Tall Ship Oosterschelde says goodbye to the Cape Verde Isles in April 2019 and is heading back for a full season in Europe this year. Once back in Europe her summer sailing programme is has quite a strong focus on Norway and the Baltic this year, including a foray into the Arctic Circle. This big 300 ton schooner will be participating in some legs of the International Tall Ships Race too.
Bay of Biscay & Morbihan Festival 2019
The Ocean voyage back from Cape Verde to Rotterdam covers a wide range of climatic zones from flying fish, tropical sun and trade winds, to pleasant mild weather in the Azores and possibly a wild and windy Biscay crossing into the English Channel.
Late May this distinctive topsail schooner heads in the opposite direction sailing West down the Brittany Coast and around Ushant and the point du Raz towards Belle Isle and the entrance to the Gulf of Moribhan. Oosterschelde will be one of the largest sailing ships at Morbihan Festival - a beautiful inland sea with fast tides, islands and narrow channels.
For the traditional sailing purists would would like to mention that Oosterschelde was built in 1918 as a sailing schooner to carry cargoes and is a registered 'National Historic Monument' in Holland....so she is the real thing, not a replica. Her hull is riveted steel and her rigging is very traditional. Below there has been a bit of a transformation since her cargo days with the huge hold now containing an elegant living space with wood burning stove, library, piano, bar and long polished wooden tables.
Scandinavian Based Tall Ships Race
Oosterschelde is a popular choice for both adult and youth crews for tall ships races. She is exciting to race and her size and square sails on the foremast means she competes in Class A with all the big square riggers. Having large fore and aft sails too means she is powerful to windward so that can give her an edge over barques, brigs and fully rigged ships.
The race leg is from Aalborg on the Baltic side of Denmark to Fredrikstad near Oslo. Sailing in the Skagerrak and Kattegat is quite challenging and strategic to race with islands to miss and big changes in depth of sea bed to create hazards and rough seas. The area is also steeped in maritime history. There are a lot of spectacular tall ships based in Norway, Poland and Russia so this should be a photographically stunning event.
Sail the whole Norwegian Coast
Oosterschelde is then taking part in the 'Cruise in Company.' You have 9 days to sail around Southern Norway with its white wooden houses, Stavanger cruising ground, the classic Western Fjords of Sognefjord and Hardanger Fjord and arrival into Bergen and its iconic waterfront. For many this is the nicest part of the tall ships event as there are host ports on route encouraging ships to pop in, but no set itinerary, so you could equally go and anchor in a beautiful fjord or off of one of the hundreds of coastal islands. it is not all still deep waters, you have a lot of offshore coastline to sail along so there will be plenty of sailing and a whole fleet of tall ships to spot or sail with on the way to the next Festival Port. Fredrikstad (near Oslo) and Bergen are logistically easy to get to and once on board you don't need to spend much. There is a very nice bar on board Oosterschelde and a piano.
Into the Arctic Circle
Bergen to Bodo is a significant sailing expedition covering a part of Norway that is off the beaten track. A 12 day voyage for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and keen mountain trekkers. The coastline is very mountainous and indented with deep fjords all the way to Trondheim. After that it becomes a glaciated landscape with lower topography that shares similarities with Arctic Canada and Greenland (without the icebergs). In many ways this Northern landscape is more accessible to walk and explore on foot than the vertical sided tourist favourites around Bergen and Alesund. Eagles, wild salmon, sea otters and much more to spot.
As you enter Helgeland the inland mountains start to get higher again and the ship enters the Arctic Circle. You might want to stay on the ship after Bodo and go further North to explore the Lofoten Isles.
Explore the Lofoten Isles & Arctic Whale Expedition
The jewel in Arctic Norway's crown, this combination of Lofoten Isles and the Vesteralen Islands creates a dramatic feature that sticks out into the Norwegian Sea. The beaches are dazzling white and the seas are (allegedly) warmed by the last traces of the Gulf Stream. The mountain spires are very Tolkienesque and attract artists and landscape photographers from all over the world. Being on a tall ship enables you to sail out to sea and see them from a distance too. The Panorama from offshore has not changed since Viking times. Closer in you see more signs of habitation but it is still a pretty wild place to live. There are plenty of places to anchor, small villages and painted fisherman's huts on stilts.
The seas are rich in fish and we are sure that Oosterschelde will catch something off the stern of the ship for supper.
Orca, Puffins and Sea Eagles.
Oosterschelde has two 10 day voyages between Bodø and Tromsø island hopping Northwards and then a voyage from Tromsø to Bodø. These are real nature and wilderness lover voyages that will suit bird watchers, hikers, those looking for tranquility, photographers and keen fishermen (and fisherwomen!). It is unlikely the ship will follow the same route back as there are lots of options in sheltered and exposed waters between the islands, so you might want to do both voyages.
On the first voyage there is a bit of a whale watching theme as the area between Andenes and Senja is famous for whales. There is deep water here and upwellings of plankton where the continental plate collides with the deep sea plate. This makes it a grat spot for whales and other marine life and millions of sea birds including puffins and sea eagles. Ocras (killer whales) live all year in Trolls fjord.