At Sea

Jun 30, 2019 - Sea Cloud

We awoke to a wonderful sea. The white caps were breaking and we had really wonderful winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour. Sitting on the port side, we could taste the salt spray as it spumed off the hull. Sea Cloud rode the seas with an exquisite gentleness—stable and not rocking.

A little after 8 a.m., the wind disappeared entirely—Homer’s Aeolus had decided to move elsewhere! The call to sail stations was at 8:45 a.m. and we even put up the highest sail, the skysail, to squeeze every bit of wind from the atmosphere. We ended up moving at 1.5 knots per hour.

At 10 a.m., guests heard a talk on the fantastic debacle and tragedy of the Fourth Crusade of 1204, when misguided crusaders motivated not by piety but by money attacked and sacked Constantinople, the Christian capital of the east. The crusaders utterly failed, however, in their efforts to wrest the land from the Muslims.

At lunch we enjoyed the great Parmesan pasta wheel dish. Cooked pasta is whipped inside the massive wheel until it is coated with cheese. Scrumptious. After lunch, many of us packed—it was our last day aboard. At 3:45 p.m., guests watched as hemp knots were hoisted up into the sails to become a necessary buffer, helping to keep the sails from wearing out. The sun remained high in the cerulean-blue sky all day. Guests enjoyed a second lecture on the languages of Europe that explained how almost all the languages—from the west of Ireland to western China and India—come from a single parent tongue that began in the steppes north of the Caspian and Aral seas nearly 7,000 years ago.

Tomorrow morning, we dock in the famous ancient city of Dubrovnik. The massive walls of Dubrovnik, just over a mile and a quarter in length, were built in the 10th century and reinforced over the years. They are almost 80 feet high in places, and those facing the landside of the city are 20 feet thick. It has an imposing presence.

The captain hosted his farewell dinner tonight and toasted us all as veteran square-rig sailors. We joined this wonderful historic vessel Sea Cloud as strangers and now, 10 days later. we are a community united by the great privilege of sailing on this historic ship in these historic waters.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Massimo Bassano

National Geographic Photographer

Massimo Bassano has worked as a freelance photojournalist since 1990. His work appears in National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic online edition, as well as many publications throughout Europe. Massimo's photographic subjects know no bounds—his recent assignments have covered social issues, international travel, fitness and health, fashion, and portraiture. In 2004, he was awarded a Ph.D. in journalism from the Italian Association of Journalism.

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