New Year’s Day (2022)

01/01/22 – New Year On The Drake (Author: Lucy)

The first day of the year arrived on the Bark Europa as somewhat of a non-event. As pointed out by our guide Sarah, it was unusual to spend New Year’s Day not really acknowledging that it was New Year’s Day at all – we had far more important challenges to be worrying about at the time!

One noticeable aspect of this day was that it was the beginning of the watch system. All of the voyage crew were split into three watches: red, white and blue. Each group included approximately ten people, with a couple of REQUEST2021 members in each. Red Watch began the first shift of the New Year: four hours of half-hour rotations, swapping between steering the ship, manning lookout, sail handling and warming up inside the deckhouse. Whilst this rhythm of four hours on, eight hours off, was something we would all get more used to with time, the initial shock of waking up at midnight and making our way out onto deck in the pitch black, bitingly cold wind to carry out a task which required both physical and mental concentration, was a huge challenge to overcome on the first day… especially at such an extreme angle. This day was quoted by many on the expedition as their “worst memory” of the trip and it had several of us questioning our choices. The worst part about it was not the tiredness, cold, hunger, physical strain or even boredom, but the raw, all-encompassing and persistent sea sickness. In most cases it takes several days for landlubbers like us to get their sea legs, and for some, these ‘legs’ never came at all! Most of the team began their shifts with strong entries onto the ‘chunder chart’ and we very quickly learnt the importance of locating yourself on the leeward side of the ship, rather than facing upwind should you need to make a hasty dive for the edge.

For most of the team, even standing up straight was a huge difficulty, particularly on the first day. Europa sailed at, what felt like, a very extreme angle and it was not unusual for plates, cups, belongings or even people to find themselves flying across the deckhouse with an unexpected jolt of a wave. The unfavourable winds, which forced us to sail close-hauled into the waves, made the rhythm of the rocking far more unpredictable and crew had to have their wits about them to avoid accidents. We were advised to always keep one hand ‘free for the ship’ should something need to be grabbed at the last minute for stability. It was not unusual to have only half of shift members remaining by the end of a watch and the eventual return to bed came with an unrivalled relief. Stripping off layer after layer of cold, wet clothing to crawl back into the warmth of a swaying bunk was something we spent much of the four-hour shift dreaming about. Not only was lying down the least sickening position to be in, but tiredness was also a side effect of the sickness medication. Consequently, the remaining eight hours off shift would primarily be spent cuddling a yellow bucket in the safety of a bunk. – What a start to the sailing experience!

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