Magical sailing in Antarctica

Sep 3, 2005
Author: Hans van Heukelum

It has been a week of maritime magic – Sail Amsterdam, an event held every 5 years was a celebration of 39 of the worlds most magnificent tall ships that all converged on Amsterdam, capital of a nation that probably has the closest affinity to the sea.

My passion for ice and rail has been richly extended to these gentle giants of the oceans that respond with an opera of massive sails and wooden beams to the earth's liturgy of trade winds and currents.

I was fortunate to be aboard the bark Europa as we processed an entire day from Ijmuiden on the North Sea to Amsterdam accompanied by a flotilla of over 2000 crafts from ocean going yachts, dingys to beautiful Dutch tjalks whose design has changed little since Rembrandt's time.

I was interested in experiencing the Europa as she will become the latest addition to the vessels we at Unique Destinations are offering an Antarctica experience and other journeys on. At 56m long she was built in 1911 in Hamburg as a lightship on the Elbe, then fully rebuilt and re-rigged in 1994. Having recently presented the DVD on Shackelton's 1914 voyage, it was appropriate to feel a vessel of similar design and age to the Endurance. Beautifully panelled and brassed with care, carrying 30 sails, she complies with the highest safety certification required for sailing ships. She has two, four, and six berth cabins for 48 passengers, all with en suite facilities and invites clients to participate to take the helm, set sails, run the rigging or just peel a bowl of spuds prepared in a superbly equipped kitchen.

The sailing bark Europa will be cruising in the Antarctic and from South America to Cape Town during the coming summer, with a hint of a return in Southern African waters during 2007!

When not experiencing a historic sailor's life on deck you can settle down and relax in the deckhouse with bar, lounge or library - all places with a sense of history - it hangs in the air and invites you to reflect to times when these vessels were the only means of travel. Not offering luxury cruises, Europa attracts ‘travellers of the mind’ to whom the genuine outweighs the glitz and glam by many knots. With a crew of 14, Europa offers a professional voyage with that additional magic that all can participate in the experience.

During the forthcoming 2005/06 Antarctica season the bark Europa will undertake four voyages each of 22 days duration. Thereafter, concentrating on the silence and awesome Antarctic experience at an entirely leisurely pace, an amazing sail from 9 March to 29 April, 2006 from Ushuaia to Cape Town via Antarctica, Elephant Island, South Georgia and Tristan de Cunha, which celebrates its 500th birthday since discovery.

From icebergs, glaciers and profuse wildlife to days at full sail sculling the wind, this voyage with lengthy stays in historic hard to get to places, will be very difficult to beat - its genuine to every creak of its timbered decks and is already selling well!

From the moment I stepped aboard to a welcome by Klaas Gaastra, an experienced skipper of many seas and years, I felt a sense of homeliness and an inquisitive mystery as to where all she had been to - so between enjoying the surge of excitement of the parade - bands of various nationalities performing, hooters blowing, sails unfurling, I explored below deck the library with well-read travel books, intimate cabins, the dining salon with its many models and a peep in at the galley where Dutch delicacies were prepared and offered around.

It certainly was an amazing experience and it feels good to bring another highly unique product into our market. Depending on demand we will again bring her to Cape Town in 2007 and then miles of magic amongst the less visited isles of the Indian Ocean!

My passion has been well stretched - the fact that bark Europa is Dutch certainly helped!

Antarctica 2005/2006 Dates

6 - 27 December 2005
28 December 2005 - 18 January 2006
21 January - 11 February 2006
3 February - 6 March 2006

Costs :
Euro 4300 p/p in 4 or 6 berth cabin
Euro 4900 p/p in 2 berth cabin

Cost of trip Ushuaia to Cape Town
9 March - 29 April 2006

Euro 4900 p/p in 4 or 6 berth cabin
Euro 5900 p/p in 2 berth cabin

Unique Destinations can be contacted at (Tel Cape Town) +27 (0)21 462 7032 or email



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