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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cruise Weekly Comment: Sail Away

"Arr! Batten down the 'atches ye sorry bilge rat!" Talk Like a Pirate Day is never enough to fully satisfy my urge to get on deck of a fully rigged schooner or ketch. A recent flurry of press material from sailing adventure companies has just rubbed the salt in.

First one across my desk was the splendid Søren Larsen, operated by Outdoor Travel of Bright, Victoria. Already a TV and media personality, the Søren Larsen was featured in that classic maritime BBC series, The Onedin Line. This magnificent tall ship operates between Sydney and Auckland with occasional detours via Noumea. This is an active adventure, so malingerers need not apply. See: www.outdoortravel.com.au

Next was the stately Maple Leaf, acclaimed by National Geographic editors as the #3 adventure cruise company on the world. The 92 foot schooner operates in the scenic waterways of British Columbia with highlights such as getting up close to Alaska's glaciers and intimate encounters with humpbacks, killer whales, dolphins, seabirds and bears. Built as a luxury pleasure craft in 1904, she fell into unappreciative hands and spent much of her life hauling halibut before a full and thorough restoration during the 1980s. See: www.mapleleafadventures.com

Another one that has always taunted me is the century-old, 46m steel-hulled schooner, Noorderlicht. Dedicated to arctic sailing, Noorderlicht can be found cruising the most northerly inhabited regions of the planet (Svalbard) in search of polar bear and walrus. Just 20 passengers travel in relative luxury, leaving the hard deck work to a dedicated, professional crew. See: www.adventureassociates.com

For those who hanker for the tropical climates, Captain Cook Cruises operate two sailing vessels out of Nadi, Fiji, on day trips and overnight safaris. While you don't actually overnight aboard, SV Ra Marama and SV Spirit of the Pacific still deliver the goods in a romantic, 'south sea' setting that will get you dreaming of mutineers and swashbuckling adventures as you soak up the sun and kava. See: www.captaincook.com.au

If rope burn and blisters don't appeal, you can always throw restraint to the wind aboard any of the opulent Windstar fleet which takes sailing holidays right off the scale. The fleet are typically four-star and carry between 150 and 300 passengers on itineraries in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Their multi-mast design is reminiscent of the great 19th Century clippers and the huge sail area is computer controlled. See: www.traveltheworld.com.au
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