Sunday, 27 December 2009

History meets modernity...

On the day of Christmas Eve Mercy Shippers were invited for a tour of the Russian Tall Ship Kruzenshtern, the second largest sailing vessel in the world at 4,700 tons. Her tallest mast is 56 metres high and the ship has a length of 114 metres and is crewed by 120 cadets and 50 general crew members. She had pulled into Tenerife a few days before the Africa Mercy on her International Trans-Atlantic Expedition.

The Kruzenshtern was built in 1926 and was initially a German cargo ship sailing under the name Padau. With the conclusion of the Second World War, she was given to the Soviet Union as a war repatriation and renamed the Kruzenshtern. She has sailed under the Russian flag ever since.

It was really interesting seeing a totally different type of vessel to the one that we are used to. There is such a blend of history on a ship like the Kruzenshtern. Indeed, much of her story is preserved in a lovely museum onboard, which chronicles her visits to many different ports - including Cape Town - and the history of this fascinating ship.

Walking the wooden decks one is brought face-to-face with a real mix between the modern world and the old world. Here radar and GPS go hand in hand with older navigational aids such as the sextant and chart table. Diesel engines meet flowing white sails. Air-conditioning and a modern interior are contrasted with the old sailing ship exterior. The ship still has her original old brass bell located all the way forward, tolled when the lookouts spot hazards, and yet she also has a fully integrated telephone system making communication easier. And contrary to the days of sail, the Kruzenshtern also has two MOBs (Man Overboard Boats) to be deployed in an emergency, and more than enough liferafts to meet the requirements of SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea).

Kruzenshtern left the port this evening (Saturday 26th December) and is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the port of Colon on Panama's Caribbean Sea. She is sailing around the world to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the Second World War.

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