Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego continues his eight night voyage to four western European ports from Southampton aboard Star Clippers’ four masted barquentine STAR FLYER with a visit to Vigo, Spain and a day cruising off the coast of Portugal before wrapping it all up in Lisbon.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Friday, September 7, 2012
The more I visit Vigo, the more I appreciate the Galician City that is protected from the open Atlantic by a long, wide fjord. Vigo was first settled by the Romans some 2,000 years ago and today has a fascinating mix of classical, Art Deco and somewhat bleak Modern architecture. STAR FLYER made her way into port at a very civilized 10:00 AM, berthing behind the massive COSTA FORTUNA.
We stepped out of the terminal into a temperate 80-plus degrees and climbed a honeycomb of steep downtown avenidas in search of terraced O Castro, a sprawling park atop a hill overlooking the harbor.
From a realm of fountains, a few abandoned buildings and the remains of the San Sebastian Fortress, there was a striking view that encompassed our ship.
After our mandatory “olive-in-cafe” pit stop, we returned to the waterfront, passing one of my favorite Vigo buildings, the Real Club Nautico, whose Art Deco edifice is based on that of an ocean liner.
Shortly before 6:00 PM, STAR FLYER was underway in a brilliant late afternoon light, passing the saluting FORTUNA before turning in the basin. Captain Müller-Cyran suggested there might be a tender launch near the mouth of the fjord to allow us to get photos of the beautiful FLYER under sail but the local authorities nixed the idea.
So, we headed to the bowsprit to savor the sea breeze with a view of the ship’s stunning clipper nose slicing through its element, aglow in a late-day golden hue.
Later, at the fantail with the quiet gurgle of the sea, scores of breaching dolphins and the occasional gull, we enjoyed a bit of bubbly to help this blogger accept the transition of yet another year.
Even the buxom COSTA FORTUNA looked beautiful in the now-silvery light, as she cut through a faint mist, bone in her teeth, bound for Lisbon. I don’t think anyone on STAR FLYER would have traded places with the passengers on the FORTUNA but nobody had cause to pity them, either.
In the dining room, it was Captain’s Night, so more champagne flowed. Predictably, dinner was delectable, highlighted by a tender chicken-stuffed-with-mushrooms entrée.
I had hoped the Baked Alaska parade would keep the staff busy enough to not fuss over my birthday but apparently not even the smallest detail escapes them. The added bonus following my serenade were the six charming, chic ladies from Brest, who paraded over to the table with birthday kisses.
At 10:00 PM in the shelter deck, the talent show began. We enjoyed everything from a dulcet “Mary Poppins” solo to French poetry, magic and Indonesian folkloric music. And then those fabulous, high-spirited, high-kicking French ladies took the stage with their rousing version of the “Can Can”. They were only slightly eclipsed by three of their spouses donning drag in a musical number that would have done “La Cage” proud.
Trilingual Guadalajara-based cruise director Ximena and her Swedish sports duo, Tim and Victor, then led all assembled into a line dance that, of course, included the “Macarena”.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
We gained an hour by sailing into the Portuguese time zone, allowing a little extra rest before facing the great hangover (not so much the champagne but the realization that our journey was nearing its end). I was granted a quick engine room visit, impressed with the FLYER’s tidy-yet-compact machinery spaces. According to her engineer, without the help of the sailing gear, the twin Caterpillar diesels, which produce approximately 1300 break horsepower, were built to give the FLYER a top speed of 16 knots.
It was sheer bliss to circle the ship with all of her sails up in one of her zodiacs. The sun was filtered by a gauzy mist and the almost glass-like seas doubled the beauty with their mirror-like reflections. Pure magic!
Afterwards, I sat down with Captain Müller-Cyran to learn a little bit about his seagoing background. Born in Kessel, Germany, he joked that he went to sea, “not so much because of the romance and all the ‘usual’ reasons but because I didn’t so much like school and staying at home.” He joined the German Merchant Navy and served on a number of interesting ships, including the beautiful HANNOVER (a Hamburg Amerika combli-liner that sailed to South America), the REMSCHERT and DUSSELDORF on voyages that took him “everywhere, from the Great Lakes to Indonesia.” At the age of 23, he obtained his master’s license in Bremen. Müller-Cyran later served as an officer in the West German Navy until the unification mandated retirement for those over 50. Shortly thereafter, he joined the famed sailing yacht SEA CLOUD as first officer, soon becoming her master. In 1993, he began working with Star Clippers and has been master of each of its three ships. Interestingly, his twin brother is a Wese River pilot and also is a captain with Star Clippers. “We never planned to work together or even take the same path in life but that is how it worked out.” Captain Müller-Cyran lives in Flensburg, where he also teaches traffic law and crisis law at the local university.
