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Tall Ship Tales

Interview with Jarle Flatebo, Captain of the Sorlandet

Bondage on Board
The wonderful thing about the tall ship community is how it creates natural bonds between novice and seasoned sailors and tends to span the different nationalities and age groups so you are sure to find yourself in an interesting international environment. The common language on board is usually English or sometimes German, depending on the mix of people, and the handbooks are in English.

What Awaits You?
You will be thrown into a real sailor’s way of life – learn about canvas and ropes, splices and knots, stand sea watches, undertake rig deck galley work, and sleep in a bunk in shared quarters. Don’t forget your sleeping bag! There are three watches and each sailor does four hours on and eight hours off. Everyone must pull his weight and your effort is essential to successful sailing maneuvers, which makes it all so fulfilling. Don’t be put off by the hard work because the experience has so much to offer, and “Nine out of 10 participants express a wish to return,” says Captain Flatebo. “People come on board with the right attitude to have fun and learn.” If you play a musical instrument bring it along! Singing songs below deck is renowned. The Sorlandet is not a passenger ship; you embark as a trainee and take part in all duties on board under command of the crew, from lookout to galley duty. For true sailors it’s a dream come true to be helmsman on board the queen of the European tall ships.

Harrowing Ship Stories
It really is the stuff of adventures stories. Jarle told me of how he and his crew saved the lives of a father and son, whom they found clinging to a life raft, after 10 hours adrift and 10 emergency flares. “I was scanning the sea, north of the entrance to the British channel, and saw them. They were very lucky they were not struck by a passing ship because their boat had sunk in the middle of a very busy passage used by hundreds of commercial vessels (800 average daily),” he recalled. Jarle explained that they were not detected by the modern ships, whose high tech radars and screens failed to notice the tiny Dutch pair. “These instruments only interpret reality. In this case the old fashioned but effective method of observation out on deck was what saved them.” He is of the opinion that technology is valuable as long as the basic sailing skills are learned first. “Feeling the wind and watching the sea teaches you a lot and tunes your intuition,” he says. Working with and in harmony with nature are skills guests on board can expect to learn. “I have never had any problems or serious accidents as captain of the Sorlandet,” he adds reassuringly.

A Ship’s Salary
The Sorlandet earns her keep by means of several activities, and chief among them are harbor festivals (approximately eight per year). Jarle explained that these open days to the public are an excellent way to gain publicity for the tall ships in the foundation, but regretfully they take him away from sailing because they are harbored in ports around the world for weeks. Other moneymaking activities are chartering trips for individuals (she sleeps up to 70 guests) and also to private companies, many of which use the sailing experience as a team-building exercise for their staff. For parties in port or fair winds day trips, she takes 150 guests.

Voyages of the Future
On parting I asked Jarle what other exciting plans he had. The reply was no less adventurous than I imagined for an old sea dog bitten by the travel bug. “I leave from Monaco to Africa and then I’m off to Brazil with my son to captain a crew,” he smiled. It seems tall ship sailing is an addiction fathers don’t mind their children having.

Captain Jarle Flatebo
Master Mariner O. Jarle Flatebo is Norwegian but has been based in Monaco since 1989. He is registered in the Mediterranean Principality with a licence for “consultancy in the cruise industry, commercial navigation, and other projects within the maritime field, including the purchase, sale and construction, technical and commercial management, and chartering and financing of maritime constructions.” He holds a Master Mariner Class 1 certificate to the STCW ’95 Convention and GMDSS, including the ISM code course. He is a long-term member of The Propeller Club, the Monaco Yacht Club, and a Board member of the Monaco Marine Arbitration Chamber. While Captain Flatebo served as Master on board the Sorlandet won the prestigious Cutty Sark Tall Ships race in 2003. Since YV&C spoke to Captain Flatebo he has jumped ship and is now serving as captain of the Sorlandet’s sister ship the Skoleskipet Christian Radich.

Sorlandet Foundation
The Stiftelsen Fullriggeren Sorlandet foundation organizes trips for individuals as part of a crew at a rate of 120€ per day. Students under 25 benefit from a 10 percent discount, as do families (minimum three persons). The primary aim of the foundation is to promote the heritage of the tall ships and to give participants an experience of traditional square rig sailing and life at sea, while preserving the ship through an active and purposeful use. The Sorlandet has the capacity to sleep 70 guests. She is 65 meters long, weighs 499 gross registered tons, 560 HP, and has a speed of 8 knots. She has a permanent crew of 17 persons during the sailing season, a figure that is reduced to two to four persons during the winter season.

For information on the other two tall ships in the foundation, see and

Merit list of recent tall ship races
1980: Skagen-Amsterdam No 4
2003: Riga-Travemünde No 1 (Baltic Sea)
2004: Stavanger-Cuxhaven No 4
2005: Newcastle Gateshead-Fredrikstad No 5
If you wish to sail the Sorlandet check the Web site for the 2006 summer sailing schedule at

Related web sites:

More Stories By Paula Farquharson

Paula Farquharson is an editor of The Riviera Times newspaper. Originally
from Ireland, she worked in New York and is now based in Nice, France,
where she learned to sail.

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