How and for what was the most famous 90-year-old Russian sailing ship built?
The four-masted barque was built in Bremerhaven (Geestemünde) and launched in 1926 (with the name "Padua"). The unique sailing ship has been known throughout the world as "Kruzenshtern" for 70 years. We wouldn’t like to call her "legendary" because there are practically no legends and myths about the vessel and all possible questions are answered sooner or later. There are irrefutable facts, documents and reality. The steel giant is more than a tangible object and her life history is quite evident in the 20th century. So there are no mysteries, except just one.
The magic of this extraordinary vessel, and it is indeed extraordinary, is her people. They were the people who gave the second birth to the barque and a future prosperous life.
As it happened, this sailing ship has always been lucky in terms of people. The captain Gennady Kolomensky, who had had a 45 years of sea-going experience aboard the vessel, used to say “no matter how different those responsible for the ship’s destiny and operations were, the most important thing was to work for the image and well-being of the ship". The time when the barque appeared was rather hard to both people and ships. But, if truth be told, “the Padua" time, and then "the Kruzenshtern" one, was always lucky.
So, Germany, 1926: social instability, high unemployment rate, hunger, poverty, attempts of political upheaval and unrest, and the overall oppressive mood after the lost war and the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. The Laeisz shipping company having a squadron of steel cargo sailing ships decided to build another windjammer. But building it without the engine was quite controversial in terms of construction. That is why the Laeisz company had started to build ships with steam engines since 1922. The sailing ships carrying capacity was not sufficient, so it was difficult to find the shipment loads for freight.
Cheap cargoes able to cover operational costs were very dependent on the fluctuations in world market prices. Remote ports with bad infrastructure, with primitive conditions of cargo handling were not in favor of a sailing ships intended to carry out transoceanic transportation.
There was no clear and conceivable economic perspective that would ensure the profitability of construction of the vessel. It is only now, nearly a century later, the Germans can speak that the reason for the construction of such a large cargo vessels as windjammers is to delivery ammonium nitrate (the common name for minerals that contain alkali metal, primarily - the raw material for the production of industrial explosives and only after that - to use as nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture).
Europe and especially Germany sought to make up for the production of dynamite after the First World War to replenish the arsenals ravaged by war- and the demand for Chilean nitrate was high. And although in 1917, German chemists synthesized artificial ammonia, traders realized that they still could constantly make money on this cargo . Thus, It can be said that windjammers were partly involved in preparation of the Second World War transporting nitrate to Europe and dynamite to South America in 1920-1930.
Manning of the large cargo ships - also a real problem: the severe working conditions, long-term and complex voyages- not attractive for qualified seafarers. That is why the Laeisz family applied effective management and attracted cadets for practical training which was paid. Since the late 19th century( in Germany) to receive a professional sailor diploma you had to have a 24-month of seagoing experience (including 12-months aboard a sailing ship).
The Laeisz entrepreneurial talent and progressive thinking contributed to scientific achievements in navigation and meteorology. And the factors made a success.
One cannot deny the fact that during the construction of "Padua" Germany began to challenge the British priority on ocean routes. The ambitious Germans humiliated by military and political defeat of the first quarter of the 20th century considered the construction of windjammers not only as economic benefits but also as an opportunity to assert its national prestige. And the Kaiser's government strongly encouraged such aspirations, even under the influence of economic constraints in shipbuilding . They believed that the commercial fleet would give a chance to revive the economy and the sailors would be an excellent resource to restore the rapidly increasing navy.
The Germans did not miss this opportunity and by 1913 the German steel sailing fleet had “overran” the English one in terms of quality. Hamburg and Bremen "Cape Horners" made voyages from Europe to South America faster than the British ones - despite the fact that they often had fewer crew members. It was impossible not to say that the Germans had the best vessels and great captains. As sad as it could be for the British, but the concepts of "windjammers" and "Cape Horners" are primarily associated with the German sailing ships, and in particular with the Ferdinand Laeisz ones (1801-1887), remaining in history as the famous " Flying P-Liners".
Based on the already build most successful project of a sailing ship (1926) the Laeisz company launched their new windjammer called "Padua" on June 23, 1926. Most likely the prototype for the newly built ship was the vessel called “Pangani” constructed in 1902. Nobody could think that this was the last ship in the family of classic windjammers (about 16 sailing ships of the same type). The company owned 135 sailing ships but in 1925 there were only 33 left, just 6 in 1935 and before the war the Laeisz had only two, the most new ones.
The first years of "Padua" were not filled with special achievements and records – she was the youngest sister in the sailing ships family. The Laeisz "Placilla", "Pisagua", "Pamir", "Passat", "Parma", "Peking", "Priwall" and others had demonstrated their achievements in seaworthiness and cost-efficiency.
Being the youngest daughter, “Padua” had gone through many trials that prepared her for a special life incomparable with the fellow sailing ships. For over nine decades she had to cope with severe storms and hardships: to survive the devastation and a real threat of destruction, reflagging and the name change. As a young girl sent by iron-hearted parents to a foreign country for a marriage, she changed everything: the language, traditions, way of life. She was reorganized and rebuilt, and with her new name, it has not only survived and eventually became strong enough to show everyone her incredible character. Isn’t it a good lesson for the people?
Today the barque, after numerous reconstructions, is significantly different from what it used to be in 1926. But the modern crew has always stressed that the main things of the ship are the hull, spars, rigging and the work organization principles which have been authentic for more than 70 years.
