Thursday, October 9th, 2008
The European Tall Ships ports were good for the ship and crew. Pretty interesting weather, ship handling and various other challenges as well. It was good for the European ships to see the Picton Castle and good for our gang to see them – whole thing ended up being a sort of love fest. The Picton Castle fit right in. Norway and Denmark were lovely.
After steaming 20 miles up the River Weser in low overcast and spitting rain, past low marshes, big cargo ships coming and going and past a very long container ship terminal with ships coming and going and great big gantries towering over the ships, we were directed to our lock. They were saving the very big locks for the big ships. The lock master told us we would fit into the sportboat lock. The chart said maybe not. But the lock master was insistent we would fit so we went in, and as we have come to expect, with a strong wind astern making stopping and manoeuvring just that much more exciting. We did fit and we filled the lock, not one more yard of ship would it take. The crew did a fine job of handling the Picton Castle once again. The inside lock doors opened up, we got some applause form the viewing crowd and we drifted the few feet to our wharf and designated berth. Our yards were very close to some lamp posts. Soon, gangway out and let the show begin.
Bremerhaven, Germany was good festival and interesting. The festival was a massive tall ships affair well attended by throngs of folks. Along the quay there were any number of big roaring barbeques charring worsts, cutlets, steaks and slabs of meat, cotton candy, popcorn, buskers and lines of folks visiting the ships.
In Bremerhaven they have quite the maritime museum including one of the last and very advanced German U-Boats from late 1944-45. This one on display never engaged in hostilities but was in commission before war’s end. Pretty slick beast compared to the WWII submarines we are used to seeing in books and movies, very far advanced class. I gather that this class was used as the prototype for the next generation of US subs in the late 1940’s and 50’s. They have much else as well. They have the only American four masted schooner (now rigged as a bark Suete Dern) formerly the Elizabeth Bandi of Gulfport, Mississippi in 1919. Between the tendency of that class of vessel to come apart and decay in 20 years and the pounding Bremerhaven must have taken in the war it is no small wonder that she exists today and she looks fine. They also have a pretty intact Cog they dug up from 1100 or 1200 or whenever those vessels were about, I think they are called Cogs. So full and detailed a recovery of the original that they have built a few very accurate reproductions that sail hereabouts on the river Weser. They really look like blown up monster maxi-dories in a way.
I, for one, never got into the city of Bremerhaven. We did get over to Hamburg driving at enormous speeds on the autobahn in a Mercedes that didn’t even start breathing hard at 215 km/hr. The port of Hamburg was pretty wild, almost franticly busy. Saw the Bark Rickemers, went to a great ship chandlery where we could satisfy much of our rigging need for the ship called “Toplicht.” And we found a fellow who makes tarred hemp marlin quite reasonably priced.
The Mexican ship, the Barque or I should say “Buque Escuela Armada Republic del Mexico” Cuauhtemoc had our crew over for receptions as did the beautiful French Navy schooner Etoile. Our gang cleaned up well and did our ship proud. The locked-in harbour was just one huge line up of magnificent ships. Ship after beautiful ship along the quay, a true forest of masts. We were moored between the Sorlandet and the Polish big modern Dar Mlodziezy. But we also had German Three-masted Schooner , Annie Von Hamburg, German Barkentine Alexander Von Humboldt with her distinctive green sails, the Omani Barkentine Shabab Oman as neat as a pin, the Dutch passenger vessel Clipper Fullrigger Stad Amsterdam, Norwegian Fulligger Christian Radich, Dutch three-masted schooner Eendracht, Russian 4-masted Bark Sedov, Royal Dutch Navy Ketch Urania, Polish Barkentine Pogoria, Brazilian Fullrigger (and sister to Stad Amsterdam) Cisne Branco and more fine ships I can not recall just now.
By Bremerhaven, our crew had some well developed acquaintances in some of the other ships so we decided to have a dance party on the last night of the festival onboard the Picton Castle. It was great fun with live music provided by the bagpipers and drummers of the immaculate Barquentine Shabab Oman. It seems that the Sultan of Oman not only attended Sandhurst Military College in England but served in Scottish regiment developing a fondness for the pipes. The hatch once again serving as a finest kind dance floor. It was a good party and one hard to turn off as everyone knew that this was it, the last chance to all have good time together. But eventually all was quiet for the night.
The next day, Sunday, dawned bright and cheery but the lock master could not sort out getting us locked through. So after about four hours of waiting, singled up and with engine ticking over, we gave up and elected to spend another night alongside in Bremerhaven. It might have been part of a cunning plot to keep the ship there anyway but we sailed the next day. Weather didn’t look so good…