Mary Anne II
spending the Summer on a tall ship
After all the trips with MIR and other ships the feeling became imminent that it had become time to spend more than one or 2 weeks on a tall ship. Also this time it should not be as trainee or volunteer, but as real crew member. So I gladly accepted a deck hand job in the Meyer zur Heyde shipping company...
Part 1: Valencia-Malaga (17.-31.05.04)
Originally it was not MARY ANNE I was going to work on but ATLANTIS, the other barquentine of the same company. In May 2004 I packed my things and took the plane to Valencia to get on board for 6 months. A lot of things had to be arranged before I could go. Not only saying farewell to friends and family, but also things like canceling the newspaper, seeing the dentist, doing things I should have done earlier. And thinking about what to take for such a long trip. Limited was this mainly by the flight luggage of 25kg but also by the size of my place on board. It would be better than on MIR where they give you a berth in a 12-bed-cabin, but still the space on any tall ship is narrow and all things you do not really need should stay at home.
My ship was scheduled to sail in the Mediterranean Sea. What a blessing after all the trips on the North Sea with MIR this Spring! I would need my swim suit and my sun glasses. That I should also have taken sun cream I noticed after the first day on board...
But we are not that far now. Let's start with the first impressions. ATLANTIS and MARY ANNE are berthed alongside each other in Valencia. I have to pass over MARY ANNE to get on board ATLANTIS. There the first person I meet is an old acquaintance. With Heiner Max Kucz, now master of ATLANTIS, I had already been sailing on VALDIVIA some years ago. Soon I also meet the others of the crew. There is Helmut, the chief and Stefan the cook. Christine, Heiners girl-friend, is purser. On deck are Nina - my cabin mate - Reinhard, Norman and 2 Ukrainian AB's, who are both called Victor. From MARY ANNE Jens (chief) and Alexander (AB) join us for dinner. During the winter both ships had only been manned with a minimum crew. This will change now as soon the voyage starts.
On the first day I am told that there will be no work for me. I am told to get settled in my cabin and to have a first look around the ship. Tomorrow at 8 a.m. work starts. So I walk over ATLANTIS and try to find my way to all the places I would need to know. What a luck that she is not as big as MIR. So it is not too difficult. MARY ANNE is for the moment not so interesting for me. I shall sail on ATLANTIS.
Finally after the first night on board the first morning arises. The day on ATLANTIS begins with rig training. I put on my harness and start to climb up the shrouds - and find out that I have a problem. I don't feel comfortable. The rig is different than that on MIR. More wobbly and everything is smaller. Also there is a problem inside my head: last year I got tangled in the rigging of MIR while stepping from the shrouds to the yard. Apparently I cannot overcome this and so I am glad to reach the first platform here. Climbing higher or laying out on the yard is not for me now. As I don't want to give in entirely I plan to practice daily to get better again. Heiner says it is no problem. There are enough things to do on the deck. No need that everybody goes aloft. However, the bowsprit is no problem for me and so a little later I sit there with Victor1 to rig up the jibs.
The first week on ATLANTIS goes by with uprigging the ship and preparing her to go to sea again. Once this is done we start with painting. On a ship there is always something to paint and so rust removing, priming and painting is the main job of the deck crew. ATLANTIS is looking like a vagabond after the long winter, but now she gets nicer and nicer every day. We get prouder and prouder of our beautiful ship. By the end of the month we shall sail to Malaga to take on board the first passengers. Until then everything has to be done.
Finally the last day in Valencia has come. All equipment is stowed and fixed for the sea journey. The watches are scheduled. The crew has manned the stations. We leave port. After the last line is taken on board we slowly get away from MARY ANNE. That is when I first really see her. Suddenly I realize I am on the wrong ship! Hey, I like modern ships better than old ones. And I like fast sailing ships. And I like the fly bridge of the MARY ANNE... what on earth am I doing on ATLANTIS?
