Big Masts Big History Big Voyage

Sorlandet stood head, shoulders, and three tall masts above the luxurious cruise liners, and economy boosting oil platforms that were calling Santa Cruz port their temporary home. Even the clear blue skies tinged with the dust of a calima were merely extras in this big picture. Majestic and stately tussled for star billing to describe the Norwegian training ship preparing for its next epic voyage.

I can always rely on the busy port to deliver a pleasant floating surprise or two, but more was to come as Norwegian Stine Elisabeth Bryh invited me aboard. One of the senior full time crew, Stine has plenty of experience of sailing but the international students who will make up most of the 60 strong crew have a steep learning curve to climb, as well as those imposing 35 metre masts. I could feel a gentle rocking motion beneath my feet, and the sea around looked calm but the previous weeks high winds and hints of a big storm had shown how quickly the weather cam change.

Stine told me a bit about the student crew. “They are mainly Norwegian and Danish but we also have some from Mexico, Colombia, and Hong Kong. On our voyage to Cape Verde, Barbados, Bermuda, and Miami they will learn how to set the 240 rope lines, and learn how to set the 25 sails as well as general duties.” Like the many other training ships that pass through Tenerife, the trainees have to pay for their passage as well as work.

The Sorlandet was originally built in 1927 but was refurbished in the early 1980´s after damage in the Second World War and later neglect. It´s one of several ships run by World Academy, all with a remit to teach life skills and team work. There was a pleasant smell wafting from the galley, no ships biscuits then? The wooden wheel up on deck looked daunting but Stine tweaked it with ease, it has the help of a sturdy hydraulic system. At 64 metres long and with a top speed of 14 knots, Sorlandet can cut gracefully through the water.

There was clearly plenty of pride in the mighty vessel, The Viking inspired painting on display translated to “our ears and our strength have given us a white plot” that sounds pretty rousing to me. Hopefully they will have kind seas and plenty of adventures, I look forward to seeing them in port next winter if not before.