Tag Archives: sail training ship

Vespucci at 90

The Italian Navy’s historic nave scuola (training ship) Amerigo Vespucci (A5312) was constructed back when Italy had a king on the throne and is still going strong. Built at the Royal Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, Vespucci was commissioned as part of the Divisione Navi Scolastiche (School Ships Division) on 6 June 1931, joining her sister, the ill-fated Cristoforo Colombo, with the task of training Italian naval cadets.

The “most beautiful ship in the world” is set to turn 90 this year and never looked better.

Warship Wednesday, June 24, 2020: ‘You are the most beautiful ship in the world’

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 24, 2020: ‘You are the most beautiful ship in the world’

Photo via the Marina Militare

Here we see the Italian Navy’s historic nave scuola (training ship) Amerigo Vespucci (A5312) during the vessel’s 1992 at-sea campaign, specifically the Colombiadi, a Tall Ship regatta organized on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Pushing almost a full century in service, the Vespucci is most assuredly “old school.”

Designed in 1925 for the old Royal Italian Navy, the Regia Marina, Vespucci was to replace the aging Flavio Gioia-class incrociatore (cruiser) of the same name. The former Amerigo Vespucci, a 2,750-ton iron-hulled steam barque carried 13 guns and was laid down in 1879, the first such Italian warship named in honor of the 15th Century explorer who figured out the American continent was, in fact, not Asia.

The Regia Marina’s first Amerigo Vespucci, shown here in 1903 while ranked as a corvette, served from 1882 until 1928, first as the fleet flagship, then a solid 26-years as a training ship for the students of the Royal Naval Academy, the Accademia Navale in Livorno.

The new Vespucci was designed by Francesco Rotundi as was her near-sister, the slightly larger Cristoforo Colombo, taking pains to model them on the old Sicilian (Sardinian) Navy’s 84-gun ship-of-the-line Re Galantuomo (Monarca), a key vessel in 19th Century Italian naval lore. If Rotundi’s name rings a bell, he was the naval engineer who drew up the plans for the interwar modernization of the WWI-era Caio Duilio– and Conte di Cavour-class dreadnoughts as well as the construction of the new Littorio/Vittorio Veneto-class fast battleships.

Some 329-feet in length over the bowsprit, Vespucci’s main mast towered 177 feet into the air and, when fully rigged, she carried more than 20 holona canvas sails. While she had two white-painted “gun decks” fitted with more than 200 portholes rather than cannon ports, she was completed only with saluting guns and a few vintage black powder display pieces. She carries a life-size figurehead of the ship’s namesake explorer in golden bronze, has teak decks, and ornate embellishments from her bow to stern, some covered in gold foil.

In a nod to 20th Century shipbuilding techniques, her hull, masts, and yards were steel (although her tops are wood) and the vessel was designed from the start with an “iron topsail,” an auxiliary diesel-electric plant of two 6-cylinder FIAT Q 426 engines coupled with a pair of dynamos to supply electricity for her radios, navaids, loudspeakers, sounding gear and lights. The electricity in turn could also be used to spin up a pair of Marelii motors on a single shaft– good for up to 10.5 knots. She carried enough diesel to cruise 5,400 nm at a breathtaking 6-knots without breaking out the first sheet.

Launch of Amerigo Vespucci

Built at the Royal Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, Vespucci was commissioned as part of the Divisione Navi Scolastiche (School Ships Division) on 6 June 1931, joining her sister Cristoforo Colombo with the task of training Italian naval cadets.

La navi scuola Vespucci (left) e Colombo (right) all’ancora a La Spezia, 1935 (Archivio storico Marina Militare)

Italian Sail Training ships- AMERIGO VESPUCCI and CRISTOFORO COLOMBO. Italy, Circa 1936. NH 111394

School ship C. COLUMBO in Venice 1940

Vespucci sailed on her first annual training cruise, to Northern Europe, late in the summer of 1931. As noted by the Italian Navy, “from 1931 to 2006 the Amerigo Vespucci performed 79 training cruises for the 1st Class Cadets of the Naval Academy: 42 in North Europe, 23 in the Mediterranean, 4 in the Eastern Atlantic, 7 in North America and 1 in South America within the only circumnavigation of the globe carried out between May 2002 and September 2003.”

