Sail Away with a Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By

Article excerpt

Byline: JO FOLEY

THEY call it 'soft adventure', the type of near-effortless cruising you can enjoy on a four-masted barquentine clipper ship.

The Star Flyer, along with her sister ship Star Clipper, are tributes to their 19th-century forebears, offering the romance of the tall ship with the advantages of 20th-century technology.

For the uninitiated, this includes air-conditioned cabins complete with hairdryers and television sets, as well as electrically-operated winches and capstans - necessary for the easy unfurling of 36,000sq ft of sail - and a state-of-the-art ballast system that keeps your glass of wine upright during the odd roll of the waves.

And while the old clippers carried tea, sugar, grain and such like, the new ones carry passengers.

I was on Star Flyer's first venture in the East, sailing from Singapore through the Straits of Malacca along the coasts of Malaysia and Thailand to Phuket.

Sadly, sailing through one of the world's busiest waterways, and one well known for pirates, became too much for Harry, the ship's parrot. On the second day he broke for freedom and, despite the launch of a search party, never returned.

Perhaps, scornful of such soft adventuring, he went in search of the real thing. Even now he could be perched on the shoulder of a latter-day Long John Silver, the scourge of the South China Seas.

Harry was sorely missed by the crew, who marked his demise with a floral tribute next to his empty perch.

The rest of us, after a few minutes of respectful silence, got on with enjoying the soft adventure, which mainly involved relaxing by one of the two pools or using our binoculars to scan the traffic voyaging through the straits.

The weather was so calm that the ship was mostly driven by its engines, but this did not deter the enthusiasts among us from attending a daily sailing lesson with Captain Jurgen Mullen-Cyran.

Between imparting information on halyards, backstays and shrouds, and pointing out the different applications of jiggers and jibs, he regaled his pupils with tales of seafaring adventures - in both English and German.

For the more idle, it was enough to eavesdrop on one or two classes on the way to a sunlounger, though every so often we headed for port, which forced us into action. …