Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cruise Weekly: Soren Larsen on Sail

After spending an afternoon aboard the classic tall ship, Soren Larsen, during her whirlwind visit to Sydney, I felt like I’d had a genuine introduction to life aboard a windjammer, albeit a slightly smaller one. In glorious morning sunshine, prehensile crew scampered up and down the masts unfurling sails bigger than David Jones at stocktake while orders were barked theatrically from the deck.

We followed the breeze supremely up the harbour to Manly, four sheets to the wind, cutting a wake through about a dozen sailing regattas. The on the return leg, the heavens opened, water oozed in through the hatches and all and sundry huddled together in the hold or under the scant cover on deck. All this in about five hours.

Ian Hutchinson, charter manager for the owners, regaled us with stories of her history including a rounding of Cape Horn, a feat that must be completed by sailing from 50 degrees south on both east and west sides of the cape, and her time filming the great TV series, Onedin Line, in the 1970s.

A brigantine built in 1948 in Nykøbing Mors, Denmark, the value of a sturdy oak vessel was underlined immediately after the Second World War when the North Sea was still full of magnetic anti-shipping mines. After a stalwart trading career in Baltic and British waters, she seemed destined for destruction, but was rescued at the last minute by Englishman, Tony Davies, and fully restored with late 19th century sailing rig.

With her television career over, Soren Larsen is now a regular in tall ship events around the world and regularly sails the romantic routes of the South Pacific from her base in Auckland. Regular land-lubbers can also hop aboard for a real life, swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Itineraries range from 10 to 22 nights and venture as far as Tonga, Fiji and the Kermadec Islands. A berth is roughly NZ$300/night depending on voyage length.

She’s 44m long with 650 sqm of sail, a GRT of 125 tons and accommodates 12 crew and 22 ‘voyagers’. Facilities are, unsurprisingly, shared. Cruising speed? Slow and steady. While this may not be a cruise for everybody, it is certainly the sort of nostalgic reenactment many of us dream about.

Just over 12 months ago Soren Larsen had quite a scare. Heading to the Cook Islands in rough weather when she was hit by a huge rogue wave that smashed her deckhouse and tore away much of the rigging. After two drama-filled days, she made it back to New Zealand and immediately went in for major repairs in Whangarei. What we see now is a meticulously repaired vessel ready for more adventures.

Bookings for her popular voyages fill quickly, especially those in and out of Sydney and Auckland. Martyn Paterson from Outdoor Travel tells me there are still places available for Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands early next year.

Contact Outdoor Travel on Toll free 1800 331 582 or visit www.outdoortravel.com.au