Antarctic season 2019-2020 with Bark Europa

June 28, 2020 Leave a comment


On the way from Vernadsky research base to Yalour island we came across this magnificent double arched iceberg.On the way from Vernadsky research base to Yalour island we came across this magnificent double arched iceberg.

On the way from Vernadsky research base to Yalour island we came across this magnificent double arched iceberg.

At a time when it’s possible for thirty people to stand on the top of Everest in one day, Antarctica still remains a remote, lonely and desolate continent.

A place where it’s possible to see the splendors and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic and, what’s more, witness them almost exactly as they were, long, long before human beings ever arrived on the surface of this planet.

Long may it remain so.

— David Attenborough

The Antarctic season is long over. After more than 3 months, 6 Drake Passage crossings, 41 landings, and about half a dozen zodiac cruises it was time to go home and recuperate. As we all know, it didn’t happen and we returned back to a vastly different world. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed everything and had far reaching consequences for everybody. The fate of the next Antarctic season is still uncertain and that is true for most of the expedition companies. Despite all what is happening, the past Antarctis season was a success. During the season, I guided on 3 trips to Antarctica, fortunate to visit both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula, the more crowded and “touristy” west side as well as the wild, icy and cold Weddel Sea. It definitely deserves a post. Let’s just reflect back on the past season with some of my favorite images.


It it challenging for ship to manoeuvre among the ice that filled the Neko Harbour as a result of recent glacial calving.It it challenging for ship to manoeuvre among the ice that filled the Neko Harbour as a result of recent glacial calving.

It it challenging for ship to manoeuvre among the ice that filled the Neko Harbour as a result of recent glacial calving.


Sunset at Petermann Island. Gentoo penguins are nesting on one of many rookeries found on the island.Sunset at Petermann Island. Gentoo penguins are nesting on one of many rookeries found on the island.

Sunset at Petermann Island. Gentoo penguins are nesting on one of many rookeries found on the island.


Weddel seal resting on the ice checking out the visitors.Weddel seal resting on the ice checking out the visitors.

Weddel seal resting on the ice checking out the visitors.


Glacier front in Paradise BayGlacier front in Paradise Bay

Glacier front in Paradise Bay


This humpback whale came very close to check out the ship.This humpback whale came very close to check out the ship.

This humpback whale came very close to check out the ship.


Sloopy during the cruise in Paradise Bay.Sloopy during the cruise in Paradise Bay.

Sloopy during the cruise in Paradise Bay.


Bark Europa in Orne Harbour.Bark Europa in Orne Harbour.

Bark Europa in Orne Harbour.


We had plenty of whale sightings this season. This humpback whale is feeding on krill that is plentiful in these waters.We had plenty of whale sightings this season. This humpback whale is feeding on krill that is plentiful in these waters.

We had plenty of whale sightings this season. This humpback whale is feeding on krill that is plentiful in these waters.


Gloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mist gives the place an eerie feelingGloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mist gives the place an eerie feeling

Gloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mist gives the place an eerie feeling


Gloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mother nature created this beautiful dome in one of the icebergs.Gloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mother nature created this beautiful dome in one of the icebergs.

Gloomy scene from Melchior Islands. The mother nature created this beautiful dome in one of the icebergs.


Two gentoo penguins looking at the distance in Petermann Island.Two gentoo penguins looking at the distance in Petermann Island.

Two gentoo penguins looking at the distance in Petermann Island.


Magical sunset we experienced during cruise through Lemaire channel.Magical sunset we experienced during cruise through Lemaire channel.

Magical sunset we experienced during cruise through Lemaire channel.


Glacier front in Fort Point receded by a lot in the last two years.Glacier front in Fort Point receded by a lot in the last two years.

Glacier front in Fort Point receded by a lot in the last two years.


Some icebergs are very uniquely shaped. Spert Island.Some icebergs are very uniquely shaped. Spert Island.

Some icebergs are very uniquely shaped. Spert Island.


Three gentoo penguins walking towards the camera.Three gentoo penguins walking towards the camera.

Three gentoo penguins walking towards the camera.


Elephant seals at Walkers bay.Elephant seals at Walkers bay.

Elephant seals at Walkers bay.


Ice packs completely blocked our way back to the ship at Orne Harbour.Ice packs completely blocked our way back to the ship at Orne Harbour.

Ice packs completely blocked our way back to the ship at Orne Harbour.


Berthelot island was the southern-most island we visited on our second trip. We saw it all, at least that is what we thought. And then this happened.Berthelot island was the southern-most island we visited on our second trip. We saw it all, at least that is what we thought. And then this happened.

Berthelot island was the southern-most island we visited on our second trip. We saw it all, at least that is what we thought. And then this happened.


Beautiful moody light near the Trooz Glacier..Beautiful moody light near the Trooz Glacier..

Beautiful moody light near the Trooz Glacier..


There is a thick layer of penguin guano on the Useful Island.There is a thick layer of penguin guano on the Useful Island.

There is a thick layer of penguin guano on the Useful Island.


Truly an Antarctic dip in Neko Harbour. The water temperature is close to 0 degrees Celsius.Truly an Antarctic dip in Neko Harbour. The water temperature is close to 0 degrees Celsius.

Truly an Antarctic dip in Neko Harbour. The water temperature is close to 0 degrees Celsius.


A tabulalr iceberg that rolled over at some point. That is the reason for mostly smooth surfaces, the visible part was under water some time ago.A tabulalr iceberg that rolled over at some point. That is the reason for mostly smooth surfaces, the visible part was under water some time ago.

