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05 Nov 2020 - 'ASTRA' Expedition

Harry Harris, Antonio Vastano, Iain Macneil, John Aitken and Peter Harvey recently travelled on board 'ASTRA'. Here is a piece from Harry about their recent voyage:

"‘ASTRA’ is Witherbys new 24 metre Ice Classed expedition ship. She recently completed an extensive workup voyage from Gibraltar to Lanzarote (Canary Islands) and I was lucky to be part of the small crew that brought her southwards. Along with Iain Macneil, John Aitken and Peter Harvey, I flew out from the UK and joined in Gibraltar a few days before we were due to leave. We met her resident caretaker, Antonio, at the quayside and conducted some final preparations, not least obtaining a birthday cake for Antonio’s first birthday at sea, which took place the following week!

We departed on Sunday 1st November at high tide, stopping to fuel up for several hours before making our way through the great Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic. The distance of the journey was approximately 620 miles and our speed varied between 6 and 9 knots during the course of the voyage, as we looked to arrive in daylight hours for berthing in the Canary Islands. The days at sea were pleasant but we were kept busy, carrying out plenty of small tasks and ensuring we kept 24 hour continuous bridge watches. We divided the 24 hours into three watches, as similar to commercial merchant ships. I did the 12 to 4 watch which for the most part saw little traffic, save plenty of fishing vessels off the coast of Morocco. We were lucky to see plenty of wildlife during the voyage, including dolphins, gannets and even a whale (although I missed that one!). We had a few blustery days with moderate swell, but the ‘ASTRA’ handled well throughout the voyage. As an ex-Swedish rescue ship, she was the ship sent to rescue other ships and, not surprisingly, is quite tough! Antonio kept us well fed throughout, showing us his excellent skills in the galley. He managed to practice some of his ‘Rules of the Road’ (Collision Regulations) with Iain during his watches. John served as our Chief Engineer and kept the Mitsubishi main engine purring throughout our voyage.

ASTRA transiting westbound through the Strait of Gibraltar TSS

We arrived on the morning of Thursday 5th November 2020 on the south side of Lanzarote and headed to the ship's new winter berth at Puerto Calero. Here she will rest up in the warmer weathers, while Antonio sees to her daily maintenance before she is ready for further work come Spring next year. With the equipment fitted, the ship has the ability to expand our technical research in the fields of navigation (in particular ECDIS and radar theory), cyber security, engineering and even rescue towage (she retains that capability!). Beyond that, the ship has capability to go anywhere in the world, from the warm climates of the tropics, to the extremes of the Southern Ocean and as such, she provides an excellent platform for both adventure and for expanding our knowledge of passage planning throughout the world. I was glad to have been a member of the crew for a few days. I am certainly missing the warmer temperatures now that I am back in Scotland!"



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1 Comment

Garry Lavin
Garry Lavin
Aug 12, 2021

I’ve seen Astra moored in Douglas. What is the purpose of the ship? It looked brand new!

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