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Star Flyer

A Starflyer is a very high caroussel-meets watchtower style amusement ride, I read at the website of the Danish amusement park Tivoli. It also is a Japanese airline, I now know. But of course, Star Flyer also is a sailingyaught, operated by Star Clippers, a company that was founded in 1989 by Mikael Krafft. It is originally a Swedish company, but the head office is located in Monte Carlo, Monaco and its ships were registered in Luxembourg in it's early years. The company ordered their first ship, that was to be named like the company itself, Star Clipper. A second, similar ship was also in the planning. These ships would be very different from normal cruiseships, as they were to be built as four-masted barquentines in the style of the great sailingships of the 19th century.

The first ship was launched from the Scheepswerf van Langerbrugge at Gent, Belgium as yardnumber 2183. The ship measured some 2298 tons, has a lenght of 111,60 meters, is 15 meters wide and has a draft of 5,5 meters. Although the ship normally is using its 16 sails to really 'sail', she is also equipped with an engine for days that the wind is not favourable. Or when she is sailing on a canal, like when she has to visit a port like Amsterdam. Designed for 170 passengers and 72 crew, she is a very comfortable ship offering a classic sailing experience. Passenger may help the crew hoisting sails, but when they just want to lay down at the sundeck and let the crew do all the work, that is fine too. The atmosphere is very luxurious, but also very informal. A nice extra, she recieved the highest qualifications by Lloyds Register for a sailingvessel since 1911. 

When the ship was launched as the Star Clipper, another cruiseline called Clipper Cruise Line complained about the chosen name. The dispute was fought over at a US courtcase, and because of this, the name of the ship was changed to Star Flyer. Not because Star Clippers had lost the case, but simply because the case was still running when the ship entered service. Star Clippers actually won the case, so they named the second ship Star Clipper and both lines went on with their business. 

When the ships maiden voyage started, not all was well though. The Star Flyer wasn't ready. A lot of finishing work yet had to be done. When the first guests arrived, Mikael Krafft himself was still in the top of the mast in his dirty workwear to fit the toplight. When the guests complained and asked to speak someone from the company, Mikael answered that this wasn't possible, but that they could speak to the owner, because he was in front of them. Afterwards, even the guests took up paintbrushes and helped the crew to finish the ship during this first transatlantic voyage and they all became true fans of the company. Next funny thing was the captain, who was of course selected because of his knowledge of the sea. But he wasn't used to being dressed as a cruiseship captain, so he was walking around in his old wear. He surely didn't want to wear one of those shiny uniforms. When Krafft finally convinced him to do so, the captain had obtained a uniform that was so shiny and filled with gold that it again wasn't exactly what Krafft had in mind. Nowadays, it seems to be something in-between... Also the guests on this voyage delivered some great stories, like the conversation between a princess of one of the European Royals (who it is is not told because of privacy-reasons) and a taxidriver. In the ships bar, the two met and started chit-chat, and then of course the 'what do you do for a living' comes up. The taxidriver listened and immidiately replied to the bartender that the miss shouldn't have alcohol anymore because she already though she was a princess.  These stories give away the true style of the ships of Star Clippers. The maiden voyage itself was, by the way, the first voyage by a passengership under sail since 90 years.    

In her early years, a funny thing was going on when Star Flyer was flying the flag of Luxembourg, and as we all know, the seaports of Luxembourg are not that easy to spot on a European map. That's why the homeport of the ship was Antwerp. This is the traditional homeport for sea-going ships registered at Luxembourg. Of course we all understand that this was not done because Star Clippers liked to be a little bit odd, but more because the taxes in Luxembourg are a little more convenient than those in Belgium. And this for a Swedish company based at Monaco. 

Star Flyer was not normally sailing European cruises, though. With her true European background, the ship was mostly stationed in French Polonesia, that is not near France at all. In 2010, the connection to Luxembourg was cut off totally, when the ship was brought under Maltese flag with her new homeport of Valetta. She also was seen moreover in Europe, visiting The Netherlands for the first time during 2012. I spot her sailing the Northsea Canal at the 16th of may this year and on the last picture, you can see smoke coming from her aft mast. This, of course is not because she is suffering a fire, but the ship is just sailing at engine power and her exhaust is built into the aft mast. This is done so that her classic sailingship-profile will not be spoiled by a funnel. This great little ship is offering a totally different style then most of the ships on this website and I am glad I was able to see her sailing by. She also shows that the possibilities of chosing different kinds of cruises is both very diverse and timeless.

NOTE: This story has been written including details from an interview with Mikael Krafft, published in the Dutch 'Cruising'-magazine from VCK Zeereisen (october 1998)

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