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Epic Transatlantic Voyage by Sail on a Historic Tall Ship.
An ocean crossing under sail from Nova Scotia, Canada to Canary Islands in Spain via Azores, Cadiz, Gibraltar & Essaouira, Morocco before setting off on the second voyage leg visiting Dakar in Senegal, Portugal’s Cape Verde Islands, Barbados, Grenada, Carriacou, The Grenadines, Bequia, Martinique, Dominica, Les Isles des Saintes, Antigua, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia in Canada. WOW.
Voyage 1 : 1st October – 21st December 2015
Voyage 2 : 4th January 2016 – 4th April 2016
An incredible opportunity to take part in either leg of, or the whole voyage twice across the Atlantic Ocean on the trip of a lifetime where you join as voyage crew. This is a six month sailing ship adventure, with two transatlantic crossings and blue-water trade wind passages under sail. A 10,000 nautical mile voyage. A dozen countries along the way.
Join the ship in the famous seaport of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada on October 1 2015 arriving to the Canary Islands on the 21st December 2015 in time for a land based Christmas having sailed 5,000 miles under square rigged sail.
You’ll cross the North Atlantic to Old World ports, the historic Rock of Gibraltar and sail south to the exotic spice market town of Essaouira on the edge of the Sahara in Morocco. For those choosing to stay aboard or join the Voyage Leg 2 you’ll sail then on to bustling and stunning Dakar in Senegal and then the classic trade wind passage and the notorious “middle passage” to the West Indies followed by weeks among the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, island hopping island to island before heading home to Nova Scotia by way of fantastic Bermuda.
Every person aboard this ship is a working crew member. No sailing experience is necessary because you’ll learn everything you need to know from the qualified professional crew.
You will stand watches, take your turn at the helm and doing forward lookout, handle lines to set and take in sails, scrub the decks, help the cook in the galley, assist with ship’s maintenance and climb aloft in the rigging (that’s the only part that’s optional).
You can join in this extraordinary adventure, either as individual passenger or with friends, but please note it is rare for the crew to accept couples on board (see trip notes for details).
Whether you’re taking a break from work or school, planning your gap year or just want to make a once in a lifetime voyage with the chance to learn a great deal about sailing ships, boats, the sea and classic seafaring under sail then this is the trip for you. Oh, and you’ll make shipmate friends to last your whole life long.
Transatlantic Voyage 2015-2016 Itinerary
|Leg 1||Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada||October 1, 2015|
|Canary Islands, Spain||December 21, 2015|
|Leg 2||Canary Islands, Spain||January 4, 2016|
|Cape Verde Islands, Portugal|
|Les Isles des Saintes|
|British Virgin Islands|
|Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada||April 1, 2016|
Prices for the voyage, in Canadian dollars, are as follows:
Begin in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
The sailing date is in late October in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and summer is over. The tourists are gone and locals are laying in firewood and snugging down, ready for the long winter ahead. But aboard this classic barque we’re preparing for something quite different. Getting ready to cross the Atlantic Ocean, bound for warmer climes.
We will be setting out on a six month sailing ship adventure, with two transatlantic crossings and blue-water trade wind passages under sail. A 10,000 nautical mile voyage. A dozen countries along the way.
Cast Off For Adventure
After about two weeks of orientation, training and voyage preparation in Lunenburg, we will take advantage of the next best weather window to set sail on our first great ocean passage of this voyage: an easterly transatlantic crossing bound for the Azores. With everything carefully prepared and stowed for sea, and all hands thoroughly oriented in the ship’s routine and safety procedures, we will cast off our mooring lines and set a course to cross the broad North Atlantic Ocean, taking full advantage of the prevailing westerly winds.
Any Atlantic crossing can be a challenging passage, but these days at sea give trainee crew time to really get into the routine of ship life and to develop the basic skills of a sailor, how to ‘hand, reef and steer’. Run aloft to loose or take in sail, haul on lines, learn to steer a ship under square sail, and help in the galley. Under the leadership of the captain, mates and lead seamen you will learn to become a competent and safe member of your watch.
After just a few days at sea, we will join the delightfully warm ocean river of the Gulf Stream, which will help carry us eastwards across the Atlantic, towards the Old World and the rising sun. As the weather improves we might begin to set more sail, get cracking with more involved rigging projects, all manner of ship’s work and seamanship workshops.
Make Landfall At The Azores
Then, after a little more than two weeks at sea, the islands of Azores will be our first port of call. This magnificent archipelago of mountainous islands emerges unspoiled and dramatic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The lush green sloping hillsides are scattered with small whitewashed settlements and deep craters attest to the volcanic origins of the islands; some are flooded to form shimmering lakes, others lush with vegetation.
