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Aboard the Danmark

What do our crew do after signing off the Picton Castle at the end of a long voyage? Well, a great many things. But here is one story.

Chief Mate Michael J. Moreland was recruited by the S/V Danmark to become one of their petty officers. The Danmark is the state sailing school ship of the Kingdom of Denmark training seamen and officers for the huge Danish merchant marine. She is known as the Royal State Danish School Ship, and has been steadily at sea since 1933. During the Second World War after Denmark was invaded by Germany her captain turned his ship and her crew over to the US Coast Guard and gave basic sea training to about 5,000 young Americans. Having built ships for the express purpose before, and with an active small vessel program, after WWII the USCG decided that they had better get back into the business of training under sail again and put the big Barque Eagle into commission. Both ships sail today doing what they do better than any other method, preparing young mariners for a life at sea. The Danmark is about 260′ long, with a rig height of about 133′. She carries about 98 crew and trainees and she is a full rigged ship.

D. Moreland

From Michael Moreland at sea in the Danmark:

Here is final revised log. All is well here, riding the top of a tropical wave, strong trades 25-30, 200nm day yesterday, catching some fish, overhauling the malerum (paint locker), and the sun shone long enough today to spread some paint around. Looks like a nasty hurricane coming up the east coast, glad we’re not there.
That’s all from here for now.

Aboard the Full Rigged Danish State Training Ship Danmark
August 22, 2011,
700 nm SW of Canaries

Sailing along just perfectly since leaving Madeira 7 days ago, steady 20-25 kts right out of the NE, t’gallants and big courses pushing this race horse along at 8-9 knots with hardly a splash on deck. All of the cadets are over their sea sickness and self pity and the extensive orientations are all through now, letting us put them to work and handling the sails. The quartermasters essentially run the deck and get to do all the fun stuff, sail handling and deck work, chasing the cadets around and keeping them in line. A good lot of trainees though. Most keen and follow all the rules amazingly well. It is fun working with a bunch of goofy, young kids, easy to get them motivated. And some of them get a big kick out of trying to teach me Dansk. It’s coming very slowly, but coming none the less.

The transition to English as the working language onboard is interesting in many aspects. All the crew is behind it and I believe, all genuinely glad that I am here help it along, but most of the time the old crew will revert back to Danish amongst themselves when working on deck, which is understandable. However, I think they are all glad to expand their maritime English, as it is the universal language in the shipping industry. It is funny, sometimes, to hear all the trainees running around jabbering in Danish with English maritime words thrown in, as all of the marine teaching has been in English. Overall, I think the decision to switch to English will be viewed favourably at the end of this tour.

The ship lives up to her great reputation and is incredible in every respect. The design, layout, construction, and systems are all top notch and she really feels like a big ship. The rig is immensely stout and powerful, with design and scantlings coming straight from age of sail shipbuilders of the 1930s. It is interesting in that you can see where new things have been added and changed and where the original rig layout is still preserved. What is impressive is that over the years they have been switching to products that keeps reducing the maintenance and upkeep in the rig, which can be valuable for a training ship as it allows more time to teach and train the 80 cadets. Still, plenty of good work to be done up aloft, and we have been enjoying the work while the strong Atlantic trade winds blow.

The organization of the Danmark is very well compartmentalized and good communication is facilitated by the mate and captain. All the crew is given free-range to work in their own areas with little micromanagment. Very good to see new styles. I am getting inspired in a lot of ways, such as teaching and crew management, as well as ship organization. It is refreshing to be teaching hands-on again and I am sharpening the effectiveness of my communications as I am teaching to trainees who don’t speak the best English. Besides teaching, the Bosun and I run the deck work all day and discuss all the ongoing maintenance daily. A good ship’s Bosun, about my age and like minded on proper work and organization. The two other quartermasters have been focusing on work aloft with small groups of cadets, while we have been running the deck work. I have started overhauling all the wire ‘baendsler’ (standing rigging seizings) and will have them all perfectly painted by the time we get to the States. A lot of rust busting, varnishing, painting, cleaning, so on. Nice to have 20 trainees all afternoon. I have also been leading a lot of the sail maneuvers and the commands and tempo I brought from the Picton Castle have been working here nicely. I have been complemented on the fast pace and clarity with which I push the cadets around hauling on ropes, keep them moving. Didn’t try to push my way of sail handling onboard, but was asked several times by the Overstyremand (Chief Mate) to just do it like I am used to.

Keeping my mouth shut about Picton Castle as much as possible, but most crew want to know more. A few ideas thrown out here were to advertise the Bosun School and the next voyage to Georg Stage trainees (the other Danish full rigged training ship) as they will be signing off shortly before then. And some good crew here are wondering about the possibility of joining Picton Castle for the next voyage. All I tell them is to just apply and see. As for the next voyage around the Atlantic, it looks really good. Good route, lots of new places, less miles, more sailing. A good mix of northern latitude European coastwise sailing and sweet trade winds from the shores of Africa to the Caribbean. I am convinced that this kind of Atlantic voyage is the superior voyage for a square rig training ship, not that I am alone in this thought though.

Trying to be more social onboard, as she is a European ship, they like to talk a lot, but hard to join a conversation when you don’t understand what they are saying. All in all, I think it is going very well, and you were right when you said it was just fun, because I am having a blast, and feel beyond honored to work on this age-of-sail full-rigger.

Anyway, hope all is well back in Nova Scotia and you’re having a good summer. Give my best to everyone.


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