A brief write up from one of the office bods at Excelsior who recently joined a youth voyage to Holland –
It was an incredible trip, not only because it was my first North Sea crossing, so it would have been exciting either way, but the weather made for some incredible sailing, and rather dramatic arrival into Holland due to the force 9 storm. Along with over-powering the strength of our engine, the wind has injured Excelsior’s number 1 Jib – nothing a kind local sail maker can’t fix though! Bet they’ll have been busy this week with repairs! Many thanks go to the volunteers of the KRNM of Texel who gave us a friendly tow in to port when the combination of wind and tide become too strong.
Aiming for Texel, we didn’t manage it and Excelsior ended up mooring in Den Helder, which was a bit bleak due to the poor weather, although we did get to meet the wonderful crew of Noordzee, as well as some other passionate wooden ship enthusiasts, and it was very pleasing to have so much attention of our beautiful ship. The young people who joined us had a great time with the challenging weather, and although struggled with the sea sickness (I think it is fair to say I was champion in this area!) they picked up sailing skills quickly, and certainly learnt a great deal about living and working with others along the way.
As mentioned, there was quite a storm, which resulted in us being storm bound the next day in Den Helder, so we jumped on a train and went sight seeing around Amsterdam, this proved a great trip and gave the kids, who had had quite a first 24 hours, a bit of a boost as for some it was their first time abroad and it being such a tourist destination they found it easy to relate to. The following day, with the weather cleared we set off stopping in Enkhuizen, which is such a beautiful and interesting city, the voyage crew were able to go and explore independently and absorb another country’s culture, almost instantly finding and making friends with the locals and sharing their mutual knowledge.
As the voyage took us further through the inland waters of Holland, through the locks providing us all with much calmer sailing, with the final challenge of the North Sea Canal and it’s locks before embarking on the crossing of the North Sea to return home. Better weather, although lacking wind, meant we motored a big chunk of it, but got the engine off about half way through. I learnt that Excelsior is a beast to short tack with, spending 3 whole hours trying to get past one wind farm, but the crew were patient and encouraging and we worked together to get through it, even though I found it rather frustrating, and heavy going! Sailing into the next day with beautiful sunshine, calmer sea state and good wind, meant by lunch time, most of the children were relaxed and happy in their new routine and we were joined by a pair of Dolphins swimming alongside, something Gavin has said he hasn’t seen before in that part of the North Sea.
Really glad we agreed to get a go-pro type camera, as it engaged the children beautifully, getting them to join in and reporting on their voyage as well as allowing us to capture some unique details of a voyage on board Excelsior.
I am really pleased I joined them, it has given me a huge insight to what it is all about, I had vowed upon our arrival back to Lowestoft, that “I would never, ever, do a North Sea crossing again!” but after a good night’s sleep I’ve already completely change my mind and have been looking to see when I could help out again, it really is something rather special.
I certainly have a greater understanding of the benefits of a skipper who knows a ship inside an out, compared to someone who would sail her occasionally, not only the skipper, but the whole crew, their passion and enthusiasm for maintaining such a historic ship, keeping traditional craftsmanship and process alive, and being such advocates for traditional ships and their new purpose in sail training, it is so incredibly valuable and a joy to be a part of.
Sailing with Excelsior and her crew demonstrates perfectly how it is never about the destination, but the journey, that’s what its all about. Yes sure you could get there faster on a zippy little yacht, or even by plane, but what you gain is experience, the Excelsior experience, and that is something that only few can take away with them.
For anyone who has said to themselves, “I’d love to do something like that”, do it, make sure you do, book your trip today because these experiences need grasping by both hands, be it for yourself, or for your group, book your trip before it passes you by.