Exploring the world by sea is a dream for many but everyday life for others. NAVTOR has supported a young female seafarer on her first voyage with a classic ship across the Atlantic. We got to follow her journey through letters from many exciting destinations.
Elisabeth Lædre Puntervold (19) spent a school year onboard the Norwegian educational vessel "Sørlandet", a fully rigged sailing ship from 1918 operated by students at A-Plus Academy. She embarked on a 10-month journey to southern Europe and the Canaries, crossing the Atlantic to visit several destinations in the Caribbean before returning to Europe.
We were fortunate to receive travel letters with pictures from many of her port calls and the everyday life on board. She talked to us briefly before and after her incredible journey began, and we learned more about who she is and her anticipations for the adventurous year at sea.
-Hi, I'm Elisabeth! I love spending time with friends and family and being at the centre of where the action happens! New experiences and travels have always been an interest of mine. I grew up in Egersund, really close to the North Sea. Before this, I had little experience onboard larger ships. Life as a student at sea was something new and exciting.
My reason for joining a school year on board "Sørlandet" was a wish for something entirely different. Previously I had the pleasure of joining a coastal cleanup project onboard a tiny sailing boat, "Boy Leslie," for two summers. Other crewmembers there mentioned "Sørlandet" and the A+ World Academy sailing school year.
That sparked an interest, and I looked up how to apply. I was accepted and could not pass on the opportunity to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I had great expectations and could not wait to meet new people, make friends and learn the craft of sailing on a sailing ship of this size! Building a community with the crew on board became highly rewarding for me.
When adapting to life on board, the most significant change was getting used to the watch rotation systems, having two or 4-hour watches at night and again during the day. After a while, we got into the routine, and getting up in the middle of the night became easier!
Of all the charming places we experienced, my favourite was the Azores, Ponta Delgada, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What set this place apart was the fantastic nature and volcanic craters. We went horseriding, visited a local ceramic factory, and took great hikes around the island. Another highlight was Grenada - The first sight of land after crossing the Atlantic. We spent time on beautiful beaches, snorkelling around underwater sculptures and went to local chocolate-tasting events. Chocolate products are a significant export from this island.
All hands on deck
Sailing across the open ocean, we also had our share of rough seas and high winds. One time, the officers suddenly called "All Hands" on board. The wind had ripped several sails, and everyone had to help take them down. The rolling waves and the wind made it difficult, but we finally made it and had to bind them to avoid more damage. Even if this felt very dramatic at the time, it was also exciting and a valuable lesson.
Looking back at last year, I undoubtedly loved being at sea. The spectacular sunrises, the sunsets and the marine wildlife we saw were amazing. I could see myself working in the marine wildlife field later in life if the opportunity presented itself.
It has now been a couple of months since we returned home. The voyage took us to beautiful places such as St.Malo, Cartagena, Madeira, Gran Canaria, Cape Verde, across the Atlantic Ocean, Grenada, Saint-Maarten, Bermuda, and the Azores before returning home to Norway. Ten months at sea has been an adventure I will remember forever and a year filled with joys and new experiences but also some challenges!
The crew on board had to learn a lot in a short amount of time! How to live in close quarters with 80 others, be considerate and put others' needs above one`s own. How to sail a fully rigged ship, how to make the most of the wind conditions, steer the ship from the helm and perform various manoeuvres, make or furl the sails, and so much more.
As the saying goes - A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
Attending classes at sea was another challenging part of life on board. We had classes in Visual art, History, English, Geometry, Statistics, Self-system and society, among other topics. Our teachers and classes were great, and it added to the experience that took place on board this classic ship!
Learn by doing - in a team
To any young person like me reading this: I would highly recommend experiencing a voyage like this if you can. You learn a lot about yourself, push your boundaries, and be patient and considerate with your fellow crewmembers. You will face challenging tasks and learn how to solve them better as a team. Life on board builds confidence in a way that is both surprising and rewarding. You get to meet people from all corners of the world and make friendships that will last a long time!
I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that girls were the majority among the student crew onboard. The maritime workplace may still be, in many ways, "a man's world", but the tasks on board, both physically and psychologically demanding, were no more significant problem for the girls than for the boys.
I just wanted to thank everyone who has followed my travels, and it has been a pleasure to send updates back home. I sign off with some images from the extraordinary memories made possible by being on board "Sørlandet".
Disclaimer: NAVTOR Supported Elisabeth financially for her school year with A+ World Academy on board "Sørlandet."
Read more about the A+ World Academy on board "Sørlandet".