A tabulalr iceberg that rolled over at some point. That is the reason for mostly smooth surfaces, the visible part was under water some time ago.


A funny Weddel seal checking us out.A funny Weddel seal checking us out.

A funny Weddel seal checking us out.


Bark Europa is drifting in the water near Brown Bluff.Bark Europa is drifting in the water near Brown Bluff.

Bark Europa is drifting in the water near Brown Bluff.


Evenings are particularly beautiful in Antarctica. It never gets fully dark and the Moon just the icing in the cake.Evenings are particularly beautiful in Antarctica. It never gets fully dark and the Moon just the icing in the cake.

Evenings are particularly beautiful in Antarctica. It never gets fully dark and the Moon just the icing in the cake.


Paulet Island. In 1903 during the Swedish Antarctic Expedition led by Otto Nordenskiöld his ship Antarctic was crushed and sunk by the ice off the coast of the island.Paulet Island. In 1903 during the Swedish Antarctic Expedition led by Otto Nordenskiöld his ship Antarctic was crushed and sunk by the ice off the coast of the island.

Paulet Island. In 1903 during the Swedish Antarctic Expedition led by Otto Nordenskiöld his ship Antarctic was crushed and sunk by the ice off the coast of the island.


Almost an Endurance scene. Bark Europa appears to be trapped in the ice, however she is floating on open water. It is just the camera angle.Almost an Endurance scene. Bark Europa appears to be trapped in the ice, however she is floating on open water. It is just the camera angle.

Almost an Endurance scene. Bark Europa appears to be trapped in the ice, however she is floating on open water. It is just the camera angle.


Old sealing dory at Halfmoon Island.Old sealing dory at Halfmoon Island.

Old sealing dory at Halfmoon Island.


Deception island is an active volcano. Hot seawater in Pendulum Cove is a good reason for getting into swimwear.Deception island is an active volcano. Hot seawater in Pendulum Cove is a good reason for getting into swimwear.

Deception island is an active volcano. Hot seawater in Pendulum Cove is a good reason for getting into swimwear.


Fur seal resting inside old boat in Whalers Bay at Deception Island.Fur seal resting inside old boat in Whalers Bay at Deception Island.

Fur seal resting inside old boat in Whalers Bay at Deception Island.


Chinstrap penguins next to glacier face in Fort Point.Chinstrap penguins next to glacier face in Fort Point.

Chinstrap penguins next to glacier face in Fort Point.


Huge tabular icebergs are very common sight in the Weddel Sea.Huge tabular icebergs are very common sight in the Weddel Sea.

Huge tabular icebergs are very common sight in the Weddel Sea.


Guiding trio during iceshelf landing in Weddel Sea.Guiding trio during iceshelf landing in Weddel Sea.

Guiding trio during iceshelf landing in Weddel Sea.


Iceberg graveyard is home to some very interesting creations.Iceberg graveyard is home to some very interesting creations.

Iceberg graveyard is home to some very interesting creations.


Icebergs in “iceberg graveyard” in Spert IslandIcebergs in “iceberg graveyard” in Spert Island

Icebergs in “iceberg graveyard” in Spert Island


Verndasky research baseVerndasky research base

Verndasky research base

Week 12 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment

We have arrived. On Jun 16th, Europa finally moored at her homeport in Scheveningen after 82 days on the sea. It was March 27th, a Friday morning when we heaved anchor in Ushuaia and embarked on an unexpected and long journey through the Atlantic Ocean from south to north. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic around the world with numerous lockdowns we were not allowed to disembark in Ushuaia or any other port after the Antarctic season, nor could we continue with our Pacific schedule. It turned out, the only port willing to accept us was Europa’s home, Scheveningen. After careful deliberation considering many possibilities, the decision has been made to sail the ship home and thus give her the best possible chance to get her on the sea again after the corona pandemic craziness around the world ends. The crew onboard from the last Antarctic trip (with some newcomers) fulfilled their duty and brought her home. Nothing less, nothing more. This was not a journey out of a desire to break any records but the necessity forced upon us by extraordinary circumstances and the best option we had at the time. Europa covered over 10000 nautical miles over the ground. Nonstop. Pretty remarkable number for an over 100-year-old lady she is. We never doubted her abilities nor we had any doubts in our readiness and experience to bring her home, for the most part, only by the power of the wind. Only at the very end, given our time restriction, weather forecast, and some deadlines we had to meet, we engaged the power of our two auxiliary engines. After 79 days we entered the English Channel and we spot the Dover Cliffs, the first land sighting since the departure. From there, it didn’t take too long to make our way through the channel and finally arrive home.

This was a life-changing experience for many of us on so many levels. Right now, we are happy that we are going to see our families soon, a moment we’ve been looking forward to, a moment that has been postponed by more than 3 months due to the extraordinary situation that is currently rocking our world. It will still take a couple of days for most of us to get home, but our families and loved ones can be assured, we are all healthy, sound, and safe. Some of us leave the ship straight away while others stay a few more days. There is a relieving crew ready to take over the work we’ve been doing all those 82 days. There is a lot more to be done to bring the lady into good shape and get her ready for the future voyages, wherever she may sail.