As MARY ANNE is still lacking some crew the company has decided that somebody from ATLANTIS shall change to her in the next port. When Heiner informs us about this I am thinking. Yes, I have settled in on ATLANTIS by now. But there are good reasons for changing to MARY ANNE. She has a more interesting schedule. While ATLANTIS will spend all summer in the Mediterranean MARY ANNE will sail north to take part in the Kiel Week and return to the Med only in August. Two long deliveries. That is for me. I talk with Heiner and together we decide that it is me who will change for MARY ANNE in Malaga.
The trip to Malaga is uneventful. Together with Nina I am in the 0-4-watch. Our watch officer is Juan, a funny Majorquin who plays Jazz guitar and learns German. We need 5 days for the 360 miles to Malaga. The 99 years old ATLANTIS is no race horse. Apart from helm watches we are painting and painting and painting.
Malaga, the beautiful! Here Spain is like I have always imagined. In the streets you hear flamenco music. It is very hot, but the beach is not too far from our ship and so we go swimming after work. We enjoy the days here and wait for MARY ANNE. She followed us a few days later and will arrive here only on the evening before the guest come. I got my things ready and so I change the ships soon after MARY ANNE is berthed.
Part 2: Malaga-Hamburg (01.06.-13.07.04)
I move into one cabin with Michaela who I already know from MIR and KRUZENSHTERN. She is now purser on board MARY ANNE and plans to stay on board until Kiel. Master of MARY ANNE is Christian Peterson who is well-known for his always good mood and wicked humor. The further crew are Andreas (chief mate), Jose (2nd mate, also changed from ATLANTIS), Uwe (chief eng), Eric (bosun), Sergey (AB), Alexander (AB) and Anne (Service). There is also Petra as service crew, but she will change to ATLANTIS soon.
On the next day the guests arrive. The ship is cleaned and tidied up a last time. Then the crew gets dressed for meeting the guests. We are ordered to wear uniform. Nobody welcomes this. It is no pleasure to wear full uniform when the temperature is about 40°C in the shade. Luckily we go into sea soon and there blows a gentle breeze.
The charter leads us to Marbella and Estepona, to Gibraltar and back to Malaga. We have a lot of fun with the very nice guests who volunteer to take part in the shipboard duties. They help us setting sails but also help with the kitchen duties. Only too soon we are back in Malaga and the guests go from board. Here the paths of both ships part. The next morning ATLANTIS sails to the Balearic Island. We stay here for some more time. Before starting the long journey the engine needs some overhaul. For this 2 engineers arrived from Vigo. There is also a change inside our crew. Not only that Petra left for ATLANTIS. Also our master leaves the ship. Christian is professor at the maritime academy in Flensburg. There he teaches maritime law and navigation what means he can only sail on MARY ANNE during term breaks. New master is Klaus Groene. 2nd mate becomes Mr. Sawitzky. Jose also leaves the ship. His wife is having a baby and he wants to be home now. Klaus and Gabi, old friends of the ship, will sail with us to Kiel and we will have 2 passengers for this trip: Wolfgang and Heinz. But for the moment we stay here. The repairs take more time than scheduled. The deck crew uses this time to de-rust and paint the upper deck. The click-click-click of our chipping hammers torture the rest of the crew, but who cares. This work has to be done.
Finally the engineers declare the works finished and few hours later we go into sea. Again we head for Gibraltar, but this time only passing by, out into the Atlantic Ocean and then north. We got to hurry. Only 10 days left until the beginning of the Kiel Week and 2000 miles to go. Even though the winds are favourable the engine helps all the time. We get on very well. Until just off Lisbon...
...It is the time of my watch (4-8). I stand at the helm when suddenly Andreas, the watch officer of my watch, notices a strange sound. He goes down into the engine room but cannot find anything not normal. We keep listening. There it is again. The strange sound gets louder and again louder. Now smoke comes out of the engine bulkhead and the engine stops. Andreas awakes the master and the chief. What now? Decision: vessel not under command - yes/no? We are lucky. Uwe manages to get the engine going again. Dead slow, but at least that. However, we will never make it to Kiel that way. So the decision is made to sail to Vigo where these specialist-engineers came from who had just overhauled the engine. They shall now mend the new problem. All right, course Vigo what we reach 2 days later.
