Well the inevitable happened at 11:45 pm last night – the engines were fired up! It is sad that we have had to retire from the race when we were so close to finishing but the wind has been against us. It was noisy when the engines were first fired up and there is a definite mechanical vibration through the ship in comparison to the feeling of being just under sail. Having the engines on makes the ship have a hurried feeling, like we are rushing to get somewhere rather than going where the wind blows. The vibration of the engines was enough to flare the pain in my foot so it took ages to get back to sleep.
The first sign that something was happening up on deck last night was hearing the distinctive squeak of sails being furled and the engine room door opening and closing which has been unusual at night. This was accompanied by the roar of the engine firing up and the feel of acceleration through the water. After being under sail for about eight days I can certainly feel the difference in how the ship moves through the water now she is being propelled by the engine. Also the sound of the water sloshing by the hull is a faster, more hurried affair and continuous. I am sad that we have retired from the race however I am glad too. It will be good to see land again and reach our destination, it is a shame though that we will not be finishing the race.
Hubby said earlier on in the voyage around about day five “There must be easier ways to get to Norway.”
Maybe there are. In fact I know there are, but how many can say they have sailed under the power of wind only for most of the way on a tall ship from Belfast by going up the North Channel/Irish Sea, into the North Atlantic and then into the Norwegian Sea. See mum we didn’t have to cross the North Sea in the end! She was panicking about me crossing the North Sea. Here I am at 05:15 hours wondering what time we will reach our destination for the party to begin!
The 4 am to 8 am watch were treated to a beautifully calm and surreal sunrise this morning as you can see from the photographs this would have been spectacular to see. When we went up on deck for miles and as far as the eye could see was the most stillest ocean I have ever seen. The sea was so calm it was like a millpond. It had a very glassy solid feel to it yet it inspired a feeling of tranquil serenity. After the seas of the last eight or nine days today’s sea is a complete opposite in comparison, it is so restful and easy on the eye. Lulling you to keep staring at its beauty, trying to figure out where the sea ends and the sky starts. I have never seen a sea so pearlescent, the colours were amazing. It wasn’t long though before we had to tear our eyes away from this spectacular natural beauty to go on watch.
We started watch at 8 am and within fifteen minutes the shout of “land ahoy” went out. We were like explorers seeing a foreign land for the very first time as Norway slowly came into view on our starboard side. At first we were not sure that the dark line on the horizon just above the wheelhouse was Norway or whether it was yet another wet soggy rain cloud coming in, it soon became clear though that it was land.
Captain Darren decided that it would be nice to go the back way into Alesund through some of the fjords, however it would be some four hours or more later that we would reach the entrance of the fjord we were aiming for. Land was so near and yet so far away. It seemed closer than it was because of the height of the mountains.
The watch was relatively uneventful, however there was a definite buzz of excitement and anticipation around the ship as the land got closer. We were able to see the tall ship Europa in the far distance for a while still racing towards the finish line. There were also a couple of fishing boats that crossed our path which we had to keep a good eye on. As we got closer to land we saw a couple of lighthouses, one of which was on an island and stepped up the side of a steep hill, it was amazing. The ship was scrubbed and polished hard to make her presentable for port – hubby had the honour of cleaning the ships bell.
We came in off watch at 12:30 pm to lunch of soup and hot dog, which meant just soup for me due to dietary requirements. I was a bit peeved because after a long watch I do get hungry and not having anything to go with the soup was a little disappointing. I was also having a bad time about the harbour watches that had been sorted. I had been given a midnight to 2 am watch, which would really mess with me taking my tablets as I wouldn’t be able to take them around 10 pm as I would not be in a fit state for watch and couldn’t take them at gone 2 am as they would then affect me the next day which would potentially cause me to miss a day in Alesund. Taking my meds at a strange time the other night wiped me out for 24 hours or more before I got back into routine with them again. Thankfully this has now been resolved with a re-jig thanks to B our watch leader. Stupidly hubby and I had a little falling out over it and didn’t speak for a short while. Not bad going though considering we have been in an alien environment, in physically and mentally challenging circumstances, plus living in a very small personal space for the last eleven days, and this is the first lot of cross words that we have had with each other. All was well though, our spat did not last long.
I did notice today that the closer we got into land the more mobile phones that were out on deck, and even more so during our trip up the fjords. People checking and rechecking their bars of signal. Many a times the words “have you got signal yet” were heard. Me included, considering I had planned to not lift my phone until we were on land. Being out of touch with the world for nine days in our insular environment has been great, however the urge to speak with family was too strong to ignore, so it just had to be done. As soon as I had signal I was on the phone to the family telling my stories and catching up with them. It is amazing these days how easy it is to contact family from a tall ship in the Fjords of Norway. So much different to my trip on Sir Winston Churchill seventeen or so years ago. The only way to reach home then was by the ship’s satellite phone and voyage crew could only use it in dire emergency. I think I was the only one to use the satellite phone during that voyage and that was to check up on hubby who I had left behind in hospital whilst I ran away to sea on a tall ship (long story). At least this time I dragged him along with me. Mobile technology has certainly provided people the freedom to communicate across the world, and special gloves have made it possible to use a mobile’s touchscreen when your hands are cold!
