Isambard Kingdom Brunel  and Great Britain

Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Great Britain

After the success of Great Western (ON issue 288), Isambard Kingdom Brunel set his sights on an even larger ship, Great Britain, which from 1845 to 1853 was the largest passenger ship ever built at 322 feet LOA. Brunel, an innovator, took radical design leaps as the Great Britain was the first ship to be built of iron and was the first ship to be outfitted with a screw propeller. The ship became the template for all future ship-building construction and was the very first iron, sail-assisted steam vessel to cross the Atlantic. Great Britain was so big that a…
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Great Western changes the game

Great Western changes the game

It was not a propitious beginning. In July 1837 in Bristol, England, as 50,000 people gathered for the launching of SS Great Western, the largest ship ever built, an unknown shipyard worker was killed when a large timber fell on him. Despite that tragedy, Great Western went on to an illustrious and profitable career.  The ship increased the fame of its designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an engineer already of high renown, who had designed the Great Western Railway operation from London to Bristol. At the opening of the railway Brunel was said to have made the comment that there was…
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The end of Albatros

The end of Albatros

In the past two issues we’ve been following the adventures of Ernest K. Gann and his brigantine Albatros. Let’s pick up the story after Gann sold the ship. Following a three-year Pacific cruise and playing a role in the film Twilight for the Gods, Albatros was sold in 1959. The buyer was Christopher B. Sheldon who with his wife, Dr. Alice Sheldon, created and ran Ocean Academy of Connecticut, a prep school for college-bound kids that combined sail training with academics. In the spring of 1961, four instructors, a cook, and 13 students were on a voyage to the Galapagos…
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Albatros, the adventure continues

Albatros, the adventure continues

In the last issue we began telling the story of the great sailor, aviator, writer, Ernest K. Gann, who converted the steel schooner Albatros (Dutch spelling with one s) into a brigantine sailing the South Pacific on and off for three years in the early 1950s. He was writing successful novels and movie scripts that were made into blockbuster Hollywood films. Of his sailing adventures, of which there were many, he wrote a book titled Song of the Sirens, an overlooked classic. Similar to the writings of Bernard Motissier, Gann is a master of the lyrical and poetic when writing…
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Ernest K. Gann and Albatros

Ernest K. Gann and Albatros

Of all the working pilot schooners built for service in the North Sea, perhaps the most famous is Albatros (the Dutch spelling has only one s). The American writer and aviator Ernest K. Gann bought Albatros in 1952. Built in Amsterdam in 1920 of riveted steel, the 117-foot LOA Albatros worked as a pilot schooner in the North Sea. Albatros was bought by the German government in 1937 and used by the Nazis during WWII as a U-boat relay station. After the war, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd, a Dutch shipping line, bought Albatros for a cadet training ship for future officers…
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Schooner Coronet around the world

Schooner Coronet around the world

In the 1880s Rufus T. Bush was at the top of his game. Standard Oil had purchased his oil refining business and Bush now had a great deal of money and was retired. He had previously owned a steam yacht but now he wanted a schooner. One of the very best wooden boat builders in New York City was the C & R Poillon shipyard, located in Brooklyn at the end of Bridge Street, close to where the Manhattan Bridge is today. Brothers Cornelius and Richard Poillon were renowned for building fast and able Sandy Hook pilot boats and well-appointed…
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Samuel “Bully” Samuels

Samuel “Bully” Samuels

For the past two nav problems, we have written about the 19th-century American master mariner, Captain “Bully” Samuels. When we last left Captain Samuels, he had just won the very first transatlantic race in 1866 aboard the schooner Henrietta.  Captain Samuels was next aboard the schooner Dauntless. Four years after his transatlantic victory, Dauntless, with Samuels in command, raced across the Atlantic Ocean, from east to west against the English schooner Cambria. The race began off Ireland on July 4, 1870. Cambria was owned by Sir John Asbury. Built by Michael Ratsey, Cambria, at 188 tons, was a powerful schooner,…
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The Great Ocean Race of 1866

The Great Ocean Race of 1866

he origins of transoceanic yacht racing trace back to a cold October night in 1866 at the Union Club in New York City. On that night, Pierre Lorillard, George Osgood, and James Gordon Bennett — scions of different fortunes, Lorillard of tobacco, Osgood of finance, and Bennett of the New York Herald — were drinking and bragging about their respective schooner-rigged yachts. They had all raced against each other, short distances locally, and as the evening wore on they decided they should test the mettle of their ships by racing from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to The Needles at the…
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Speedy clipper Dreadnought

Speedy clipper Dreadnought

Dreadnought, was one of the most famous of all the clipper ships, built in 1853 in the shipyard of Currier and Townsend in Newburyport, Mass. Measuring 212 feet LOA with a 41-foot beam rigged as a barque, Dreadnought was built for the Red Cross Line of New York, one of the many packet companies that revolutionized passages across the Atlantic, usually from New York to Liverpool. Packets began as a business as early as 1817, carrying mail, goods and passengers, running on the first regular schedules. Dreadnought could carry as many as 200 passengers both in steerage and in cabins.…
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