Tall Ship, Bark Europa At St Helena

Stuck on you - velcro has been added to the Bark Europa chess set to keep everything in place during a game at sea.

Stuck on you – velcro has been added to the Bark Europa chess set to keep everything in place during a game at sea.

PRESERVING TRADITIONAL SAILING | Sharon Henry

St Helena and old sailing ships are a natural fit, they share a nostalgic throwback to days of old when the oceans were the new frontier and swashbuckling adventure was to be had. The island’s location smack-bang in the middle of the Atlantic was a hot spot for vessels venturing to and from the East. In her heyday up to 1,000 ships called annually to replenish stocks, and sailing ships in the harbour was a permanent fixture.

Not Everyone Was Allowed Ashore

Centuries later whenever a tall ship drops anchor in James Bay it still looks ‘right.’ Like the Dutch ship, Bark Europa that came in under sail on a return voyage from Antarctica, her presence ‘fits.’ We were itching to get on board for a look around.

The rigging lines on Bark Europa are coiled everywhere on deck. Teamwork is required to handle these lines which set, hand and trim the 30 different sails which Europa carries.

The rigging lines on Bark Europa are coiled everywhere on deck. Teamwork is required to handle these lines which set, hand and trim the 30 different sails which Europa carries.

'Sirius' the dog is one of the crew on board Bark Europa. Adorable as he is, unfortunately quarantine laws prevented him from being allowed ashore at St Helena so a view from the deck was sadly as close as he could get.

‘Sirius’ the dog is one of the crew on board Bark Europa. Adorable as he is, unfortunately quarantine laws prevented him from being allowed ashore at St Helena so a view from the deck was sadly as close as he could get.

First there is a rope ladder climb with choppy seas to negotiate and once on board we get a lick of approval from the ship’s pet. According to storybook tales, parrots or monkeys used to be the captain’s choice of animal, but on the Europa it’s a dog, aptly named Sirius after the Dog-Star constellation. Because of quarantine laws he is not allowed ashore even though he’s giving the full ‘puppy-dog-eyes’ treatment looking forlornly at the departing tenders.

Why Europa Goes To Antarctica

Towering overhead is a dizzying network of ropes rigged to control each of the ship’s 30 canvas sails attached to 33 metre masts. Despite this it looks orderly, clean and tidy on the wooden deck which blends beautifully with the red and yellow painted bulkheads.

Having finished a season of dodging icebergs, and doing penguin and whale watching excursions in Antarctica the ship is now harnessing the trade winds and homeward bound to Norway with 40+ passengers and 14 crew.

Bark Europa - navigating the high seas.

Bark Europa – navigating the high seas.

Bark Europa is a square rigger. She carries 12 square sails in total; six on both the fore and the main mast. The mizzen mast carries the spanker and the gaff topsail. Moreover she carries 10 staysails and can also carry six studding sails. This information is extracted from the passengers handbook! (We really couldn't tell you which is which!)

Bark Europa is a square rigger. She carries 12 square sails in total; six on both the fore and the main mast. The mizzen mast carries the spanker and the gaff topsail. Moreover she carries 10 staysails and can also carry six studding sails. This information is extracted from the passengers handbook! (We really couldn’t tell you which is which!)

Not immediately obvious from a distance, the Bark Europa has a colourful on board paint job. A very photogenic lady!

Not immediately obvious from a distance, the Bark Europa has a colourful on board paint job. A very photogenic lady!

The passenger dining room on Bark Europa, which also doubles as a recreation area.

The passenger dining room on Bark Europa, which also doubles as a recreation area.

Heading down into the accommodation and galley deck on Bark Europa. The stairwells are very steep - mind your head!

Heading down into the accommodation and galley deck on Bark Europa. The stairwells are very steep – mind your head!

Originally built in 1911 in Germany as a light ship the Europa underwent a major renovation in 1986 and was re-rigged into a three-masted bark. Now Dutch registered she offers sailing holidays and ocean adventures.

Everyone Must Speak The Same Language

Today Europa is under the command of Captain Klaas Gaastra whose friendly, easy manner seems to filter through the whole ship. Having been with the company since 1994 this is his seventh trip to St Helena. “For a ship like this we have to keep sailing all year otherwise it’s not possible to keep,” he tells us. “The owners don’t get any money. They bought the ship because they like it, but all the earnings go back into the ship. They do it for the love of preserving traditional sailing.”

Captain Klaas Gaastra is one of three captains who alternate command of Bark Europa.

Captain Klaas Gaastra is one of three captains who alternate command of Bark Europa.

When she's not playing tour guide around the ship to curious photo-bloggers, Laura is the bartender on Bark Europa.

When she’s not playing tour guide around the ship to curious photo-bloggers, Laura is the bartender on Bark Europa.

'Bark Europa calling St Helena, Bark Europa calling St Helena, come in please." Checking out the radio room.

‘Bark Europa calling St Helena, Bark Europa calling St Helena, come in please.”
Checking out the radio room.

Below decks on Bark Europa.

Below decks on Bark Europa.

Marianne preparing dinner in the galley on board Bark Europa. Tonight it's fish on the menu.

Marianne preparing dinner in the galley on board Bark Europa. Tonight it’s fish on the menu.

