As a bright sun glare pierces my eyes, I hear the masts creaking and the wooden deck squeaking underneath my feet. I’ve just embarked The Morgenster, a Tallship of well over a hundred years old. I’m greeted by a man who strikingly resembles the Captain Iglo-character: “Arrr, it’s the journalist!”, he says. “Welcome aboard lad, arrrre you rrrrready for today?”
I’ve been invited by Fair Ferry, an organisation that arrange sail trips all over the world. In 2022, the Morgenster is going to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. ETA: four months after leaving the port of Rotterdam. They’ll first sail to Lisbon (Portugal), Cayenne (French Guiana), Paramaribo (Suriname), Grenada, Martinique (France), St. Martin (France/Netherlands) and then head back to Rotterdam.
Although I wouldn’t have minded it if we’d set sail to cross the Atlantic this day already – since I haven’t left my own country the entire year due to some kind of pandemic, I guess – we’re only on a short tour today. We’re getting acquainted with the ship, the crew and with the idea of sailing for four months straight. We leave the port of Den Helder at 2 ‘o clock in the afternoon and take a trip around the North Sea and Wadden Sea. On the way, we pass the island of Texel as well.
The crew was incredibly friendly and let us participate hoisting the sails and even let some visitors steer the helm. Later on, one of them even helped me climbing all the way to the topmast (which, due to my fear of heights, was quite the accomplishment for me).
Participating with the crew and making the ship go into the direction where we want it to go, is the perfect way to bond with other visitors. After all, when you’ve just been pulling a rope with all the muscle you have, together with five total strangers, you can’t help but start making conversation. It’s a great bonding experience and I can only imagine the great friendships that will get initiated on this ship when you’re together for months.
Stories on board
The stories of the people you hear are amazing. One man, a sailor of nearly 80 years old, wants to join on this expedition, because it’s always been a life dream of his to sail the Atlantic. Due to personal circumstances, he’d become increasingly aware of his mortality in the last couple of years and therefore wishes to make the trip before his passing.
Another person I spoke was a young man in his mid-twenties from Belgium. He’d come all the way from Brussels, which is a three-hour drive to be on this 2.5 hour boat ride. That means: Dedication with a capital D. His wish is to sail across the Atlantic and to stay in South America, where he wants to work and travel across the continent. He’ll figure out how when he gets there, as befits a true adventurer.
The environmental motive
Sailing across the Atlantic is ovbiously an adventurous venture. But apart from that, it’s an incredibly clean way of traveling, due to the fact that there’s no emission gasses being released when traveling by sailing.
The day the Morgenster sets out in Den Helder on this short tour, is the exact same day that the MSC Orchestra was met with heavy protests from Venetians (initiated by protest group No Grande Navi). Since the coronacrisis, this was the first cruise ship to moor in the laguna of Venice. The people of Venice have been protesting against this way of traveling for years now, because of the pollution that tourists on these types of cruise ships bring to the town. The big money then disappears into the deep pockets of the richest travel enterprises of the world, giving nothing to the city. One can only imagine the relieve these Venetians would feel if cruise boats would get abolished in the region and get replaced by non-pollutant sail boats with less tourists.
The big question: Will I join the trip across the Atlantic?
This experience was amazing and I could totally see myself joining this incredible adventure. I wouldn’t want to return. Just like the Belgian, I’d want to stay in South America for a while, so I’d leave the tour halfway. My only concern would be the money: a ticket from Lisbon to French Guiana is € 4350,-, which I can’t afford right now. However, I’m optimistic and I know certainly that when I’ve saved up enough, I’ll definitely make the trip with Fair Ferry, no doubt about it. The crew are all wonderful people and the characteristic ship they have under their command brings this trip to another level. So it’s a loud YES (or ‘arrrr captain!’) from me!