How to sail home

Datum: 13.03.2024
Position: Western / Northern coast of Cuba
Nautische Position: 23°17’N 083°40W
Etmal: 182nm
Total: 7920nm
Schiff: Pelican of London


Today we made our way around the west coast of Cuba, so from now on the compass will remain between 0 and 90 degrees, which for us means home. And indeed, it’s not hard to grasp a going-home-vibe amongst the inhabitants of the Pelican.

This does not mean that we are waiting to come home, we are still enjoying our time at sea, among the wind and the waves of the last bits of the Caribbean Sea. But many people are starting to write lists on what they are looking forward to, especially including food.

How we are getting home: The currents

At the moment, we are still heading pretty much north, because (similar to the first Atlantic crossing) we will use the help of mother earth (the gulf stream) to carry us back to Europe.

The impact of currents can be overseen quite easily: It’s not as obvious as the Passat winds, but when you see the course varying from our heading, when you notice an additional half a knot or if you suddenly measure a much higher sea water temperature, then you know that you made your way into one of the most powerful sources of movement found on earth.

The winds in our sails

Most people would probably think square sails to be the most important sails on a tall ship. And that’s not completely wrong: They are huge sails, most often the largest sails on a tall ship and especially for aft winds (like we had them on the first Atlantic crossing) really effective.

This is because they work mostly on impulse forces; forces that push from behind the sail, giving us a forward impulse.

This is all fine if you have wind from astern, but if you want to sail closer to the wind you’ll quickly notice the disadvantages of a square sail:

1. Sideways push: When you have wind from the sides, it pushes you sideways of course, even if your heading stays the same

2. Shifted point of effort: The point of effort is basically the turning point of the ship relative to the wind. You can think of it to be the point where (for your wind direction of interest) you could hang up the Pelican on a yarn so that it would stay in a state of equilibrium. The problem is now that if that point is because of the large sidewards squaresails, behind the actual middle point of the ship, it forces the ship to turn its nose into the wind. And with your nose in the wind, you can’t sail.

3. Limited range of courses: You simply can’t sail any closer to the wind than about 70 degrees.

4. Hardly any lifting force: Besides the impulse force there is a force even stronger which is called lifting force. It’s a hydrostatic force which works similar to what happens on airplane wings. Because of the shape of the sails the air travels faster on one side than on the other, creating a pressure difference that pushes the ship forward.

And that’s why fore and aft sails are so important. They have strong lifting forces, are needed to control the point of effort and you can sail as close as 30-40 degrees to the wind.

Furthermore they are very helpful in stabilising a ship, also under engine.

So to get us back through different winds, back to the coast of Amsterdam, without having to have steady aft winds we need our pretty for and aft sails.

The steering

Even though it would be technically possible to sail back, without ever touching the helm, just by moving the sails, practically we need our helm. Our steering works on hydraulics: The turning of the wheel pumps water (according to our engineer) through a hydraulic system building up pressure that turns our rudder.

The turning of the rudder changes its water stream direction, which then steers the ship. The efficiency relies here on the speed of the water stream and the angle of the rudder. This is why for lower velocities you need more helm.

And it is also part of the reason for a time delay between steering and the ships movement especially when steering backwards.

What we learned

Those are only some of the ingredients that we have to learn about, that we have to understand and deal with to become able to sail. There was much more for us to learn on our way till Cuba and there will be even more from here on over Bermuda and the Azores back to where we started almost five months ago.

Schülerin im Klüvernetz

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Sustainability on Tallships

Datum: 30.12.2023
Nautische Position: 16°52’931N 25°00’386W
Etmal: 0
Total: 2870

Contradictory to what we state most of the time when it comes to sustainability, is the intrinsic motivation of sustaining our ecosystems, our sea, our earth merely or at least mainly an attempt of sustaining mankind itself. Because the ability to sustain our species is highly dependend on our planet, our ecosystems, our biodiversity and of course, the health of our seas:

Not only are we dependend on the great impact on the CO2 circle, the temperature regularing effects of the streams, it is highly possible that our sea and its species contain genetic data for curing the next epedemic disease, finding technological solutions…

But in how far do we contribute to sustaining a habitable planet? How sustainable is sailing really?