Other than packing, we spent a lazy afternoon in the calm Atlantic, off the coast of Portugal. On our ultimate visit to the bowsprit, we enjoyed salt-tinged views of the sparkling blue sea. And, just before we climbed back onto solid deck, several dolphins raced underneath us.
It’s unusual for me to interview chefs but the food on the STAR FLYER warranted a bit more than just the usual photo or two. Taking a few minutes out of his frenetic pre-dinner schedule, amiable, 48-year-old Ocho Rios-born Devon Hodges answered a few of my questions. Having studied at a culinary school in Jamaica, he joined Star Clippers in 1993. He enjoys all the challenges of cooking a diverse menu of items and actually learned how to cook Asian food from his staff, many of whom have shared family recipes from regions as diverse as India, China and Indonesia. When I complimented him on the outstanding veggie lasagna from a few nights prior, he responded, “That is because I get to source only the best ingredients, which is important, because these passengers know, for example, the difference between a good and ‘just average’ cheese. I also have a great staff and we have a very small galley, so we need to work well together.” Chef Hodges loves to cook Caribbean-style cuisine and said that Barbados and Grenada are the islands with the best spices.
An hour or so later, we were enjoying yet another superb STAR FLYER delicacy in the form of an artisan-style Macaroni and Cheese.
After dinner, officers and crew assembled for “We Are The World”. As expected, the festive French side of the room was on its toes and twirling napkins in the air.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
A tinge of sadness came when we crossed the STAR FLYER’s gangway for a final time and landed at the Santa Apollonia cruise terminal. “Reality” became a bit more intense when a pack of renegade taxi drivers clamored around us. The first one we encountered refused to turn on his meter and wanted nineteen Euros to take us a mere few blocks to our hotel, so we crossed the street to the train station and found an honest cabbie who did it for a mere five.
That morning, we walked through various city squares, past some striking sculptures and along the main drag, Avenida de Liberdad, where there was a flea market with vintage ephemera, then Rob drove us to Nossa Senhora do Monte in Graça for the ultimate view of the seven-hilled city.
I can see why Lisbon is often compared to San Francisco with its hills and street cars, but to me, it is more of a friendly, colorful cross between Rome and Istanbul…with the addition of some impressive tile work.
We crossed to the south side of the Tagus River to the beaches of Costa de Caparica, where the wide strand extends along the base of sandstone cliffs as far as the eye can see. Although there was not much time, I savored a short jog and a chance to bodysurf its perfectly formed waves.
We headed back over the Ponte de 25 Abril, often referred to as the Tagus Bridge, which borrows from the architecture of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge and the rusty orange paintwork of its Golden Gate.
Back in Lisbon, I joined up with renowned historian/photographers Luis Miguel Correia and Raquel Sabino-Pereira for a drive up river to see the lovely Portuguese liner FUNCHAL, which is undergoing an on-again-off-again refit. FUNCHAL is the last of a breed of once-proud Paquetes Portugueses and looked particularly beautiful in the afternoon light. I am not alone in hoping she returns to sail for many more years.
And then, it was a race back down to the waterfront by Placa do Commercio where the STAR FLYER was reeling in her sails and casting her lines. We watched with envy when she silently glided past, soaking up the very last rays of the Portuguese sun before disappearing under the Ponte de 25 Abril on her way to Portimao.
Just before I said goodbye to Luis and Raquel, I heard some friendly shouts and turned to find our fellow French passengers, who had also gathered on the Lisbon waterfront to wish the STAR FLYER a fond, festive farewell.
End Of STAR FLYER To Iberia
Very Special Thanks: Buck Banks, Luis Miguel-Correia, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Julie Ellis, Klaus Franz, Captain Jurgen Muller-Cyran, Raquel Sabino-Perreia