While not a warship in the traditional sense of the term, Vespucci and her sister trained the officers that manned Italy’s battleships and cruisers in a series of surface actions throughout the first few years of WWII, as well as many of the young gentlemen of the Italian submarine force and Decima MAS who wreaked havoc on the British fleet during the conflict.

As for the tall ships, however, they spent the war on training missions close to shore at Pula and, gratefully, survived to come through the other side.

The Regia Marina training ship Amerigo Vespucci repaired in the port of Brindisi following the armistice of 8 September 1943.

Once the war was over, and the Allies began carving away the most choice cuts of the old Italian fleet in 1949, Cristoforo Colombo was awarded to the Soviets along with the old battleship Giulio Cesare, the cruiser Duc’a De Aosta, two destroyers, three torpedo boats, two submarines, and assorted auxiliaries for a token fee. Colombo was renamed Dunaj (Danube) and worked with the Red Navy’s Black Sea Fleet for a decade.

Arriving in Odessa, 1949, former COLOMBO, soon to be named DUNAJ

Arriving in Odessa, 1949, former COLOMBO, soon to be named DUNAJ

Falling into disrepair in the 1960s after Colombo was handed over to the merchant marine school at Odessa, the graceful Italian tall ship was slowly dismantled by 1971.

Meanwhile, Vespucci returned to service with the reformed (i.e. non “Royal”) Italian Marina Militare. She resumed her overseas training cruises in 1951, equipped this time with a modest armament of four American-supplied 3″/50 guns and a single 20mm cannon to provide the ship’s cadets with some underway ordnance training.

Amerigo Vespucci in Rotterdam, Bestanddeelnr 912-9445

Playing a role in the XVII Olympiad, held in Rome that year, she transported the Olympic flame from Greece to Italy, an important healing moment between the two countries a generation after WWII. Vespucci, placed at the disposal of the Games’ Organizing Committee, embarked the flame on 13 August at Zeas with the torch carried aboard by an Italian naval cadet in a whaleboat and, sailing across the Ionian Sea, arrived at Syracuse on the 18th.

According to legend, while sailing in the Med in the 1960s, the 80,000-ton Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Independence, on a deployment with the Sixth Fleet duty in support of President John F. Kennedy’s firm stand on the newly-established Berlin Wall, came across a strange tall ship at sea. The carrier flashed the vessel, Vespucci, with the light signal asking, “Who are you?” The answer, “Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy,” came back. Independence was said to have replied, “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.”

AMERIGO VESPUCCI Italian Training Ship, Sails past USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) in the Mediterranean, 12 July 1962. The Navy later used this image on recruiting posters and advertising in the 1960s and 70s. USN 1061621

In 1964, she was extensively refitted at La Spezia, given new engines, generators, radars, rigging, and refurbished below deck areas.

Afterward, she became increasingly visible overseas, taking part in international tall ship events in 1976, 1981, 1985, and 1986, crossing the Atlantic at least twice in that period.

The Italian cruiser Garibaldi (C551) passing Vespucci off Naples, 1968

Photograph of the Italian vessel Amerigo Vespucci visiting Finland 25 Aug 1965. By Pentti Koskinen, Finnish archives

Amerigo Vespucci (Italy) in New York Harbor during OpSail 76. Photo by Marc Rochkind via Wiki Commons

A U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3B-95-LO Orion (BuNo 154576) from Patrol Squadron VP-23 Seahawks flying over the Italian Naval Academy sailing ship Amerigo Vespucci in 1976. The P-3B 154576 was later sold to Norway. U.S. Navy photo by PH1 R.W. Beno, U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation No. 2004.NAI.055.001

A port beam view of the Italian training ship AMERIGO VESPUCCI (A 5312) in New York harbor during the International Naval Review, 7/4/1986 NARA DNST8701314

Amerigo alongside one of the Italian navy’s exotic Sparviero-class hydrofoils, Falcone (P 422). From the look of the way ahead of Falcone, a sistership may have just flown by the storied training vessel before the image was snapped. Talk about old meets new…

Today, Vespucci is only armed with two 6-pounder saluting guns in pivot mountings on the deck, forward of the mainmast, although her small arms locker is interesting and recent pictures show that she still carries at least two-dozen WWII-era Beretta MAB38/42 submachine guns, used by her ship’s watch.

Further, she is still hard at work at age 89, very much a part of the Italian fleet.

Note the saluting guns

Luigi Durand de la Penne (ex-Animoso) destroyer and the training ship Amerigo Vespucci both of the Italian navy.

The Alpino FREMM frigate docked near the Amerigo Vespucci training ship. Italian Navy, 2018.


1:84 scale model of Italian training ship Amerigo Vespucci at the Hamburg IMMM

4,146 t (4,081 long tons) full load (DWT)
3,410 t (3,360 long tons) gross tonnage
1,203 t (1,184 long tons) net tonnage
329 ft 9 in LOA including bowsprit
270 ft overall, hull
229.5 ft pp
Beam: 51. ft
Height: 177.2 ft
Draught: 22 ft
Sail Rig: (original) 21 sails, 22,600 sq. ft. of canvas
(current) Up to 26 sails, 28,360 sq. ft.
Propulsion: Two 6-cylinder FIAT Q 426 engines, Two Marelli motors, 1,900 shp 1 shaft (1931),
Two 4-stroke, 8-cylinder FIAT B 308 ESS diesel engines (1964)
Engineering (since 2016)
2 × diesel engine generator MTU 12VM33F2, 1,824 bhp each
2 × diesel engines generator MTU 8VM23F2, 1,020 bhp each
1 × Electrical Propulsion Engine (MEP) ex Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali (NIDEC ASI) CR1000Y8 (1,010 bhp)
Sails, 10 to 15 knots
Engines, 10 knots
Sensors: 2 × navigation radars GEM Elettronica AN/SPN-753(V)5, current
Complement: Up to 470
15 officers
64 NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers)
185 sailors
130 Naval Academy Cadets and Support Staff (when embarked)
4 x 3″/50cal singles
1 x 20mm cannon
Small arms, saluting guns

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy

Here we see a mighty veteran of the Civil War, the ship–rigged screw sloop-of-war USS Monongahela with her full sail rig sucking air, believed to be around 1902 when she was in her last years as a sail training ship for apprentices at Newport.

Designed as a barkentine-rigged screw sloop with no bowsprit, she was the first U.S. Navy warship named for the river in Pennsylvania and, appropriately, was crafted in the Keystone State at Philadelphia Navy Yard during the early years of the Civil War. Armed with a 200-pounder Parrott rifle, and two 11-inch XI-inch Dahlgren shell guns, the 227-foot long three-master commissioned on 15 January 1863 and promptly sailed for points south to join the Union fleet.

USS Monongahela artwork shows her as originally built, with just three pivot guns and no bowsprit. This was her configuration until 1865. Later, she added a pair of 24-pounders as well as a matching set of 12-pounders to the list. NH 45205

Monongahela sailed to reinforce Rear Adm. David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, then found herself just eight weeks after commissioning (some shakedown cruise!) attempting to run past the fire-breathing Confederate batteries on the Mississippi at Port Hudson, La., on the night of 14/15 March 1863. It was a near-disaster and Monongahela grounded under the guns of a heavy Rebel battery, taking heavy fire and losing six men killed and 21 wounded, including the captain.

Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s fleet engaged the rebel batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, on March 14th, 1863. During this engagement, Farragut, passed the heavy batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, with USS Hartford and USS Albatross, to establish an effective blockade of the vital Red River supply lines. During this action, USS Richmond was disabled but drifted downstream, USS Monongahela was grounded but escaped, and USS Mississippi was grounded at high speed, set afire, and blew up. Hand color lithograph by Currier & Ives, possibly 1863. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-PGS-05757

The fleet came back to Port Hudson in May, with Farragut using Monongahela as his flag, and pounded the batteries once again.