Because, at first sailing seems highly sustainable: Using the power of the wind.

And indeed; the idea of sailing as a sustainable way of moving is not entirely wrong. This is not only because of the way we make our distance but also considering our lifestyle. We consume less water (about 2tons per day for 47people) than the average. We also consume less energy, since our generators couldnt suply a tremendous lifestyle.

We are forced to lower our energy consumption, but that is quite easy because much of our at home, highly energy consuming activities, cannot be exercised on the Pelican anyways. We are 47 people on a really small space, which reduces our energy consumption a lot. And space effiency doesn’t only effect the consumption of energy: Space itself is a precious recource, especially in cities. Every citicen of a city puts a lot of pressure on the already overloaded traffic networks, the canalisation or the garbage system. Lastly, because of Ocean College, our food is of higher quality, though still wrapped in plastic.

But on the otherhand, tall ships (that is what every crewmember told us so far) have a much better image than they are in reality. Ships don’t work on benzin but on diesel which has (since it contains only heavy oils) higher CO2 and contamination emissions. The diesel that we burn contains approxametly twice the energy we need, because our engine only has an efficiency of roughly 50 percent (and it already a new one).

All of our energy is generated by generators running on benzin, creating large amounts of CO2.
Another point is the garbage disposal, we cant store all of our foodwaste (we are producing lots of foodwaste), so we dispose it directly into the sea, the same with our sewage that is (after it gets the same treatment as our greeywater) lead into the sea.

In general, we are following the legal requirements of e.g MARPOL (Marine Pollution Regularities, a set of laws about garbage, hazards etc) but they are, because of economic reasons, not that effective for protecting the sea.

One example of an outdated requirement is a minimum amount of meatdays a week. That comes from the fact that back in the days seafare companies provided low quality food for the seamen, which led to new laws.

In conclusion, eventhough sailing is in general a sustainable principle and it can be done as a sustainable life, tall ships are not as sustainable as you would probably think them to be. There is still room for improvement and I hope that sailing on tallships will become more sustainable over the next years.

Note: Dear parents, there have been rumors that there has been a lot of hair cutting going on the last few days. So from now on, every day, we will reveal one student, watchleader or teacher with a new look. So, dear parents, keep a close look on the next daily reports to see whether your child is among the happy not so few.

P.S. von Greta: Liebe Matti, alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Ich hoffe, Du hattest einen sehr schönen Tag und einen leckeren Kuchen🎂😋 Lässt Du mir ein Stück rüberwachsen?👀 Hab‘ Dich lieb!

P.P.S.: Ganz viele Grüße nach Hause, an meine Familie, meine Freunde, die Südallee und meine Klasse!
~ Karoline

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A Fire Drill with Audience

Date: 12.11.2023
Position: Vigo, Port
Geographical Position: 42°14.6 N 008°43.5 W
Etmal: 0
Total: 778,9 sm
Ship: Pelican of London

Fotoaufnahme von Vigo - Blick auf den Hafen

Moment of Remembrance

Yesterday was the 11th of November. On this date at 11:00 am all British ships commemorate the people who died in the first and second World War and all other people who died in the act of war. That is why the whole crew of the Pelican gathered at 10:45 on the well deck. Ben, our captain, wore his full uniform and everyone was welcome to wear a poppy clipped onto their shirt.

The captain held a short speech in which he mentioned the history of this special day and the current situation in Ucraine and the Middle East. Shortly before 11:00 am, all of us where silent for two minutes to remember all the victims. It was a moving moment to see everyone lost in their own thoughts, quiet, or praying.

Fire Drill

A few days ago, a bunch of new professional crew members joined us on board. Ben, our captain, Ali, our 1st mate, Hannah, our 2nd bosun’s mate, Steffan, our medic, and also Margo, our cook. All of them have not done a fire drill since they rejoined on board. So it was time to have another emergency training.

