The English Channel

Its two o’clock in the morning. I am standing on the poop deck. I am looking at the t’gallant sail (Brahm). At the moment, there are two students up there to unpack the sail. Since yesterday we are in the middle of the last ship handover. We are on our way to Helgoland and navigating through the English Channel. My application as watch leader got accepted and now I am leading the watch on duty with the help of my watch leader assistant, Korbinian, in watch 2.

Now the sail is ready to be set, and I give the instructions to haul at the sheet. The sail is set quickly, and everything goes well. After all, the first night worked out well and exhausted, we all fall asleep.

The next morning starts a bit stressfully too. Somebody calls my name next to my bed. The student captain Kolja wants to start the engine because the current is against us and too strong for sailing. The only problem is our student engineer got sick and I was student engineer in the first handover, so I know how to do it.

Now the engine is running, and I speak a bit with Kolja. The plan for the next days is to set course to Helgoland, where we must give the ship back to the crew. He tells me that everything is working out quite well. They had some problems in calculating the speed with the tide. At the moment we have three knots of current against us. But they already figured out a way – the captain and his two mates are a good team. I look at the map. We are just in the middle of the English Channel and all around us are big containerships. The English Channel is one of the most difficult sea areas, especially for sailors. On our way we often need to report to others by radio.

Our nautical leadership is working a three-watch system. Kolja begins from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. then August takes over from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m., after him comes Paul who goes watch from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the same rotation at the night.

But for now, I first need some breakfast. Today is Sunday so we have Nutella on the table and peanut butter. Mhh yummy!

Often the time before the Watch goes by faster than you think and after lunch, I take a short nap and at 2 p.m. we take over watch duty again. We have really good weather. It’s a bit cloudy but the sun is breaking through and with winds from eastern we are doing 5 knots. August tells me that we need to jibe. So, I call my watch together and coordinate positions. This manoeuvre also goes well. The schooner comes amidships, and I give the command to switch the preventors. And we are on the new bug. Lastly, we brace the square sails and coil and hang the ropes. Another manoeuvre well done. For the next time it could work out a bit faster, but better to be slow and safe than fast and risky. I am proud of my watch: they are all motivated and invested in doing a god job.  For tomorrow we are expecting really good weather and a moderate breeze. The realisation that we are returning to Germany is quite strange. So, let’s make the most of the last days of the ship handover and the journey as a whole. Hopefully the last days are as much fun as the days before!