April 21, 2021

Centenarian Ship Weathers Every Storm


Centenarian Ship Weathers Every Storm
The stalwart Magdalene Vinnen, now Sedov, in 1933. Australian National Maritime Museum, Flickr

Wooden sailing ship Sedov turns 100 years this year, a remarkable achievement since not too many wooden ships survive in the water without rotting. The Sedov is 385 feet (117.5 meters) long and 7,320 tons.

It began its life as a German boat in 1921, in the Kiel shipyard. It was called the Magdalene Vinnen then and carried cargo in the Baltic for the German navy during World War II.

When the Allies won, the Soviets took the ship as a spoil of victory, turning it into Soviet polar explorer Georgy Yakovlevich Sedov. Though it has been a peaceful ship for decades, once a warship, always a warship. To enter foreign waters now, the Sedov has to get special permission from the local ministry of foreign affairs.

The Sedov started rotting in the 1960s, as wooden ships are wont to do, and the idea was floated to turn it into a restaurant "for foreigners." It was Soviet times, after all, and Soviets could not afford to go to restaurants. By the way, St. Petersburg has an awesome floating restaurant today, The Flying DutchmanBut The Stationery Sedov didn't take.

A Moscow film student made a documentary, Who Needs Sails? in 1966 to argue that the Age of Sail was dead and the Sedov should be scrapped.

It kept on ticking, though, and was rebuilt in 1975 at the Kronstadt Marine Plant. The post-Soviet transition was rough financially. Nevertheless, ship and crew persisted.

Sedov became a movie star in 2005, playing the Pamir in German film The Tragedy of the Pamir.

The ship just celebrated its 100th birthday in Kaliningrad, where sailor vacancies are posted for 2021 expeditions. Check out beautiful photographs of the ship here. And get your wooden ship fix at a place like Mystic Seaport Museum while you wait to travel to Russia again.

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