La Grace update

Sadly the brig La Grace still lays foundered on El Cable beach in Marbella (4.8711519 ° W, 36.5072692 ° N) (see post below) while her condition is getting worse everyday.

The good news is that the salvage operation now seems to be underway. The owners seem to have come to terms, somewhat, with the insurance company and a dredging company has been found that will try to carry out the task of putting her back afloat, before she is broken up by the pounding waves.

Let’s hope that will happen as soon as possible and that it will go smooth. Hopefully La Grace is not too much damaged. As far as I can understand, the insurance company will pay for the repair of the damages, but not the salvage – so help is still needed.

The plan seems to be to take her to the port of Algeciras, where she will be hauled out for repairs.

Main thing is that she is afloat before any major damage happens, then the financial problems and legal aspects can be solved, I hope.

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La Grace aground!

Oh boy. A sight like this could be a pretty one. But unfortunately this one is not a ship careened to get some hull work done. Quite the opposite. This is the beautiful lines of the Czech brig La Grace, ran aground on a beach in southern Spain, a heartbreaking sight that lingers and aches in every sailors soul.

The information on what happened to La Grace is shorthanded, but it seems like she was laying at anchor close to Puerto de la Bajadilla in Marbella, Spain on October 26 when a storm hit in the morning. She started dragging her anchor – a feeling of unease that is indeed – and on top of that had an engine failure – and ran aground stern first. Her rudder was knocked out and not maneuverable she ran aground on Playa el Cable. All of the eight crew members who was aboard the vessel were fine and managed to get ashore by themselves. La Grace is right now laying on a 1.5 m shallow shoal just a stone throw out from the beach. She is listing about 20 degree’s to port and is taking in water and sand.
It now seems like the owners have problem to scramble enough funds to get her afloat, which would be a damn shame and a big loss if they couln’t. Right now we can only hope that the damage is not too bad and that she is afloat as soon as possible.

The owners are pleading for the tall ship and sailing communities help! The Spanish authorities are saying that she need to be removed within 15 days from the wreckage, otherwise they will/can eliminate her (?!) La Grace needs to get afloat ASAP, with or without the insurance companies help (which happens to be Spanish and doesn’t seem very concerned about getting the ship afloat).

Help La Grace in this crisis situation!

Account: La Grace

Acc. No: 240290748/0300

SWIFT: CEKOCZPP

IBAN: CZ90 0300 0000 0002 4029 0748

Variable symbol: 26102012If you have any questions, you can contact:

Dan Rosecký (Dan@lagrace.cz)

Lucie Forštová (Lucie@ifp-publishing.cz)

Jaroslav Foršt (jaroslav@ifp-publishing.cz).

La Grace is a brand spanking new Brig that was launched by some sailing enthusiasts in the Czech republic in December 2010. She is a replica of a 18th century brig and is based on blueprints from the Swedish naval architect, Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, from 1768.

She is named La Grace after the Czech explorer and merchant Augustine Herman’s (1621-1686) frigate with the same name. The old La Grace sailed waters in Europe, Caribbeans and North America and is particularly known for her corsair affairs against the Spanish merchants. On a side note, Herman has alot of interesting history of his involvement in the Dutch West India Company, New Amsterdam, Chesapeake and the Delaware Bay area, worth looking into.

The new La Grace was built during only two years in Egypt where boat building is still done much in a traditional way. ”If you turned a blind eye to the T-shirts with advertising signs worn by local workers, you have the impression that you are in the 18 century.”, they state on La Grace’s homepage.

As always with these kind of projects, enormous amounts of blood, sweat, toil, tears, time and love was put in by volunteers, together with boat builders and other professionals. She was built with the purpose of preserving Czech maritime history and to teach traditional knowledge and skills.

The first year afloat she spent sailing from Africa to Europe and later set sail for her first transatlantic voyage to the Caribbeans, where she stayed until April this year. Since then she has been operating in the Med, where she now is sadly aground.

La Grace:
Homeport: Prague
126 tons
LOA 32.3m (106ft),
Height 25m (82ft)
Draught 2.8m (9.2ft)
364sqm sail area (3 918 sq ft)

Wind Wagons

“I Laughed for half an hour when he first told me about the project”, says one of the guys with wild, bushy hair and an adventurous look of not knowing what’s gonna happen out there in the desert – but he grooves on it.

I can imagine him being very energetic and filled to the brim with ideas, telling the other guys of a fun and interesting project he wants to start.
“We’re gonna build a wind wagon and sail across the U S and A!”

For some people it might sound slightly dubious, even stupid…
I thought it was brilliant. For sure, there are some obvious problems to overcome, but it feels like a really fun and exciting challenge that could be one hell of a ride and one would be stupid not to jump – head first – into it. Full speed ahead – nobody pulling the brakes on this Mad Max mutation vehicle from the forests of Sweden. The nation where a fourth of the population once set out to reach the New World and the Promised land out there in way out west where the fields are green and the ground hogs fat around the bum. The American Dream, indeed.

To sail on land is not a new idea and there is indeed some wind powered little hobby one-man-rides of today. However, the chinese had wind powered carts and carriages already during the Ming dynasty (of course!) and in Dutch paintings from the 1600’s large sail powered land ships can be seen, like in this one.
It depicts one of two land-yachts that Simon Stevin in 1649 built for Prince Maurice, who used them to entertain his guests on the beach.

Flora’s Wagon of Fools by Hendrik Pot (c. 1637)

But the idea of traversing the American continent with sailing prairie ships dates back to the mid 1800’s. (Although in Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark journals from their crossings of the plains in the early nineteenth century, there’s a boat on wheels with a hoisted sail that is blowing along.)

During that time, there were some cats growing ideas that instead of using oat and water intensive horses, mules or oxen, that also needed rest from time to time to pull the wagons over the prairies, a sail could be rigged and et voilà, transformed the wagon into sailing ships of the prairies.

Sailing wagon, Brooklyn, NY, late 1800’s.

Not a bad idea! Specially not since there was no transcontinental railroad and no canal through Panama. One of the visionaries was a man called William Thomas who envisioned a fleet of sailing schooners hauling freight from coast to coast across the Santa Fe Trail. This military and commercial highway from Franklin, MO to Santa Fe in New Mexico. 900 miles ( 1400 kilometers) across arid plains, desert and mountain passes.

In 1853 Thomas had a prototype ready to show the army at Fort Leavenworth, in what was then the Kansas territory. It measured 25 feet long, 12 feet high wheels and a single sail on a 7 foot tall mast. The project foundered when the prototype crashed and the financiers pulled out of Overland Navigation Co.

In the 1860’s Kansas there was some more experiments with smaller wind wagons. They weighed about 350 pounds, 3 feet beam, 10 feet length and 6 inches deep and were told to skim across the plains in speed around 15 mph with tops at 40 mph.

One was said to have made the journey from Kansas City to Denver, a trip of over 600 miles, in about 20 days. That makes an average of about 30 miles per day.

Probably the most famous wind wagoner was Samuel Peppard. A Kansas guy that was building a wagon in his barn, in 1859. He owned a sawmill on the Grasshopper river, close to Oskaloosa (facts that I merely bring into the picture because I love the names… and adds to the story, of course) and got help from a friend with his project. The people around gave it the name “Peppards Folly”, and concludes what they thought of it. 1860 was a year of hard drought and bad business, so when Peppard finished the vessel he and three friends immediately set sail for the gold fields of Colorado. They carried 500 pounds of cargo, provisions and camping gear as ballast.

A reporter for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly happened to be at Fort Kearny, Nebraska, when the wagon arrived in May 26th 1860. He described it in an article and interesting enough there’s also an illustrated picture.

A longer detailed description of the journey is also to be found at the Kansas Historical Society and most wind wagon tales seems to be based on Peppard’s story.