After lunch we spent some time downloading the pictures from the camera onto the computer so everyone can get a copy. This is a really good idea and I am looking forward to going through all the photos when we get home (some of them have been used in my blog, you can tell which they are as they have courtesy of another crew member along the bottom). Thank you to everyone who took photos and went to the time and effort of putting them onto the computer to be put on memory pens.
After doing this we went out on deck to take in the fabulous scenery around us of the fjords. It really is beautiful. Magnificent. Words cannot do the fjords any justice. I certainly want to come back and see more. The sheer sided mountains, the chocolate box houses, the huge waterfalls cascading down the mountainside and the pure brilliant white of the glaciers and snow. Some mountains were still swaddled in their duvets of clouds, others looked down into the water at their reflections. Absolutely stunning. The scenery is breathtaking.
I enjoyed sitting, watching the views go by talking to J about Norway; hearing the story about the tunnel built to his island leaking, the history of farming and the construction of the houses. It was a truly pleasant afternoon. I even got out onto the bow sprit for a few photos. Norway is an amazing place and so pretty.
As we were traversing the fjords preparations were underway to get the ship ready for mooring alongside in Alesund at around 5 pm. Flags were got ready and sent up to the top of the masts, mooring lines flaked out on deck, fenders made ready and the rib set up to be launched. Soon our long awaited destination of Alesund came into view.
Alesund is a pretty town of different styles and coloured houses, some perched on the edge of a hill and others seemingly abandoned. It looks an intriguing place to explore.
As we were approaching Alesund another tall ship came into view behind us. This ship was the Mirr, which is a huge Russian tall ship. This is the first tall ship we have seen up close since we all scattered at the start of the race. It wouldn’t be long before the rest of the rest of the flotilla came into sight moored in Alesund.
Just prior to the port we were met by two port authority boats that guided us in, and a huge flotilla of smaller vessels including a water cannon ship. It was amazing and so exciting. Before long we were moored alongside the dock, with a pudding factory for company! Not all the tall ships are in yet and where we are moored another two vessels will be flanking us on either side – Alexander von Humboldt and the Roal Amundsen.
There is such a carnival festival atmosphere here already and the port feels so welcoming. Alesund is a far more prettier port than Belfast and so busy on the water with various different water craft coming alongside to have a look at us.
We had a tasty chilli and engineers punch on the bridge this evening which was delicious and well needed after such an exciting day. We had an old friend join us, one that we have become so accustomed to on our voyage – rain! The weather all afternoon had been threatening rain and it began to drizzle for a short while during dinner on the bridge. Nothing us rain seasoned sailors on Nellie couldn’t handle – we suffered worse at sea.
Hubby is on watch from 10 pm to midnight with B, I am down below with my foot up in bed in agony as it is badly swollen again. Too much excitement has meant that one has not been looking after oneself right today. I have been on the go since around 6 am this morning none stop. I also did not get an afternoon nap like I have been getting whilst at sea.
The rest of the crew are still partying either in the bar on board, on the shore, or on the weather deck and bridge. The ship is amazingly still. She will not be lulling me to sleep as easily tonight. She has a lovely lullaby rock out at sea which I will definitely miss; she has been a roly poly ship for most of the voyage, showing her character rightly, now she is resting and barely a movement can be felt.
All has gone quiet below decks. I am sure it will become noisier when the crew eventually return from their first shore leave in nine days. They will probably be partying hard tonight; they have only gone and found an Irish bar called Dirty Nellies – quite appropriate and fitting really at the end of the first leg of the tall ships race 2015!
Here’s what was said in the last blog post of this leg of the tall ships race on Nellie:
July 14, 2015
We have arrived in the fjords of Norway after a taxing voyage across the North Sea in a mixture of storms, rain and moments of being becalmed. We fought to continue to be in the race until the last moment but as the weather continued to turn against us it made the captain come to the tough decision to motor the last leg as the wind dropped to the extent where it looked like we could not finish …. So a timely arrival in Aalesund at a reasonable time was now the contingency plan, Not only are there the usual crew change over items but our presence at the celebrations to be put on by the Norwegians is vital. The big party will be on 16th July.
Although we lost a jib in the storms, the ship is in fine form and all our crew mates seem to be happy and enthusiastic. The highlight yesterday was Mislav’s birthday! Lots of friendships have been made, particularly among the Youth Leadership at Sea sailors. For many somehow life back home may now seem a bit boring.
We are now dressing the ship with flags ready for our meeting with all the other tall ships in the harbour and no doubt lots of publicity from Norwegian television.
This is not the end of the story though, there are still another couple of days of this adventure to go.