Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An Unusual Taxi Ride

During my trip last Saturday to Dominica's second largest town of Portsmouth to get fresh produce at the marketplace, I noticed some interesting ships anchored in Prince Rupert Bay. However, they were so far away, I knew I couldn't get a decent picture of these beautiful sailing vessels.

I decided to inquire about hiring one of the small boats known as “water taxis” that normally service the many private yachts that are anchored all around the bay (especially at this time of the year when it is cold up north). Powered by outboard motors, these wooden boats (similar to the one I wrote about in this previous story) respond to radio calls from the yachts, and will deliver groceries or supplies, as well as ferry passengers to and from the shore.

My request for a photography run was a bit unusual, but the water taxi driver I spoke with (Lawrence was his name) agreed to take me out and around the three large sailing ships (one of which is pictured above) for $30 in Eastern Caribbean dollars (about $10 US dollars). To me, it was worth it to see these unusual ships up close and get some pictures to share with my blog readers.
This beautiful ship was named after famed Polish composer Frederic Chopin, whose first name is more accurately spelled as Fryderyk (as you can see on the side of the ship in the photo above). It was launched in 1992 from the shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland. This ship's birthplace is particularly interesting to me because in 1980, Gdańsk Shipyard was also the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement. The brave workers at this shipyard rose in opposition to the Communist regime in Poland, which led to the end of Communist Party rule in 1989. Their actions sparked a series of protests that successfully overturned the Communist regimes of the former Soviet bloc, helping to end the Cold War that had been a major concern for most of my life up until that point. Solidarity's leader, Lech Wałęsa, went on to become President of Poland in 1990.
According to my internet research (which was invaluable for learning about all three of these ships), since 2011 the Fryderyk Chopin has served as the ship for The Blue School, a sail training project. Although I didn't get a decent picture of it, the red and white Polish flag proudly flies from its stern.

Club Med 2 is a five-masted computer-controlled sailing ship owned and operated by Club Med and operated as a cruise ship since its launch in 1992. This French built ship combines the power of seven computer-operated sails (notice how different they appear) with more traditional diesel-electric power, having four diesel generators that power two electric motors. It appears that the sails can be automatically furled and unfurled because they are wrapped around a shaft.
It is one of the largest sailing cruise ships in the world, carrying up to 386 passengers with a crew of 214. Club Med 2 sails the waters of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea in the summertime, and the Caribbean in the winter, finding her way into anchorages larger cruise ships cannot reach, such as Portsmouth.
The ship sails at night, making a stop each morning. A water sports deck can be deployed from the stern (as shown above). Although my pictures didn't turn out well and thus don't appear in this story, there were a few Club Med passengers windsurfing around the ship. They really zip around when the wind catches the sail just right!

Sea Cloud was built as a barque for Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband Edward F. Hutton (of Wall Street fame E. F. Hutton & Co.). Launched in 1931, it was the largest private yacht in the world at the time.
During World War II, with no son to send to war, the yacht was offered to the U.S. Navy. It was refitted as a "weather observation station vessel." The four masts were removed and the hull painted battleship gray. Sea Cloud was originally commissioned as a United States Coast Guard Cutter in 1942, and assigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier, with a permanent home port in Boston.
Later, the United States Navy commissioned it as USS Sea Cloud, where it became an important part of naval history. In late 1944, Lieutenant Carlton Skinner took command of the ship. At that time, black seamen were only permitted to serve as ship stewards. After witnessing a black man save the crew of his previous ship, yet still be denied promotion because of the rule, Skinner proposed an experiment to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. It was agreed that he would be allowed to sail his first weather patrol with a fully integrated crew. Within a few months, fifty black sailors, including two officers, were stationed aboard Sea Cloud. Skinner showed that his integrated crew could work just as efficiently as a segregated crew, if not more so, when his crew passed two fleet inspections with no deficiencies.
Following the war, the Sea Cloud reverted to its original purpose as a private yacht. In 1955, it was sold to the president of the Dominican Republic (the country which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti, and is often confused with the island of Dominica). In 1979, it was refurbished as a cruise ship with a capacity for 64 passengers as well as a crew of 60. I particularly enjoyed the large gold eagle on the bowsprit, as shown above.
All too soon, my little Caribbean adventure was over, and the photo above shows Lawrence taking me back to the dock. Notice that the Sea Cloud was docked at Cabrits National Park, and the orange tile roofing of some of the buildings at the fort can be seen in the background.

I will leave you with a few pictures of just three of the many private yachts we passed on the way back to the dock. The first picture is a blue boat with a large American flag. The second is a catamaran. The last one is a trimaran (three hulls). Note the beautiful backgrounds in each picture.

Hopefully this story provided some warm thoughts for those of you suffering with winter back home!

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