Then, in July, just days after Vicksburg had fallen, the ship dueled with Confederate batteries at Donaldsonville, La, where Monongahela‘s skipper, CDR. Abner Read, was killed by shrapnel, and her executive officer maimed. This led a survivor from USS Mississippi, lost at Port Hudson four months prior, to be given command of the vessel, a lieutenant by the name of George Dewey who would later see a bit of service in the Philippines.

The ship, already a much-scarred veteran after just a half-year of service, now went to assist Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Texas campaign, helping to capture Brownsville before Thanksgiving then ending the year back off Mobile, looking for blockade runners and exchanging potshots with Fort Morgan.

Speaking of which, she was in the thick of the action when Farragut charged the mouth of Mobile Bay in August 1864. There, something amazing happened. Outfitted with an iron prow ram, Monongahela was to be the Admiral’s designated tackle for the Confederate casemate ironclad Tennessee, the quarterback of the Rebel fleet in the Bay and flagship of grey coat Admiral Franklin Buchanan.

As described by Shelby Foote bis book “The Civil War, A Narrative Red River To Appomattox”:

Accordingly, when Tennessee came within range about 9.20, making hard for the {Farragut’s} flagship (Hartford), Monongahela moved ahead at full speed and struck her amidships, a heavy blow that had no effect at all on the rebel vessel but cost the sloop her iron beak, torn off along her cutwater.

From Farragut’s own report, in terse understatement:

All the vessels had passed the forts by 8: 30 o’clock, but the rebel ram Tennessee was still apparently uninjured in our rear.

Signal was at once made to all the fleet to turn again and attack the ram, not only with the guns but with orders to run her down at full speed. The Monongahela was the first that struck her, and, though she may have injured her badly, yet failed in disabling her. The Lackawanna also struck her, but ineffectually, and the flagship gave her a severe shock with her bow, and as she passed poured her whole port broadside into her, solid IX-inch shot and 13 pounds of powder, at a distance of not more than 12 feet. The ironclads were closing upon her and the Hartford and the rest of the fleet were bearing down upon her when, at 10 a. m., she surrendered. The rest of the rebel fleet, viz, Morgan and Gaines, succeeded in getting back under the protection of the guns of Fort Morgan.

This terminated the action of the day.

Admiral Buchanan sent me his sword, being himself badly wounded with a compound fracture of the leg, which it is supposed will have to be amputated.

This act– ramming a well-armored Rebel ironclad with a steam sloop at full speed at the start of a surface engagement while simultaneously brushing off the threat of mines and shore bombardment– was the stuff of legend and was well-remembered in naval lore, regardless of the tactical impact it had on the engagement. At the time, Leslie’s reported the blow caused “the huge rebel monster to reel like a drunken man.”

Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Woodcut by Roberts, circa 1866, entitled Capture of the Ram Tennessee by Farragut (Mobile Bay). It depicts CSS Tennessee being rammed by a U.S. Navy steam sloop, either USS Monongahela or USS Lackawanna. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 65707

Painting by Lieutenant Colonel Edmund S. Sayer, USMC (Retired), December 1938, depicting USS Monongahela ramming CSS Tennessee during the battle. The artist composed this painting from Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s battle plans. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 42397

From Monongahela later came a boarding party to swarm over the seized Tennessee. That party included one Ensign (later RADM) Purnell Frederick Harrington of Dover, Delaware, who picked up a Leech & Rigdon .36 Colt Navy clone from the enemy ship.

Few Georgia-made Leech & Rigdon’s were made (less than 1,500 guns on a Confederate government contract) and fewer survive today. This one has a silver oval plaque inlaid in the right grip and engraved in block letters and flowing script: “Ensign P. Fred Harrington U.S. Navy, USS Monongahela, Mobile Bay Alabama Friday, Aug 5th, 1864 Captured with the Rebel Ironclad Tennessee.” It sold at auction via Cowan for $47K in 2016.

