Seven Days Before the (Star Clipper) Mast

Photos and article by Eleanor S. Morris

When you picture the words "clipper ship" what does your romantic imagination conjure up? How about a tall ship on the horizon, multiple sails billowing in the winds, flags fluttering from the mizzen-mast, fluffy white clouds in the bluest of skies.

That's what it's like aboard the Star Flyer, the first clipper ship built in more than a hundred years. Clipper ships, developed primarily in the United States between 1830 and 1860 (before the invention of steamships) are not only graceful and beautiful--they are extremely fast sailing

With a choice of itineraries as exotic as the ship itself, you'll sail out of Phuket, Thailand, on the Andaman Sea into the Strait of Malacca, cruising to such islands as Ko Surin, Ko Miang, Ko Lanta Yai, Penang and Phi Phi. You're on the other side of the world, with shore excursions onto these idyllic Thai islands and into the Malaysian archipelago and the towns of Langkawi and Malacca, where as well as reveling on the beach you can pass some time gambling at the casino, then spend your winnings in duty-free shops.

clipper shipAboard, you'll marvel at the way Star Flyer dances across the waves as her mainsails and topsails fill with the wind. You'll learn to name the foremast, the mizzenmast, the bowsprit, the jib. You'll feel like real Jack Tars as you heave-ho on the halyards (ropes) to hoist the sails to tack the ship into the wind.

In between exotic and romantic stops, there's plenty to do aboard ship. Light gymnastics on the Sport Deck, knot tying outside the Tropical Bar, water gymnastics/pool aerobics, sunning, lazing, napping in a deck chair, or hanging over the rail with the wind in your hair, watching the waves go by.

clipper ship

Late afternoon and evening, cocktail melodies provide dancing on deck under the stars of Malaysia. As for food, it's abundant and abundantly good. And for movie buffs six films are shown each day--usually three in English and the others in French/German (this adventure also appeals to the international crowd). And you'll find the compact cabins comfortable and cozy, with plenty of storage space, as well as a compact bath with shower.

Anchoring off the small island of Ko Surin, you'll be ferried ashore to explore the long beaches of powdery white sand, to swim and splash in the pure emerald green waters. On Phi Phi Island, there are soaring limestone cliffs as well as white sands and blue water; Ko Miang is popular with divers taking advantage of the numerous dive spots; mountainous Ko Lanta Yai is the main island of Thailand's Mu Ko Lanta National Park.

clipper ship

Penang lies on the northwest coast of Malaysia. This "Pearl of the Orient" offers wonderful white beaches, extravagant temples, and delicious food.

Going ashore at Langkawi, you'll find it inhabited, but still relatively remote and unspoiled. This archipelago of 99 islands on the northwestern tip of Malaysia has been romantically called the "Legendary Islands," because of the many colorful tales from its history. One is the seven-generation curse of Langkawi: one Makam Mahsuri was falsely accused of adultery, and her revenge was a curse unto seven generations. Happily enough time has passed to allow Langkawi
to enjoy prosperity again.

clipper ship

Another port of call is Malacca, known as the "City of Dreams." Founded in 1400 by a Sumatran prince, the city retains the influence of the many cultures that settled here. Chinese temples, old Malaccan terrace house, mingle with colorful Dutch, Portuguese and British architecture. This mix gives it claim as the "Malaysian cradle of civilization" and its colorful history begins with the Portuguese taking the city away from the founding Sumatran prince, only to be run off by the Dutch, who were then taken over by the British.

One of the first sights going into town on the Malacca River is a large Dutch windmill in full sail, planted in a square and surrounded by beds of flowers. Nearby you'll find historic St. James Church and the remains of a Famosa fortress, built by the Portuguese in 1511.

Different cruises have different itineraries; this is a sampling of what the Star Flyer has to offer. So if it's romance you hanker for, turn back the clock and go for "seven days before the mast."

IF YOU GO: In addition to Far East Cruises, two clipper ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, also offer Indian Ocean crossings, Caribbean, Transatlantic and Mediterranean cruises. The new Royal Clipper serves the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. For more information contact your travel agent or Star Clippers at 4101 Salzedo St., Coral Gables, FL. 33146, 800/442-0551. Web site:

Copyright Eleanor S. Morris