More Difficult than I Anticipated – Sailing to Antarctica on Bark Europa

Climbing Aloft on Bark Europa

The training on Bark Europa began almost immediately. Crossing the ocean properly with a square rigger under sail is a team effort and we were encouraged to participate. We weren’t even 30 minutes away from the fueling station and we helped with setting the sails. Enthusiastically, we moved about listening intently to the instructions given to us by the permanent crew. I wanted my adventure to be as much a learning experience as possible and I was eager to participate. Without the internet, we had to rely on the crew for all of our knowledge. Instructions were given for watch responsibilities, basic sail theory, line handling, steering, and navigation. In order to fully participate, climbing the rigging was an essential part of our training. I thought climbing would be the least of my worries since I don’t fear heights and I’m experienced in rock climbing and rappelling. As I made my way up the ladder over the growing ocean waves, I quickly felt out of my element. This was going to be more difficult than I anticipated.Β 

Setting Sails on Bark Europa

On day one, we were given the opportunity to climb the first level of rigging to a platform and then climb back down on the other side. We geared up and trainee after trainee climbed the more than 30 steps and maneuvered over the ledge without hesitation.

I could feel my stomach knotting and my brain starting to question the safety of climbing a ladder on the side of the ship only to reach an angled platform that I needed to get over. Sure I’d be clipped in at the top but slipping or losing my grip wouldn’t be fun even with the harness.

Climbing the Rigging on Bark Europa

After about 12 trainees successfully climbed the rigging, it was my turn. Slowly, I began my ascent. We were told to always have three points of contact on the ladder and to hold on to the black rungs rather than the wooden foot pieces. Every step was more grueling then the one before and my grip got tighter, and longer, with every rung.

Stuck on the Ledge While Going Aloft

I reached the angled platform and needed to climb five more difficult, sloped steps before getting over the edge. I asked for help. I didn’t know where to put my hands. I didn’t know how to get my feet on the angled steps. I didn’t know how to move anymore. I was frozen and panic started to set in.

Going Aloft on Bark Europa

What if I fall on the first day? It will change my entire experience. What if I get hurt and can’t go on? What if I get over the ledge and can’t get down? What if I’m the only person here that can’t do it? All of the questions rang in my head and my hands started to hurt from the cold and gripping too tightly.

I said I wasn’t ready and climbed back down. I was the only person to attempt it and turn around. I was a failure.Β While they were meant as encouragement, all of the positive words were daggers in my pride.Β I quietly moved to the back of the group, took of my harness and went to my cabin to cry.

People often assume that I have no fear because I’ve participated in so many extreme adventures but it’s just the opposite. I try to do at least one thing a day that I fear. I push all of my limits and take control of the situation, but I fear many things and sometimes a task that seems simple becomes way more than I ever anticipated. For most people, climbing aloft wasn’t a big deal. It was as casual as climbing stairs, but that wasn’t the case for me. I struggled with it. Fear won. Luckily, I had three more weeks to try again and find success.

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” —Dale Carnegie

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75 thoughts on “More Difficult than I Anticipated – Sailing to Antarctica on Bark Europa

  1. I love that you write of experiences that don’t go so well- I guess that sounds kind of bad- haha. I think we can all relate to times when we felt like failures, things don’t go as we planned, etc. so it’s nice to hear those experiences. As much as I like to hear about and celebrate people’s successes, it’s nice to find out they are human just like me and not everything is perfect- that’s just in general πŸ™‚ Though, I bet you did conquer that rigging by the end!

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  2. Oh come on, if *I* was there, I would probably die of fear just LOOKING at what I am supposed to climb (I don’t like heights AND depths). πŸ˜€ You did well and you can do even better, if you want to. And also, better be safe than sorry πŸ™‚

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  3. Getting injured while sailing or climbing alone is always my biggest fear, but I constantly remind myself that people were doing this without harnesses hundreds of years ago. Hope you got to try it again.

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  4. Wow, that task sounds really intimidating! We all have our limits and sometimes it takes multiple efforts to conquer our fears. I do have to say that I was gripped to your words, feeling every fear with you, imagining that I was up there too. I’d likely be way more terrified though! There’s that old saying that I use a lot, the more you do something the better you get. I’m sure you schooled that sucker quickly enough!
    Jen

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      • Hi Lesley!
        Yes I have been sailing! Many times over many decades! Never on a big sailing ship, but from boats that were big enough to sleep in, to my Dad’s little laser at our cottage in Georgian Bay πŸ™‚ Last summer I sailed with a friend in her little 2 person boat (just a bit bigger than a Laser) and hope to get out with her more this summer!

        Jen

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        • Sounds like you have lots of water experience. Isn’t it amazing? I think this trip opened my eyes to sailing more. I’d like to get more experience and try something big on our own. Sailing to Antarctica made the last continent even better for me. I’m so glad I chose that way to travel. Is Antarctica on your list?

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          • Yes I’ve grown up in and on the water and actually had a great childhood with a lot of outdoor freedom and many fun experiences.
            Antarcitca hasn’t been on my list in the past, but every time I see somebody’s amazing adventure, I add it to my list! So now I can say that yes, going to Antarctica IS on my list! What’s next on your list?

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  5. I love this post! Good for you, Lesley. It’s so much harder to admit failure than success and yet we learn so much more about ourselves and our world when we do fail, plus it makes us stronger and more determined. Thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to read more.

