Thursday, December 05, 2013

"Neptune" - Roman Polanski's Pirate ship in Genoa

On my recent visit to Italy, I paid a special visit to "Il Galeone Neptune”.
She is berthed in the harbour at Genoa.
This remarkable ship was built in the early 1980s in Tunisia as a movie ‘prop’ for the Roman Polanski film, “Pirate”. The movie starred Walter Matthau but a DVD edition was never released due to Polanski's personal/political problems.
Though suffering from neglect (though some restoration work is going on below decks) the intricate detailed carving of her bow and sterncastle galleries are breathtaking.
Weighing 1500 tons, 65m long and 16.4m beam, the ship is impressive as it is larger than an actual Spanish Galleon.
'Neptune is a fully rigged ship but beneath her elaborate wooden facade she has a steel hull and is equipped with a diesel motor.
Internally she has spacious gundecks and cabins. And some restoration work is being done below decks.
It cost only 5 euros to step aboard but few people seemed to be taking advantage.
Of for few coats of paint and varnish!

'Santa Maria' replica of Christopher Columbus's famous ship

This replica of the Christopher Columbus’s 15th century, ‘Santa Maria’, was commenced in 1997. It was built by Dutchman, Rob Wijntje, a resident of the island of Madeira.
As no original plans existed, Rob sourced information from books in an effort to construct a replica as close to the original as possible. The resulting ship is 22 meters long, has 3 masts - the tallest being 16 meters high, and built entirely of mahogany.
Today the ‘Santa Maria’ sails regularly out of Funchal, taking passengers along the rugged south coast of Madeira.
Historically: ‘La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción’ or ‘La Santa María’ was a medium sized carrack and was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage. It was the flagship of his expedition which sailed to discover a new route to the spice islands of the east.
The other ships of the Columbus expedition were the smaller caravel-type ships Santa Clara, remembered as La Niña ("The Girl"), and La Pinta ("The Painted"). All three ships were second-hand and were not meant for exploration.
The ‘Santa María’ was built in Spain's north-east, having a single deck and three masts.
She was the slowest of Columbus's fleet but performed well in the Atlantic crossing. However, on Christmas Day, 1492, she ran aground on the coast of Haiti.
As the ship was beyond repair, Columbus ordered his men to strip the timbers from the ship.
These were later used to build a fort which he called La Navidad (Christmas).

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Royal Galley - spectacular exhibit in Barcelona's Maritime Museum

One of the highlights of my recent holiday was a visit to the Maritime Museum in Barcelona. I went there specifically to see the magnificent replica of the royal galley of Don John of Austria.
This amazing vessel was the flagship of the fleet of the Holy League which comprised Spain, the Venetian Republic, the Holy See and Malta. On 7 October 1571, this powerful naval force confronted and defeated the Turkish League under the command of Ali Pasha at Lepanto.
Before the replica was built in 1971, a small model was constructed. In the picture the position of the oars and the sail configuration is included.
The oars were manned by 290 galley slaves/rowers. (This image photographed from a simulated video playing in the museum). Imagine what an arduous job it would have been to power such a vessel.
The following details are from Wikipedia:
“The ship was 60 metres (200 ft) long and 6.2 metres (20 ft) wide.
It had two masts, and weighed 237 tons empty. It was equipped with three heavy and six light artillery pieces, was propelled by a total of 290 rowers and, in addition, carried some 400 sailors and soldiers at Lepanto.
Fifty men were posted on the upper deck of the forecastle, 50 on the midships ramp, another 50 each along the sides at the bow, 50 each on the skiff and oven platforms, 50 on the firing steps along the sides near the stern, and 50 more on the stern platform behind the huge battle flag.
To help move and maneuvre the huge ship, it was pushed from the rear during the battle by two other galleys.
Befitting a royal flagship, it was luxuriously ornamented and painted in the red and gold colors of Spain.
Its poop was elaborately carved and painted with numerous sculptures, bas-reliefs, paintings and other embellishments, most of them evoking religious and humanistic inspirational themes.”
A cut-away section revealed the interior with ample room for storage of provisions and weaponry.
The maritime museum which houses the great galley has just undergone a period of 3 year's restoration.
The Barcelona Royal Shipyard (Drassanes Reials de Barcelona) houses the Barcelona Maritime Museum. Construction of the yards started during the 13th century under the rule of Peter III of Aragon. From the 13th to 18th century numerous war and merchant ships were built under its grand vaulted roof. The shipyard's restoration was finished in early 2013.
From 1381, the building had eight naves, 8.4m high and 8.4m wide. The naves were, approximately, 60m long, consisting of 17 columns 77 cm wide and 6 m high.
The purpose of the shipyard was to build galleys for the Aragonese Armada and during the rule of Alfonso V of Aragon, the shipyard experienced its highest activity.
In 1423, twelve galleys were built simultaneously. In 1571, the Royal Galley of John of Austria, commonly known as the Real, was built at the shipyard. This galley was the flagship at the Battle of Lepanto.
In 1935 the building was given to the Barcelona city who decide to use it as a maritime museum. It was opened in 1941. The 1976 the building was declared a Cultural Site of National Interest.
Pics by Margaret Muir