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Sea Trek 2001 completes Atlantic crossing

'Land Ho!' heard in Bermuda

HAMILTON, Bermuda — The swift Europa, with gray sail and gray hull, was the first through the Dundonald Channel and into the harbor, where she furled sail and dropped anchor, a magnificent sight. She docked a few hours later, taking a spot just vacated by a giant cruise ship, the Horizon.

The ship Europa, with gray sail and gray hull, sits at anchor in Dundonald Channel off island of Bermuda. The great ship was first into harbor as Sea Trek 2001 crossed the Atlantic.
The ship Europa, with gray sail and gray hull, sits at anchor in Dundonald Channel off island of Bermuda. The great ship was first into harbor as Sea Trek 2001 crossed the Atlantic. Photo: Photo by John L. Hart

The Christian Radich followed several hours later, and the Statsraad Lehmkhul even later, and docking at a wharf near the airport in St. Georges, on the far end of the main island. And so went Sea Trek's successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Its next port is to be New York City, on Oct. 4.

A private venture, Sea Trek 2001 recreates experiences honoring the 85,000 Mormon emigrants in the 19th century who came from Europe and the British Isles to North America. Sea Trek began its "gathering" portion Aug. 7 in Esbjerg, Denmark. For the gathering segment, eight ships sailed to various ports: Copenhagen, Denmark; Gothenberg, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Greenock, Scotland; Hamburg, Germany; Hull, Liverpool and Portsmouth, England. The "crossing" portion began as three ships sailed from Portsmouth Aug. 27, bound for the Canary Islands. The ships arrived at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Sept. 6, and set sail Sept. 8 for Bermuda.

The 19-day trip across the Atlantic was beyond anything they expected, said passengers. The Europa had 23 passengers, including six or seven young people. All worked together, pulling the ropes and solving inevitable personal conflicts.

"It has been awesome; it has turned out far beyond anything I ever dreamed of," said Steve Golland of Los Angeles, Calif. "It has been a marvelous experience."

"How exciting, how boring, was everything?" said Neal Southwick of Sugar City, Idaho. "It was very awesome to see vastness of the sea day after day after day. We went [18] days without seeing any land. Yes, it got a little monotonous, a day or two, seeing the same thing. But we saw beautiful sunrises, beautiful sunsets, interesting cloud formations; we saw whales, lot of dolphins come up and play with the ship."

He has been onboard since Liverpool, England. "I am doing this because my ancestors sailed from Liverpool in 1849 to this country. I am following their trail."

He said it was a peaceful voyage with very nice weather the whole way. "There was a funnel cloud — a water spout — that could have been potentially very dangerous for us, but just before it got to us it dissipated, so we didn't have problems with that. The weather was very hot, so many slept on deck, where it was a little cooler, instead of in their cabins.

He described a typical day on board: "We arise at 6 or 6:30 a.m., have breakfast at seven in the morning. We are divided into three groups of four-hour watches each, around the clock. All of us participated in steering the ship, and being on the bow to watch.

"We also helped raise the sails and lower them by pulling ropes. We were part of a volunteer crew. We helped all along the way, every day. We had lunch at noon and dinner at seven. We had a devotional every morning and had an hour of entertainment in the evening. We stopped and went swimming about four times. That was pretty exciting."

Nicole Christine Newton from New York City said, "The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. I found part of myself that I am going to be able to take with me back to the states — my desire to become a better person and focus on relationships.

"People have been amazing. Here you can take time to embrace the earth. I mean, you don't get to sleep under the stars in the middle of the Atlantic, ever."

The ships noted their 50th day at sea just before arriving in Bermuda on Thursday, Sept. 27, the last stop on their transatlantic commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Mormon immigration.

The dazzling blue harbor, crisp white buildings and fleecy clouds painted a storybook setting for the arrival of the three ships that have been beyond the sight of land for nearly three weeks, ever since they left the Canary Islands.

While the arrival of ships in Bermuda is a common occurrence and four cruise ships, with perhaps 1,500 passengers each — huge vessels that dwarfed the boats around them — stood at the docks. Such ships and the tourists they bring are the lifeblood of this hospitality-based economy. The past weeks have seen a severe drop in visitors with some airline flights on which, as they said, the flight attendants outnumbered the passengers.

Despite their diminutive size alongside the cruise ships, the sailing ships drew notice as they arrived. People on the street stopped to watch and a small crowd gathered at the docks to see this apparition of the 19th Century, blinking just in case it wasn't real.

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