The reporter said he timed the wagon over two miles and it took 14 minutes, which would be an average speed 8 mph.
Peppard added:

Our best time was two miles in four minutes. We could not run faster than that rate as the boxing would have heated. One day we went fifty miles in three hours, and in doing so passed 625 teams. There were, you know, a great many people en route to the gold fields… if we went ninety miles a day it was considered a good day’s travel.

The crew almost made it to the destination, but when they were about 50 miles northwest of Denver, they spotted a “dust devil”. Before they could lower the sail it hit them and the wagon was tossed 20 feet up in the air and shattered to pieces when it hit the ground. Luckily nobody was hurt and they could continue hitchhiking into Denver.

Unlike the Leslie reporters illustration, other accounts of the wagon says that it was built with rough timber, like a skiff, with only one mast with two sails on it. One for light winds and one for stronger. On the cover of the children’s book, The Wind wagon, by Celia Barker Lottridge, which is telling the story about Sam Peppard, you can see two square sails on the mast.

In Old Jefferson Town, Oskaloosa, Kansas, this statue of Peppard’s wind wagon was erected.

Regardless of the unfortunate ending, Peppard and his crew had travelled over 500 miles with wind as it’s only power source, mostly along the Oregon trail.

Some further attempts to harvest the free energy source of the prairies has been made a little later in history. In 1877, Kansas Pacific is said to been using sail powered hand carts along the rails. After that, of course, the transcontinental railroad, the Pacific Railroad, went all the way out west to the Promised land of Sacramento, California in 1869. The internal combusting engine made it’s big entrance and with time (1914) the Panama Canal opened for traffic. Before that, a spectacular attempt for another wind wagon was directed by the Texan H.M. Fletcher who proclaimed something along the lines, “sails is the wrong approach” and instead designed a windmill wagon. According to interviews made in the 1970’s and 80’s with old timers who saw Fletcher’s creation, it was simply a wind mill placed on a wagon bed with some sort of drive shaft connected to the wheels and it worked, the wagon moved.

Next historical moment was 1961 when Disney made the film “Windwagon Smith”, who’s storyline goes close enough to the mishaps of Thomas. During the 13 minute film Sailor Smith comes to Westport, Kansas and with over-accentuated mariner language (saying mostly avast!) and prideful snobbishness succeeds to convince the townspeople – and the mayor – who’s daughter catches Smith’s eye, to back his visions and sailing Contestoga-wagon financially. Since I already said it’s close to Thomas’s story, you can figure out how it ends. If you haven’t seen it already, do it. It’s here.


Well okay, for several obvious reasons, and even if some attempts was close to success, a fleet of sailing prairie ships never became reality.

Now, over 150 years later, a crew of swedish hipsters, boat builders, riggers and sailors thinks that it’s time to spin the wheels of the wind wagon again.


The new Wind Wagon measures 12 meter LOA, 4 meter beam, 11 meter tall with a sail area of 84 square meter. Dismantled, the parts can all fit in a 40′ container for shipment to the New World.

The projectis well under way and the wagon is being built by the hands of real people with real dreams!
To me it’s a fun project in a lot of ways. Not the least as a reminder of not losing faith in the prospect of living your dreams – crazy or sacred. Something that we all need to revive from time to time when social norms, bureaucracy and system makes us believe differently and build up walls in our minds that even though they are imaginary, can be hard to tear down.

Let there be wind to fill the sails and to set the wheels of the original High Plain drifters in motion once again.

Iris II

Now here’s quite an interesting project.
This is Iris II. She was built in Nynäshamn, Sweden, in 1905 as an archipelago racer. She is approximately 12m long, 2.7 wide, 1.8 deep. Her planking is native pine ( of some description!) on a combination of oak and steel ribs. Her deck beams and planking is also a very resinous pine. The stem, stern-post and hog is oak. She has a mahogany cabin roof, sides, cockpit, covering-boards and kingplank.
She is lightly built for racing with long overhangs. Flat spoon bow and long flat run on her stern… Not a comfortable boat in a seaway, but potentially fast and well suited to the swedish archipelago she was built for.
She was built with a gaff rig – but never carrying a top-sail as the rule did not allow it. but as mentioned earlier has been re-rigged at least twice. She now carries a classic Marconi-rig from a 55sqm Skerry Cruiser. Her rig is better suited to cruising today.