Let’s leave the discussion of specifications and details to shipbuilders, designers and engineers. Kruzenshtern is a unique and outstanding achievement of shipbuilding and ship repair. We are just about to completely investigate the phenomenon. Kruzenshtern is in fact a sailing museum which represents the temple of engineering art.
There’s an interesting fact (according to informal information) that the hull, coating, frames, the keel and stern-posts were built from the Krupp steel intended to construct a German destroyer after the World War I. This explains the excellent quality of the hull which ensured the vessel’s long life. Over its history the bark has changed several professions operating as a cargo, scientific, and military vessel, and for half a century (!) continues to work as the civil training ship.
The general information about the barque: steel hull built in accordance with the class and the rules of Germanischer Lloyd. Framing system – transverse; frame spacing – 635mm (in the bow – 610mm); planking thickness – 13mm; steel “grade 3” (according to the analysis conducted in the USSR); 7 watertight bulkheads; they are placed on frames 8, 22, 42, 74, 86, 122 and 135 (the frames are numbered from stern to bow in accordance to the German rules).
Like all the Laeisz four-mastered ships the vessel had three superstructures and two decks. There were premises for the permanent crew, a salon in the middle superstructure , berthing compartments for cadets in the stern and storage and technical rooms in the bow. The middle superstructure (behind the wheel) had a wooden chart house. The tween-decks ,the main deck, the forecastle, the poop and the middle deck consisted of overlapped steel plates fixed with studs. Wooden coating were made of solid teak wood, as well as from the core of the fir and pine bog.
Mast and spars: steel masts with overlapping double rivet joints and treble rivet joints on the seams .The fore mast and both mainmasts were made in one piece with the top masts. Each mast (except the mizzen) had one non-removable mast top and crosstrees. The angles of the masts lean to the stern were : 3 ° for the foremast; 4 ° for the 1 st mainmast; 5 ° for the 2nd mainmast and 5,5 ° - for the mizzen-mast. The maximum diameter of the masts was 760 - 840 mm. The height of the masts are different from the original ones. In 2015, the upper part of the fore mast and the 1st mainsail were converted into lifted ones allowing to adjust the height up to 2 meters to go under modern fixed bridges or to save on expensive tug services (for example, in the Bosporus). Today the masts have height of 56 meters. Being constructed it used to be as follows: the fore mast - 53.2 m, the 1st main mast- 54 m,the main-mizen mast - 52.4 m and the mizzen mast - 44,8 m.
All yards, booms and flagpoles are steel, with the exception of the wooden flagpole on the mizzen-mast. The three bottom rows of yards are riveted , the top ones are made of of seamless pipes. The length of the lower yards together with booms reached 29.9 m. The bowsprit design is similar to the masts’ one, its maximum diameter was 700 mm, length-14.1 m from the forward perpendicular.
The barque’s rigging was hemp, the shrouds and backstays were covered with a special composition of black color. There was a small quantity of steel cables and chains used . The blocks were mostly wooden. There were ladder rungs instead of ratlines on the shrouds.
The rigging mechanism included 3 brace, 3 self-locking topsail halliard,3 topsail halyard and topgallant halyard winches as well as 6 double-helical geared capstans. The most difficult of them were braced winches having three pairs of conical hoist drums. In addition, "Padua" had simpler bulwark winches for sheets and tacks of the lower sails. All of these mechanisms have the manual drive: there were no steam engines on the ship.
The sails were made of canvas "Cape Horn" standard (1 kg / m2). The total area of 32 sails was 3800 m2. Although there is a very accurate model of the bark "Padua" in the Bremerhaven Maritime Museum . It has 34 sails and there are 3 staysails between the fore-mast and the 1st and 2nd main masts instead of two in the drawings. The photos of "Padua" with the full sails set can not be unambiguous evidence, so it is not clear if these two top staysails were in reality or not.
The steering gear was manual, typical for large windjammers of the last century. The main steering station was located on the spar-deck in front of the chart room and had two steering wheels(made of teak ) on one shaft. There was the secondary station (with the Davis steering mechanism) on the poop deck. The rudder stock was controlled by the steering rope passed through the special pipes along the entire upper deck of the ship. The Rudder had parabolic shape.
The anchor device had two admiralty bower anchor weighing 3.25 tons with anchor chain (caliber of 57 mm and a length of 250 m). The anchors were removed onto the forecastle deck with the cathead and cat-tackle and were secured in the same way as it was done in the old sailing ships by means of cathead stoppers and chain shank painters. There were two chain stoppers between the cat-holes and the windlass.
The fore running lights were mounted on the forecastle in special turrets (manufacturer - Teklenborg company called them "beacons") and traditionally had oil or kerosene lamps.
The cadet ‘s berthing compartments accommodated 40-50 people and the sailor lived in the 12-bed compartments. The standard number of permanent crew was 28-32 people. As the structure and appearance of the ship has largely changed as a result of multiple renewals and to picture how the living compartments and cabins looked like you’d better visit the "sisters" on the family: "Passat" in Travemünde (Lübeck) and "Peking" in New York ( Both -1911 th year of construction).
The sailing ship had five lifeboats - four of them were 7-meter long and the captain’s one (on duty) was more than 6 meters in length.
Since there were no refrigerating chambers on the vessels in those days to ensure crew with meat and milk there was a herd of living creatures aboard the ship. The barque was equipped with a chicken coop (on the booms of the poop) and a pigsty (under the forecastle). To combat the mice and rats there were also dogs and cats on board. Bilge and ballast systems of the vessel were equipped with hand-operated pumps .
"Padua" went down in history that was the last big sailing vessel built without auxiliary motor. Her followers were sailing and motorized vessels used only as training ships.