SHELBURNE, N.S. – The second morning aboard the tall ship Europa had us waiting for any whisper of wind.
So far during the journey the captain had been motoring along from Lunenburg to Shelburne.
It wasn’t that the wind wasn’t there on the first day, but it would have pushed the ship in the wrong direction from its destination.
Still, it would have been a shame to sail on this great ship and not see the extent of what she could do.
All around the ship there was evidence of the great sails tucked away in their sheaths.
There were 25 sail ropes hung neatly on every spare surface of the vessel.
Just before we pulled anchor three horns sounded aboard the ship, letting us know it was time to gather for a meeting.
The captain announced they would be raising the sails.
THE RAISING OF THE SAILS
Orders were given from all directions as all aboard were put to work in a flurry of well-versed synchonization.
Groups were on both sides of the ship, on all three decks of the forecastle, sloop and poop deck were filled and we waited for orders.
Permanent crew climbed up the mast to unfurl the sails and we were told to heave on the ropes that would stretch each sail tight.
Hold fast, we were told, would hold the rope tight until we were asked to make fast or belay the lines into the pin to hold the sail in place.
MEANT TO BE
The Europa was now sailing the way she was built to, and the feel of the ship changed immediately.
The energy felt around the ship seemed to spike as the sea sprayed up onto her hull. The ship leaned over to catch the wind and the beauty of it was breathtaking.
I leaned against the rail and just took in the power of it all.
The weather, while not stormy, was also not the best, with a constant drizzle mingling with the salty air.
It wouldn’t be until Monday morning, Aug. 14, just outside Shelburne harbour that the sun would make its appearance, with its orange light reflecting across the water.
A handful of the passengers aboard the ship were seasick, leaning over the rail, but by day two I was beginning to get my sea legs.
Stories from passengers and crew were shared along with laughs.
EARLY MORNING WATCH
I was awoken at 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 14, to take the anchor watch.
The instructions were simple, contained on a sheet of paper with two diagrams labelled yes and no. Yes – the ship was inside the circle where the anchor had dug in. No – it was outside the circle. This seemed particularly hilarious on little sleep.
I talked with one of the permanent crewmembers, Gunilla Jansson, who had been working aboard the Europa for four years.
She polished the bar as she unfurled her own tale.
In her early 20s she is tiny but ferocious as she climbs the bowspit hanging out over the water, raising high and coming down quickly. Or as she climbs the mast to unfurl the sails.
The heights do not scare her, nor the storms they will surely pass crossing the globe.
“I trust my ship and my crew,” she said. “If you have a job to do you do not think about it.”
Our oldest passenger, Teus Sterkenburg, 83 years old, shared his story during the anchor watch.
When he applied to sail with this leg he was told no.
He was told the Europa would be too demanding a trip for someone his age. He told them he was fit and able to do what men much younger than he couldn’t do, but the answer didn’t waver. So he applied again with a doctor’s note accompanied by a video of him jumping on the trampoline with his grandchildren.
The staff at the Europa welcomed him aboard, but not before posting the video to their Facebook page, where it received several thousand hits.
As we entered Shelburne harbour, the pride in my town started to bubble over as I explained all that was wonderful and unique about Shelburne and the list of activities the town had planned.
We could hear Pat Melanson on the bagpipes from the water and all the cameras from the passengers came out to capture the loyalists in 18th-century garb welcoming the tall ships one at a time into Shelburne. A couple of days later another scene would be repeated in Digby.
I was happy to be home, but I was sad to leave. My trip was only a small taste of what a typical passenger or crew can experience aboard the ship and I was reluctant to end the journey after giving hugs and handshakes goodbye.
As I walked away from the ship, I heard three honks signalling the familiar call to meet on the main deck.
I couldn’t help myself and turned back to join them one last time, making sure to snap a group photo before turning to leave again. This time for real.