How windjammers operated: Romance or Challenge to Fate?
In the first voyage "Padua" set off from Hamburg on August 30, 1026 and in 74 days – on November 24th - she reached the Chilean port of Talcahuano. The navigation was entrusted to Captain Charles Schuberg who also led the second voyage, too. Under "general cargo", which was stated in the documents, most likely there was bathroom equipment (baths, sinks), furniture, coke for Valparaiso, and also quite unpacific products - dynamite.
The shipowner did the business based on his understanding of the profitability: everything needed on board, excluding fresh food and water, was bought in the port of registry - Hamburg. Also, voyages were expected to be as fast as possible: eliminating downtime and delays associated with providing the vessel with all essential supplies. Responsibility for everything was on the captain.
From the third through the sixth voyages "Padua" sailed under the command of Captain Herman Pinning. It was the 6th voyage when the results improved: the transit from Hamburg to Talcahuano was carried out for 72 days.
Work on a cargo sailing ship seems idyllic and romantic only by the amateurs - but real life in the sea consisted of monthslong hardships of staying in austere conditions. And the most difficult part of it was the inevitability of working in the most difficult storms.
Windjammers constantly faced strong storms, especially during the passage round Cape Horn, which sometimes took weeks. No wonder that those captains who had managed to go these severities, united in the International Association "Cape Horners" where they received the title of an "albatross".
To resist a sudden attack on a ship is impossible in this area, and strong winds, turning into the most severe storms in combination with huge waves, easily destroyed even such giants like the ones of the Cape Horn line. Even ship motion destroyed vessels in this area - it just broke steel hulls like small cans.
Work on deck and up in the masts in bad weather extremely tedious and dangerous for the crew: injuries and death of seafarers washed away overboard during a storm, was not a surprise. Almost all falling from masts ended tragically, and even the presence of doctors on board would not help. Often the sea became the tomb: to stop the vessel fast, lower the boat and rescue a sailor fallen into the raging depths of the sea was not possible.
Violent storms tore the sails to shreds in seconds, pulled huge masts out of the ship’s hull, and huge waves, height of which was similar to waterfalls, furiously fell upon the deck and superstructures. The slightest mistake in reaction - and there was no salvation!
Even experienced sailors who had experienced such storms said that nothing in the world compare to that. It should be noted that a significant number of young inexperienced trainees learnt a lot from the heavy storms. Perhaps that is why when recruiting the Laeisz Company chose those who grew up on the water who were from families of hereditary sailors and did not welcome fearless and lone adventurers. But having passed the most severe hardening on windjammers, cabin boys got the reputation of “the sailor”, ready to work in any conditions.
The 7th and 8th voyages led by Robert Klauss, a very experienced captain, who rounded Cape Horn 35 times, 15 of which were made in the position of captain. It’s worth mentioning that almost all the captains of "Padua" tend to live a long life celebrating the 80th anniversary. Upon retirement from the Laeisz, as a rule, they continued their naval career as pilots and marine inspectors. Today it is difficult even to imagine how poor the technical equipment was 90 years ago: there was virtually nothing but intuition, knowledge and personal experience. Apparently this kind of work could be chosen only by people of uncommon will, character and unique human qualities.
And again the barque came to Europe with a load of saltpeter. But to continue regular voyages of "Padua" in 1932 by the Laeisz company was failed: from February to October of 1933 the barque was laid up waiting to be loaded again – this is how the economic crisis affected the shipping industry. And when in the autumn of 1933 there was a possibility of organizing a voyage to Australia for wheat (although with ballast), there was no alternative.
Since 1933 Clauss worked as captain together with Jurgen Jurs doing two return voyages (voyages 9-10 were made by Jurs and the 11-12 ones were made by Clauss).
And again - from the summer of 1934 to the autumn of 1935 - another standing by. But suddenly the ship-owner received a commercial proposal for the participation of the barque in the film shooting. It was the first movie for the "Padua" - “Die Meuterei auf der Elsinore” that did not have a huge success in France and was never released in Germany. The film based on Jack London’s novel was shot in two months, at the transition from Brest (France) to Casablanca (Morocco). Before Christmas, "Padua" returned to Hamburg.
The 13th voyage was made by Captain Clauss, and 14-15th ones by Jurs again. The route was as follows: Hamburg - Talcahuano - Valparaiso - Iquique - Hamburg. But the 16th voyage was different: Captain Richard Wendt navigated the vessel from Bremen to Corral (Chile) for 61 days, and after Valparaíso she sailed to the Australian Port - Lincoln, and on August 8, 1939 she already returned to Glasgow.
There were three weeks left before the start of the World War II.