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We are Back to School!

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Remembering what it means to study hard, but this time, moved by a mission that touches our heart

Picture with pirates at school; Katje: our "garden ship"; study time in the library.

One month and a half ago we arrived in Enkhuizen, a small and very picturesque city in the Netherlands. We left Brazil and ended up here with a great mission: to study in the Enkhuizer Zeevaartschool (Enkhuizer Nautical College). Why? To prepare ourselves for the next step of our dream, being able to sail the world and offer our unique transformative experiences abord tallships.

Enkhuizen and its traditional flat bottomed ships (we live in one of those now)

We are students of the KZV course, the "Kleine Zeilvaart", which in dutch means: "Small Sailing". But honestly, from what I have experienced so far, there is nothing really "small" about this. They also offer the "big" course, called GZV ("Grote Zeivaart"), which is the second and highest step, for the ones willing to become Chief Mates or Master of big sailing vessels with no limitations. But let`s talk about our small-big course.

We found out about this school a few months ago, right after we sold our boat Mintaka. We tell this story on another blog post. When we applied for the KZV, we didn`t really know where we getting ourselves into. We were mainly being moved by our dream.

Sometimes it is good to take spontaneous decisions, that completely change the course of your life.

I guess if someone had told us how much we would have to study, I am not sure if we would have come here. Christof and I love learning new things, but don`t particularly like studying in the traditional way.

For both of us, it had been very long since we last sat at a "normal school desk".

Check out how it looks like:

Our first day at our sailing school

The first time I entered that classroom on the 7th of October at 8am, I really felt like a little child coming to school for the first time. That same adrenaline of starting something new, the curiosity of making new friends, the excitement of learning new things, the little nervousness of being in a new place.

I feel very grateful to be here.

By now, we already had more than one month of school and honestly, it has been more intense than my four years of University. The study load is quite intense and demanding. But the difference this time is that I actually enjoy studying:

Mainly because I see a purpose in what I am doing.

I remember the first day of school, when the director advised us: "During your studies, always remind yourself of your goal. Why are you here? This is what will keep you committed and motivated to keep on moving and studying".

I can smell the ocean breeze. I can feel the waves touching the hull of our ship. I can hear the sound of the pressure pot cooking beans in our galley, while crossing the Atlantic. I can see us soon entering Brazilian waters, about to sail up the Amazon River to start our first expedition to learn with traditional indigenous tribes.

This is just one version of our dream. Of the reason why we are here. The dream of creating a radical learning space aboard tallships to practice and share a culture based on love.

I inhale deeply and come back to the present moment.

I look around this so-called Zeevaartschool and feel privileged.

This school was founded in 1978 and is supposed to be the best (maybe even the only) school in the world for traditional sailing. We are like in the "Harvard of the Seas". I prefer to call it "The School for Modern Pirates". The good pirates, of course - like you and me.

With the KZV proof of proficiency, depending on time spent at sea and a medical test, we are entitled to a Certificate of Competence for:

  • Captain of Commercial Sailing Vessels <500 tonnes (limited sailing area)

  • (Chief) officer sailing vessels <500 tonnes (unlimited area)

The subjects grade for the "Kleine Zeilvaart" is:

- Navigation: use of nautical charts, directions, distances, bearings, coordinates, coursework, compass error, position fixing, tidal movements; - Nautical Instruments: compasses, bearing instruments, logs, depth measurement, radar, GPS, AIS; - Meteorology: Synoptic charts interpretation, pressure systems, local weather phenomena, clouds and wind; - Practical Navigation: chart reading, plotting, light characteristics, buoyage systems; - Ship building: ship construction, safety equipment, drawings, maintenance, docking; - Ship Manoeuvring and Seamanship: propulsion, rudder, watch keeping, anchoring, heavy weather, MOB, IAMSAR; - Collision Regulations (COLREGS) for oceans and inland waterways; - Maritime law: purpose, legal stipulations, shipping inspection, role of the captain, contracts and working times; - Marine propulsion engineering: engines, propulsion, auxiliary systems, electrics, technical drawings; - Medical aid at sea: Radio Medical Advice, patient treatment, medical rules, basic life support, injury treatment, infectious and tropical diseases, evacuation; - Basic stability: Introduction to Hydrostatics and Stability of Surface Ships; - Maritime English: Standard Marine communication phrases, reading and understanding nautical publications; - Sailing Theory: Fore- and aft rigged vessel types, standing/running rigging, construction, sail fixing, setting and dousing, reefing, trimming, materials, wind characteristics, sail plan, manoeuvring.

Books and material for the semester

Our teachers are incredibly good, which makes things even better.

Eef, for example, our teacher for "The art of navigation", who also teaches Astronavigation for the GZV, is so passionate about what she is teaching, that I get energised after her classes. She is a very skilled and experienced sailor, and unlike most of the modern sailors, she really believes in the importance of learning how to navigate without the use of electronics. I love that!

On her first lesson, she told us:

"I know you guys only need a 6 to pass the exams. But when you are out there at sea, if you make 4 mistakes out of 10, you might sink. Therefore, I am here to share all I know and do everything I can so that you can get a 10 and become incredible sailors."

That was a mixture between intimidation and a boost of motivation.

I prefer to stick with the second one.