As for myself and the rest of the crew, I would like to thank you all for keeping up with our stories and photographs and for your continuous support and interest in Europa. She is unique and for all of us like a second home. We all would like to see her sailing again as soon as possible because the ocean is the place she belongs to. Sailing the seas, bringing joy and experience to all curious, adventurous people who have chosen a little bit different, but a more fulfilling holiday. Hopefully, see you onboard someday.


rsimko_DSF2058.jpgrsimko_DSF2058.jpg


rsimko_DSF2079.jpgrsimko_DSF2079.jpg


rsimko_DSF2098.jpgrsimko_DSF2098.jpg


rsimko_DSF2136.jpgrsimko_DSF2136.jpg


rsimko_DSF2196.jpgrsimko_DSF2196.jpg


rsimko_DSF2225.jpgrsimko_DSF2225.jpg


rsimko_DSF2228.jpgrsimko_DSF2228.jpg


rsimko_DSF2258.jpgrsimko_DSF2258.jpg


rsimko_DSF2272.jpgrsimko_DSF2272.jpg


rsimko_DSF2276.jpgrsimko_DSF2276.jpg


rsimko_DSF2416.jpgrsimko_DSF2416.jpg


rsimko_DSF2463.jpgrsimko_DSF2463.jpg


rsimko_DSF2468.jpgrsimko_DSF2468.jpg


rsimko_DSF2508.jpgrsimko_DSF2508.jpg


rsimko_DSF2532.jpgrsimko_DSF2532.jpg


rsimko_DSF2573.jpgrsimko_DSF2573.jpg


Week 11 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF1884.jpgrsimko_DSF1884.jpg

“Epic Low” is back. The North Atlantic had another surprise in store for us. As if the ocean wanted to put us through one last test before we reach our destination. As we were approaching the entrance of the English Channel, we found ourselves in the midst of a low-pressure system, that instantly brought back the memories from the beginning of the voyage, when we were sailing through a similar but much bigger low-pressure system in the South Atlantic. Upon reaching the tropics, we all put away our foul weather gear thinking we won’t need it on this trip anymore. Wrong. The weather outside definitely calls for waterproof gear. We are all wet, salty and gear once again refuses to dry between the watches. Safety lines were rigged on the deck and we all wear harnesses. Sea is much rougher than anything I experienced on the Drake Passage this Antarctic season. Temperatures are of course much higher and thus more bearable but windchill is still cold, especially when standing on the helm for an hour. It is raining and waves are regularly splashing over the deck. The wind is squealing, blowing with a speed of 40 knots, gusting at 50. The ship is rocking and healing as she battles with the swell. An occasional rough wave hits the hull with a big bang making it shake, but she prevails and continues to push forward. Most of the sails are furled, leaving us just with essentials to keep the ship as stable as possible while keeping the speed. It’s pushing us a little bit more south than desirable. The course led us to the Bay of Biscay rather than the English Channel. According to the weather forecast, this was expected.

Even though the weather not very nice (depending on perspective), the sea is spectacular with that high swell, gloomy cloudy sky with occasional sun rays piercing through during the day hours. There is plentiful of sea birds following the ship, such as gannets, the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, fulmars that enjoy the fly-over above our heads, and small but though Willson storm petrels joining the party too. It is all like a beautiful dramatic painting. Earlier in the week, we had another pod of pilot whales joining us for a while. The traffic in these waters also increased. A couple of times we spotted ship lights on the horizon, some expected some not as they didn’t show up on the radar. Perhaps at some point, we are going to need lookout duty, just in case. There is also a higher chance of bigger items floating on the water surface in this area such as palettes or even containers. (yes it happens)

We all feel the land is close, really close. We can almost smell it. In the last couple of days we sailed fast. From the moment we turned off the engines earlier in the week and set the sail when the wind picked up, we are averaging around 8 knots occasionally peaking at 10. That is a very good speed and it brought us to the very close proximity to the English Channel. That also means the end of this voyage is nearing really fast. I think it is going to be a bittersweet end for most of us regardless of whether we wanted to keep going or be already at home. The camaraderie and bonds we forged in the course of this trip are strong. It will be hard to leave all these familiar faces and our small home Europa behind and not feel a little sentimental about it. But we are not there yet, there are still few more days to go and we also have to pass through this low-pressure system first. 

Something tells me that next week’s post is going to be the last one from me. It is going to be the 12th blog. 12 articles, 3 months on the sea. It feels like ages ago since we left Ushuaia and here we are, on the verge of completing this incredible journey in spite of many doubts some people ashore had about our capabilities and experience to do so. Next week we prove them wrong. And now, I am on helming duty steering the ship home. Talk to you next week.


rsimko_DSF1858.jpgrsimko_DSF1858.jpg


rsimko_DSF1922.jpgrsimko_DSF1922.jpg


rsimko_DSF2045.jpgrsimko_DSF2045.jpg


rsimko_DSF2049.jpgrsimko_DSF2049.jpg


rsimko_DSF2058.jpgrsimko_DSF2058.jpg


rsimko_DSF2091.jpgrsimko_DSF2091.jpg


rsimko_DSF2127.jpgrsimko_DSF2127.jpg


rsimko_DSF2224.jpgrsimko_DSF2224.jpg


 C:\DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0800.GPR  C:\DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0800.GPR


 DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0837.JPG  DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0837.JPG


 DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0838.JPG  DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0838.JPG


rsimko_DSF2263.jpgrsimko_DSF2263.jpg


rsimko_DSF2270.jpgrsimko_DSF2270.jpg


rsimko_DSF2287.jpgrsimko_DSF2287.jpg


Week 10 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF1750.jpgrsimko_DSF1750.jpg

Another week has passed. We entered the new one listening to the roaring engines that we finally engaged after long deliberation. Not even day has passed, exactly 22 hours and we set the sails again as winds picked up, and for a while, it seemed, we get a good push ahead. Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long after all. As we have a deadline to keep and economic reasons to consider, Eric decided to turn the engines on again. Winds were not cooperating, weather forecast not really accurate. Seas were calm, a good condition for motoring as the ship doesn’t have to battle the swell, which would slow her unnecessarily down and ultimately make us burn more fuel. Occasionally, when winds picked up, we set some sails again to help the engine with a little bit of a push. It proved to be a frustrating experience at the time as the wind kept making fools of us. Setting all the sails and then taking them away and furl them all takes a long time. We spent one entire watch doing sail handling and then being aloft. In a strange way, it was frustrating but also a satisfying experience. On one hand, we didn’t get the progress we wanted and it kept us from away from maintenance work that is still ongoing, on the other hand, the fun of sail handling and spending time aloft gave us a little bit of real “sailing workout”. We haven’t had much of it lately. Ultimately after few attempts to engage the wind power, we just motor without sails.

We are surely in the midst of a busy area. The number of vessels popping on the radar increased, with few of them passing by in relatively close proximity. Unfortunately, the amount of rubbish we spotted floating on the water surface increased as well. The Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis) is still frequent in these waters. Some of the crew members experienced first hand the stinging power of its tentacles as one of them got tangled in a rope and got pulled accidentally on the deck. Nothing serious though. The whole feel of “Northern Atlantic” is quite different compared to the ocean closer to the Equator. Water seems to be murkier. Temperatures are colder than normal average in this area. Quite often we grab our foul weather jacket when standing on the helm. It can get pretty cold there. Especially during the night watch, when the wind picks up, the chill can get to the bone when not dressed properly. 

At some point, we were about 300 nautical miles away from the Azores, which is the closest we have been to any landmass since we sailed near Falklands. That brought us also an increase in wildlife. A number of common dolphins pop out often checking out the ship. Unfortunately, the Europa is too slow for them so after they checked her out, they disappear quickly. They prefer much faster vessels with speeds of about 20 knots that we cannot reach. We spotted some pilot whales, tuna jumping high above the water surface, arctic terns, storm Willson petrels, and some other bird species. At the time of writing this blog, we are still about 1500 nautical miles away from our destination. So close, yet still so far. We tell ourselves it is like crossing the Drake Passage 3 times and we are there. Sound simple, but the ocean and the weather can be very unpredictable. Also with the motoring, we have to be careful. The amount of fuel left is limited and we still have to run the generators. A lot to think about when the right decision has to be made.

As we are getting closer to our destination, we notice the change of the feelings and emotions among the crew. It is a feeling of uncertainty we are going to face when we arrive. Nobody aboard has any experience with the new “world order”. Some of us are on the ship since the beginning of February and that is a very long time. It far exceeds any quarantine imposed on people by their governments and health organizations. Sadly, after all this time spent on the see far away from our loved ones, most of us will still have to spend 2 weeks in quarantine before we can actually make it home. We have also a hard time imagining how social distancing works in real life. Jokes are frequently flying around about practicing social distancing on the ship while trying to sail it. In all seriousness, it would be close to an impossible task. Once we reach the port, that is the new reality we all will be forced to adapt to it. We are regularly in touch with the office. They are busy at work preparing for our arrival and also trying to figure out how to get us home. As of now, many countries are still on full lockdown. As things are continuously evolving, the situation may change by the time we arrive, and as I mentioned we still have to cover at least 1500 nautical miles. Two weeks? Three weeks? Guess 🙂


rsimko_DSF1702.jpgrsimko_DSF1702.jpg


rsimko_DSF1778.jpgrsimko_DSF1778.jpg


rsimko_DSF1779.jpgrsimko_DSF1779.jpg


rsimko_DSF1783.jpgrsimko_DSF1783.jpg


rsimko_DSF1790.jpgrsimko_DSF1790.jpg


rsimko_DSF1798.jpgrsimko_DSF1798.jpg


rsimko_DSF1814.jpgrsimko_DSF1814.jpg


rsimko_DSF1822.jpgrsimko_DSF1822.jpg


rsimko_DSF1836.jpgrsimko_DSF1836.jpg


Week 9 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF1667.jpgrsimko_DSF1667.jpg

Chasing the wind. This could describe our sailing experience during the ninth week of our voyage. Compared to the old days of sailing we have weather reports at our disposal, but we cannot rely on them 100%. After all, weather prediction is not an exact science. It is what it says it is, a prediction and it may or may not be right. The methods developed over the years got more sophisticated and generally better but at the times they fail. And that was the case during this week. 

There were several high-pressure systems developing over the North Atlantic, that could directly influence our progress. Mid-week, we were sailing almost straight east, but ultimately even though we would end up in an area closer to coast, it would have no wind. On the other hand behind us, another high-pressure system developed, moving the same easterly direction and speed as we did. It promised to bring westerly winds that could help us to get home faster. And here is the dilemma. What you in this situation? Continue sailing in somewhat favorable direction but knowing you end up in a “dead space” or turn around, sail a little more away from your intended destination in the hope you catch better winds that would eventually bring you closer and faster home. We did the latter, wore the ship, and turned towards the west. As crazy as it sounds, it made sense. It was a gamble but as we moved closer to the area where the westerlies should be, they disappeared from the weather forecast and we ended up in a “dead space” we wanted to avoid in the first place. This was not going to work and it becomes clear that this way, we may not meet our arrival deadline to Holland (yes, we have a deadline around 24th June). The use of the engine was discussed several times before, most notably when we were stuck at 21° latitude South or in Doldrums. We kept sailing and eventually the long-awaited winds came around not needing to touch the engine at all. Not this time though. Considering all circumstances and relatively calm seas that favor motoring, we turned on the engines for the first time (not counting the man overboard drill). A happy moment for some, a little bit disappointing for others. But even those in favor of motoring from the start, it felt somewhat sad. We were really hoping to make this trip on sail from start to finish.

