All Ship Shape On The Danmark In Santa Cruz

I was scared to stand still in case I was oiled, polished, varnished, knotted, or stowed away in a locker. They’re a hard working and cheerful bunch aboard the Danmark training ship. This was a few days port call in Santa Cruz for the triple mast sailing vessel, on a 9,000 mile voyage from Denmark to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but there was no slacking for the 80 young trainees.

They graciously rolled out the gangplank for weekend visitors and added host and tour guide to their growing list of skills. Several training ships pass through Tenerife with similar values of teaching teamwork, sailing, navigation and social skills, these trainees also got involved in all aspects of the day to day running and maintenance of the steel ship built in Denmark in 1933. It’s an impressive sight to see close up and the number crunching adds to its imposing stature. The ship is 215 feet (74.4 metres) long, 33 feet (10 metres) wide, standing 125 feet (38.6 metres) above the water line, three masts with 26 sails of 1,700 square metres, and 219 rigging lines. As well as the sails there is a 357 KW engine.

The crew are the heart and soul of the ship, there’s 15 full time crew plus the 80 trainees taken on for each voyage. I grabbed a word with a couple of the keen hands. Grunnhild from the Faroe Islands told me in English, the official ships language. “I had been thinking about following my two brothers into a career at sea but have no practical experience so this is a big test for me. It’s hard work but I’m enjoying being part of a big team.”

Mathew from Ireland was also relishing the challenge. “I have sailed on a tall ship in Ireland before but this is a much longer experience, I flew out to Denmark to join the voyage and sailed back past Ireland as we came down over the north of Scotland. It’s going well, we’ve seen lots of wildlife like turtles and I haven’t been seasick so that’s encouraging.”

The trainee qualifications are to be between 17 and a half and 23 years old, have a health certificate, and pass though an interview. Then six weeks craftsmanship training on shore leads to 14 weeks continuous training on the voyage. Education rarely comes free, the whole trip with training costs 3,200 euros and lots of tough, physical work, then at the end they get a certificate as an Ordinary Seaman which will get them entry to a career as a merchant marine. It’s open to anyone who is a EU citizen, whoops that ship has just sailed for some people. Hammocks are the order of the voyage but it was looking very spick and span when I popped down to the sleeping quarters, the wooden lockers and table were gleaming from a good polish.

They do get some leisure time, they are split into two watches, port and starboard, one watch was out on a coach trip around Tenerife when I called and I spotted a smartly dressed group of crew out in the city later on. This trip is the Olympic Voyage as they arrive in Rio for the games and will be promoting Danish industry. By the time they arrive they will have acquired many new skills, a lovely aroma wafted from the galley and the menu offered lasagne, veggies, and salad, not a ships biscuit in sight. Good luck to them all, it certainly seemed a happy ship.

Things were a little glummer across the port, two large Danish oil tankers, Maersk Traveller, and Maersk Trimmer were moored up, one of the Danmark crew informed me they were laid off due to the post Brexit crash in oil prices, a fate shared with many other containers, double whoops, I made my own exit at that point.