Inside story by a member of the Red Watch

This is my third Atlantic crossing on the Stad Amsterdam. For readers who have not sailed on a tall ship, I have made a few notes on my experience as a watch stander this first week of the three week crossing from Miami USA to Horta, Azores. For passengers, standing watch is not required, but many do participate. I chose the Red Watch from 12 to 4 AM and PM.

Each voyage the ship is the same familiar and beautiful clipper, and old friends are back and there are new to be made, but the weather is ever changing so each voyage is unique. This past week we have been favored with steady southerly winds, mild temperatures, and sun (note to self: bring 2 tubes of SPF 60 versus 1 tube of SPF 30 for the next voyage). Under the leadership of the ship's crew, Red Watch has quickly become a team. Some adjectives that can be used to describe us are as follows:

We lead the three watches in most miles travelled in a four hour watch, 43.17 nautical miles. Red Watch likes to Go Fast.


The Captain briefs us each evening after dinner on the weather and explains the sailing plan for the next day based both on current conditions and predictions from international weather authorities. Our Watch Officer and Quartermaster translate the Captain's orders into tactical sail changes and helm orders during the watch to maximize speed. The rationale for changes during the watch are fully explained to passengers. Red Watch has Skills.


A Red Watch lookout made landfall of Bermuda, our only landfall during the voyage. We passed about 20 miles north of Bermuda. Clear skies on several nights have enabled us to study the location of named stars. Red Watch has keen eyes.


When called upon to "Ease Away, Haul Away" Red Watch scrambles to the lines and chants "Two-Six, Two-Six, Two-Six" while raising or trimming sail. The Two-Six chant comes from the Royal Navy when gun positions 2 and 6 of the six-man gun crew would run out the cannon to fire a broadside. Red Watch hauls away with Gusto.


It was on our mid watch that we approached the western edge of the Abyssal Plain where the ocean depths drop to 5,000 meters. Even though the ancient charts are marked with the warning "Here there be Dragons", we advanced, being careful to check the waters for dragons with the ship's searchlight. No dragons seen. Red Watch is mindful of the ancient traditions.


Mats (Sweden) is our Bridge Officer, Kylle (South Africa) is our Quartermaster, responsible for all of the crew and passengers on the watch. Kylle is assisted by Able Seaman Ferdi (Germany) and Ordinary Seamen Sarah (Canada) and Angus (UK). Both Able Seaman and Ordinary Seaman are internationally recognized certifications. Then there are we six passenger watch standers, all from The Netherlands except for me. During the watch we rotate through 30 minute periods on the helm and as lookout. One of the crew is assigned to galley duty. The remaining crew and passengers handle sails or, when it is quiet, take instruction in sailing theory or marlinespike seamanship. We speak English on watch.

about the author

Mr. Van Ristau - Guest and member of the Red Watch on board Clipper Stad Amsterdam

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of the USA in the 1950's, worked in the offshore oil industry, served on a submarine, and as a civilian have consulted on submarine projects for the navies of several countries. While home ported at Submarine Base New London years ago I would often see the beautiful US Coast Guard barque Eagle across the river at the US Coast Guard Academy and envy their sea time in the wind versus ours below the water. It was not until I saw the Stad Amsterdam in St Maarten a few years ago that I discovered that it was possible to book passage on a tall ship for adventure sailing. It was worth the wait !