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School under sail

It is not yet time for sailing ships to go to a museum, this is not a spectacular antique, but a fully functional, environmentally friendly, energy-saving and sporting vessel, believes Eugeny Romashkin, captain of the barque Sedov. In his interview, he told how to preserve unique maritime culture, learn  to look through binoculars and see the future

The four-masted barque Sedov was built in 1921 at a Krupp shipyard in Kiel. During her long life, she changed several owners and names. The first owner, Karl Vinnen, named her Magdalena Vinnen II after his daughter:

In 1936, the barque was bought by Norddeutscher Lloyd, a shipping company, which equipped her with quarters for 70 cadets and began using her as a cargo and training ship. At this time, the ship was named Commodore Johnsen. After World War II, the barque was handed over to the USSR as war reparation and received the name Sedov in honor of the polar explorer Georgy Sedov. Since January 1946, Sedov has become primarily a training ship.

In 1991, the barque was given to the Murmansk State Technical University, and in 2017, she changed her homeport to Kaliningrad.

We talked to Captain Eugeny Romashkin about how the legendary sailing ship lives and sails across the sea today.

Eugeny Nikolaevich, the geography of your expeditions is very extensive. What are your immediate plans?

– For many years, sailing ship schedules have been made up on the basis of advance invitations to European maritime festivals, holidays and international regattas. A visit to any port by such a large sailing ship like ours is always a holiday, and if there are several such events, it attracts tens of thousands of tourists. Today it is impossible to imagine the Sail Amsterdam and Hanse Sail festivals, the Hamburg Port Anniversary or the Kiel week without Russian sailing giants.

In recent years, interest in sailing ships has been steadily growing around the world, and such historical ships as Sedov and Kruzenshtern fully justify their title as museum barques - thousands of guests visit their decks. Residents of all continents are interested in how these vessels are designed, how they worked before and how they continue to train future generations of sailors.

Since such sailing ships were built as transoceanic freighters, even today the geography of our voyages is not limited to a separate area or sea basin - everything depends on plans that life itself suggests. For example, ten years ago our founder, Rosrybolovstvo (Federal Agency for Fisheries) planned to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the formation of the fishing industry and the 60th anniversary of the first herring expedition. We decided to repeat the historical route to the fishing area in the North Atlantic. Then, knowing that we would be off the coast of North America during this period, the Russian Olympic Committee suggested that we support the national team at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We combined these two striking events in one expedition of 2009–2010.

Our immediate plans include preparing the barques for the voyages dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by the Lazarev and Bellingshausen expeditions. We would like to remind the world that the discovery of the youngest continent of the planet was made by Russian navigators exactly on sailing ships. And although it will not be sailing to Antarctica itself, the sailing ships will symbolically meet in the South Atlantic area, as close as possible to the route of their heroic predecessors.

Today, such a ship is still exotic, and many perceive sailing ships as objets d’art or museum exhibits. But it is not true, right? Please tell us about the technical capabilities of Sedov.

– A sailing ship is far from exotic. In Russia, for many reasons, yachting is simply perceived as the occupation of extremely wealthy people, while sports sailing is not popular enough. In fact, water is the most democratic way to get closer to nature, and it doesn’t matter what boat the family has, big or small: wind and wave are free for everyone! This is confirmed by the sailing festivals of thousands of people, when a variety of floating craft are launched. We have partnership programs aimed at developing children’s sailing sports and sailing clubs in different regions of Russia. The work has not yet progressed enough, but it will be fruitful in due time. There are so many water bodies, lakes and rivers in Russia, this is real wealth! And sailing is leisure developing strength, dexterity, knowledge, a thirst for traveling around the native land, sport fishing, recreation culture – everything young people and people choosing a healthy lifestyle need.

Sedov is not just a very large sailing ship, although even the very possibility of complete autonomous navigation with a crew of more than 220 people during about three weeks speaks for itself. Not having been with us on a sea voyage, it’s quite difficult to imagine how the barque – a floating city with its bakery, four-time hot food factory, ambulatory, laundry, sail workshop, museum, marching chapel and many others - lives. But the main thing for the barque’s mentors is the life of the cadets, their classes, extracurricular activities, excursions at ports and acquaintance with a variety of people, creativity and amateur performances, and also growing-up that takes place in a voyage before our eyes. That’s what our sailing ship is!

Sailing ships played a major role in marine research. Are there such pages in Sedov’s history?

– Sailing ships are convenient for marine research, primarily because they do not generate vibrations and noises. It is a stable platform for sensors, ideal for studying the inhabitants of the seas and the water element itself.

