Peter Newall enjoys a day sail on the Weymouth-based tall ship PELICAN OF LONDON
Having spent the last few years traveling aboard immense, frenetic giant cruise ships, when my partner Julie and I were invited by Adventure Under Sail to experience a day sail aboard its tall ship PELICAN OF LONDON, we leapt at the opportunity to experience sea travel as it once was and long before all the hype of today.
Based in Weymouth, Dorset, UK the 226gt tall ship PELICAN OF LONDON is operated by Adventure Under Sail, a registered charity founded in 2008. This small, three masted ship, offers a unique sailing experience for all ages. She has also had a fascinating career. Completed in 1948 at Le Havre by Chantiers et Atelliers Augustin Normand she spent 20 years in the Arctic as LE PELICAN, a French deep water trawler. In 1968 she was converted into a 240-ton capacity Norwegian coaster with a single derrick and hold. Renamed KADETT she operated in the Baltic until her 1993 arrest in Finland whilst smuggling a large consignment of vodka. She was later sold to a sail-ship charity and arrived at Portland, Dorset in May 1995 for transformation into a sail training vessel. The extensive work took twelve years and she entered service under the British flag in 2007.
PELICAN is the only mainmast barquentine in the world. Her hybrid sail rig is based on the ships used by the infamous Barbary pirates of North Africa. The arrangement of square and triangular Lateen sails allows her to sail closer to the wind than any other square rigger afloat. She has eleven sails with an area covering 525 sq. metres. Even under a full rig the sail management is relatively easy and she can manage ten knots with favourable wind conditions.
PELICAN has a full time crew which consists of a mixture of experienced and trainee sailors. On our day sail from Weymouth, the master was Captain Paul Compton, seen on the left during our pre-sail briefing. Paul has thirty-five years’ experience in the Royal Navy Reserve and has been a tall ship master since 2007. On his left is PELICAN’s first mate Richard Harris who spent most of his sea career with British India Line. Another member of PELICAN’s crew is Sara Fleming, a qualified diver, hence the diver’s helmet on her epaulette.
After a bacon roll and copious cups of tea, the real work aboard PELICAN commenced as her sails were raised by the crew and day sailors.
Throughout the day we were taught sail management and how to tie knots. Some were invited to steer the ship whilst those who were more brave clambered onto the bowsprit for hands on experience of hauling the sails.
Lunch and fresh cream scones were provided by the galley staff and eaten in PELICAN’s comfortable twenty-four seater-mess room. There is also a small saloon in the stern area plus seven en-suite cabins, with hip bath, shower and vacuum toilet. All living spaces are temperature controlled augmented, above the main deck, by individual air-conditioning units.
Sailing with full sails across Weymouth Bay on a beautiful day was an exhilarating experience. To add to our step back in time to a golden age of sea travel we were passed by the veteran, 1946-built paddle-steamer WAVERLEY doing some thirteen knots.
PELICAN’s sailing programme usually takes place from March to September. It consists of day sails from Weymouth plus voyages to the Channel Islands, Devon and Ireland. In July and August next year she will take part in the annual Tall Ship Race from Alesund, Norway. This will also include a voyage through the Norwegian fjords. Her biggest adventure will take place between September 2015 and April 2016 when she will cross the Atlantic and do island hopping voyages in the Caribbean. This winter PELICAN is berthed at Weymouth and at weekends visitors can visit the ship and enjoy hot drinks and cake or a simple bistro-style supper on Friday and Saturday night.
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer, Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57 years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous articles he has written nine highly acclaimed books including the definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant shipping images.
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer,
Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57
years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous
articles he has written nine highly acclaimed books including the
definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns
the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant