A German family that has been sailing the Atlantic Ocean for more than a year stopped in Elizabeth City last week.
Hagen and Inga Voehrs, joined by their children Beeke, 9, Wencke, 7, and Frithjof, 5, left the Channel Islands in August 2018. From there they sailed south to the Caribbean, before heading back north to Nova Scotia to escape the effects of Hurricane Dorian. The Channel Islands are located off the northern coast of France in the English Channel.
Currently on their way back south, the family cruised the Dismal Swamp Canal in their sailing vessel “Salmon” last week and docked on the Pasquotank River at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.
The family plans to stay in the Carolinas through Christmas, with Beaufort, South Carolina, a possible port call for Christmas Day. They said they didn’t want to be in the Caribbean on Christmas because it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas.
While in Elizabeth City, the family took advantage of the opportunity to participate in an annual downtown tradition.
“We think it’s a very nice thing,” Hagen Voehrs said of Elizabeth City’s Lighted Boat Parade Friday night.
He said they had never been a part of that kind of parade before, even though they had previously decorated their boat with Christmas lights.
Hagen Voehrs said when he turned 40 he decided the time was right to take the family on a transatlantic sailing adventure. He is a dental surgeon and his wife also is a dentist, and they are taking a two-year sabbatical to sail the Atlantic.
“I did something similar with my parents when I was a teenager,” he said, and he wanted his children to have the same kind of adventure.
“It’s going to be the greatest adventure that they will get in life,” he said.
During their travels, the family has met people at every seaside stop they’ve visited. When you take your home with you as you go it affords “a better link to the locals,” he said, of their sailboat.
“You not only share your own journey and experience but you hear so many new ones,” he said.
He said he had read about the Dismal Swamp Canal but it was great to experience it himself.
“That was really, really cool,” he said.
“And we were really lucky to see a black bear,” added Inga Voehrs.
Hagen Voehrs said the trip has provided wonderful educational opportunities for the children, as they have experienced different cultures. He said children in Europe study the American Civil War, but his children have seen Civil War battlefields in person — including the Dismal Swamp Canal locks at South Mills, which featured prominently in the Battle of South Mills.
The boat constitutes an “outdoor classroom,” he said. “This is kind of hands-on education.”
The family had planned to depart Elizabeth City on Sunday, after spending about a week in the River City. Hagen Voehrs said the children especially enjoyed Elizabeth City because they had a chance to play with children their own age.
“They love it,” added Inga Voehrs.