My childhood dream was to become a captain of a sailing ship, so that there, even now, if the opportunity arose, I would become it. Unfortunately, at least some sailing ship I visited only as an adult. And now, many years later I boarded the real big sailing ship – “Poltava”.
Remark: “Poltava” was launched in 1712 as the first ship of the line that was built at a shipyard in St. Petersburg. The name of the ship was given in honor of the victory over the Swedes near Poltava, and this battle predetermined the course of the Great Northern War. “Poltava” Russian 54-gun sailing battleship was served in the fleet for 20 years, after that there was an attempt to store it as a monument, but it failed. A replica of “Poltava” was laid in 2013, and launched in 2018; it is two years longer than the old ship was built. The project was sponsored by Gazprom, and the shipyard itself is located next to the Lakhta-center spire, in the future it will be the headquarters of Gazprom.
The replica was built entirely of wood, fastened with steel nails. This is a real sailing ship, butunfortunately according to the rules “Poltava” cannot be independently entered to the harbor of St. Petersburg, because there is no engine on it. Also “Poltava” was not included in the Russian navy fleet and, therefore she did not receive the St. Andrew’s flag. Despite the fact that the ship has already been launched: the sailing armament has not been delivered and the guns have not been installed. Inside the ship is almost empty and bricks serve as ballast.
After a walk through the mud near the construction site, I finally got to the small house near the pier, where Poltava stands. There is also the huge hangar where actually built the ship itself. Near the hangar there are new guns for Poltava, two-ton (or three, I don’t remember) 18 and 12 pound cannons, as well as bronze cannons for the upper deck. As I understand the cannons though metal, but they cannot shoot. It’s a pity.
After a short lecture at the small house and the issuance of protective helmets (on the ship the low ceilings) group we went to the main tour. The ascent to the ship was ahead of the scaffolding, and the deck itself was already prepared for wintering. In general, I immediately thought: why the ship was not pulled ashore, because the Gulf of Finland is freezing and the ice could be crushed the hull.
On board the ship
How long have I been waiting for this moment and quickly hurried up to the deck. The glow of the sunset over time has flowed beautifully from purple to orange. I am glad that I chose the right time to visit the ship, the sun sets quickly, and right after the excursion it was twilight.
The excursion has begun from the gun-deck, on which the main caliber would stand – 18 pound cannons, and between them the crew of the ship should live on hammocks. During the descent to the gun-deck, I paid attention to the mounted cannon and to the anchor lifting device – a spire with a drum (or for any other cargo through the hatch). Previously, the device for lifting the armature was completely wooden, and as the temperature changed, it became very difficult to move it. At “Poltava”, the mechanism was made metallic inside and I was able to move it alone. Of course without an anchor.
I studied at the artillery engineer designer, so the cannon immediately attracted me. A huge cannon serviced by ten gunners and I always thought it was too much. Although even a modern howitzer has crew with six gunners (D30 Howitzer). Before the appearance of rifled guns, ships (of equal class) fired at each other with cannonballs until exhaustion until the enemy was hit by masts, immobilized and / or taken boarding the ship. Despite the fact that the ships were wooden, it was almost impossible to break them (true for equal classes). Sea battle demanded a full concentration of efforts and the will of the whole team.
Next we went down to the main hold. I would divide the hold into two levels: this is actually the hold itself and the ballast compartment. Bricks or something heavy in the compartment. While all the cannons not on the ship, he is not at enough depth in the water, the ship is too “light”. On the nose is a “ship’s magazine” or “cabin” for the storage of gunpowder. Immediately, I looked into it before everyone else, but I found nothing except a hanging lantern, bucket and measuring containers for carrying gunpowder. This is the darkest and driest place on the ship. At least it should be.
In the hold a couple of times I was tested the helmet on myself, the ceiling here is very low, and when the ship will be fully loaded, the entire hold will be below sea level.
While the second excursion group descended in our footsteps, we went up again to the upper deck. At first to us showed us a forward superstructure (foredeck), where the galley was located and the place for the stove, which is not there yet. The stove in the galley is the only heated place on the ship, so that in cold weather, the sailors had not sweet (except Coc). Also in the foredeck there is a door on the bow of the ship, where the “head” is located, it is a sort of toilet for the sailors, which should be washed by the dissected waves.
The upper open gun-deck while without cannons too, and it is prepared to cover from the weather. After the foredeck we were to the stern superstructure (and includes the quarterdeck), here the officers’ cabins and their toilets were located in the outbuildings on the sides of the stern. “Poltava” also has a balcony.
Outside, the balcony is square and has a huge arched canopy. The stern is decorated with luxurious figures that metaphorically tell about the victory at Poltava. For me it looks pretentious, but for the flagship of that time, it’s quite a topic.
On the quarterdeck the wheel is located the steering wheel, so far with one wheel. All open decks for the winter will be covered.
Ignoring the steering wheel, I hurried to the captain’s cabin, which was located behind the mizzen-mast. Cabin is very comfortable and there was already a hammock. The cabin was well lit through many small windows.
As soon as everyone turned the steering wheel, our tour was ended and we went ashore. I was the last to descend to the scaffolding, before looking at the last time on the deck. I would be happy to sailing on “Poltava” on the high seas, for example, as a gunner. In true, the gunner would hardly have brought real benefits to our voyage.
“Poltava” made a huge impression on me, I will not forget that. I understood well now as it was difficult to cope with such a ship, how difficult was the life of the crew and how Russian sailors had to sails through in the harsh Baltic Sea.