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    • I didn’t feel stronger or more determined. I felt crushed and exposed. I watched women twice my age climb up like it was nothing. It took me days before I was even willing to try again…. but I did. I’ll share how that one went too πŸ˜‰

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  6. I was so nervous for you as I read, so afraid you wouldn’t make it. Then when you didn’t make it I felt relief that you had sense enough to give up and try again later. Thank goodness you could try again later and that you made it! Life is full of failures and successes! I can’t wait to read the next installment. You’ve got me hooked! πŸ™‚

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  7. Thanks for sharing your story on your fears, that is tough to do, and so strong of you. We all need to know what our fears are, and to challenge them and learn to overcome them in order to succeed in what we want to do. Fear is inbuilt in us as a survival mechanism, and yes, it’s necessary, especially when we are facing down a large carnivore (read lion or similar!!), in our daily lives, we have fears that inhibit our growth, and it’s these that we need to face and overcome. I’m sure you will write more about how you overcame this fear and grew significantly because of that. So again, thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

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  8. It says a lot about your character that we heard about it at all. I know you will more than likely try again and be successful. A lesser person would have just waited and told that story after a success.. Even if you don’t, no dishonor in that either. I am terribly afraid of heights, so if I knew I was going to have to climb the rigging, I would try, only because of the harness, but it would be my decision if I came back down as you did. Plus the mountains you repelled down or climbed up did not pitch and yaw while you were traversing them!

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  9. You travelled by boat to the bottom of the Earth = fearless !! I’ve NOT done things plenty of times and am relieved for it. Our intuition knows precisely what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t. I even think this comes into play when plans don’t work out ~ sometimes the real reason the universe thwarts stuff is revealed later … for me, even decades later. * I can’t wait to hear more about your grand adventure ! *

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  10. I hope writing about it was helpful. I can only assume this story will be followed up by stories of success! You are 100 steps ahead of everyone by merely being out there and trying something like this!

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  11. I know you’ll try it again and win! Just like in one of your posts where I read you were afraid of the activity before. You have much more guts than I do. I probably wouldn’t even try to go up there.

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  12. I know how you feel. I recently was on a tall ship & got to climb the rigging. It was harder than I thought, esp with the constant swaying of the boat. I was first up though with everyone watching & that forced me to soldier on. The view was unique & amazing. I still kick myself for an episode years ago when fear stopped me summiting a volcano but I try to pretend it was my body acknowledging its limitations. Kudos for trying.

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  13. Lesley – No doubt you mastered the task at a later date in the voyage so no need to feel like a failure. As you now know, the sea is a harsh environment and even those that have been on cruise ships frankly have little, if any, idea how harsh the environment really is, especially on a small ship that most likely had no stabalisers.

    Climbing the rigging and making the transition to a platform is a tough skill, especially on day # 1. In my experience, Day 1 would be harness training and climbing a ladder with a double lanyard, so in addition to having 3 points of contact we also had to have at least 1 connection from the harness to the ladder.

    When I was a cadet we got 2 weeks of safety training before even joining a ship. So what you accomplished on day 1, with no prior training, was impressive.

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  14. I know you’ll do it! You know how it feels now and the next time you try it or it might even be the time after that, but regardless, you’ll know what to expect and will conquer it and even if you don’t, you’re still a winner in my book. I wouldn’t have even considered climbing up there.

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  15. You brave soul…even though the experience would enrich my life…I wouldn’t even think of this adventure at least not now in my life. Touche to you for this adventure and to your approach to life!

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  16. As Winston Churchill stated, “Success consists of of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”….Kudos to you for recognizing that you had 3 more weeks to try again and “FIND SUCCESS!!!” Great post, thank you for sharing.

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  17. Great travelogue(s) of a truly fantastic journey. I am sitting here, devouring these episodes of your Antarctic journey and can hardly wait for the next chapter. Reading of your willpower and self-conquest really is a benefit (and so comprehensible for me personally). The little insight into your own moments of doubt really make this whole adventure one thing: all to human and a challenge! Great! Really lloking forward to the next ‘episode’, Leslie! Thanks a lot for letting us take part in this very special adventure.

    Best,
    Jens

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  18. Thanks for sharing your story Lesley, looks like you had a wonderful time. Looking forward to reading more about your adventure. We will be joining Bark Europa on 27 February for the Cape to Cape voyage and I am bursting with excitement. Beautiful photos too πŸ™‚

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  19. What an incredible adventure! I’m not sure I would ever be brave enough to climb the rigging. Maybe you can find something else to do that would be less challenging but as useful.

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  20. “Not today” doesn’t mean “never.” You put a lot of pressure on yourself, but being bold and having adventures doesn’t mean you don’t scare yourself s***less sometimes! Give yourself that “not today,” breathe, and tackle it again another day!

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  21. you are braver than the many of us. just by joining the crew and sail to antartica is an act many of us have yet to dare ourselves to venture into. hang in there. bravery is knowing when to stop and when to continue, regardless what others may think.

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  22. I wouldn’t say you failed. You said you were not ready, so you haven’t given up. You listened to your instinct, and your body also. If rock climbing taught me anything, it’s that it’s always ok to give up on a route when our body and mind is telling us to. And that the route will always be there tomorrow to be challenged again πŸ™‚

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  23. These ships are definitely not a relaxing ride. I spent 10 days on the STS Young Endeavour in Australia and it was the most challenging 10 days of my life – the environment and non stop work, but being cramped in with some incredibly annoying people made it worse! There were some great people onboard of course who I’ll be life time friends with!

    #PiloturBLP

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