For practice, we pretended a fire started in the bosun’s store. With fake smoke the smoke detector was turned on and the general alarm started after the fire detection was confirmed. All students went to the poop deck to muster in their watches and to be counted and reported by their watch leaders.

The fire-fighting party

Gonzo, our 2nd mate, and Jakob, our 1st bosun’s mate got dressed in their fire-fighting equipment while the watch leaders helped out with boundary cooling by using the fire hoses. For reasons of training, we practiced the situation where the fire went out of control. So the captain gave the command to abandon the ship. Everyone had to put on a life jacket and the correct fitting of it was checked by members of the professional crew. Because we are still in the port of Vigo and this port is nicely located next to the city center, we had lots of audience during our drill.

Many people were standing by the quayside watching us practice. Also, the sunny and warm weather brought lots of families and other people out for a walk along the quayside. We completed this drill by storing away all life jackets, fire hoses and fire-fighting equipment properly. Afterwards, the professional crew discussed all things that went well and those which should be improve next time.

Safety Equipment on Board

On board of the Pelican is alot of safety equipment for all different cases of emergencies. The most dangerous situation on a ship is to have a fire. Therefore, we have special fire-fighting equipment. For example special jackets, trousers, hats, and breathing systems for the fire party, which will fight the fire as best as possible. We also have four fire hoses, which can be connected variously for use in different places.

Therefore, we also have different nozzles specialized for fire-fighting or boundary cooling. Emergency fire pumps ensure the supply with salt water for fire-fighting. Many fire extinguishers are located all over the ship. We have three different types of fire extinguishers: water, foam, and CO2. The Pelican provides 59 life jackets and 49 immersion suits that are stored in two boxes next to the wheelhouse. Aditionally the Pelican offers four life rafts with space for 100 people.

The SART and the EPIRB are located at the wheelhouse. Both are important tools for communication in emergency situations. For example if we had to abandon the ship. In this case we would be found by the marine center and other vessels, because these tools send out radar signals. Also, the ship has many different radios that secure communication on the ship at all times. For example, the fire party is connected to the 1st mate, who is running the operation with a radio during the whole time. All in all, the Pelican provides various types of emergency equipment to be well prepared for any case of emergency at all times.

Grüße von Anna B.: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Ranchen. Ich hoffe, Du hattest einen tollen Tag. Hab‘ Dich lieb 😚

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Briefing, briefing, briefing

Datum: 24. Oktober 2023
Position: Sharpness Dry Docks
Nautische Position: 51°71.671 N, 2°47.314W
Etmal: 0 zurückgelegte Seemeilen
Schiff: Pelican of London

Erstes Mal heads & showers

Heute ging es nachdem Frühstück direkt zur laundry area, um von da aus eine sehr motivierte erste Putzschicht der Royal watch zu beginnen. Alle Bäder haben einen ordentlichen sweep und wipe bekommen, natürlich mit bunten farbkodierten Tüchern. Denn wer möchte gerne mit einem Toilettenlappen seine Tasse spülen. Hygiene spielt auf einem Schiff, auf dem fast 50 Menschen auf engstem Raum leben, eben eine wichtige Rolle.

Kinder im Messroom spielen Uno

Briefing: Living on board, safety & emergency

Als wir gegen 0940 alle im messroom versammelt waren, erklärte Tasmin, unsere 1st Mate, den SuS alles über das Leben auf der Pelican: Wie wird richtig geweckt? Was sind points of contact? Was ist wichtig im Umgang mit Waschmaschine und Trockner? Wie wird hier der Müll getrennt? Was ist mess duty?
Nach diesem ersten Briefing ging es auch gleich weiter mit input. Im safety & emergency Briefing erklärte Tamsin zum Beispiel was der Unterschied zwischen einer „ladder“ und „stairs“ ist. Außerdem erklärte sie die Prozedere für die emergency situations „fire“, „abandoned ship“, „knock down“ und „man over board“.

