Dutch teenagers finally reunited with their families after coronavirus pandemic forced five-week transatlantic crossing

Twenty-five Dutch teenagers who were on a school trip around the Caribbean before the pandemic hit, have finally been reunited with their families after travel restrictions meant they spent five weeks at sea.

THE students, aged 14 to 17, together with three teachers and a dozen experienced crew members, were on an educational cruise of the Caribbean when the Covid-19 crisis forced them to drastically change their plans for returning home last month.

They were due to fly back from Cuba, but instead the party had to stock up on essentials and warm clothes and set sail for the northern Dutch port of Harlingen – a five-week transatlantic voyage of nearly 7,000km on board the 60-metre top sail schooner Wylde Swan.

As they arrived home this morning, the students hung up a banner they had made saying Bucket List, with ticks in boxes for Atlantic Ocean crossing, mid-ocean swim and surviving the Bermuda triangle.

Respecting social distancing rules, their families had driven alongside the yacht individually and emotional greetings ensued as parents hugged their children amid a huge clowd of orange smoke.

Floor Hurkmans, 17, a sailor with little experience, talked about the difficulties of being in such close proximity all of the time.

She said: “At home you just have some moments for yourself, but (on board) you had to be social all the time to everyone because you’re sleeping with them, you’re eating with them, you’re just doing everything with them so you can’t really just relax.”

But her mum, Renee Scholtemeijer, said she would soon miss the open sea once she encountered coronavirus containment measures in the Netherlands, reports Mike Corder in The Hague/ Express & Star.

“There’s nothing to do, she can’t visit friends, so it’s very boring.”

A welcome party gathered on a sea wall to await their arrival and set off flares and a smoke grenade that sent an orange cloud into the air.

Orgganisers of the cruise, Masterskip, runs five educational voyages each year, and the Wylde Swan has made the trip about 20 times.

Director, Christophe Meijer, said the students were constantly monitored for the coronavirus during their time at sea, adding they kept up their education during the extended trip.

He said they learned a lot about adapting to situations, media attention but also their normal school work.

“They are actually far ahead now of their Dutch school colleagues, they have made us very proud,” he added.

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Written by

Tara Rippin

Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.

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