Portuguese since their colonisation in the fifteenth century, the history of the Azores is dominated by ships and the sea. From the mediaeval caravels of the early explorers to the whaling ships of the twentieth century signing on Azorean crew, what more fitting way to visit this remote and wonderful place than as crew of a square rigged sailing ship?
Lying at anchor in a sheltered bay there will be ship’s work to do, fresh provisions to replenish and maybe some small boat sailing too. You will get ample time off watch to visit ashore in these garden islands – maybe hike a volcano, join a whale watching expedition or just soak up the incredible scenery.
Then, we will weigh anchor and set sail eastwards again, this time bound for Cádiz in southwest Spain.
This ancient European hub in the Andalucía region of Southern Spain just overflows with its three thousand years of history, and culture. Founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC, Cádiz is said to be the oldest continuously occupied city in Western Europe. Occupied by the Romans and then the Moors, home port to Christopher Columbus and Barbary Corsairs, the city was raided by Francis Drake and blockaded by the British in the Napoleonic wars. Today Cadiz is a romantic jumble of narrow streets and plazas bordered by the sea and city walls. We like it for the gregarious population, magnificent seafood and electrifying flamenco.
From Cadiz it will be a short sail to Gibraltar, the famous rock at the mouth of the Mediterranean. Although it’s only six square kilometres, this British Overseas Territory sees a lot of shipping traffic in the form of cruise ships and commercial shipping passing through the Strait of Gibraltar.
On our last visit, one of the most popular activities on a day off duty was to take the cable car up the Rock of Gibraltar, bring a picnic and hike around to various scenic spots overlooking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. But watch out for the macaques, the wild monkeys that are quite used to humans!
Morocco, A Crew Favourite
The wonder of Africa is calling, and so we sail onwards, southwest now towards the magical Kingdom of Morocco, and the ancient port of Essaouira. If you were ever enchanted by scenes in the 1940s film “Casablanca”, then Essaouria is it, an amazing place straight out of legends and stories of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves of the Arabian Nights.
Essaouira is a laid back Moroccan seaside town. It is encircled by endless desert and surrounded by Moorish castles, ancient city walls, crowded wharves and minarets, winding alley ways and weathered stone arches. Camel safaris are in the offing. Donkey carts still carry everything from firewood to propane tanks – there is no room for cars in the old city. And Essaouira was a major location for episodes of the blockbuster HBO series, Game Of Thrones. Few additions or changes were needed to make Essoauira into their exotic slave-trading city of Astapor.
Morocco is the exotic gateway to Northern Africa. At once tolerant, welcoming and a colourful, and an enchantingly noisy assault on your senses.
In the medina, the ‘Casbah’, the exotic smells of uncovered piles of spices, fish, preserved lemons, mounds of almonds and olives and newly tanned leather mingle with the refreshing scent of sweet mint tea. The stacks of oriental rugs, leather goods, lamps, pottery, jewellery, fruit, spices, silver, brass, glass and wood, big knives, bolts of cloth and luxurious carpets make a kaleidoscope of colour. Even the cats of Essaouira are of legend and sacred.
The anchorage at Essaouira is good one – with a west-east approach and northerly prevailing winds it is a true sailing ship port which ships can reliably plan to both sail into and out of. And so we will.
In The Wake of Columbus
Back to sea and the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands is our next port of call. Four hundred miles off the coast of West Africa, the Canaries marked the end of the known world in when, in 1492, Columbus put in to provision and repair before setting out to discover his “New World”. Later, in the time of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries became the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to the Americas because of the prevailing northeasterly winds.
These volcanic islands are dry, craggy and windswept – the reliable sun and wind making them a favourite spot for all kinds of water sports. For the crew this means excellent small boat sailing, swim calls at anchor and off-watch snorkelling or scuba diving expeditions.
Sail To Senegal
We anchor outside of town in Dakar, Senegal in the half-moon bay where colourful dozens of huge wooding fishing boats are pulled up on the sandy beach and hundreds of people bustle about in the mornings landing and selling the catch from a night afloat setting nets.
French speaking Dakar is a large and fascinating city. Sometimes called the “Paris of West Africa” it is a hub of local and international trade with a colourful, fascinating history.
The Dakar peninsula, between the desert and the ocean, has been inhabited since the 1400s by the Lebu people and colonised over the centuries by the Portuguese, the Dutch and then the French as an important African trading post. Gorée Island, a mile offshore, was notorious as a ‘slave factory’ and general trading post – now the whole island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is fascinating to visit if you’re interested in Africa and the cultural development of the ‘New World’. The ‘Door of No Return’ leads straight to the islands of the West Indies. It was a moving visit for us last time.
