Raise the anchor. Set the main staysail.
Key Vangelis’ dramatic theme music from the film 1492.
And steer clear of those dolphins.
It’s a dramatic start to our exploration of the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua on Star Flyer .
As Captain Klaus Mueller calls out the orders a well choreographed crew sets in to work. With the spin of winches, some deft rope handling and a billow of wind in the sails we’re on our way to adventure.
One after another, the deck crews raise the big triangular stay sails on three of the ship’s four masts. Then the crew unfurls five square sails including a high flying canvas whose name I’ve always loved: top gallant.
The first thing you find when arriving in a cabin on Star Flyer is a full color photo of the ship with every one of the sails on its four masts labelled in English, German and French. Fortunately, passengers are not going to be quizzed on the nautical names of the 16 vast sheets of canvas flying on the masts or even how they actually trick the wind into driving a ship to its next port.
For me and most of my fellow passengers, it was enough just to appreciate the billows of white sail in the sky and the stillness of being at sea being propelled along by the wind rather than a motor.
It’s a rare treat on a full scale passenger ship these days. Star Flyer is one of three modern ships inspired by the fleets of clipper ships that dominated the seas in the nineteenth century. The personal dream of Star Clippers founder European yachtsman Mikael Krafft they’re fitted out with the polished wood, brass fittings and teak decks of old– but with the addition of modern passenger comforts and a team of gourmet chefs.
It’s clear that there are a number of salty dogs among the 100-plus passengers, including a few who have skippered their own sailboats in their spare time. As they lounge around the main deck as the crew raises the sails, they’re taking photos and notes on every detail. Some of the passengers have sailed on a half dozen previous Star Clipper cruises. They keep coming back because the sail experience on these ships is authentic and unique.
It’s a whole day of sailing on our first day out and there are auspicious signs a- plenty.
Pods of dolphins are following along surfing in the ship’s wake. The sky is brilliantly blue and there’s even a big cloud that resembles a sailboat languidly hanging near the horizon.
It’s busy on deck and there’s lots to see but fortunately passengers don’t have to lend a hand, In fact there’s such a baffling array of lines to keep track of as the sails are raised or lowered, it’s best to leave it to the experts. Just sit back and watch the quintessential experience of a week on Star Clippers.
I won’t go into a lot of chatter about trimming the sails here. Sometime later they promise passengers will be able to climb the rigging into the crow’s nest for a bird’s eye view of the action. I definitely want to try that.
But for now, it’s time to mellow out and think adventurous thoughts. All the passengers have taken to staring in amazement at all the sails in the sky. We start to speak in hushed tones, not wanting to spoil the silence of being under sail on a Clipper.
Here are a few more scenes on deck to get you in the mood: