture shows. There were always two persons at the helm. There is no power steering on this lady, and she will require some muscle for handling in rough weather. On a day like this, the helm watch was not physically demanding, but you needed to pay attention to the sails and the heading at all times.

Heeling of the ship is something you got used to. Most people who are seasick become well after three days at sea (or less).

This is a photo from 1996, not a replica of an old painting. Even rarer than crossing the Atlantic on a full rigged ship, is to do it and meet another full rigged ship in the middle. This other ship is the only other Norwegian full rigged ship named "Christian Radich" on her way to Grenada.

A very kind and experienced 1st officer at sea revealed the mysteries of classical navigation to a small interested group (including me). We managed to get quite good positions, and compared them with the onboard GPS.

Fly-fish could be seen at all times, and some managed to fly high enough to land on the deck. Their fins (wings?) worked like those on a large insect, and I must admit I jumped a couple of times when one landed next to me on the deck at night.

This is at a local bar on Barbados. The taxi-driver was told to take us to a local bar, but tried to drop us off at a tourist place. We discovered that before we paid him, and threatened not to pay unless he took us to a real local pub. Pool rules were slightly different in Barbados, but we quickly got the hang of it. Beers were US $ 1 each, during happy hours, you got two for the same price.

A view of Willemstad on Curacao in the Dutch Antilles. The part of the city you see is called "Otrabanda" which just means "The other side". The place was very interesting, but in parts of "Otrabanda" you always heard the rumbling noise of the large diesel power station. Large cruise ships and tankers heading for refineries used the canal you see on the left side of the picture.

The beautiful "Pink Beach" on Bonaire, Dutch Antilles. Yes, the sand was really pink. There were several daily flights between Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. This made it easy to stay at the same hotel in Willemstad and do day-trips to the other islands.

This is also from the "Pink Beach" and is an old house on the beach. I thought the little houses to the right were for dogs, but later I was told slaves lived in them. You had to crawl through the entrance, and they were less than 2 metres (6 feet) high.

We also paid a visit to the 3rd island in the group, Aruba. One of the more interesting features we found was this natural bridge. Roads on Aruba were often terrible, and there were places we couldn't get to because we didn't rent a four wheel drive car. A place we missed because of this was the called the secret place, or sacred place (I don't remember).  I still wonder what that place looks like, and if I ever come back to Aruba, I will rent myself a four wheel drive and find out.

On out way home, we had to stay overnight in New York. The city was in chock, as it had received 15 cm (6 inches) of snow in a few hours, and a cold gale blew between the buildings. Visiting the World Trade Center, the entrance to the roof was closed because of the weather. Silly, the weather was by no means extreme, and I guess they have fences on that roof. I guess the Americans are afraid of getting sued if somebody slipped and fell on the snow.

(c) Thomas Høven 2004