Here she is, second from the right, off Sandhamn in 1906 with the original gaff rig.

For more info, pictures and to fallow the project go to the website/work log-blog:
The restoration of an old lady.

The tale of a picture – and a schooner

This picture has been seen on several places on the internet, and most of them give an explanation of how a schooner is towing a house, while some discuss if it is the old Bluenose or not.

Either way it is a cool picture and really nice capture which made me interested to find out more.

The picture was taken the 19th of November 1929 in Port au Bras, Newfoundland, one day after the devastating Grand banks earthquake and tsunami, also known as the Laurentian slope earthquake and South shore disaster.
It’s epicenter was in the Atlantic Ocean off the south coast of Newfoundland in the Laurentian Slope Seismic Zone, about 250 miles south of the Newfoundland  Island and had a magnitude of 7.2.
The quake created a huge landslide which led to a tsunami that struck the Burin Peninsula with heavy impact, killing 28 people and leaving over 10 000 homeless.
This is the only recorded tsunami to have hit the east coast of Canada.

It is obvious that the schooner is not towing this house, it is in fact anchored. And it is not the famous Bluenose.
From two interviews with two men who were then school kids living in Port au Bras made by Alan Ruffman, historical expert on the earthquake, we learn that the schooner is Marian Belle Wolfe, which had taken its place in the bay for the winter, which was common for Labrador fishing vessels in this area by this time (Notice there’s no sails bent on in the picture).
The owner of the house found it floating 1-2 kilometers southeast of the mouth of the bay and towed it into the bay where he tied it temporarily to the schooner. According to one source the owner had stored a lot of dry lumber in the basement of the house, which made it float so high. Another says that another thing was that Newfoundland houses were “built double boarded, that is, they were boarded on the inside of the frame as well as the outside, on account of the severe Newfoundland winters. The concrete posts served as keels and it was almost a houseboat.”

Marion Belle Wolfe was built in Shelburne, NS in 1920, she was 126 feet (38.4m) long and had a Canadian registered tonnage of 116 tons.
In a Cape  Breton Magazine from 1989 I found letters from Charles H. Rafuse and Captain Robbie Robertson who was in the area at the time of the quake, to Alan Ruffman.

“Captain Robbie was no stranger either to the Marian Belle Wolfe, or to her one-time captain, William “Bill” Trenholm, but takes issue with the statement from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic that the schooner was originally built for Captain Trenholm. It is more probable that she was built for Wolfe interests from Dublin Shore. Captain Trenholm of Louisbourg frequently purchased ships, which had seen their best days in fishing, and by repairing them gave them extended life. You will recall that it was he who lost the fishing schooner Joseph McGill. which he was repairing at Louisbourg, when the tidal wave swept her into the harbour. At any rate. Captain Trenholm did not purchase the Marian Belle Wolfe until she had just finished her fishing days. He purchased her at Lunenburg, and Captain Robertson joined him a few days later to take the ship to Halifax. She still had six dories left on her, and “gurry tubs” on deck that were sed in the rendering of cod livers for their oil, as well as 100 tubs of trawl gear, minus hooks, stored under her cabin floor. After Captain Trenholm had completed repairs on the Marian Belle Wolfe, he took on a cargo of salt cod, packed in boxes and drums, at Halifax and proceeded to Barbados where he sold the schooner.