But mostly, we love Dakar for the beautiful, gracious, friendly people. From the explosion of brightly coloured fabrics and sharp suits, the amazing food and dancing, massively overloaded busses, to the riot of noise and smells in the market and medina and the soundtrack of raucous Senegalese music that seems to be everywhere.
Trade Wind Sailing Begins
Next on our voyage is a real sailors’ passage. There are two and a half thousand miles of ocean between Africa and the Caribbean, and winds permitting we will sail every inch on the famous soothing trade winds.
We will call at the Cape Verde Islands to refresh crew and provisions, and stay a few days to have a look around these beautiful islands with their perfect white sand and temperate climate. Discovered and settled a century before the Americas and cooled by the ocean currents, Cape Verde will seem mellow and low-key after the exuberance of Africa.
The melange of Portuguese and African heritage is probably best known because of the mornos (mournful songs) of Cesária Évora, but you can see it too in the creole population, and in the street side eateries serving cachupa, cheese pastries and feijoada. And so many Cape Verdeans have family in the USA from whaling ship days. Even the paper currency is covered with sailing ships of their own that made the transatlantic voyage to New England not so many years ago. Captain Moreland’s old command, the schooner Ernestina, is on the bills.
From Cape Verde we set sail on our second crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, heading west, perhaps under studding sails from clipper ship days, as we run before the equatorial trade winds as so many wind ships have done before us.
Now is a great time to focus on learning some of the skills that the crew teaches best: the nuts and bolts of traditional seamanship. Seamanship is a broad term that includes rigging and sailmaking skills as well as navigation, ship handling, weather, carpentry, ship maintenance and engineering skills, an understanding of the history and evolution of sailing ships, and much else besides.
Learn and Study
While workshops for all hands will teach the basics of splicing ropes, knots, seaming sails, use and maintenance of block and tackles and so on, the opportunity for motivated and focussed trainee crew to learn beyond the basic required skills is almost unlimited. It is up to you.
This is also the long ocean passage when anyone with the commitment can begin to learn the art of celestial navigation. Using just a sextant and the sun or slowly processing stars to calculate your position on the Earth’s surface can be a challenge but it’s also immensely satisfying.
A Sailor’s Paradise
After maybe twenty days at sea, the call of ‘land ho!’ is always thrilling – and never more so than when the land on the horizon is one of the islands of the glorious Caribbean.
We will have a full month or more to explore the warm waters and blissful trade winds of the Caribbean. We’ll call at Grenada, Carriacou and the Grenadines, Bequia, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, and more. We’ll drop our anchor in sandy bays and come alongside in bustling
Everybody thinks they know the Caribbean but there’s so much more to this collection of fascinating island nations than perfect white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, piña coladas and reggae music. The richness and diversity of the language, history, music and culture in such a small geographical area is amazing. The crew have spent many months over many years cruising these waters and the friendships and connections that the ship and her crew have in this part of the world mean our access to the ‘real Caribbean’ is unrivalled. There will be swim calls, rowing, and small boat sailing too.
Head North, Homeward Bound
Beautiful Bermuda is our last island call as we begin to head north once again, back home to Nova Scotia. It’s a brilliant last port for the end of an epic five-month voyage: sunny, laid back and welcoming, it is a real mix of British and Caribbean, and our crew always have a great time there.
From Bermuda, the final passage is about a seven day sail northwards, arriving in Lunenburg on April 1st, 2016, having sailed some ten thousand nautical miles and visited a dozen countries on three continents.
Who Can Sail
No experience is necessary to become a trainee, just good health and a strong desire to be part of the crew.
We will request a note from your doctor as part of the application process. Every applicant will also be subject to a personal interview. What’s most important to us is that you’ll be able to get along with others and that you have a sense of adventure.
Whether you’re looking for a gap year trip, a break from work or school, your big overseas experience, an authentic way to travel, the opportunity to develop sailing and seamanship skills, sea time and experience to start a career at sea, or an adventure unlike anything you’ve done before, consider signing aboard for the full Transatlantic Voyage or the a leg of the voyage.
The ship’s mission is deep-ocean sail training and long-distance education. Also, she carries supplies and educational materials to far-flung islands in the South Pacific. Her North American homeport is Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
The ship is a completely refitted barque that observes the rigorous standards of Germanischer Lloyds for steel-hulled Cape Horners. She is 179 feet overall, with riveted steel hull, clear oiled-pine decks, steel masts, and wooden and steel yards. She carries 12,450 square feet of canvas sail. The ship also has a powerful 690 hp Burmeister & Wain alpha diesel engine for occasions when sailing is not feasible. The galley is on deck, and its 1893 cook stove is similar to those used on commercial sailing ships 100 years ago.
