At Sea between Malta and Sicily

May 17, 2018 - Sea Cloud

Oh for the breath of the briny deep,

And the tug of a bellying sail,

With the sea-gull’s cry across the sky

And a passing boatman’s hail.

For, be she fierce or be she gay,

The sea is a famous friend alway.

“A Sailor’s Song” Laurence Dunbar


The sun rose bright into the silvery clouds of the dawn sky and far from a rush into breakfast, fellow travellers drifted in to dine as if we had all miraculously settled into the gentle rhythm of the waves. Coffee in hand, by mid-morning most of us settled into the deck chairs on the spanker deck to learn about the intricacies of sailing a square-masted barque such as Sea Cloud. After watching the crew from each mast team go aloft to loose the sails, we watched as each of the sails was alternately hauled up or dropped down. We ended up on the bow watching the foremast team run out the jibs. With a steady strong wind we cruised along.


Massimo Bassano, our National Geographic feature photographer, gave a beautifully illustrated talk on composing the perfect shot to tell a story, after which we partook in a sumptuous deck buffet. After lunch the wind began to drop and we eventually slowed to just a knot before the sails were doused at 5:00 p.m. In the afternoon we learned about the ancient Greeks in Sicily in preparations for tomorrow’s excursion to Agrigento. Just as the crew was furling the sails a pod of striped dolphins joined us. The evening deck buffet included a fresh yellowtail tuna delectably served in any fashion you desired. Could there be a more perfect end to a wonderfully relaxing day under sail?


I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

“Sea Fever” John Masefield


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About the Author

Robyn Woodward


Lecturing on expedition ships since 1996 has fueled Robyn’s passion for adventure, discovery, travel, art, and archaeology.  These diverse interests have carried her through several degrees, including a B.A. in the History of Art from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario; a B.Sc. in Conservation of Archaeological Materials from University College, Cardiff, Wales; an M.A. in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M; and finally a Ph.D. in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, in 2007. 

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