Epic voyage a success

  • 2001-03-22
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The Estonian yacht Lennuk returned home from an around-the-world journey at about midnight March 18 after 18 months at sea. The ship left Tallinn on Oct. 16, 1999.

Due to strong headwinds and ice, the 44-foot Lennuk's arrival, at Pirita Harbor in Tallinn, was 12 hours later than planned. However, the patron of the expedition, Estonian President Lennart Meri, still came to greet all seven members of the crew.

Along with the president and a number of other high-level officials, including defense forces commander-in-chief Rear Adm. Tarmo Kouts, some 3,000 people came to meet the yacht.

The Lennuk visited 36 ports in 25 countries and sailed 37,963 miles during the voyage, which cost an estimated 6.5 million kroons ($371,000).

The ship's captain, Mart Saarso, thanked his audience for the warm reception and said the one-and-a-half year sail had not been a waste of time.

"This was the most exciting experience of our lives," he said.

The captain added that without his crew's enthusiasm it would have been impossible to finish the trip.

"Not every man is ready to spend so much time in such a tiny ship and face the conditions we lived in," he said.

The crew has already received a number of proposed trips from young Estonian sailing activists and was pleased some men here are still ready to fight the sea.

The Lennuk was built especially for this trip in Finland's and Estonia's shipyards. None of the crew except the captain was a professional seaman, and some sailors had only hours of open sea experience before the journey.

The idea of the expedition was to promote Estonian yachting and Estonia itself around the globe. According to the Thetis Offshore Cruising Society, which charted the route, the aim of the trip was to help to revive the maritime traditions that were stultified in Estonia during 50 years of Soviet occupation.

Modern communications and the Internet made the trip accessible to anyone interested, but first and foremost to students. The trip helped widen their view of the world and encouraged them to realize their own dreams, according to Thetis.

The special Website Ð "The Navigator" Ð developed by Ecomatic Ltd., one of the sponsors, featured a remote surveillance system installed on the ship. Data about the ship's location, course, speed, depth, crew remarks, and a collection of photographs taken by automatic cameras and updated several times a day gave a thorough picture about what was going on aboard the Lennuk.

The ship will be moored at the Kalev Yacht Club in Pirita Harbor. There was some talk about selling the Lennuk, but nothing concrete has been decided. Saarso said the ship might have been bought by the State Naval Academy to train cadets, but it was probably too expensive for the academy.