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July 5, 2014

Voyage 409: Leg 1 of the Tall Ships Races 2014

Joining day in Harlingen

Harlingen is a beautiful little port city, with a fishing fleet and the ferry terminal for Terscheliing, an inner basin and an outer harbour. The watch leaders joined early this morning, having stayed overnight in Leeuwarden and neighbouring towns. Harlingen’s dozen or so hotels were of course booked solid for months ahead. Those who travelled yesterday all had stories of their epic adventures getting here, because the trains from Schiphol airport to everywhere had been comprehensively, err, messed up. So great ingenuity had been displayed by those who travelled south to go east, those who took buses, and those who simply waited hours until the trains started running again. But we got here.

Harlingen is completely taken over by the Tall Ships Race. Because of the layout there are Tall Ships wherever you go, and you can walk miles to see all of the 70+ that are starting from here. After the departing crew went in the morning came the wind that blew great drifts of sand along the quaysides, and after the sand came the rain, so when the embarking crew arrived they transferred a lot of wet sand from the quays to the decks. At least it means we won’t have to sand the decks on this voyage.

In spite of the rain everyone was in a good humour and settled down to briefing, the water and sewage warnings, evacuation drills, harbour watch information and all the rest. The weather forecast turned out to be no more reliable than we all expect, so the rain was short-lived and the wind was less strong than predicted – so far.

We sail tomorrow: a long haul to get clear of the shallows, the shipping traffic lanes, and into a position where we can line up for the start. The forecast is still in our favour: strong winds, on the beam, so we have the prospect of being able to sail at our best. But of course strong winds on the beam mean a lot of rolling, so there are certain to be some stout hearts who feel a bit less hearty by tomorrow evening, when Sunday Dinner is on the table.

We’ve just started harbour watches, knowing that quite a few of the crew won’t be back until…before we sail. And we have the additional challenge of having Pelican rafted alongside, and trying to work out whether the people doing funny walks are ours walking normally, or theirs walking abnormally… Watch this space.

Brought to you by Aft Starboard, The Lovely Watch.

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