We stay 2 weeks in Vigo. Not only that the engineers cannot find the problem and as they find it cannot mend it easily. No we got delayed by a dock worker's strike, by replacement parts that have to be ordered from Madrid, by more specialists that get called. Additionally the port sends us to new berths every other day as we seem to be in the way everywhere. While our chief eng and a team of Spanish specialists try again and again to get the engine going the rest of the crew explores the northern Spanish port and the further surrounding. So I get to know Santiago de Compostela and the nature reserve of the Islas de Cies. Finally our master gets tired of the permanent changes of berth and we go at the anchor in the Vigo fjord. Now we can undisturbedly continue painting the deck and start painting the superstructures. In-between we can go swimming just jumping off the rim. Sergey spends his off duty time fishing and so we have fresh fish every day. Interrupted is our idyllic life only by the trial voyages that take place every time when the engineers again think they have found the solution of our troubles. Unfortunately this is in most cases not so and after few cables the old sound followed by a new break down of the engine appears again and the engineers head down into the engine room for another round...
After two weeks then we finally heave the anchor again. Destination Hamburg. The Kiel Week finished meanwhile and so we try to keep up to our schedule in the next port of call. In Hamburg a short charter on the Elbe and a docking time are planned. We - that is only 8 people now: Capt'n Groene, Andreas, Uwe, Michaela, Eric, Sergey, Alexander and I. Mr. Sawitzky meanwhile took over the command on ATLANTIS. Anne got homesick and went home. Gabi and Klaus have no further vacations and could not sail further with us. Also our 2 passengers left in Vigo having no more time for sailing. So we are heading for Cap Finisterre traffic separation scheme and the north across the Bay of Biscay.
Less than 2 days later - in the middle of the Bay of Biscay - the old problem again. The engine denies do go with more than half ahead, gives strange loud sounds and additionally it spits thick black smoke out of the funnel. What now? Returning to Vigo or continuing? As we still have the sails as kind of alternative propulsion the decision is made that we keep on sailing to Hamburg. With such a small crew of whom only 4 work on deck all maneuvers are all-hands-maneuvers. Nobody cares that Eric gets seasick. That's his problem and he is told he has to work though. Also my problems with working aloft don't count a penny. Eric and I are told to rig a new staysail near the mast top to gain a little more speed! That the Atlantic swell throws us from one side to the other, well, that is so. Square rig deck hand is not a job for the frightened. It is us who have to do the stunts when the others of the crew are ordered to stay away from the fore deck. But Michaela also has no easy job. She has to do the cooking and the galley is not forgiving the slightest mistake. Things not lashed properly fall down or roll away, pots filled too high spoil the whole floor with grease and bear the risk of injury. Also the engine room or even the bridge become places where you can hurt yourself even if you are very careful. In the high waves MARY ANNE makes sheer unbelievable moves. It happens from time to time that she dives into the waves with the entire bowsprit and when coming back up again the green seas splash against the bridge windows. Even in your off hours you don't get a rest. In your bunk you are thrown from one side to the other. Everybody is glad to reach the English channel where the swell reduces.
But there more fun is waiting for us: tidal streams and currents. The wind is backing to NE and sailing by the wind we don't make good many miles over ground. This is even more so in the hours when we have the tide against us. We actually sail more backwards than forward. Finally the wind reaches gale force and without making good a single mile we zigzag between England and France, fighting 3 days to cross the Greenwich Meridian. The seas are short and steep, the visibility is less than a mile and it rains continuously. That's the kind of seafaring we had always read about but never really meant to get involved to ourselves.
Finally the low pressure system that had been responsible for our trouble has passed us and being on it's back side we receive favorable winds that blow us towards the German Bight. On the 12th July we reach Brunsbuettel and at midnight of the same day Hamburg. The berth at Ueberseebruecke is well-known for me. MIR has spent the last 2 winters there. So it is for me a little bit like coming home. Eric is glad to arrive. He has run out of cigarettes and is now heading for the next kiosk to be able to smoke again. The next day we have our charter in the Hamburg port. Westerly winds even allow to set sails on our way back.