The air temperature has dropped significantly this week. The wind is colder as well. It is not a refreshing breeze from the tropics that we enjoyed, but rather a chilly reality that makes us dress up more especially for helming. Putting on shorts and a t-shirt for the night watch is not enough anymore. Although the sun brings much-welcomed warmth during the day hours, prolonged stay in a shade requires an extra layer of clothing.  We noticed a rise in the sea traffic this week with a couple of cargo ships passing by, some quite close to us. And then the icing on the cake, two yachts crossed our path. We had a short conversation over the radio with the crew of Spanish, privately owned Espiritu del Xaray, the first chat to other human beings since we left Ushuaia. Such a small and normal thing got us very excited. Many of us stayed on the deck observing the yacht with binoculars as she slowly disappeared behind the horizon as we continued our “wind chase” towards the west.

There was another kind of “traffic” to be observed on the ocean surface as well. A new species we haven’t seen before on this trip, the Atlantic Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis), also known as the man-of-war, blue bottle, or floating terror. It is mistaken to be a jellyfish but unlike jellyfish, it is not actually a single multicellular organism but a colonial organism made up of specialized individual animals called zooids or polyps. Its venomous tentacles can deliver a painful (and sometimes fatal) sting. Every now and then we can spot some floating in the water. I guess we won’t have a dip in these waters. 

We are starting the week ten with the rumble of the engine, perhaps for another 12 hours, and then, hopefully, we set the sail again and continue our journey the way we prefer it, propelled forward by the wind.


rsimko_DSF1470.jpgrsimko_DSF1470.jpg


rsimko_DSF1479.jpgrsimko_DSF1479.jpg


rsimko_DSF1494.jpgrsimko_DSF1494.jpg


rsimko_DSF1502.jpgrsimko_DSF1502.jpg


rsimko_DSF1518.jpgrsimko_DSF1518.jpg


rsimko_DSF1520.jpgrsimko_DSF1520.jpg


rsimko_DSF1558.jpgrsimko_DSF1558.jpg


rsimko_DSF1570.jpgrsimko_DSF1570.jpg


rsimko_DSF1588.jpgrsimko_DSF1588.jpg


rsimko_DSF1595.jpgrsimko_DSF1595.jpg


rsimko_DSF1606.jpgrsimko_DSF1606.jpg


rsimko_DSF1656.jpgrsimko_DSF1656.jpg


rsimko_DSF1682.jpgrsimko_DSF1682.jpg


rsimko_DSF1685.jpgrsimko_DSF1685.jpg


rsimko_DSF1988.jpgrsimko_DSF1988.jpg

Week 8 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF1384.jpgrsimko_DSF1384.jpg

It’s been almost two months since we left Ushuaia. 8 weeks on the sea, seeing only the vast ocean around, no land no lush green grass, forests no buildings, no other human beings. And also no Internet, that has become a part of our daily life over the last couple of years. It is almost unthinkable not to be connected to wi-fi or mobile data, yet here we are, still alive. The only communication with the outside world happens through a satellite phone. That is also how we get our blogs and photos to you. It is a limited connection but it is a connection nevertheless.

This week we left the tropics and entered the horse latitudes. Here on the ship, we call them “chocolate latitudes”. Why? Before we embarked on this long journey we agreed with Gjalt that we can drink chocolate outside of tropics. The chocolate ban was imposed about 23° latitude South to preserve this tasty beverage for later days and lifted about the same latitude on the north side. Well, it doesn’t really make sense to drink hot chocolate in the tropics, so it is all good 🙂

We had a pretty good run since we left the calm Doldrums. Sailing to the north-west getting around the center of the high-pressure area got us to change the time back one hour. It happened earlier in the week. Now, the winds have shifted so we can sail more to the north, north-east but also winds have weakened and we slowed down yet again. Our speed dropped from 6-7 knots to about 3-4 which isn’t that bad after all considering we are very close or in the center of the high-pressure system, which is not supposed to have any wind. And there is an imminent tropical storm Arthur just around the corner. We might just get a little taste of it and hope to get some wind to push us further. That also means lots of seawater on the deck. And the seawater is a very hungry beast, slowly but surely eating away everything in its path. Even the hardest steel is unable to take on the fight in the long term. Like the one below the deckhouse entry door, a victim of the constant moist air, waves, and spray.  Before the rolling and healing start again with stronger winds, it needs to be fixed. Our engineers jumped on the task of repairing the holes below the entry door to the deckhouse. Damage is quite severe as determined by Eric and the engineering department. The rest of the crew swiftly joined the damage assessment process and we all agreed that necessary salvage steps have to be taken. Pronto. There is no time to be wasted and we extended the noise hours till 10 pm so Sebas could weld and grind to his heart content. 

In the meantime, it is business as usual. As we passed below the Sun we completed some serious amount of work on the ship and we are still going strong. Rust busting, grinding, painting, rig maintenance you name it. There is never a shortage of things to do. I’d say this journey is too short to complete it all. Anyway, the work keeps us busy and days fly by much faster. At the end of the watch, we enjoy a well-deserved rest with a can of cold beer while watching flying fish going airborne in a beautiful sunset setting. Some of them even landed on the deck. Bad luck, we found them only when it was too late to save them.