Monongahela on the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Across the top is written “Port Hudson. Donaldsonville. Texas Coast. Mobile” while the 691-ton Unadilla-class gunboat USS Winona (5 guns) is shown to the left and the 1000-ton ironclad river gunboat USS Essex (6 guns) to the right of the frame. From Philbrick collection, Kittery Maine. Catalog #: NH 995

After receiving bow repairs, Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf Squadron until the end of the Civil War and then received an assignment to the West Indies Squadron.

There, according to DANFS, she soon ran into another sort of battle– one with Poseidon.

The warship had the unique experience of being landed high and dry almost a mile inland from the shoreline when a wave generated by an underwater earthquake struck Frederiksted, St. Croix, on 18 November 1867. The tsunami generated a roughly 20-foot high wall of water that wrecked the harbor, destroying buildings and shattering many small boats. The water also carried the screw sloop over the beach, warehouses, and streets where she came to rest on an even keel some distance from the water. She lost not a soul, though the town suffered five people drowned. A working party of mechanics from New York Navy Yard under Naval Constructor Thomas Davidson succeeded in refloating the ship on 11 May 1868, following a four-month endeavor. Monongahela was towed to New York and thence Portsmouth where she was slowly repaired, finally departing in 1873 to join the South Atlantic Station.

USS Monongahela was stranded at Frederiksted, St. Croix, the Virgin Islands on 4 March 1868 after an unsuccessful launching attempt. She had been washed ashore by a tidal wave on 18 November 1867 and was finally refloated on 11 May 1868. Monongahela had received a bowsprit in her 1865 refit but retains her original straight bow. NH 45208

After a decade of service as a training ship on both the East and West Coast, our hardy warship was stripped of her guns (although pictures show what appear to be at least one muzzle-loading Dahlgren on her deck as late as 1891), and, with her machinery removed and rig scaled back, was converted to a floating supply ship and tender at California’s Mare Island Navy Yard.

USS Monongahela off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in July 1884, following conversion to a sailing storeship. USS Mohican (1885-1922) is fitting out in the left background, with Mare Island’s distinctive large crane beyond. NH 45209

In 1890, the seagoing storeship was re-cast as a ship-rigged training ship and dispatched to Newport Station, then a key training base. Leaving Mare Island after her period in doldrums, she rounded Cape Horn and made New York in just 106 days on sail alone– a feat for any windjammer. Once on the East Coast, she began her third career, that of a school ship.

USS Monongahela (photographed in port, following her 1890-91 conversion to a ship-rigged training ship. NH 60266

After a decade without guns, the old warrior was given a training battery that consisted of a mix of 6-pounder (57mm) breechloaders, multi-barrel 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, and various small arms.

A book by Frank Child of Newport, Rhode Island, entitled “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” was published in 1892, and froze both the ship and her students in time. As such, they show the Victorian-era naval training establishment well, including modern weapons such as rapid-fire guns, blended with traditional marlinspike seamanship and the use of cutlasses.

USS Monongahela (1863-1908), departing Newport, Rhode Island Caption: For Europe, 23 June 1891. Photographed by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45881

Apprentices drill at furling topsail and mainsail, off Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45894

“Morse code of signaling.” Apprentices practice semaphore signaling, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Note: 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon behind these boys NH 45888

Apprentices in blues drill with a 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon, circa 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45891

“Ready.” Apprentices of the Fourth Division at small arms drill, onboard USS MONONGAHELA (1863-1908), at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Note the .45-70 caliber M1879/80/81 Winchester-Hotchkiss rifles. These were the first detachable-mag bolt-action rifles the Navy would adopt, buying some 2,500 of them. They were later replaced by the M1885 Remington-Lee and the M1895 Lee rifle. Further, note what seems to be a Civil War-era Dahlgren shell gun to the far right of the image. While you could say it was quaint, it should be noted that legacy ships such as the training sloop USS Enterprise still had working IX-inch Dahlgren pivot guns at the same time and would keep them until 1910! Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45886

Apprentices in winter blues at gun drill on board, circa 1891. Gun is a six-pounder rapid-fire Hotchkiss model. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport NH 45890

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices onboard USS Monongahela at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Keep in mind the Navy retained cutlasses in ship’s stores through WWII. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

On 15 May 1894, she was attached to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as the school’s practice ship, carrying Mids on lengthy summer cruises to the Caribbean and Europe for the next half-decade (taking a break to serve as an auxiliary patrol ship on the East Coast during the Spanish-American War) before being sent back to Newport to resume her old job teaching apprentices until 1904.