Part 3: Harburg 14.7.-1.9.04
For the next couple of days we stay at Ueberseebruecke. A nice place near the center of Hamburg. But after some days the place is needed for other ships and we have to shift. As we will go into shipyard in Hamburg-Harburg soon we now make fast in the Harburg port. I receive a few days shore leave and use the chance to go home to see my son who himself will go to sea for 6 months soon. Also I want to bring some things from home which I had forgotten to take to Valencia. Eric leaves the vessel. He was never really accepted as bosun and did not really enjoy working a big barquentine rig with only such a small crew. So we are only 3 left on deck. This is no problem for the docking time. Also our captain leaves. Andreas takes over.
By the time when I return to the ship she is already inside the dry dock. The works at the main engine and all the other things that need to be done have started. The ship gets sanded completely and the fine sand is everywhere. Countless spells of rust are removed and many parts of the ships are laying on the deck or in the dock being put into their pieces. We do such exiting things as de-rusting the anchor chain and marking the shackles new. More of the acrobatic kind is the work with de-rusting the bob stay below the bowsprit and the repair of the jib-boom net. The galley has become a construction site as the funnel pipe need to be changed and the bridge looks as if a bomb has fallen there due to repairs of the hydraulic steering gear. The crew for whom the ship remains home though tries to make the best of it. On Saturdays we are having barbeques on the after deck.
3 weeks later we leave the dock again. MARY ANNE has received a complete outside painting and a new anti fouling paint of the underwater ship. The dock is flooded and we shift again to the Harburg port. In dry dock a ship behaves differently than in the water. Different sounds and no moving make a strange feeling and so we all are glad to have water below the keel again. The board life finds back to normal routines. Still a lot has to be done until MARY ANNE can return back to the Mediterranean. Both electric generators need to be replaced as a repair of the old ones is too expensive. The technical environment of the bridge gets updated and the deck crew starts to do some maintenance work of the rigging. For a change everything is painted and so we can now do other things. We exchange parts of the running and standing rigging, do conservation work, sew sails, make up nails, shackles and blocks. This is the kind of seamanship that makes fun. Meanwhile we became a main attraction for the Harburg people. In small groups or alone they come along to watch us working from the pier. For Hamburg the weather is unexpectedly good and so the entire board life takes place on deck. We are eating outside, drying the washing in the ratlines and sleep in hammocks on the afterdeck.
Nothing lasts forever and by the end of August we are preparing the ship for going south again. Andreas is on leave. Uwe leaves the ship. Of the old crew are now only left Michaela, Sergey, Alexander and I. Master is once more Christian Peterson. He brings his old friend Uli as chief mate. Both had formerly sailed together on PASSAT as AB's. More new crew are Gerd and Karl-Heinz who will mend the engine and 3 young men as supplement for the deck crew: Philipp who sailed on FRIDTJOF NANSEN before, Mathias who spent some months on UNDINE and Chris who is entirely green and for the first time at sea. So we are 11 to go into sea together this time.
Part 4: Hamburg-Sardinia 2.9.-30.9.04
On the 2.9. we are leaving Harburg. Again I am steering down the Elbe river. Meanwhile I know these waters really good as in Spring this year I had been standing behind the wheel of the MIR for several Elbe day trips...
Other than on the way to Hamburg we are now really fast. With an average speed of 7.5 knots we get the impression that MARY ANNE really wants to return to the Med. Soon after leaving the Elbe estuary we set sails and as the engine also adds speed it does not last long and we are again in the English Channel. I am in the 8-12 watch this time. Together with both Christians - Christian Petersen, called Krischan, our captain who is the watch officer of this watch and Chris who shall take turns with me on helm and lookout. For Chris everything is new. He is only learning how to steer and so it happens that we are heading into a completely different direction than we intended to do. But he is learning fast and after some days he is able to keep the ship on course. He is now entertaining us with stories about his life and with crazy ideas. With our watch being so well-manned compared with the time before I find time to practice navigation and collision avoidance. Krischan lets me take over the duties of the watch officer whenever this is possible so that I can collect experiences and find out if studying navigation and becoming mate would suit me. He is standing in the background then and controls me. His long experience lets him know when something is not okay even without checking all the time.
