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There's been a lot of talk about tall ships lately. The World's oldest clipper, the City of Adelaide has begun her historic voyage back to Australia, where she first ferried a shipload of convicts over two hundred years ago. No longer able to soar under sail the old lady is being shunted over on a punt to become a permanent exhibit. Then there is the International Fleet Review in Sydney harbour, a glorious gathering of boats from over 50 nations, many of them tall ships. If all of this is making you hanker for the wind in your hair and the creak of the rigging, then there are many options to consider becoming a short term midshipman or woman. The first place you may be least likely to consider for such a maritime adventure is Tenerife, more commonly associated with so called "fly and flop" holidays. But you can see the Canary Islands more as Christopher Columbus would have done, if you take to a Tall Ship from Tenerife.

It's all hands on deck from the get-go as the ship gets underway, hauling on hemp ropes to get enough sail up aloft to power a 100 year, 98 tonne old vessel. That's the mainsail and four foresails to hoist. These trading ketches would have plied these waters for hundreds of years, taking wine back from the Canaries to the inns and taverns of Shakespeare's day. Bananas became the main export by the end of the 19th Century and this is when the first tourists came on board the "banana boats" often for medicinal reasons, seeking a sun cure. A 7 day cruise these days can see you venture out as far as Tazacorte on La Palma, originally the kind of "last petrol station before the motorway" or last piece of civilized land in the known world.

Along the way, accompanied by pods of dolphins, you can learn how to coil ropes, take a turn at the helm, duck for "widow-makers" (the heavy blocks and tackles on the booms) and go ashore to explore the least-visited parts of the Canaries, extinct volcanoes, deserted villages, vineyards and pine forests. Fishing is encouraged and you might be lucky enough to catch a blue fin tuna. Those brave enough to climb the rigging may even spot pilot whales. Flights to Tenerife are relatively inexpensive and this makes for an unforgettable way to explore its environs on shipboard.

Many other voyages are available on these ocean-going beauties, from weekend taster sessions to long legs following the Trade Winds around the world. From brigs and barquentines to schooners and ketches there is bound to be a boat that would welcome you as a ship mate, with or without your Johnny Depp eyeliner.

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