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Tough Dutch kids trapped by COVID19 sail themselves home across the Atlantic

Tall Ship Wylde Swan

PortandTerminal.com, April 22, 2020

A group of brave school kids aged 14 to 16 are sailing across the Atlantic with their instructors after their flights home were cancelled thanks to COVID19. They’re due home at last on Sunday.

HARLINGEN, NETHERLANDS – A group of 25 Dutch students between the ages of 14 and 16 left their home in the Netherlands to go to St. Maarten to follow a teaching program on board the Dutch ship De Wylde Swan. This all started well before coronavirus had become a major concern.

The plan was for them to stay on board the ship for six weeks, but as the coronavirus situation became increasingly serious, it was clear that they needed to return home asap.

There was one problem though – the flights home out of Cuba had been cancelled thanks to the pandemic. They were stuck. After consulting with their parents, the decision was taken that the instructors and the students would load up on fuel and supplies and sail themselves home across the Atlantic.

The trip home across the ocean hasn’t been easy. A planned stopover in the Azores was canceled after authorities refused to let them disembark due to the risk of COVID19 contamination. They’ve also battled major storms and have still been required to do three hours of homework every morning. No to video games and mobile phones. Yes to hard work sailing a tall ship across some rough open ocean.

Teens in red shirts sailing a tall ship.
De Wylde Swan is a certified tall ship, sail training vessel.

A radio message received this week gives some insight into just how anxious and happy they all are to be almost home.

“The ship is fighting towards Europe. This morning I received a message about their small world. They wrote: “we have seen two birds”. That means that land is coming into view. They are about 400 miles from Brest, so the European continent is in sight. “

The Wylde Swan (The Wild Swan)

The Tall Ship Wylde Swan is a fast sailing vessel originally built in Germany in 1920 as a steamship.

She was relaunched in June 2010 as a two-masted topsail schooner, with worldwide certification as a sail training vessel.

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