The Oosterschelde and her sisters: A field guide

Today in Learn Along with Claire, get to know your tall ships! In case you didn’t know, I will spending part of February, March and April sailing the Atlantic aboard the topsail schooner Oosterschelde. At the moment she and her sisters are off the coast of Hobart, Tasmania as part of the Australian tall ships regatta. A couple of local filmmakers hopped on board their boat and sailed out to the harbor to put together this video, which serves as an ideal tool to get acquainted with a pirate’s most important asset: the ship!

The Europa is the three-masted barque with square sails, for the pirate who wants to make an entrance.

The Oosterschelde (my ship), a three-masted schooner. Fast and furious, for the pirate on a mission.

The Tecla is the small two-masted ketch, for the pirate who works by stealth.

Announcement! Princess of Pirates is about to be more than just a state of mind

Actual trip may differ from photo.

Actual trip may differ from photo.

For the past few months, this blog has been in stealth mode. I’ve been hiding in the trees like some kind of fairy-tale witch, tossing out candy to see if anyone will take the bait. But now that the advance check is in the bank it’s official, it’s time to reveal why I decided to start it–and it isn’t, as you might have guessed, just a sudden, unexplained obsession with eyepatches.

My first book, the memoir Princess of Pirates: Or, How I Ran Away to Sea is a go! It’s due out in 2015 from Cleis Press, with a hearty salute to my intrepid agent Anna Olswanger of Liza Dawson Associates. As a result, come February, I’ll be heading back to sea for the first time since 2006, as a guest crew member on the Dutch schooner Oosterschelde. And you’re all invited along for the trip!

In the coming months, I’ll be dishing up as many typhoons, swashbuckling duels, and wind-blown love affairs that I can cram into digestible 300-word chunks, as well as more pedestrian fare like…um, finishing my manuscript. All in real time (for the polished stuff, of course, you gotta buy the book!) As always, since this is the 21st century and not (sadly) the Golden Age of Sail, I’ll be cross-pollinating on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Some of you may get handwritten letters stuffed into glass bottles, too–but I can’t guarantee timely delivery.

See you at sea!

At least it’s an opportunity to use the phrase “jagged rocks below”

Have you been following the Astrid saga? The 100-foot Belgian brig was wrecked July 24 off the Irish coast of Cork, with its crew safely evacuated, and now the Coast Guard has given its approval to raise her, hopefully to find out what happened. Sad that after being built in 1918 and surviving two world wars, she might never sail again. Time to sing a dirge. “Heel ya hoy, boys…”

Wrecked tall ship to be lifted from sea

Wrecked tall ship to be lifted from sea.

Whale and dolphin spotting on the Irish coast

Celtic Mist in Dun Laoghaire Ready For Gathering Cruise

Celtic Mist in Dun Laoghaire Ready For Gathering Cruise.

“The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s (IWDG) research yacht Celtic Mist is currently docked in Dun Laoghaire awaiting the start of The Gathering Cruise around Ireland.

As previously reported on, the 19-day event will see some 100 cruising boats proceed along the east and south coasts of Ireland from Dublin to Cork and Kerry.

Along the way they will be recording any sightings of whales or dolphins along the way using forms supplied by the IWDG.”

Sign me up!

What it takes to be a Daughter of Neptune

The bell onboard the SS Sorlandet. It’s part of the Class Afloat program, which I’m sadly too old for. Nuts!

Toronto Star staffer Andrew Livingstone gets a pirate’s eye view aboard the SS Sorlandet. Testimony from real-life pirate princess and Class Afloat alum Celina Diaz: “Before you cross you’re a pollywog and when you cross you become a shellback,” she said. “It’s like once you become a shellback you’re part of this society, you’re under King Neptune’s protection.”

If you, (unlike me, at least in the pirate ship world) are still a youngster, find out more about the Class Afloat program!

Under the Northern Cross on the Schooner Manitou




Four days on the Manitous, sipping wine or gazing at the stars, sounds like a dream.



Tall Ship Manitou offers multi-day sailing experiences. The Manitou, operated by the Traverse Tall Ship Company, is a traditional topsail schooner, just like the one I sailed on. The price is around $700 for a four day trip, but if you have the doubloons, I recommend going to gaze at the stars or sip wine. Few real ships have overnight voyages open to people of all ages, and until you’ve gazed at the stars from under the mainmast.