Coronavirus forced group of teens to go home across the Atlantic

Coronavirus forced group of teens to go home across the Atlantic

(CNN) – The return home was particularly long and unusual.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced a group of 24 Dutch people teenagers navigate Atlantic to return to the Netherlands, arriving safely in the port of Harlingen on Sunday after more than five weeks at sea.

Students, aged 14 to 17, were following a sailing / study program around the Caribbean on the two-masted schooner “Wylde Swan”. As they were due to return from Cuba last month, the restrictions due to the global pandemic have put their return journey in major doubt.

Christophe Meijer, director of Masterskip, the company that organized the program, told CNN: “We decided that the best solution would be to return with the students to the Netherlands, rather than staying in the Caribbean, with all the question marks over there. “

The group reached the Netherlands after crossing the Atlantic on Sunday April 26.

Arthur Smeets / Masterskip

The teens, along with three teachers and 12 crew members, traveled about 4,500 nautical miles (5,180 miles) on their epic journey, according to Meijer.

Since none of them had packed their bags for an ocean crossing, they had to buy warm clothes like sweaters and pants in the Caribbean before leaving Saint Lucia on March 18.

A doctor monitored the health of all passengers on the ship and, after two weeks of navigation, it was determined that the ship was free of coronavirus.

Although the students were able to contact their families by email, Meijer said the ship was his “own world” and was “a bubble, in a way”.

Halfway through their trip, the group stopped to pick up supplies in the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic. Although they were not allowed to disembark, a student identified as Jona, 16, said in a video recorded on board that it was strange to see people wearing masks on the islands. “I have never seen the world like this in my life,” he added.

When the students returned to the Netherlands on Sunday morning, they finally left the ship one by one in accordance with the country’s 1.5 meter social distance policy.

Meijer said it was “strange” for them to see everyone standing so far apart from each other, adding that even if they knew the social distance, it was still a “shock” to them to find the country so different from the way they left it.

The students, who each came from a different high school, followed a special course alongside their usual studies.

“Wylde Swan” was built in the early 20th century as a herring fishing boat and was transformed into a sailboat between 2008 and 2010, according to Meijer.


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