Every once in awhile when I was a child summering at East Chop, a four or five-masted schooner would come into sight in the distance, white sails filled with wind. Such schooners were carrying timber bound for New York from Maine, we were told.

But it wasn’t the freight that mattered. It was the majestic look of the billowing sails. They conjured up thoughts of the days when whaling ships like the Charles W. Morgan sailed from Vineyard and Nantucket and New Bedford waters to the far away Azores and the Hawaiian islands. Of course, there was nothing romantic about whaling, and there’s nothing romantic about lumbering either. But there is something romantic about white sails against a blue sky and a blue-green sea. So when I read about Star Clippers America cruises aboard vessels that sailed with the wind when they could to exotic ports, I decided last fall to book such a cruise.

I have spent much of my life traveling, but somehow I had always missed Gibraltar and Tangier. When I read that the four-masted, 360-foot brigantine, Star Flyer, was going on a weeklong cruise from Lisbon to Malaga with stops in Portimao, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Casablanca and Tangier in Morocco; Gibraltar and Malaga, Spain, I booked the journey. I left early to explore Lisbon, always a favorite city of mine. I wanted to hear melancholy fado singers there and see the fine art in the Gulbenkian Museum again and climb the narrow streets of the Alfama.

Klaus Muller, captain of Star Flyer, keeps watch. — Sal Laterra

Just before sunset on the day of sailing, I found the Star Flyer. She was hard to miss with her four tall masts, even on Lisbon’s busy waterfront. Bremen-born Capt. Klaus Muller, who went to sea when he was 17 and had captained cargo vessels and ocean liners before joining Star Clippers America, greeted his 147 passengers at an opening reception. (The ship’s capacity is 170). Throughout our cruise, he remained a friendly as well as competent presence. Often just before dinner, while Star Flyer’s sails snapped in the wind and the sky grew crimson, he would be out on deck playing the bagpipes, an art he had learned when his home base was in Scotland. He would also give morning lectures on the intricacies of navigation and the importance of protecting the sea. (In 2012, Star Clippers America, owner of the Star Flyer, was named both the world’s leading sailing cruise company and the world’s leading green cruise line at the 20th annual World Travel Awards in Qatar.)

Before I signed on to sail with Star Clippers, scoffing friends said I was silly to think the vessel would ever really be under sail. My friends were dead wrong. We often made our way under sail and many passengers simply enjoyed lounging on deck beneath those billowing white sails, watching the deckhands manage them. The weather was fine for all of our cruise and I often found myself simply staring out at the endless blue sea and sky by day and watching the seabirds overhead. At night, I would search for Orion’s belt in the starry sky, listen to the wind in the rigging and follow the moon path on the velvet sea.

Some passengers preferred, even when in port, to stay aboard sunning and then cooling off in one of the two mini pools on deck, taking afternoon tea or having a drink rather than going on a land excursion. I think they may have been right. But I chose to see the sights I had not seen before.

I enjoyed Cadiz, founded by the Phoenicians and said to be the oldest city in Europe. Columbus set sail from Cadiz on his second visit to the New World. Because I had decided on a land excursion from Cadiz to Seville, however, I saw little more of Cadiz than its great domed baroque cathedral and a few of its 18th-century merchants’ homes.

In Tangier, fellow passengers and I found a guide on the pier who offered his services for less than the guided tour from the ship. We learned from him that the gleaming white city at the west end of the Strait of Gibraltar was known as the gateway to Africa. We were proudly shown the city’s Kasbah and Medina.

When we reached Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean, I found that small English outpost adjacent to Spain to be fascinating. A shore excursion took me to the top of Gibraltar’s high rock. There an informative guide recounted its history as a World War II naval base. He led the way through former barracks and a hospital and many tunnels, all cut deep into the limestone rock. Outside, I watched Barbary ape families grooming themselves. Legend has it that when there are no longer apes on Gibraltar, the rock, which has belonged to Britain since 1704, will no longer be English. Below the rock in the port itself, there was little to see except souvenir and fish and chips shops. Neither tempted. Star Flyer meals, with few exceptions, were tasty and few passengers opted to eat on land.

There was an early bird breakfast in the piano bar, followed by a full breakfast buffet in the restaurant At lunchtime, a dining room buffet offered both hot and cold dishes. In mid afternoon, tea was available, and dinner was graciously served by waiters in the dining room in the evening, followed by a midnight snack in the piano bar.

For the sports-minded, the ship offered mast climbing, morning stretching exercises and water exercises in the pools. Although there was no spa, massage was available. Evening entertainment was limited largely to fashion shows and dance demonstrations put on by the crew. There was a small gift and necessities shop.

Cabins varied from luxurious ones with portholes or full ocean views, twin beds or a double bed, to tight ones with bunk beds and no porthole.

After the Charles W. Morgan’s recent visit and the steamy summer days we have had lately — even here on the Vineyard — I was tempted to see where else the Star Flyer is sailing this year and next. So I wrote for a company catalogue. There is still limited space on a Barcelona to Malaga cruise in October, but once spring comes in 2015 there is a St. Martin to Lisbon crossing. There are sails along the French coast and in the Balearic Islands, a voyage in the Tyrrhenian Sea and many more planned for 2015.

I’d take any of them, if I knew that the winds would be right, the sails set, the seas calm, the sun out by day and the stars at night. It can’t always be like that, of course, but it’s worth the gamble.