Sometime after 1895 (likely during the aforementioned SpanAm service) she evidently picked up at least one modern 3″/50 caliber gun. More on that later.

USS MONONGAHELA, a practice ship for the Naval Academy from 1894-97, is seen tied up to the Academy wharf. USS Newport (PG-12) practice ship in 1897, can also be seen in the background. Description: Courtesy of Rear Admiral Edgar H. Batcheller, USN, Charleston South Carolina, 1969 NH 68422

Under sail, with starboard studding sails spread in very light wind, while serving as U.S. Naval Academy Practice Ship in 1894-99. Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89732

In 1902 she was still beautiful, as the below postcard series shows.

19-N-12118 USS Monongahela, starboard stern, at sea,

19-N-6801 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12112 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12114 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12119 USS Monongahela, port view,

The old warship was dispatched in her 41st year to the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she was to serve as station ship at the primitive coaling base. There, she was engulfed in a fire on a cool spring night in March 1908 while anchored between South Toro Cay and Grenadillo Point. While the ship was afire, it was towed to the harbor area on the south side of Deer Point, near Officer’s Landing.

“The ship was towed to the harbor because it was easier to try and fight the fire,” explained CDR Jeff Johnston, public works officer for GITMO’s Naval Station in a 2009 article. “The effort was unsuccessful, and the ship sank in only about 20 feet of water.”

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Remains of the USS MONONGAHELA, which had been destroyed by fire on March 17, 1908. Probably photographed during the early “teens”. Courtesy of Carter Rila, 1986. NH 100938

One of the few items salvaged from the charred wreck was a 3″/50 caliber deck gun, which had become warped and developed a downward drop of the barrel. Dubbed “Ole Droopy,” it was installed on Deer Point, directly over the remains of the old Civil War vet.

Ole Droopy was warped in the fire that destroyed the USS Monongahela in 1908, then later salvaged and put on display. This is how the venerable gun appeared in 1915. I believe– but am open to debate on this– that it is an early Mark 2 gun.

Ole Droopy stood sentinel over the sunken remains of the USS Monongahela at Deer Point before it was moved in 1942. The stone slab beneath the gun remains in the backyard of a private residence today. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy) UNCLASSIFIED – Cleared for public release. For additional information contact JTF Guantanamo PAO 011-5399-3589; DSN 660-3589

In 1942, the gun was moved to a downtown location, where it remained until 1988 when it “disappeared” rumored to be interred unceremoniously in a base landfill condemned by the base commander and public works officer who “were not pleased with the undignified look of the warped, downward-pointing deck gun. To some young Sailors and Marines, it became the appendage of off-color jokes and references.”

Ole Droopy is shown on a postcard in front of the base library in the 1950s.

Other than the vintage naval rifle, which has now marched off into naval lore of her own, Monongahela was commemorated in the fleet itself by two vessels that went on to carry her proud name– a WWII-era Kennebec-class oiler (AO-42) that picked up a dozen battle stars before she was struck in 1959 and a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler (AO-178) commissioned from 1981 to 1999.

Nonetheless, the original hard charger of Port Gibson and Brownsville, home to Dewey and Farragut, survivor of a beef with the king of the sea and schoolmaster to the fleet, Monongahela is well-remembered in maritime art, and Mids continue to see her every day.

