The COVID-19 pandemic forced a group of Dutch teenagers to sail across the Atlantic for more than five weeks and return home to the Netherlands.
The 24 students aged 14 to 17, planned to spend six weeks sailing the biggest topsail schooner in the world – the Wylde Swan – around the Caribbean and learn nautical skills and traditional academic subjects from its 12 adult crew and 3 teachers that went with them.
They are supposed to fly back home from Cuba afterwards, but the governments in the region began imposing travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes closing ports and air space.
Because of this, the program organizers and crew decided to change plan and sail home instead.
“We decided the best solution would be to sail back with the students to the Netherlands, rather than staying in the Caribbean, with all the question marks there,” said Christophe Meijer, the director of Masterskip, the company that organized the program.
“You look at the difficult options, and then you realize you’re sitting on an ocean in a sailing vessel,” he added.
According to Meijer, the teenagers, teachers and crewmembers covered about 4,500 nautical miles (5,180 miles) on their way home.
Halfway through their epic journey the group stopped in the Azores in the mid-Atlantic to replenish their supplies, wherein one of the students described the experience as strange upon seeing people wearing masks on the islands.
“I had never seen the world like that in my life,” the student said in a video recording.
The Wylde Swan arrived back in the Netherlands on Sunday morning, and the passengers left the ship one at a time to adhere the country’s 1.5-meter social distancing policy.
Meijer exclaimed how shocked they were upon seeing everyone standing far apart, despite knowing about social distancing.