There are berths for 40 sail trainees and 12 professional crew members. (Usually about half our trainees are men and half women. Their ages range from 18 to 60+, with the majority under 35.) Sleeping accommodations are bunkroom style, in two tiers of pilot bunks. Bunks have curtains for privacy and individual reading lights.
This is a true working tall ship. Sail trainees participate fully in the ship’s operation: handling sails, scrubbing the deck, taking a turn at the wheel, raising anchor, hauling on lines, helping in the galley, going aloft (optional), and keeping lookout. There are training classes in seamanship and navigation, plenty of opportunities to learn square-rig sailing and, on the world voyages, to explore exotic tropical ports and islands.
Daily Duties of Crew on Board
Watches in Port
Depending on how long the ship is in each port, the time is divided among the three watches, or whatever we can do to look after the ship adequately and give the crew the most time on shore. Typically a port layover is three full days or six full days. The rule of thumb is two days free, one on watch.
What generally happens is that one watch works from 8 AM until 8 PM, when they are relieved by the next watch. Then they have 2 days off and return to duty again on the 3rd day. In some ports like Cape Town, South Africa, where the harbour facilities are particularly secure and we are there for a longer time, the crew are able to travel, go on safari etc. The turnover of the watch would be longer, for example, 3 days on watch and 6 days off watch.
In port, the duty-watch carries on with the usual ship’s maintenance work, or maybe a special project that can only be done when we were not underway, such as laying out and cutting a big new sail, engine work, or overhauling one of the small boats. It can also be something pertaining to that port, such as stowing provisions or cargo that comes onboard.
At the end of the work day in port, the watch breaks into hourly segments after 1800 hrs (6:00 PM), and each member stands anchor watch on deck for an hour. This generally is to look after the security of the ship, to keep an eye on the weather, to look after the boats alongside or to check for chafing on the mooring lines when we are tied up at a wharf. One third of the crew is aboard to help if needed. The watch-stander is to call the Mate for any reason.
During his or her watch, the watch-stander bails the boats in the water and does an overall ship check, as well as being generally vigilant. The watch-stander then awakens the next person for his or her watch. These anchor watches allow us to not only sail around the world safely but give the off-watch complete freedom to come and go as they like without really worrying about the ship.
Watches at Sea
There are three watches at sea around the clock: 4–8, 8–12 and the 12–4. How your day breaks down depends on which watch you are on. If you are on the 12–4, you are on watch from noon until 4 PM and then on watch again from midnight until 4 AM. In between those times your time is generally your own, unless it is “All Hands,” which means that all crew are on deck.
Each Watch has chores specific to that watch:
- The 4–8 always lights the stove and does a saltwater deck wash and gets the ship clean and tidy on deck. The 4–8 tightens braces and halyards that may have gone slack overnight and usually sees to re-nipping the buntlines. These chores begin at 6:00 AM or dawn, whichever comes later. They also clean up at the end of the workday.
- The 8–12 watch cleans the ship below decks, which we call “domestics.” This is a cleaning of the ship’s living quarters and heads every day. This watch begins the day’s projects: sanding, painting, tarring, rigging, sailmaking and so forth.
- The 12–4 carries on with the ship’s work under the supervision of the Bosun.
Meal times are arranged by watches for Breakfast and Lunch, but everyone eats Dinner at the same time. For example, the ongoing watch and the daymen eat lunch at 1130 hrs and then the off watch, the 12–4 and the 4–8 eat at 1200 hrs.
Ship’s work is done Monday through Saturday noon. Everyone breaks from noon on Saturday until Monday morning at 0800 hrs. However, over the weekend the watches are still stood, and any immediate repairs are made; but no routine ship’s maintenance is done unless needed at the time.
Late Sunday afternoons we often have a “Marlinspike,” which is punch and popcorn, a socialising and relaxing time when everyone is on deck together.
Ship life at sea is very simple. You stand your watch, you sail the ship, keep her up, you have free time, you eat and you sleep.
Atlantic Exploration & Crossing
- Trip number: AWA247
- Dates: Oct – Dec 2015 / Jan – April 2016
- Voyage 1: Nova Scotia to Canary Islands
- Voyage 2: Canary Islands to Nova Scotia
- Length: 6 months
- Adventure: Sail across the Atlantic Ocean twice!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.