The majestic presence of a Russian tall ship, which sat moored in North Vancouver during the Olympic Games in February, recalled the era of the great sailing ships.
The Kruzenshtern, a four-mast ship also called a barque, is the second largest traditional sailing vessel still in operation. It is also one of the world’s last windjammer—a type of large merchant sailing ship with an iron or steel hull used for carrying cargo in the late 19th and early 20th century.
With its home port in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, the ship took about six months to arrive in Vancouver, visiting Belgium, Spain, the Canary Islands, Peru, Venezuela, Panama and a few other countries. It was here to promote the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. On daily tours of the decks, sailors gave visitors an opportunity to see the vintage ship up close.
Currently, the ship is used mainly as a training vessel for 120 cadets from St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and the Caspian Sea. Mostly in their late teens, the cadets are male post-secondary students from the Baltic State Academy and Kaliningrad Maritime College, which train officers for fishing, commercial and river fleets. They are chosen to serve on the ship based on high academic grades. Additionally, there are about 100 other crew members aboard.
The ship also participates in modern sailing regattas every year, with many silver trophies and other awards to attest to its winning status. For example, sailing from Boston to Liverpool, it won the grand Columbus ‘92 regatta, held for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. In 2000, it won the transatlantic Millennium race. In 2009, the ship and its crew travelled to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for a diplomatic visit with Canadian veterans and to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the allied victory in the Second World War.
Originally built in 1926 in Germany, with the name Padua, the ship was given to Russia after the Second World War in 1946 as war reparation. It was used to ship bulk cargo and was eventually refit in 1961 for the Russian Navy. By 1971, it was refit again with state of the art equipment including a satellite navigation system. In 1991, the ship was transferred to the Baltic State Academy.
The ship was renamed the Kruzenshtern after Admiral Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern, who led the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe in the early 1800s while on a trade mission. The admiral’s detailed report of the expedition was published in six languages. He also produced an atlas of the Pacific Ocean.
The ship retraced this historic journey in 1995-1996 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. In 2005-2006, the ship made its third trip around the world to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the original circumnavigation. It sailed around the world in 408 days, with 329 days at sea and 79 days in ports of 22 foreign countries.
The ship measures 376 feet (114.4 metres) in overall length and 46 ft (14.02 m) in width. The four masts carry 31 square sails, which give it an area of 36,600 square feet (3,400 square metres). The ship retains many of its original winches and capstans. The main mast is 168.3 ft tall (51.3 m). The ship is so tall it had to be sailed into Vancouver’s inner harbour at low tide, clearing the Lion’s Gate Bridge by less than 33 ft (10 m).
When under sail, the ship can reach speeds of 17 knots (about 20 miles per hour or 32 kilometres per hour). It also has two diesel engines, each 1,000 hp, which can propel it at 11 knots (about 13 m.p.h. or 20 km/hour).