Today 47 ARC+ participants were lucky enough to visit the Spanish Navy training schooner, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, at the Gran Canaria Naval base.
2019 marks the 500 year anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe, which was completed by a Spanish Skipper. To commemorate this milestone Spain’s most beloved navy training vessel has started to sail around the world with the motto on her deck "Primus circumdedisti me” (You were the first to sail around me). The boat first set sail in 1927 and is a seasoned traveller, having sailed round the world 9 times already. Las Palmas is their first stop en route to Latin America, which luckily for us, coincides perfectly with the start of the ARC+.
After stepping onto the ship, the first thing you notice is that everything on board seems supersized. Weighing 3770 tons, she is a whopping 113.1 metres long. The huge steering wheel and compass, long thick ropes and huge masts make you feel tiny. Participants met the Navy guide dressed head to toe in his rather smart white uniform. He told us about how it takes 7 turns of the wheel to change the bearing even one degree! We were all particularly impressed by the painter – which was enormous and takes at least 3 people to lift! The 11-man wooden lifeboats on the side were almost as big as some of the multi-hulls in the ARC+ fleet.
ARC+ participants learnt that in the navy they train for five years as Officers, and come on board the schooner for 6 months as part of their training. At the busiest times there are 120 men on board, all living a strict daily regime. You certainly have to pack light to be in the Navy - the living quarters are not luxurious – there are only 2 bedrooms for the whole crew, and the lockers for their personal items are not spacious!
Shown around the deck, we caught a peek in the very smart, wooden smoking room where historically the Commander would come, relax and smoke. A musky tobacco scent arose from the room as our participants’ poked their heads in. Making the way from the stern to the mid ship, and up the stairs to the navigational deck – our Navy officer guide explained that whilst out at sea, watches were split into 4 hours. Two will be on watch at one time, including one navigator and one person to manoeuvre the boat. We stood on the deck with a panoramic view, and noticed there were no windows. Unable to leave during the 4 hour watch duty, during the winter months, our guide explained how crossing the Atlantic and other cooler oceans could be very cold indeed. They have to keep all their layers on deck ready to go!
Once stepping down from the navigation deck, we headed to the huge bow of the boat. The grey clouds just about kept the rain in…and as the tour was finished, our guide and the other Navy crew saluted everyone goodbye in unison.
The schooner will be seeing the fleet off at the ARC+ race start on Sunday, and they are also running a tour for ARC participants on Tuesday 12th November. It is well worth a visit!