The passengers on board have a mixture of sailing experience, some novices and some who even own yachts. All are required to answer ‘hands on deck’ and help with sailing. This includes watch duty of four hours on, eight hours off. “We have all nationalities and all ages,” smiles the captain, “Singapore, Romania, Russia, mostly from Europe, Canada and the States. We’re for everybody, as long as you speak English then you’re welcome.”

The Biggest Fun

There is a skeleton crew on board, everyone else has scarpered ashore to squeeze in some sightseeing before setting sail again after a day and half stay.

Left behind is Laura the bartender/crew member from Argentina who adds to the ship’s multicultural count. Darrin immediately assumes she’s a football fan. “When I’m at home I don’t watch all the time but when I’m away I become more passionate,” she laughs. “The last World Cup I was in Croatia and was the ONLY Argentinean in that part. It was the biggest fun.” Argentina made the final (2014) losing to Germany, 0-1. As always we’ve found football to be an international language that creates instant connections.

"Steer toward that cloudy island!"  The classic steering wheel on Bark Europa.

“Steer toward that cloudy island!”
The classic steering wheel on Bark Europa.

On the bridge of Bark Europa. Very high tech with GPS and radar systems for navigation.

On the bridge of Bark Europa. Very high tech with GPS and radar systems for navigation.

The Bark Europa crew mess.

The Bark Europa crew mess.

Not so pretty but very important, the electricity generator on Bark Europa, located near the bow of the ship.

Not so pretty but very important, the electricity generator on Bark Europa, located near the bow of the ship.

Laura first set eyes on the Europa when it used to dock at her home town. She had met and made friends with the crew, “I came for a visit and just loved her and decided that I had to join. I tried for a job and was very lucky to get on.

“The hardest thing being on here for me is missing some people a lot. But then when you’re at home, you miss the people from the ship! It really feels like home here. It’s a very, very nice working atmosphere.”

A Square Rigger Adventure

A trip on the Bark Europa could set you back a few thousand Euros and is aimed at a niche market of adventurous seafarers. A round voyage traverses the Atlantic from Europe to South America, Antarctica (for the summer), South Africa and back to Europe.

Tall ship Bark Europa, making what has become an annual call at St Helena Island. Built in 1911 in Germany the vessel survived two world wars and following an eight year rebuild she became the Bark Europa and now sails under the flag of The Netherlands.

Tall ship Bark Europa, making what has become an annual call at St Helena Island. Built in 1911 in Germany the vessel survived two world wars and following an eight year rebuild she became the Bark Europa and now sails under the flag of The Netherlands.

In case you need any arm twisting Laura tells us South Georgia is her favourite leg of the trip. “It’s beautiful, so full of wildlife and they are not scared of people, they just come to you so you can see them close up.” Enticing stuff.

As is watching a tall sailing ship underway and fading into the horizon.

 

Did You Know?

225 ocean going vessels called at St Helena during 2015. The Bark Europa is the 150th vessel to call in 2016 so far.

International regulations require a lookout on every vessel. No less than half of the collisions at sea are due to a lack of proper lookout!

The Europa’s Antarctic expeditions for 2016/17 are fully booked.

Her maximum speed under sail is 12.5 knots.

It takes about 45 minutes to hoist all sails.

It takes about 5 minutes to take all sails down.

Including all sheets, halyards, clew and buntlines, brasses and mooring lines there is 5,5 kilometres of rope on board.

The library and chart room located right at the stern of Bark Europa. This area also known as the quiet room.

The library and chart room located right at the stern of Bark Europa. This area also known as the quiet room.

9 thoughts on “Tall Ship, Bark Europa At St Helena

  1. I’ve visit this post few times amazing pictures and story, what is also amazing is the connection and information shared with so many about the Europa via What The Saints Did Next. Well done Darrin and Sharon.

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  2. Thanks Mr Tom

    My granddad was wounded in the battle of the Somme 100 years ago this coming summer. He sent my mam a beautiful embroiled post card from the hospital in Calais, which I still have. I never knew him because he died long before I was born. He was from Republic of Ireland. I am very proud of my bit of Irish blood.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  3. Our first visit to St. Helena was last year on the RMS. I think I now have a new voyage to consider, although a couple of days on the island would simply be a tease.

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    • We’re sure a trip on board the Europa would be a remarkable experience and soon the new airport will offer the opportunity for transfers = extra St Helena time! 🙂

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    • Museum

      She is rigged as a Barque, a vessel with at least three masts, all of them fully square rigged except for the sternmost one, which is fore-and-aft rigged, but is named Bark.

      I was lucky enough to meet Laura last September on a 2-week voyage from Cascais via Madeira to Tenerife.
      This September, I will join in Oporto and go via Tenerife to Cap Verde on a 3-week voyage.

      Perhaps the Antarctic run in 2017-2018??

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Patrick for bringing some expertise to this answer. Laura was great, we had a good laugh and really enjoyed the tour. Jealous of your voyage on Europa – the ship is so photogenic it would be amazing to take our camera on a trip and capture life at sea. Might have to stowaway next time 🙂

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      • Thanks Liza. We were considering hiring a boat to photograph Europa leaving under sail but the weather was miserable and departure was late in the day.

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