In a later letter of April 8, 1987, Mr. Rafuse wrote to Alan Ruffman regarding the photograph of the schooner: Now to add a further bit of controversy re your picture of the Marian Belle Wolfe and the floating house. As far as Capt. Robertson can ascertain, the Marian Belle Wolfe was owned by the Smith Company in Lunenburg until sold to Wm. Trenholm, and therefore would never have laid over in NFLD for the winter. However, he does suggest that the schooner in the picture could easily be the Golden Glow owned by Warehams, who operated in that area, and most recently in Come-by-Chance. Lunenburg schooners, when sold to NFLD, were never repurchased by Lunenburg interests. Their bones remained in NFLD. NFLD-built schooners were sturdy and were distinguished by a heavy stem….

In Alan Ruffman ‘s letter to Cape Breton’s . Magazine. June 30, 1988, he wrote that after “a great deal of careful research on the postcard scene…(that) it was a photo? graph of a house tied up to the stern of the Marian Belle Wolfe in Little Burin Harbour on the morning of November 19, 1929….” In other words, while Mr. Ruffman apparently agrees with Capt. Robertson that the schooner in the picture is not the Ronald George. Mr. Ruffman disagrees about which vessel the house was tied to for safekeeping after it had been rescued from the open sea by its owner and his son.

"Five Saban owned schooners in a race around Barbados, early 1930's. Among them "Mona Marie", "Marion Belle Wolfe", Captain Will Leverock and "Florence M. Douglas", Captain Herbert Rexford Every of St. John's." from the book Saban Lore, by Will Johnson

Either way, Marian Belle Wolfe was sold to Barbados and ended up in the hands of Capt. Will Leverock from Saba. Even Marians sister ship Mona Marie ended up being owned by a captain from Saba.

The facebook group “Of Saban Descent (Saba, Netherlands Antilles)” has posted a few pictures of the schooner and some comments.

“A painting of the schooner “Marion Belle Wolf” which is in the home of the late James Anthony Simmons. He used to sail on the Marion with Capt. Will Leverock. My cousin Estelle Simmons told me that one of the trips she took to Barbados was …with this schooner. It got becalmed going down the islands and took them a week to get there. It was a large red schooner. Used to also sail from Barbados to the Turks and Caicos islands to get salt. As the Captain and some of the crew were from Saba they would stop here to visit their family.”

“This model was made by Capt. Will Leverock of St. John’s who was her captain for many years. There is also a painting of this lovely Saban owned schooner in the home of the late James Anthony Simmons of The Bottom who used to sail on her. M…y cousin Estelle Simmons (91) told me often about her trip to Barbados on this schooner . They sailed on the Caribbean side of the islands and it was so calm that it took them almost a week to get there. Months later when she came back they sailed on the Atlantic side of the islands and made it back much faster.
Will”

At first I could not find anything more about what happened to the ship after she went into the Caribbean trade, and the latest trace of her I found was in Barbados Advocate, December 19, 1951.

In the harbour log we find:
In Carlisle bay
Arrivals
Schooner Marion Bell Wolfe
74 tons net. Capt Every, from British Guiana.

But then I came across a most interesting article, written by Peter Leyel who lives in Switzerland, but sailed in Marian Belle Wolfe in 1952.
The article,
Two Beauties – A Tale of two Trading Schooners seen regularly in Barbados in the 1940s. can be found here. All the pictures are not working, but there are two nice captures of the Marian under sail.

According to Peters article, this ship was broken up after being damaged by the hurricane Janet in Barbados, September 1955.

Sources (not already listed):
Earthquake Canada

Cape Breton Magazine, 1989 issue
The Barbados Advocate, December 19, 1951

Fall

There was word from Britain (the island), that they were having summer temperatures. Lovely late summer days were approaching and we were not gonna waste any of them.
Not overly prepared we decided before bed time to go sailing the next day, not too early, which sounded good to me, although tired I wanted to do a little reading before finally turning in.

