The experience is thrilling, enriching, humbling and really fun. Twenty three students from St. Dominic High School, youth with an interest in boating, spent Thursday from dawn to dusk (well, almost) as invited guests and apprentice sailors aboard a 203-foot traditionally-rigged top sail schooner. WEEKender came along to see how the students rose to the challenge. Watching the crew perform complex operations with the myriad of ropes and lines used to sail a tall ship was certainly a unique experience for the youths, but many of them jumped at the chance to get their hands on the halyards, sheets and rigging lines. They stared in fascination as a crew member swiftly climbed the rigging to the top of the foremast, adjusted the top sail and gracefully descended; she even earned applause from the students.
The Wylde Swan is, in fact, the world’s largest top-sail schooner. Rebuilt in 2011 from a 1920s hull, the ship is a unique adventurebased educational platform, outfitted with four teachers, a coach, a researcher, a medical doctor and a full sailing crew of 12 seamen and women. Among their programs is the Masterskip Course, which has brought them to St. Maarten waters for a 10-day hiatus in their set schedule of four legs. The first leg travels from the Netherlands to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The second leg travels to the Caribbean. The fourth leg visits islands up and down the Caribbean archipelago from Tobago to the British Virgin Islands. The last leg takes the ship back to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to begin all over again. Groups of 30 students join for each leg. Occasionally, students stay for multiple legs. While on board, they must do homework set by their home school, following a science and mathematics curriculum that has been pre-approved. Each leg runs approximately €6,000 per student (Please note that Fees via OurKids is $1,799 only), and some families must fund-raise in their communities to meet those costs, but the feeling is that the youth will gain an invaluable experience that they could never have with a normal land-based education.
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- The Wylde Swan