Yeah, before I forget. Happy birthday Greg. We are lucky that so many birthdays fell into this time period. A birthday cake is always welcome. Gjalt and Emma did a great job once again. That cake was a real morale booster. If there wasn’t any birthday I am pretty sure we would come up with some reason to celebrate something. So, folks, this is it for Europa news this week. Talk to you soon again. We appreciate your attention and comments which we will surely read once we get a dose of wi-fi in the Netherlands.


rsimko_DSF1174.jpgrsimko_DSF1174.jpg


rsimko_DSF1181.jpgrsimko_DSF1181.jpg


rsimko_DSF1191.jpgrsimko_DSF1191.jpg


rsimko_DSF1202.jpgrsimko_DSF1202.jpg


rsimko_DSF1343.jpgrsimko_DSF1343.jpg


rsimko_DSF1213.jpgrsimko_DSF1213.jpg


rsimko_DSF1308.jpgrsimko_DSF1308.jpg


rsimko_DSF1227.jpgrsimko_DSF1227.jpg


rsimko_DSF1264.jpgrsimko_DSF1264.jpg


rsimko_DSF1257.jpgrsimko_DSF1257.jpg


rsimko_DSF1282.jpgrsimko_DSF1282.jpg


rsimko_DSF1289.jpgrsimko_DSF1289.jpg


rsimko_DSF1297.jpgrsimko_DSF1297.jpg


rsimko_DSF1388.jpgrsimko_DSF1388.jpg


rsimko_DSF1428.jpgrsimko_DSF1428.jpg


rsimko_DSF1456.jpgrsimko_DSF1456.jpg


rsimko_DSF1446.jpgrsimko_DSF1446.jpg

Week 7 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF1152.jpgrsimko_DSF1152.jpg

As we are coming to the end of the 7th week on the sea, Europa is firmly piercing the waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the Northern Hemisphere. After a couple of slow days in the Doldrums, we are on our way north again, although wind and high-pressure systems above Northern Atlantic push us little too far to the west. We hope the wind turns around to more easterly direction and we can steer the ship more to the north, sailing around the center of the system. That should eventually take us back to the right course for the Netherlands as we get more north. Progress is being made nevertheless.

As the “Doldrums period” is behind us, our sailing rig remains without change. Courtesy of stable winds. There is a striking difference in comparison to sailing in equatorial calms with light but unstable winds that require much more effort put into sail handling. Constant bracing, setting, and taking down sails never ends. It takes an effort to readjust and tweak the rig to take advantage of the slightest sign of wind. Also, we have to quickly react to any squalls coming our way. Some squall clouds in the Doldrums are spectacular. A wide stream of a rain shower is forming a trunk of a huge “tree” with a thick layer of clouds on top of it branching out all directions into the final shape. Usually, the squall comes with a notable change of wind speed and direction but these Doldrum squalls often come with the rain only, while the wind remains rather calm. It was slow going for a while. Even not going at all which also allowed us to refresh our bodies in the Atlantic waters once again, perhaps the last time. We felt quite jealous while watching cargo ships passing by in rather high-speed fashion (compared to us) as we helplessly stood on the deck starring at flapping sails. I have to take back the comment from my last blog about the “dead sea and lack of wildlife. Three Willson storm petrels proved me wrong as they got confused by ship lights in the dark and ended up on the deck. We kept them in a basket covered with a towel in a dark and quiet place and set them free in the morning, unharmed. These little fellas are pretty amazing, spending most of the time in the open ocean coming to land only for breeding. Though little guys. 

It’s been more than a week since we crossed the Equator and eagerly awaited ceremony was postponed due to illness of some crew members. A much appreciated “Doldrum Appreciation Day” (see Eric’s post) helped everybody to get back on their feet and finally get on with the Equator crossing ceremony mambo jumbo. Unfortunately, I have no coverage of the Equator crossing ceremony. I, a mere pollywog was not at liberty to take any photographs or capture video footage of the ceremony. It’s been an afternoon full of fun, stinky fish, disgusting drinks, dirty liquids of all sorts, and colorful costumes and makeups. I am happy to report that all four pollywogs have been accepted into the Neptunes kingdom and can proudly call themselves shellbacks. Since we love celebrations and cakes so much, we also celebrated Brian’s birthday with a whole set of presents, mostly bags. Rumour has it that Brian loves bags. Happy birthday Brian. 


rsimko_DSF0958.jpgrsimko_DSF0958.jpg


rsimko_DSF0964.jpgrsimko_DSF0964.jpg


rsimko_DSF0972.jpgrsimko_DSF0972.jpg


rsimko_DSF0986.jpgrsimko_DSF0986.jpg


rsimko_DSF1022.jpgrsimko_DSF1022.jpg


rsimko_DSF1075.jpgrsimko_DSF1075.jpg


rsimko_DSF1076.jpgrsimko_DSF1076.jpg


rsimko_DSF1087.jpgrsimko_DSF1087.jpg


rsimko_DSF1121.jpgrsimko_DSF1121.jpg


rsimko_DSF1142.jpgrsimko_DSF1142.jpg


rsimko_DSF1162.jpgrsimko_DSF1162.jpg


Week 6 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF0812.jpgrsimko_DSF0812.jpg

This week we reached our major milestone. An imaginary line that we crossed during the evening hours on the 5th of May put us on the same hemisphere as our home port in the Netherlands. After 6 weeks on the sea, we crossed the Equator. Sometimes it felt, we never reach it. Being held back by weak winds for days left us frustrated, but then, after the wind finally picked up, just in the matter of few days we covered almost 17 degrees of latitude all the way to the Equator. It is one of the five notable circles of latitude on Earth, the other four are the two Polar Circles: the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle; and the two Tropical Circles: the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. As you probably know, the Earth is not a perfect sphere. It bulges slightly at the Equator. This bulge is the reason why Mt Everest is not the highest mountain if measured from the Earth’s center. That title belongs to Chimborazo, (6,263m) in Ecuador. But I digress. It was a joy to see the number dropping so fast. As the latitude came close to zero, we gathered in the wheelhouse and watched it happening on the radar. Our eyes were glued to the screen with GPS coordinates. For a fraction of the time, interesting things happened. At the moment of crossing, people in front of the ship were already in the northern hemisphere enjoying the spring while the helmsman was still on the south in a completely different season, autumn. Of course, the Equator crossing comes with a ceremony, an initiation rite for the sailors that never crossed the Equator on the ship before. The tradition may have originated with ceremonies when passing headlands, and become a “folly” sanctioned as a boost to morale, or have been created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. There are four of us on board that never crossed the Equator but at the moment the ceremony is postponed for a couple of days.