Vier Stationen

Nach der langen Zeit des Sitzens, waren wir alle froh darüber uns etwas bewegen zu können. Dies sollte in Form von vier verschiedenen Stationen geschehen, die von jeder Watch im Laufe des Tages durchlaufen wurden: Tamsin machte mit uns eine Tour durch und über das gesamte Segelschiff, in der sie alle vorhandenen Sicherheitseinrichtungen erklärte.
Mit Connor, unserem Bosun, stellten wir unsere Harnesse (Sicherheitsgurte) passend ein.
Tobi teilte uns alles zu den Tagesberichten mit. Wann werden Berichte auf Deutsch, wann auf Englisch geschrieben? Welche formalen Vorgaben müssen erfüllt sein? Welche kreativen Freiheiten werden uns gelassen?
Gonzo, unser 2nd Mate, zeigte uns die grundlegendsten Instrumente, die für das Steuern relevant sind. Außerdem erklärte er, was beim Lookout besonders zu beachten ist und wie wir entsprechend reagieren sollen.

MCA check

Der Tagesplan geriet etwas in Verzug, da der obligatorische MCA check durchgeführt werden musste. Eine Person einer offiziellen Einrichtung für Schifffahrt kam an Board der T.S. Pelican of London und überprüfte, wie die professionelle Crew in einer Notfallsituation agiert. Dafür wurde ein Brandfall in einer der cabins mit einer verletzten Person simuliert und der general alarm ausgelöst. Alle Schüler kamen schnell auf das poop deck und sammelten sich in ihren Watches. Schwimmwesten wurden angelegt und die fire party (zwei Personen der professionellen Crew, ausgestattet mit Feuerwehrausrüstung) machte sich auf den Weg, um die imaginär verletzte Person zu retten und das imaginäre Feuer zu löschen.
Der Check verlief insgesamt sehr gut. Alle wussten, was sie zu tun hatten und der MCA war zufrieden.

Letztes Briefing

Nach dem Abendessen fanden alle Laptops und iPads ihren Weg in eine große Kiste bei den Lehrern. Auch wurden alle eReaders und mp3-Player kontrolliert. Alle Schüler und Watchleader bekamen ein Armband mit der Projektleiter- Handynummer. Die erste harbour watch ging auf ihren Posten und alle anderen in ihre cabin, um nach diesem anstrengenden Tag so viel Schlaf wie möglich zu bekommen.

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Essen an Bord

Datum: 23.10.2023
Position: Sharpness Dry Docks
Nautische Position: 51°71.671 N, 2°47.314 W E
tmal: 0 zurückgelegte Seemeilen

Frühe Ankunft

„Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm“, heißt es ja so schön, doch als unser Tag heute mit einer Weckung um 03:00 Uhr begann, war es erst einmal eine große Herausforderung, aus den Federn zu kommen. Anlass hierfür war die Ankunft der Schüler und Schülerinnen, die wir freudig erwartet haben, damit endlich auch die Ocean College Reise 23/24 mit allen starten kann.

Nachdem endlich auch das letzte Gepäckstück seinen Besitzer gefunden hatte, wurden die vier Watches Course, Topsail, T‘Gallant und Royal erst einmal in zwei geteilt. Abwechselnd wurde dann ausgepackt, das Watchsystem erklärt, medizinische Hintergründe besprochen und einfach ein bisschen kennengelernt.


Nachdem auch das Mittagessen abgehakt wurde, konnten wir unsere Muskeln unter Beweis stellen. Ein ganzer LKW an Nahrungsmitteln hatte den Weg zu uns gefunden und dieser wurde mit viel Teamgeist und Elan auf das Well Deck entladen.

Das dadurch entstandene Chaos stoppte aber nicht den Tatendrang und die Hilfsbereitschaft. Auch das letzte Bisschen ist irgendwo in den Tiefen des Schiffes verschwunden.

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