Like Kruzenshtern, Sedov had served decades as an oceanographic vessel in the Soviet Navy’s Atlantic Expeditionary Group. In the 1960s, when the large-scale development of oceans and seas began, detailed hydrological, hydrochemical, meteorological and geological studies of the seabed, animals and plants, studies of the magnetic and electric fields of the Earth’s crust, and the deep currents of the Gulfstream periphery were carried out under the USSR Academy of Sciences’ programs. Many studies were distinguished not only for their novelty, but also scale. Before these expeditions, the influence of the World Ocean on the Earth’s climate was not studied, the system of circulation of water masses remained unclear, and there was no seabed geology data. Even the phenomenon of giant ocean waves had no scientific justification then. That’s what sailing ships are capable of right now.

Is Sedov also used as a training ship?

– The name «training» in the category of the vessel is not a coincidence. Today this is the main mission of Sedov, everything else is secondary. It is for the first sailing practice of cadets from the Federal Agency for Fisheries’ maritime educational institutions that the barque goes on expeditions, participates in regattas and makes her memorial voyages. During training voyages, cadets not only continue their studies according to their educational institutions’ training programs, but also, under the guidance of ship specialists, acquire the practical skills of their future professions, keep duty watches, and maintain the sailing vessel. It is, as we say, “school under sail”, which gives the most accurate picture of the ship’s behavior on the water, wave, down the wind, in coping with the elements...

Throughout the world, practical training on a sailing ship is considered fundamental maritime education and is very prestigious. Permanent crew members try to prepare a young seaman not only for the profession, but also for real independent life. After all, people working at sea, as a rule, are able to serve themselves and create a habitable environment around. It is very valuable for young people. In addition, it is important to understand whether you are capable of working in this profession, whether you have made a good life choice. Of course, in the future, cadets will come to a modern fleet, but training on a sailing ship is a very important stage in the marine career, because it forms a personality, there are both romance and a healthy psychological climate in the team. Mentoring on a sailing ship is a system for transferring expensively gained experience rather than a pedagogical theory.

Practicing on a sailing ship is considered fundamental maritime education and is very prestigious around the world

Do you think it is necessary to expand the Russian sailing fleet by building new, modern sailing ships?

– The number of sailing ships – not only training ones – is extremely low. After all, our national maritime culture, so little known to the land population, is perfectly preserved on sailing ships, as nowhere else. Today, sports yachts and recreational vessels are mainly being built, while projects for other purposes practically do not exist: there’s no demand for them from either ship owners or industrialists. It’s a pity!

Strange as it may seem, when the sail is referred to as an outdated propulsor, they overlook the fact that the sail is very promising in the 21st century due to the development of innovative materials, ecology and energy saving: it is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, sporty, and when applying new technologies in shipbuilding and design, the construction of new sailing ships becomes a very progressive project. Our sailing ships always have time to become museum exhibits - we work to ensure that they live on the water as long as possible!

Tell us about interesting stories that happened to you at sea.

– Of course, there have been a lot of events both interesting and difficult, significant and minor, dangerous, sometimes funny and instructive since 1999 when I happened to undergo sailing practice on the sailing training ship Kruzenshtern as a cadet of the navigation faculty at the Baltic Fishing Fleet State Academy. Something remains in the memory, something is forgotten. To answer your question, it is enough for me to open my diaries and read out any record for the past twenty years. But today I will tell a story about binoculars.

In 2000, Captain Gennady Vasilyevich Kolomensky, an epic man, a person of huge proportions who made our sailing ships famous all over the world, a gambling racer (he won many regattas, and all the upgrades to Kruzenshtern were exclusively to his merits), was invited to the awards following the results of the regatta.

The information was received from a liaison officer assigned to Kruzenshtern: the representative of the vessel had to go on stage four or five times and receive prizes in different nominations. Our head of practice was tasked to find an exemplary cadet for this purpose - well-pressed, trimmed and, accordingly, without penalties and comments. In fact, such a cadet was found in seconds. He fitted all the criteria: an athlete and all of the above ... but Gennady Vasilyevich unexpectedly said: “He is very tall, we need someone shorter. You have such a smaller, darker one from the 1st mainmast, so he’ll fit!” I had several seconds to change clothes, but physical shape is always maintained at the level, therefore, an hour later we were invited to the stage to receive prizes and gifts. Among them was a pair of binoculars, which many years later, in 2012, Captain Kolomensky gave me for the birthday along with the wish: “You should be able to look through binoculars not only forward”. It was then that I really understood how to look through binoculars: look into the future and into the past, and not just forward on the bow and backward on the stern.

 

School under sail
School under sail
School under sail
School under sail
School under sail
School under sail