Sailing the Seas on the Oosterschelde
The Dutch tall ship “Oosterschelde” was first constructed in 1917, and remarkably, still comfortably crashes the waves in the ocean today.
She is currently in full sail making fast ground around Australia and recently set Williamstown’s piers alive with the flapping of sails and the lapping of waves against the vessel.
Spanning fifty metres in length, reaching as high as 36 metres into the sky and with a huge sail space of 891 square metres, she is harnessing the wind off the Australian coast as a part of an around the world trip.
In full sail, the three mast ‘schooner’ tall ship is like watching magic in motion and has created an unparalleled spectacle alongside four other international tall ships in Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney.
Chief Mate Maarten de Jong considers himself fortunate to be rocking and rolling with such a ship on the waters of the world.
“It is cool. It is a child’s dream. I have been sailing since I was seven years old. And the first time I came out of a (sailing boat), I told my mother that I would be sailing the world,” Mr de Jong said.
“We are currently making a circumnavigation. And we are doing that for several reasons.”
“Because we can. Because it has been 15 years since the last one and because there are a lot of activities going on in Australia, so we thought it might be nice to be involved,” he said.
The Oosterschelde is sailing with two other Dutch tall ships, the ‘bark’ Europa and the Tecla on a journey around the world.
At times, the Europa and the Oosterschelde – the two largest of the trio – have been so close that the crews exchanged words and could even smell each other’s lunch.
The Tecla is the smallest tall ship of the three and captain Gijs Sluik enjoys the camaraderie between the ships.
“It is wonderful travelling with the other Dutch ships,” Mr Sluik said.
“You could say we are travelling as one big family. It is really nice. We know the guys pretty well and you have a cup of coffee or a beer together at the end of the day and you exchange experiences.”
“Of course you experience the same weather during the passages and it makes for exciting conversation.”
“It really is a good friendship,” he said.
Together, the three ships are sailing around the world following the traditional sailing routs of yesteryear and their arrival on Australian shores marks almost the halfway point in the trip.
They have touched in at Fremantle, Adelaide and will make their mark on Melbourne before sailing to Hobart and then up to Sydney.
The Oosterschelde is currently at capacity with a combination of passengers, volunteers and crewmembers working together to make the expedition as successful and spirited as possible.
During the days at sea, everyone on board is invited to take the helm, set sails, assist with maneuvers, help navigate, observe the weather conditions and much more.
These glorious ships as well as the characters on board, were berthed at Williamstown as a part of the biggest fleet of tall ships to dock there in almost 100 years between September 6 and September 14.
They received a right royal entry party into Port Adelaide’s McLaren Warf and Williamstown Workshops Pier, with mammoth crowds flocking to greet them and even a close inspection from news helicopters.
The people of Australia have a chance to get up close with these working vessels to celebrate tradition, history and seamanship in the coming weeks.