SOIC East-India-Man Replica Götheborg III

First Visit and Working Weekend

September 2008 - Open Ship for the Public

I happened to see the Götheborg III first on September 13th 2008, when I visited my friend Anders in Kungsbacka/Vallda, near Gothenburg, Sweden. At that time, I already lived in this country for one year ...

Anders looked in his PC and found that there was Open Ship for the public on weekend, and of course, I was VERY keen to see the ship. So we went there ...

... and then I could not trust my eyes !

This was not quite alike other "cheap looking" replicas I had seen before. Here was a ship model in scale 1:1 of the highest quality ever!

EVERYTHING was historically correct! And this was not only a museum ship for the harbour. This ship had SAILED already to China between 2005 and 2007!

We got a guided tour on the ship, about one hour. And in the fanshop, I bought almost all books available :)

And I saw a detailled giant ship model in 1:20 of the Götheborg, too. Everything showed an extreme sense for historic accuracy and practical seamanship. The ship itself was "laid up" at the quai, that is, the lower masts were still in place, but the rest of the rigging was taken down for repair - just alike the ancient ships that sailed only between March and September.

The modern Swedish East India Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companiet) SOIC, had been re-founded in Gothenburg for a single purpose: to rebuild the East-India-Man Götheborg as a sailing replica, as close to the historic ship as possible. The SOIC is located at Erikspir in Gothenburg, in Swedish: Göteborg. "Götheborg", with an h, as the ships name is just the old way of writing.

The reconstruction of the Götheborg III took place between 1995 and 2005.

The mastermind of this gigantic project was and still is Björn Ahlander, today the rigging master. He formed a "core crew", indeed a very friendly "gang" of enthusiasts!

The SOIC is a normal private company, but of course a project like this is always dependent on volunteers, sponsors, its "fanshop", paying trainees and visitors. The small core crew of the SOIC are real employees, but salary is not their main motivation :) The major amount of resources is needed to keep the ship in shape.

Björn can tell a lot of nice back-stories about the project :) But its start was not quite nice: "I do not like Your projekt at all!", said an official from the Swedish Maritime Authority, on the initial meeting in 1995, to discuss specifications ... many odds were on the way. Well, eventually, the authorities gave their OK.

And eventually, I found some people that could answer all my questions about old sailing ships, that I beared in mind for 30 years ...

Thanks to the never-ending work of Björn and his "gang", hundreds of enthusiasts, volunteers and trainees had an opportunity to keep maritime traditions alive, sailing onboard the Götheborg III. The ship was built to sail over 20 years until expected retirement, so 15 years of great adventures are left :) ...

March 21-23, 2009 - Working Weekend

So, on Saturday 21th March 2009, I was on my first working weekend for the Götheborg III as a volunteer. Of course, I had zero experience of a real ship like this (ship modelling hardly counts here), and neither of this ship at all. So what could I do? I could only ask and try to be with anything on demand. At least I could speak Swedish with the folks ...

At Erikspir ("Eriks´ quai"), SOIC has its office and its working hall, with a sailmaker and carpenter lodge. An extra storage hall was located a little away in the harbour. And the ship was mooring at the quai, so we had short ways to go.

We were 90 people, all volunteers, almost too much to give everyone a task...

Emil, our work leader for the weekend, gave me my first task: "OK, You can check the topgallant shrouds for damage, and sheer in new safety lines; take off the old ones first!". One of maaany small tasks to be done.

OK. I knew what "topgallant shrouds" were, and what they looked like ... the ship was still layed off, with all its standing rigging loose on the ground. And there was the "heap" of shrouds.

For the first time in my life, after 30 years of ship modelling in scales about 1:100 - 1:200, I had real rigging in my hands! I could not find any severe damages, so I fixed the new safety lines with the equipment given. Then there were no tasks for me for a while ... so I took my camera.

Hundreds of parts, blocks, sails and rigging lines were everywhere. The spars were stored outside on a wall rack. Some yaerds were on the quai to be prepared and tarred.

And of course, we had our "fika", a lovely Swedish tradition, a little like the British "tea time" ...

And after work we had a nice meeting in the pub :)

All volunteers not living in Gothenburg were allowed to sleep onboard.

Next day, Sunday 22th, I took the "climbing exam". It is a quite short test: put the safety harness on, go aloft the main mast shrouds, together with a trainer.

You climb like this: always put your hands on the thicker shrouds, not the thin ratlines, to hold Yourself, and use the ratlines as footsteps only. So You avoid that other might tramp on Your hands by incident ...

That is easy, the shrouds go up like an inclined rope ladder, just 20 m high - but then the futtock shrouds to the top platform are demanding, they are like a jut, and You climb up hanging on Your arms, and pushing yourself up with Your legs, from the ratlines; the legs are 5 times stronger than the arms, so the arms are only for holding on the way up...

I am fairly old (42), fat (100kg), completely untrained (I hated sports all my life - except sailing), and it took me 2 minutes to get up on the platform. "So, how do You feel up here?" I was asked by Marie-Luise. I had no problem with the height, just it shocked my HOW demanding it was for me to climb the futtock shrouds the first time. The explanation is, I did it the wrong way, I was trying to lift myself up with the arms, instead of using them only for holding ... it took me some time to learn the right trick: hold yourself on ONE shroud line, do not spread Your arms to hold on two shroud lines ... at least a good method for fatties like me :)

No need to fear as long as You secure yourself with the safety hooks of the harness. Then down again - and You are approoved :) Sign on a paper that You received that education, and then You are allowed to work anywhere in the rigging - as long as You secure Yourself. And so I did.

As an unexperienced, of course, I was only the "second man" to someone else doing a task; I had so much to learn about everything, how to bend, how to fix a block under the platform, how to help with a sling ...

... any task takes much time, so by the end of the day, I wondered how little I had done. But all together, we did a lot of work and preparations. All topmasts were up again, and topshrouds fixed.

Within three days of an (extended) working weekend, I learned very much about so many details I only read about before. Since this time, the Götheborg III is my main source of information for my favorite hobby: ship modelling.

Still, a real voyage onboard was beyond my imagination ... but I was encouraged to apply for a leg in the Baltic Sailing Tour of summer 2009.

And so I did ... and eventually I got a place for the leg from Gothenburg to Arendal, Norway, in June 2009!