Stuck on a sailing vessel in the Caribbean by Corona: the solution for 25 Dutch children on board the Wylde Swan

8300 kilometers | 4500 nautical miles| 15.000 liters of diesel | 36.000 liters of drinking water | 200 kilos of vegetables and fruit | 300 kilos of pasta and rice | 94 phones, laptops, tablets | endless adventure | 0 Kg C02

A six-week voyage at sea is rudely disrupted by the corona virus. This is the reality for 25 Dutch teenagers and a crew team on board the Wylde Swan.

The 25 high school students, 4 teachers, a ship’s doctor and 12 crew members have been sailing in the Caribbean for almost 3 weeks. The students are on board with a special program, in which Dutch students follow their school work on board the sailing ship for six weeks.

Christophe Meijer of Masterskip: “It’s great on board. Nobody is ill here. There is a great sense of hygiene, so no one will probably get ill. But the world changes by the hour”.

Difficulty getting through customs

On arrival in Saint. Lucia a few days ago, Wylde Swan struggled to get through customs and immigration. Meanwhile, many other islands are also closing their ports and airports and the people of Masterskip are looking for a solution.

Responding to the changes

At the departure of the educational voyage, there were nog strict corona measures in the Caribbean. Popularly referred to as the Cuba trip, the journey suddenly took a completely different turn when measures were taken in several countries to contain the corona virus.

Last Wednesday it was planned to set sail from the windward islands to Jamaica and then to Cuba. The students would fly back home from Cuba. Due to the rapid succession of government measures, it was decided to first stay close tot he overseas Dutch areas.

Then, successively, the U.S.A and the ABC islands closed their sky, crisis consultations were held between ship, shipping company and local contacts to find an appropriate solution. After closing the sky of Saint. Martin, it became clear that there is only one way to get the students home: sailing across the ocean.

It concerns a distance of 8,300 kilometers (4,500 nautical miles) that the students will sail for over a month on board the Wylde Swan. A stopover is planned in the Azores.

“It was difficult to make the decision not to go any further”, according to Martijn Boucher, 1st mate.

Bad news? No! Good news!

We contacted all parents about the plan on Sunday evening. The general mood was relieved. “They were concerned about their child being overseas and they were happy that another consideration was being made”, Christophe Meijer of Masterskip said.

As is understandable, the opportunity to sail back on board was received alternately by the trainees first of all. Now everyone had processed the first shock and the mood is positive. The trainees are constantly informed during the preparations. “We pass on everything we know. We must try to maintain the right atmosphere as much as possible. It is a big thing and an adventure for everyone”, Martijn Boucher said.

Before departure, every trainee has made a schedule for self-study. “Probably we are ahead of the students in the Netherlands, because our lessons will continue as usual”.

Stock up on vegetables and warm clothes

Several preparations have been made, before they can start the voyage. From stocking up 180 kilos of vegetables, enough diesel in case they will need it and the biggest challenge at the moment is the clothing for the trainees. They mainly packed shorts and shirts, but on the way home they can experience strong winds and wet and cold weather.

100% ocean worthy

Meijer: “Luckily we are a 100% ocean-worthy sailing ship and independent on anyone. The ocean voyage is a drastic but necessary measure. Local authorities in the Caribbean make ad hoc decisions about their islands and ports. You can no longer anticipate on that”. And for almost all children on board it means crossing the ocean for the first time in their lives. “The atmosphere on board is good. The crew is very calm about it and tells us everything that is going in. Moreover, the crew itself is very experienced. They would do the ocean crossing anyway in the next voyage, so in principle, everything is well prepared and they just know how to do it. It is not the first time they are going to do the ocean crossing”, trainee Blanche says. Meijer emphasizes once again that there are no people ill at Masterskip and the passengers on board have been in a ‘wonderful form of quarantaine’ for almost three weeks.

The plan is to leave Saint Lucia on Wednesday March 17 and arrive in the Netherlands in the second half of April.