Of the three Tall Ships making port calls in New Orleans for NOLA Navy Week, two are barques and the third is a barquentine. These ship types are hybrids between the “square-rigged” configuration we’ve come to associate with warships from the Age of Sail, and the “fore-and-aft” configuration found on smaller vessels. Whatever the type of Tall Ship coming to NOLA Navy Week April 17-23 for the War of 1812 Bicentennial, it will be visually stunning.
The three big factors in determining what sort of rigging a ship uses are personnel, performance, and cost. Of these three, the square-rigged warships are at the high end of all three of these. Ships like the USS Constitution and HMS Victory are square-rigged to make them as fast as possible. All those huge sails can pull in a lot of wind and propel the ship along well. While the square-rigged ships are more difficult to turn to winward (an essential maneuver when trying to sail against the wind) than the fore-and-aft ships, they can still perform the maneuver if they have a large enough crew to handle the sails. This makes the square-riggers the most labor-intensive of sailing ships. A fore-and-aft ship can get by with a much smaller crew, because they work fewer sails. The cost of all the canvas needed to rig a square-rigger is significant, making them the most expensive to outfit as well as operate.
Shipbuilders were always looking for compromises between the two main design types. The barque and barquentine are two of the hybrid designs. Barques commonly have three or more masts. The first two would be square-rigged, and the third (and possibly fourth) would be fore-and-aft rigged. This configuration gives the barque a lot of sail up front to catch the wind and propel it with speed. The fore-and-aft rigging in the rear reduces the number of sailors needed to crew a barque, as well as reducing the costs.
The barquentine goes a step further than the barque in terms of labor- and cost-cutting, since only the foremast is square-rigged. The barquentine that is coming to New Orleans next week is the Indonesian ship KRI Dewaruci. Construction of the Dewaruci began in Germany in 1932, but the ship was not completed until 1952, because of World War II. The ship has served as a training vessel and goodwill ambassador of the Indonesian Navy for decades. The Dewaruci (named after the Indonesian god of truth and courage) is also known for its colorful crew and marching band.
NOLA Navy Week will be one of the last public appearances of the Dewaruci. She is scheduled to be retired and docked at a naval museum in Indonesia, once her replacement is completed in 2014.
With a crew of 35 officers and 120 sailors, the BAE Guayas is the training ship of the Ecuadoran Navy. She is a three-masted barque, 78m (257′) in length. Guayas is the most modern of the three Tall Ships coming to town, having been launched in 1976.
Since 1792, the US Navy or the US Coast Guard have named a ship Eagle. The USCG Eagle is the seventh in that line. The current Eagle was built in 1936 as a training ship for the navy of Nazi Germany. The Germans named the ship SSS Horst Wessel, after a Nazi Party member they considered to be a martyr. The Horst Wessel, along with three other sailing ships, were taken as prizes by the allies, one each given to the US, USSR, UK, and France.
The base crew of the Eagle is 19 officers and 56 sailors; when on one of the many training cruises Eagle makes annually, as many as 175 cadets and instructors join the standing crew. Eagle’s home port is New London, Connecticut, at the US Coast Guard Academy.
All three Tall Ships will be open to the public during NOLA Navy Week, and groups of 25 can make arrangements for group tours. Check the NOLA Navy Week website for details.
Edward Branley is the author of New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. His latest book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, is available at bookstores in the city and online. He is owner of Yatmedia LLC (Social Media for Social Justice), and is @Yatpundit on Twitter. He’s also a proud Navy Dad.