Antwerp - Ireland - Antwerp

- by Ward Hulselmans

- Tuesday 21 May 2019

7:00 in the morning. Along my porthole goes Land's End. Last night we crossed the Celtic Sea from top to bottom. Thanks to a sun right on the bow, the rocky tip of England is visible this time.


So we sail into the Channel and soon all view on land is gone again. There is a reasonable swell with waves of 1.5 meters with white foam heads. We sail at 17.5 knots.


For breakfast Ramon made pancakes. Thick flaps of dough that don't look like anything and don't taste like anything. So I put a grip between the bottles of sauce, mustard and gherkins and spread a thick layer of Nutella over the yellowish slices. This way they slide nicely inside. I take the inevitable cup of ginger tartare with me to my cabin, where I update this diary and then fall asleep again.

This will be another day in which nothing, nothing at all, can be experienced. It's a wonderful prospect. Thanks to the limitations of this ship, I am slowly beginning to know the ins and outs of the dolce far niente.

"I think of the wise words of my boat friend To do nothing is an art. But you can learn it."

A fresh strong wind blows on the port wing of the bridge. Inside, the captain is sunk into himself, his laps. Once in a while he writes something down. Does he keep the ship's book or does he count his steps? The wind gets icy and the sun doesn't warm yet.


She only creates an endless silver shimmer on the water. Once in a while we cross a tiny fishing boat that sets out buoys. That's how the hours slip by. The water is now bright green.


There's laughter underneath me. One deck down Rey Mark and Dennis, plus two more unknown Filipinos rusted away and painted them bright white again. Everything is going well.


For lunch there is Spanish omelette with belly bacon on the menu. I let the bacon pass me by. I twist the omelette, which is full of vegetables, between two slices of Polish bread and whip some sausage between them. Thus the first and only Elbfeeder sandwich is born. Yummy!


Then I look for the sun again. Watching this water remains fascinating. Last night I photographed from this spot the sun setting in an orgy of colours on the clouds: yellow, gold, red, purple, the whole postcard palette.


Today the sky is bright blue for the first time, nowhere a trace of clouds. The horizon is razor sharp. The water is as smooth as a mirror. There is a feeling in me that gives me goose bumps.


What I see is the summary of all the expectations of this trip: a dark flat water, a line of horizon, a light blue box of sky. Grey - stripe - blue. Nothing more than that. Everything superfluous is gone. Nothing clouds, colors or waves, everything has been reduced to its essence: grey - stripe - blue. It is enough. It is absolutely satisfying and soothing.

"Zeppos is right. This kind of journey fulfills man."

And more than ever, I understand abstract painters. I see Malevich's supprematism when, in his search for the essence, for the summary of everything, he arrives at his "Black Square" on a white background. Nothing more than that, a painting of a black square. A kind of grey-stripe-blue.


He had achieved his goal, but no one understood. Perhaps he came too soon, the fate of many visionaries. It was then 1915... Years later Malevich said: "The square was incomprehensible and even dangerous for criticism and society, and that was to be expected.


Grey-stripe-blue. William Turner sometimes painted the sea in similar horizontal planes. "Three Seascapes" (1827) shows twice the sky and three times the sea; if you turn the painting upside down, it is still true.

And then there's Mark Rothko with his horizontal planes, and... and...

Grey-stripe-blue. If I remember anything about this trip, it's this.


Captain's announcement. Tonight we leave the wide water and the Elbfeeder sails into the Oosterschelde. At 4 o'clock the river pilot comes on board and after arrival in Antwerp I have to leave the ship before 10 o'clock in the morning. The end of the adventure is approaching.


I'll make the most of this day and keep looking out to sea on the first deck. More and more ships are crossing us or lying at anchor waiting for access to the French or English ports. Once in a while there is a fishing boat that returns home late, but then the last night falls.


Wherever you look, ship lights now appear. It's busy in the Strait of Dover, a foretaste of what awaits me on the Antwerp shore. The only thing that doesn't change is the humming of the ship's engines and the lack of any connection with the outside world.


- DAY 5
20 May 2019

preceding day

- DAY 7
22 May 2019

subsequent day