Ship hand over in rough conditions?

After getting over a new wave of – luckily only light sea sickness – our preparations for the planned ship hand-over started in various areas including the practicing of astronomic navigation, learning needed skills for the boatswain or doing several engine control rounds. We tried to learn as much from the crew as possible, waking up especially early to shoot stars and calculate our position from the data. In the internship we dealt with the management of our food, our generators and the osmoses machine.

But the closer the ship hand-over came, the worse the weather got. The entire sky was cloudy for days – that makes astronomic navigation impossible. The waves got higher and higher, and the wind got increasingly stronger. Of course, we started asking ourselves if the ship hand-over would take place at all because, when the crew does hand over control of the ship to us, we aren´t allowed to use any electronic devices to navigate. That means neither GPS and electronic map to find out our exact location, nor any possibility to track our speed with the help of a computer. But we have another option to gather that information: By throughing organic waste overboard and measuring the time it needs to move for a certain section. With that data we can calculate how fast we are moving and even though that way sounds kind of primitive and inaccurate it is surprisingly exact.

Anyways, we put a lot of effort into our preparations and even simulated a day within the ship hand-over by only using astronomic navigation and the manual way to determine our speed. But the storm we witnessed let our hopes sink that we could take over control anytime soon. In fact, the storm reminded us of the times in the Bay of Biscay: Due to the abnormally high waves and strong winds all bulkhead doors were closed and only the active watch, wearing their safety harnesses, were allowed to move on deck.

Is it responsible to give us control over the ship in those rough conditions? Can we ensure the safety of everybody during the storm we experience? How are we meant to find the Bermuda without being able to navigate? The crew probably discussed questions like these during their crew meeting. We waited patiently until the 21.02. and the publication of their results. When we finally all met in the messroom, our captain, Johannes, presented the plan for the next days. Unsurprisingly, the ship hand-over was cancelled – at least for now. But it will take place at a later date, when we leave the Bermuda. That´s of course not the same as taking the ship to port, but probably the best compromise to be found.

For us that meant that instead of being in charge of navigating us safely to the Bermudas, we had two more days of school until we finally got through the storm. But with that this stage of our voyage does not come to an end. We are already preparing the ship and ourselves mentally for the next, even stronger, storm that will hit us most likely right before reaching Bermuda.