Eef explaining about Course Corrections

Besides the KZV, we are also doing the BOSUN (Bootsman) course.

This is a very practical course with essential nautical skills and general knowledge of ship maintenance.

The course covers the following subjects:

Ropework: making and understanding the most common knots on board;

Splicing: the art of connecting ropes

Sail repair​: repairing sails using a sewing machine or by hand;

Rigging theory: insight into the construction of rigging; forces in the mast; blocks.

Practical rigging​: climbing in the "Kaatje" (the ship we have on our school`s garden"); where to look for wear and tear in spars, fittings and ropes.

Spars and woodwork: construction and maintenance of spars; identifying weak spots.

Welding: principles of welding

Steel wire: steel wire on board; splicing; using clamps.

Paint systems: which system can be used for what; preparation and maintenance.

Boatswain's practice: modern ropes; winches; knowledge of materials.

Pretty much a little bit of everything that is practical and needed aboard.

Check out some of the fun stuff we have learned so far:

Rope splicing, fixing sails, welding, rigging and steel wire splicing

On our last day of Bosun, we practiced climbing the mast of Katje, and besides the weather (it was freezing cold), we loved it so much! It was our first time doing that. Of course it is a little bit different to work aloft if the boat that stands still on a garden, instead of doing the same while sailing out there in the ocean. But still, this is a wonderful way to practice, exactly because it is not moving at all, which makes it less scary for us - beginners.

Climbing the mast of Katje

You know the feeling of being in the right place?

That`s how we feel here.

This last month has been a bit overwhelming with so much new information and changes, but now I feel we finally anchored and arrived. We are constantly surrounded by sailors and old ships, which makes us very inspired and even more connected to our dream.

Talking about sailors and old ships, one of the things we have done here in Enkhuizen besides school was participating on the Klipper Race, on our very first weekend here. This is a traditional race that happens since 1975, and it`s absolutely fascinating! Klippers are traditional and fast ships that have a flat face, a nice butt and side swords. They look cool and sail beautifully.

Out of a spontaneous act while jogging on the harbour, we knocked on the hull of the ship Bontekoe (the colorful cow) and asked the captain Niels if we could join the race the day after.

He said yes.

Cold wind, sunny day. Pulling ropes, watching out to not loose any fingers, learning a lot and having fun.

That was the second time we have ever sailed on big ships. The first time was during the Wilhelmshaven Cup, read the story here if you want.

OMG! It is SO different to sail this big girls! I mean, ladies.

The art is the same, of course: sailing.

But the sizes, weights, forces and pressures on this big ships definitely play in another league.

We want more.

And that´s why we are here.

A happy Raíssa

That was the perfect Enkhuizen welcome ritual.

Soon is winter time and the first exams are coming. Life is giving us the opportunity to establish rhythm and commitment, learning how to combine studies, work, sports, health, leisure, and love moments into our weekly planing. This is wonderful.

Even better to be able to do that next to the one we love.

Chasing dreams. Making them real step by step.

Christof and I discovering the city when we arrived in Enkhuizen

Ships here. Ships there. Ships everywhere.

We also live on a boat: this time, a bit bigger than our beloved Mintaka.

We are living together with 4 more amazing people, also students of the KZV, aboard one of the traditional dutch "Flatbottomed Ships" called Zuid Holland.

Our new home for the next months: the Zuid Holland.

We are 6 together. Daan from Belgian, Katha from Germany, Fenneas from the Netherlands, Jan from Germany, Christof and I. There was also Power Peggy living with us, but she unfortunately moved to another ship. Peggy by the way has a super cool podcast and blog that will give you some inspiration boost, check it out here. And there is of course Nikki and Tossing, our lovely captains.

Living as a little community aboard has its challenges (like every other community life), but definitely many beauties and advantages. We all share all tasks, we study together (we made card games to make the study time even more fun and efficient), we cook, make music and also respect our individual time and space (very important).

At home with our new family, our winter provision of grains, and music improv session.

We even made a nice healthy provisioning for winter, buying organic 25kg of oats, rice and mung beans, to continue our Ayurvedic diet with nourishing kitchari and porridge almost every day. Practicing for life at sea, you know.

Our boat family also joined us in the first market we participated in, which took place in Amsterdam two weeks ago. We went to the Sunday Market in Westergas. It was raining like craaazy, but we had LOTS of fun and most important: shared our message through art and love with the people there.

The whole pirate team spreading art and love in the market

We also made a super cool upcycled wheel of fortune to engage with the public. You could win a hug or a kiss, a gift made by us or even a shot of rum.

That was definitely the first from many markets for us!

Have you ever checked our Dream Store? Click here to discover our handmade pirate artefacts

We can`t wait to get back at sea.

And if you are there wondering: "well, just studying does not make you a good sailor".

You are right!

That´s why when our school is over (mid of march 2023), we still need 180 days at sea and fill out our Taskbook in order to get our certificates.

I guess next year will be very salty and exciting!

We might even charter a Tallship and do our first Pirate experience on a big ship.

Keep your eyes and heart open. We will share everything here with you.

By now, let`s get back to study, because in 5 weeks from now we have our first exams.

Meteorology, Marine Engineering, Stability, Maritime Law, COLREGS and Nautical Instruments: here we go!

Thanks for sailing along, pirate!

Big salty kiss and hug


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