Ana sayfa Yazarlar Aret Taşcıyan Cutty sark

Cutty sark

It was one of my typical, busy as usual London trips in June this year. During the week every single moment of each day was completely full with various meetings, in spite of that, I still had a few items outstanding and had to extend my stay for next week. I usually finish what I had to do in London and return with a late Friday flight but this time it was different, so I had to stay over the week end. On Saturday, the weather was too good to be true for London, I decided to devote the day for my personal pleasure. I already had an agenda in my mind since for a long time and without hesitation I was on my way to Greenwich to visit Cutty Sark. This is what I lived on that Saturday.
It was 22nd November 1869, after exhausting design works, extensive researches and a 10 month of building period, one of the last and the fastest tea clippers of the 19th Century, Cutty Sark, was finally launched. She was ordered by the well known Shipping Tycoon John Willis ( Jock Willis Shipping Line ). John Willis inherited a large fleet of clippers from his father which was regularly operating in tea trade between Far East and Britain. Speed was one of the most important issues in tea trading during 1800’s. Apart from creating an advantage to the carrier it was also attributing a prestige to the owner. Many prominent people were betting serious amounts of money against the fastest vessel and this was published in the front pages of well known newspapers. The fastest ships in the trade have usually been the American designed ships but for the first time since many years a British designed ship “Thermopylae” set a record of 61 days from London to Melbourne in 1868 and she was built in Aberdeen. After this incident Willis decided to appoint Hercules Linton, who designed Thermopylae, to design a top class ship for him. After long researches the design was ready, the ship was going to be built in Scott & Linton shipyard. She was going to be built to Lloyd’s A1 standards and construction would be  supervised by Captain George Moodie who would command her upon completion. The contract was signed on 1st February 1869, the ship was launched on 22nd November 1869 and commissioned on 16th February 1870. The contracted price was Pnds 17 per ton with a maximum weight of 950 tons with a late penalty of pnds 5 per day.
Why, Cutty Sark. Cutty Sark was the nick name of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns’ narrative poem written in 1791, Tam O’Shanter. Willis was an admirer of Robert Burns. The ship’s figurehead shows Cutty Sark who chases Tam O’Shanter in the poem, snatching his horse’s tail before he escapes by crossing the water **. In the poem Nannie Dee wore a linen white sark (in Scottish a short chemise or undergarment) which was too short for her therefore it was cutty (short).
The maximum designed speed for Cutty Sark was 17.5 Knots but calculating the speed of sailing ships is not as straightforward as a steam ship because this all depends to the wind and to the skill of the captain and crew. Her greatest recorded distance in 24 hours was 363 nautical miles (averaging 15 knots). Cutty Sark began her maiden voyage on 16 February 1870 from London to Shanghai carrying wine, spirits and beer. The return trip began 25 June arriving London 13 October carrying tea via Cape of Good Hope. She then completed 8 “tea seasons” between London and China under Jock Willis ownership*. Her commissioning happens to coincide with the opening of Suez Canal and a fast transition into steam shipping. Number of steamships, particularly in tea trading, were increasing whereas clippers were steadily being reduced. Suez Canal reduced the distance between London and China by 3,300 NM and even though sailing ships could pass through Suez Canal by taking a tug service this was difficult, unpractical and very expensive. Furthermore, insurance premium for cargo of tea was substantially cheaper for steamers compared to sailing ships. As steamers took over tea trading Cutty Sark, like other clippers, had to take different cargoes like wool, coal, jute etc. She was the fastest ship in wool trading for ten years but steamships gradually took over wool trading as well obliging Jock Willis to sell Cutty Sark to a Portugues Firm Ferreria and Co Ltd in 1895. She was renamed “Ferreira”  but was called by the crew as “Pequena Camisola” straight translation of Cutty Sark into Spanish. In 1922 Cutty Sark was the only clipper operating as a cargo ship in The World, in same year she was sold to her new owners in Lisbon and was renamed “ Mario do Amparo “. The same year retired Captain Wilfred Dowman bought the ship renamed her again “Cutty Sark” and returned to Falmouth Harbor where he used her as a cadet training ship. After Dowman died in 1936 the ship was sold to Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College and sailed from Falmouth to The Thames in 1938 crewed by cadets, this was her last trip under sail. Since then until 1952 the ship was used as a sail training drill vessel. In 1953 The Cutty Sark Preservation Society spent about Pounds 250,000 for her restoration, re-rigging and preparation for public exhibition. Since then she was preserved as a museum ship and registered under the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection and ownership is transferred to Cutty Sark Trust from The Society in 2000. In 21st May 2007, Cutty Sark which had been partly dismantled for conservation caught fire and extensively burnt losing most of the wood work. After this incident an extensive conservation project is started in November 2007. With the major contributions of The Heritage Lottery Fund, film producer Jerry Bruckheimer and shipping magnate Sammy Ofer among others Pounds 45 million is spent for the new project . The vessel has been restored and reopened to the public on 25th April 2012 in Greenwich . She is one of the three historic vessels in London on The Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register together with HMS Belfast and SS Robin. She is one of the three remaining composite construction (wooden hull on iron frame) clipper ships built in the 19th Century. The others being City of Adelaide ( Port Adelaide, South Australia ) and Ambassador ( Punta Arenas, Chile ).
When I was back on the Thames Cruise Boats returning to my hotel from Greenwich , I did not understand how fast these amazing 145 years passed by. Imagining for a while what has Cutty Sark, her Captains and her crew experienced and what they survived through over these 145 years, I felt so week, incompetent and realized what an easy life we have compared to theirs.
*MacGregor, David, The Tea Clippers, Their History and Development 1883-1875, Conway Maritime Press ltd. (1983)
**Lubbock, Basil. Blackwall Frigates , Charles E.Lauriat, 1924, Boston