Not much special on this voyage. Only event is that the main boom comes down. During one tack it breaks and hangs only in the sail. We lash it on the deck and rig the sail as a curtain sail. We don't know how long it will last to repair the boom as we cannot do it with board means.
The passage lasts 13 days. 13 beautiful relaxed sea days without calling a port. On such long trips the board life swings in a rhythm of watch and free watch that is very convenient for the crew. You go your watch, get released, do some maintenance, eat, sleep and go on watch again. Interrupted is this only by the dolphins and whales who accompany us and by the rare occasions when we see land. The weather is fair all the time and the gales spare us out this time. Much too early for me but not early enough for Chris who had become home sick already after some days we are passing Gibraltar again.
After 2500 miles we reach Porto Cervo on the north eastern edge of Sardinia. Very beautiful is it here. Less beautiful is our berth. We are berthed with the stern to the pier in a yachting marina. Not really what square riggers are constructed for. So our gangway construction is a bit strange. The luxury yachts to our sides watch us worriedly. They have soft covers over their fenders and we just hung out old car tires. Being afraid this might harm their polished white GFK hulls they use the first chance to move away from us... Sardinia is extremely expensive. After the long voyage we head to a pub for a beer - we are sailors. The tiny glass full costs 6 Euro. The contact with home is also expensive. The internet cafe charges 2 Euro per 10 minutes - too much for us. After a first look around we mostly stay on board or take the dinghy for a trip to the next beach.
Again the crew is changing. Katrin is our new stewardess. She is working in the service with Michaela. Christian, Gerd and Karl-Heinz go home. Uli Lamprecht, who was chief mate is captain now. Andreas, who returns from leave, is chief mate again. Jens, whom I know from Valencia comes as chief eng. We leave Porto Cervo and drop the anchor in a small bay not far from there. A few days later we sail to Olbia (also Sardinia) for bunkering and repairing the main boom. Chris and Mathias leave us. Homesick. Uli also has no more time and once more we get a new master: Uwe Hinz.
Part 5: Côte d'Azur and back to Sardinia 30.09.-28.10.04
Again we are only 8 who sail to France together. There we shall stay at anchor in the St. Tropez bay to accompany the 75 years anniversary race of the International Dragon Boat Class. We need only 2 days for the 200 miles voyage to the Côte D'Azur. Then we drop anchor between all the other sailing and motor yachts that are already staying in St. Tropez. It is beautiful here and the flair of the village is special. It is a little bit like in the paintings of Van Gogh who lived in the Provence for some years. Here I have to learn to really drive a motor boat. Our luck with the weather has an end and we receive winds of force 7-8 sometimes even more. Nevertheless we try to keep up a motorboat shuttle for crew and guests between the MARY ANNE and the shore. I learn to go alongside in 4m high waves. Thanks to Andreas' line construction after some practice this is even possible single handed. The days pass by with maintenance, swimming and fishing, anchor watches and the dinghy shuttle. Michaela leaves the ship and so we lost our cook. Now cooking and dish washing gets split between all crew members, something the 2 Ukrainians do not welcome. But there is no excuse as even the officers take their turn including our master Uwe who is cooking for us one day.
After the regatta we return to Sardinia. There I leave the vessel. My time on board is completed. Alexander also leaves the ship here and so does Uwe. New crew members will come and sail the MARY ANNE...
I get my things packed. Too much stuff for flying. I give some things to friends and throw others away. The work on deck kills shoes and clothes without end, but still I have so much left that I hardly can tie the knot to close my sailor bag. At the airport the over luggage will cost me a fortune. On the last evening I walk over the entire ship again. Unbelievable, but in this half year we have painted the ship completely... She is looking good now. I wonder how long this will last. I remember what she looked like when I first saw her in Valencia.
The next morning the entire crew comes to say good bye. It is hard to go. 5 1/2 months are a long time. The ship became home to me and the crew has become a second family. Katrin drives me to the airport. In the car she asks me how I could leave the vessel without turning my head. I tell her that I do not need to look back as I know every bit of MARY ANNE. I know every shrew, every line, every sound and every smell. I will miss her.