Our lovely galley crew Gjalt and Emma also finally got their well deserved day off. A lazy Sunday on deck in style of Mexican holiday helped them to recharge some much-needed energy for upcoming weeks. That didn’t mean the rest of the crew stayed unfed. Our lovely ladies took charge in the galley and in true Mexican style with a big smile, they served us a very delicious Mexican food. The outfit didn’t stay behind the food in terms of quality:) Good things that happened this week didn’t stop there. I witnessed four engagements since I started to sail with Europa. This week that number increased to five. Congratulations Mille and Greg. An evening glass of sparkling wine after the watch handover sealed the deal.

After the Equator crossing, we enjoyed another day of good winds. It seems we are in busy trading routes. A couple of ships crossed our path recently. Also another Dutch sailing ship Tecla is just 300 nautical miles away from us. Cargo ships were the only signs of any human presence or life for that matter. Even wildlife is scarce around here. A lone bird here and there. Some dolphins are also spotted. But the wildlife sightings are not so common as at the beginning of the trip. Then one day we observe a jet plane flying by high in the sky. After six weeks on the sea, this is the first human activity we see other than cargo ships. Interestingly, after this long seclusion from the rest of the world and all the things that are currently unfolding everywhere a simple sight of a jet plane brings so much joy and even morale boost to the crew.

For the most part, we enjoyed real tropical weather full of sunshine the last couple of days. Now we reached the dreaded Doldrums and we are again at standstill. Frequent squalls with rain replaced the hot tropical heat. Few days of easy sailing with minimum changes to the rig ended and we are busy on the deck with frequent sail-handling drenched in the rain trying to outsmart the wind and get out of this calm area as soon as possible. Our hands are getting rough again taking a beating from pulling wet ropes regularly. Washing the face with these hands feel like rubbing it with sanding paper. Whatever it takes to get some wind into the sails and move closer to our destination (or out of Doldrums), we happily do. Being on the northern hemisphere feels good and after all, we passed the halfway mark of the journey a few days ago.


rsimko_DSF0719.jpgrsimko_DSF0719.jpg


rsimko_DSF0731.jpgrsimko_DSF0731.jpg


rsimko_DSF0740.jpgrsimko_DSF0740.jpg


rsimko_DSF0801.jpgrsimko_DSF0801.jpg


rsimko_DSF0824.jpgrsimko_DSF0824.jpg


rsimko_DSF0828.jpgrsimko_DSF0828.jpg


rsimko_DSF0838.jpgrsimko_DSF0838.jpg


rsimko_DSF0866.jpgrsimko_DSF0866.jpg


rsimko_DSF0868.jpgrsimko_DSF0868.jpg


rsimko_DSF0886.jpgrsimko_DSF0886.jpg


rsimko_DSF0906.jpgrsimko_DSF0906.jpg


rsimko-crossing-1.jpgrsimko-crossing-1.jpg


Week 5 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF0515.jpgrsimko_DSF0515.jpg

Those of us who have already sailed in the tropics say, this trip feels a little different due to the amount of rain we experienced for the last few days. Also, the wind feels let’s say a little “confused”. Not so strong to give us enough speed and the direction keeps changing a lot keeping us busy fine-tuning the rig to make at least some progress or prevent it from pushing us too far from our course. This feels like being in Doldrums also called equatorial calms, that we are expected to sail through. Very still, very quiet and slow.

Good winds are what we lacked for most of the week. What we have enough of are the starry skies. Almost every night we are blessed with a clear view of the Milky Way. It is estimated to contain 100-400 billion stars, almost hard to comprehend. Only a fraction of them can be distinguished by the naked eye, the rest of them come through as a dim glowing band arching across the night sky. It is something we rarely experience in our bright light-polluted cities. On land, there has to be a considerable effort to reach an area that is dark enough to observe this celestial beauty. On the sea, it is a different story. The only light we emit are the dim deck lights and navigational lights of the ship. Everything else is pitch dark and the Milky Way really comes to life. Stargazing is what we do a lot these days, observing the planets with really bright Venus standing out of the bunch. We observe constellations, shooting stars, and passing satellites or space stations. The Moon is also worth talking about. Just a few days ago we observed a beautifully sharp slightly Upward-opening crescent Moon, just like from the opening sequence of the Dreamworks movie. Only the character dropping the fishing line into the water is missing. The creators of that little animation must have sailed in this part of the world. Then in a span of a week, we see it transforming into first-quarter emitting enough light for objects to cast a shadow. Beautiful sunset and sunrises are quite normal in this part of the world. They never cease to amaze us despite having them on display every day. Clouds of various shapes, distant squalls, rain streams and subsequent rainbows just add to the beauty that mother nature is serving to us on a daily basis. 