Painting by Gordon Grant, showing the ship during her days as Naval Academy Training Ship. “U.S.S. MONONGAHELA, Civil War Veteran and famous Midshipmen’s Practice Cruise Ship.” This screened print appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1944. Catalog #: NH 45992-KN

USS Monongahela (1863-1908) mural by Howard B. French, in Memorial Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, depicting Monongahela during her days at the Naval Academy Practice Ship, 1894-99. The mural was donated to the Naval Academy by Mrs. Louis M. Nulton. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43576-KN

Further, her plans are in the National Archives.


Displacement:2,078 long tons (2,111 t)
Length: 227 ft
Beam: 38 ft
Draft: 17 ft 6 in
Propulsion: Steam engine (until 1883)
Sail plan: Sloop sails, ship after 1890
Speed: 8.5 knots as designed
1 × 200-pounder Parrott rifle
2 × XI-inch Dahlgren smoothbores
2 × 24-pounder guns
2 × 12-pounder guns
(Disarmed 1883-1890, although may have kept a few old cannon)
(After 1890)
A mix of 3-inch and 6-pdr breechloaders, 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, small arms

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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I’m a member, so should you be!

The Busted Chopin

Here we see the demasted 400-ton, 181-foot Polish brig-rigged schoolship, STS Fryderyk Chopin, as she is towed to Falmouth by the F/V Nova Spiro, a local fishing vessel, Halloween of 2010.

Photo: RNLI Falmouth

Built in 1992 and owned at the time by the European School of Law and Administration, a private university based in Poland, Chopin was on a 100-day cruise from Holland to the Caribbean with 47 souls aboard (including three dozen 14-year-old cadets) when she was struck by a wind of nine gales while about 100 miles southwest of the Isles of Scilly. Although her diesel was online, the ship’s master was unwilling to use it for fear of trailing debris fouling the screw.

The 66-foot trawler Nova Spero answered her Pan/Mayday call and towed her 100 miles to Falmouth Bay over a three-day period.

The teens were brought ashore and spent the next few nights in a hostel before being sent back home. There were no casualties.

Today, the repaired Chopin is owned by 3OCEANS Sp. z o.o. and serves as the ship of The Blue School, a Polish sail training project. She is currently around Spitsbergen on a summer cruise according to her social media page.

Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Vietnamese Navy

The sailing ship Le Quy Don (286), operated by the Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN), berthed at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila earlier this month for a goodwill visit to the Philippines.

Onboard were 50 cadets from Vietnam’s naval academy headed by its Deputy Director, Commodore Phan Van Van. The vessel was under the command of Lt. La Van Tam.

The 220-foot sail training ship (STS) was built in Poland and began service in the VPN last year as part of a naval expansion and is rated to carry a mixed crew of 110 officers/enlisted/cadets. A three-masted barque with some 1400 m² in canvas she also carries an auxiliary diesel or, as known in this type of vessel, a steel mainsail.

She is named after the 18th-century Annamese poet.

Warship Wednesday November November 13th Of Irish Clippers and Russian Comrades

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, November 13th Of Irish Clippers and Russian Comrades


Here we see the four-masted barque rigged clipper ship Tovarish (also spelled Tovarisch, and Товарищ meaning “comrade”), the pride and joy of the Pre-WWII Soviet Red Banner Fleet, Military Maritime Fleet of the USSR in full sail. She served under no less than four flags and fought in three wars– often on both sides.

as laurinston

Launched at the Irish-based shipyard of Workman, Clark & Co., Belfast, for Galbraith & Moorhead, London, and delivered in December 1892, her original name was the clipper Lauriston. She was a four-masted windjammer built for blue-water cross-ocean trading service. There was nothing about her that was modern even at the time of her birth. She had no electric lights, no engine of any sort, no mechanical ventilation, no refrigeration, bathing facilities, watertight bulkheads, or water distillation devices. There was a single steam boiler, but it was just for powering the cargo boom to load and unload her four holds. She was one of the last of the old-school clipper ships. Her crew did everything manually from turning capstans on up. Their only comfort was salted pork and stored water. Their only light was by the flicker of kerosene wicks.  While the ship would sail for over 50 years, this was never improved upon.