The summer weather hadn’t hit us yet when we woke up to a wet shrouded in a white fog that slowly was rolling over the lake and away from the field. There was wind though. For a few days there was a strong… well, I say days but the strong south-westerly has been blowing pretty much through september, but anyway… it was blowing, from SW or so and the forecast said 8-14 m/s (about 16-28 knots), perfect for our boat for the day.
She is a lovely lady with slick and slender lines, looking like a terrific archipelago racer with a nice stern that comes up and overhang the waterline a bit, a low deck structure and a tall mast on top of the wooden hull.
We let that little engine drive us out from the harbour basin a bit before setting the jib, which then pulled us along fine. Up mainsail and we’re off, out into the bay where the waves gently lifted our bow. At first we couldn’t see the end of the peninsula over there, but that didn’t matter much, there is not much to worry about in the bay so we did good speed just a mile out and let our eyes scan the shoreline.
A long sandy beach that is now seasonally abandoned, left to itself after a summer of being used hard by everything from american car freaks, animals like dogs and horses, backslicked slimes with pink shirts that hold dad’s money in the breast pocket to fake nudist that only come to the beach to watch porn models have wild sex right there in the hot sun but is horribly disappointed when finding out there is a majority of over sized old men who is all wearing sun glasses and burning their deformed penises and watching each others demise.

The sailing was great. We were flying and so were our thoughts. We sat in silence for a while, watching how the boat rode the waves under a new tack that gave us a much nicer angle. The stem danced over the waves in thoughtless monotony while T was sharing his thoughts about how he loved the waves hitting the boat from this direction. We all smooched and smirked, licking our lips and enjoying that salty air, thinking that it might be a while until next time.

Sailing in the bay

As the sun came out we wore off a bit, surfing lazily down wind, lit a pipe and enjoyed the pace of the rolling sea.

The following few days there was sun. Hot sun but not that much wind, which of course made the late summer weather even warmer. We had got the sailing energy running now and although we had some things to tend for during the day we launched the little boat in the lake by late afternoon.
The little wind that carried us out quick, laid down as time went by and before it got too dark we used the engine – the oars – to get back to shore.
During this trip I heard about the good ship Raggamuffin, a  small dinghy (optimistjolle), that now was  laying as  a pretty wreck in the lake right by our home. The  next day even more summer then the one before, I took off my shoes and paddled away through the strait where on a windward shore I spotted Raggamuffin, upside down just a bit from where the water meets the forest.
Turning her over I found the sail and some gear.

The rest was laying under a spruce a few feet away. There was the centerboard, which was rotten into a softness that made it break when I lifted it. The rudder was in better shape, but the sail was a bit torn.
The centerboard went down and the rudder came in place, and the ripped sail was now rigged with the spreeThe good ship Raggamuffin as a top gallant mast and the sail as some sort of gypsy-Bermudan-hobo rig that flapped a bit as the wind catched the canvas that used to be blue but now was mostly moldy and filled with spots of dirt, moss and sticky spruce needles. Ah, lovely. Raggamuffin shot off out into the lake like some kind of freak pig that had been locked up for ages but now ran off into freedom’s vastness.
Wind was patchy and strange, damn near capsized me while fumbling with something and made fast the sheet, well that would have been a sight for the last farmer who was spending the lovely day on a scaffolding outside his barn.
I downrigged the muffin and towed her home, in the last rays of that evening sun I made a quick and ugly sail repair, totally in style with the rustic hobo feeling of hers.
“You better clean her hull”, somebody said. Never I thought, what a rude suggestion.

Next day it was still summer and we had planned to take out the boat on the lake again. This is not Raggamuffin, and I think it’s better not to make any comparisons of the two, since they are playing completely different ball games. 
This one is a “Vättern snipa”, a lovely klink built boat with a lot of personality and tender characteristics. It’s such a pleasure to sail this lady, it feels like you’re in paradise, sailing on a dreamy ocean where the water tastes like wine and the wind doesn’t even consider to blow any strangeness your way.
She is about 15 feet long and carries a jib and a spree mainsail. She feels light and just the slightest breeze will move her along as if we would have greased her up real good.

It’s a great way to relax, play, meditate, hang out… and so on. So much stimulation with a vessel like this, that it is impossible not to fall in love with it.
Pure beauty.