Life on board is business as usual. Sail handling, maintenance, swim in the ocean here and there, and sleep. Our main concern these days is our speed. At the moment our average speed is about 1 knot below our initial estimate. That puts us currently about 10 days behind the schedule. As of now, we are using the wind as our sole propulsion force and we’d like to keep it that way. There are few things to consider though. Food supplies, and diesel to run the generators are first to come to mind. We are already noticing a decline in fruit and vegetables. Bananas have and oranges have already disappeared from the table, apples are just about to go too. As a result, the use of the engine is being discussed but for now, we are sticking to the wind only, especially that at the end of the week the winds picked up and we enjoy very nice sailing at the moment. Even the “rainy period” has stopped. As we are on the edge of week 6, we enjoy real tropical weather.

Sailing to the Netherlands proved to be a good decision as the latest news from Argentina confirmed a further extension of the lockdown period up until September. I cannot imagine anchoring in port for so long, not being able to fly home. I believe, sailing was the best way out. The last few days have been frustrating with slow progress but at least we were still going. On the last day of April, we just passed the 4000 nautical miles mark and we are reaching an average of 5-6 knots of speed. If the current winds hold up, in a couple of days we reach the Equator, another important milestone. 


rsimko_DSF0528.jpgrsimko_DSF0528.jpg


rsimko_DSF0569.jpgrsimko_DSF0569.jpg


rsimko_DSF0601.jpgrsimko_DSF0601.jpg


rsimko_DSF0625.jpgrsimko_DSF0625.jpg


rsimko_DSF0610.jpgrsimko_DSF0610.jpg


rsimko_DSF0621.jpgrsimko_DSF0621.jpg


rsimko_DSF0486.jpgrsimko_DSF0486.jpg


rsimko_DSF0663.jpgrsimko_DSF0663.jpg


rsimko_DSF0672.jpgrsimko_DSF0672.jpg


rsimko_DSF0697.jpgrsimko_DSF0697.jpg


rsimko_DSF0711.jpgrsimko_DSF0711.jpg


Week 4 – Bark Europa and the unexpected voyage from Ushuaia to Scheveningen

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment


rsimko_DSF0295.jpgrsimko_DSF0295.jpg

Stillness and calm. Almost for the whole week, we are stuck at 21° latitude. “Epic slow”, says Krista our bosun, paraphrasing the title of Eric’s post from two weeks ago about an epic low-pressure system, that helped us to make the most significant progress to date. Referring to our progress, the description couldn’t be more accurate. Those words characterize the weather conditions for most of the week. We impatiently wait for the wind to pick up so we can get going again. It’s been a frustrating few days with very light winds that have been all over the place as if they couldn’t decide which direction to blow from. We hove-to once again to enjoy the waters of Atlantic. A short stop for a swim before the long-awaited winds arrived was a great morale boost. Although swim feels nice and refreshing, we hope we don’t have to stop like this, at least until we reach the Equator. (well, of course, we did) 

Half a day later we are on our way. I am on helming duty taking over the steering wheel from Nat. The night is warm, skies clear, the wind blows decently at about 15 knots and we are reaching about 5 knots of speed. Nice and easy sailing. Then within a span of 15 minutes, the wind picks up to 20-25 knots, and our speed increases to 9 knots. The wind is blowing my ever-growing hair away from the face creating the wildest hairstyle we call “windswept”. It feels like sitting in a sports car and floor the gas pedal. Europa would probably take off should she have wings. Gliding on the water like a racing yacht, she is so fast and healing too much, so we take away some sails to get her under control. Finally. We are moving again. After days of crawling, heaving-to, wearing the ship countless times we are cutting from those latitude degrees again aiming to reach the area of trade winds, the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics. These winds have been used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world’s oceans for centuries. Frequent squalls are often crossing our path requiring to change the sail rig accordingly to keep the speed and ensure safety. Squalls often come with rain and it was a predominant weather feature for a couple of days. For the first time, we spend our free Sunday mostly inside, going out only for sail handling or helming duty. A good time to watch a movie or read a book in the meantime.

The ocean is an unpredictable beast. Good winds didn’t last long at all. As fast as they came earlier, so fast they died out just over a day later. Just like that, and it all happened within one hour on the helm. The phenomenon, that I experienced with monsoon rain. It comes quickly without warning and then it stops as if somebody would close the tap. It is a bit frustrating experience seeing the speed dropping from a nice 6 knots to sub 2 knots. These are the perks of tropical sailing. As the wind conditions yet again force us to take an unfavourable turn to the west, we wear the ship to get her on the right course. It is still a frustratingly slow going though. The only advantage of the current situation is a steady and stable deck that allows us to go through the fire and man overboard procedures during our night watch and then do a full-on drill just before watch handover the day after. During the day it is continuous rust busting and rig maintenance as we wait for the wind to pick up. The heat sets in and sometimes we wish for a little squall with refreshing rain to cool us down. Weather forecasts failed us a few times before, but we hope the promised wind will pick up soon again so we finally can pass that  dreaded 21° latitude. It has been with us for too long. Enough of the “epic slow”, all we want is an “epic go”.


rsimko_DSF0221.jpgrsimko_DSF0221.jpg


rsimko_DSF0233.jpgrsimko_DSF0233.jpg


rsimko_DSF0266.jpgrsimko_DSF0266.jpg


rsimko_DSF0292.jpgrsimko_DSF0292.jpg


rsimko_DSF0343.jpgrsimko_DSF0343.jpg


rsimko_DSF0369.jpgrsimko_DSF0369.jpg


rsimko_DSF0404.jpgrsimko_DSF0404.jpg


rsimko_DSF0426.jpgrsimko_DSF0426.jpg


rsimko_DSF1852.jpgrsimko_DSF1852.jpg