Nevertheless, what she lacked in comfort she made up for in speed, without any coal or oil to store, freed up most of her below-deck areas for cargo. She raced the oceans from one continent to another for twenty years. She completed the Liverpool – Rangoon run in just 95 days once and the Holyhead – Calcutta one in 96. When it was considered that these trips normally took even steam-assisted ships 107 and 116 days respectively, you can see just how fast the ship was. This shouldn’t surprise you when you realize that her sail plan was for nearly 10,000-square feet of canvas aloft on 30 sheets.


She hauled silks, sheep, dry goods, jute, teak wood, wool, and just about anything else that paid. First for Galbraight, then after 1905 for G. Duncan & Co, then after 1910 for Cook & Dundas, London (sold for £ 4,000), and finally to Cherey, Eggar & Forrester of  London in 1913.

On to Russia!

It was Eggar (no relation) who sold the ship to an agent of the Tsar in 1914 to work the convoy route from Aberdeen to Murmansk during World War One, carrying railroad ties and equipment. A large quantity of the Murmansk-St Petersburg Railway, which was completed in 1917, came from the UK on the Russian-owned, Finnish/British-crewed His Russian Majesty’s Ship Lauriston. After the line was finished, she became a coal lighter/mothership for the flotilla of Russian navy minesweepers there. (She would be used for this in another war too, but more on that later.)


When the Tsar was kicked out in 1917 and the now-Soviet Russians sued for peace in March 1918, the Brits accompanied by other allied forces (including US doughboys) seized Murmansk. It was then the Lauriston was seized by the Brits and placed at the disposal of the Hudson Bay Co., London, moving cargo back and forth from the UK to Murmansk as needed and serving as a floating base of operations for these “Interventionist” forces in the Russian Civil War. When the Brits evacuated Murmansk to the Soviets in 1920, they towed the Lauriston back with them of course.

I mean, she may have been a 28-year old scratch and dent windjammer from another era, but she was free, right?


Well, not quite. It seems the Soviets believed that what the Tsar once owned, the State now did and by 1921 they had pitched enough of a fit to get her back. After having a refit for her (new sails, rigging, etc) at bargain prices in Germany, she was renamed Tovarish (Comrade) in 1923 and made a training ship for the Soviet navy and merchant marine, officially assigned to the Leningrad Maritime College. In her new service, she had a 32-man crew of professional officers and NCOs who oversaw 120 cadets.


She also had female crew, with the ladies being seen as equals under the new Communist utopia.

Moreover, she was one of the first operational Soviet-flagged merchant ships. This meant she could move across Europe in the 1920s, bringing back to the Soviet Union much-needed flour (the country was beset by famine throughout the 20s).

It was also theorized that she dropped of Soviet agents, and picked up Communist political prisoners. In one mission six Communist party members in Estonia were quietly bundled out to the Tovarish and away from local authorities, escaping a death sentence passed upon them.

She was the first Soviet-flag ship to enter and receive honors in many foreign ports from Europe to the Americas. For instance, she completed a run from Leningrad to Rosario, Argentina in 1926 in just 74 days by sail alone. Although with no watertight bulkheads and a riveted iron-hull, she was very strong. So much so that in a collision in the English Channel in 1928 with the Italian cargo ship “Alcantara“, it was the newer Italian steamer that went to the bottom while the Tovarish picked up survivors. Two years later an English Admiralty Court ruled that the Italian steamer was at fault, not the Soviet school ship.

It was during these salad-days of the pre-WWII Red Navy that the Tovarish proved a happy and successful ship. Her cadets included many men who would go on to become admirals of the Red Navy during and after the war.

One of the heroes that walked her deck was the infamous Alexander Marineseko, the highest scoring submarine ace in Russian history. While aboard Tovarish at age 17, Marinesko stood on his hands high up the tallest mast of the ship. Seeing the young man teetering precariously 20 meters above the deck, the ship’s longtime captain, Ivan Freiman prophesied: “You will go through a whole lotta pain, young man, if you do not learn to tame your desires and your nature!”

The cadet should have listened because even though he sank two huge German naval troopships in the Baltic (Wilhelm Gustloff and General Von Steuben) taking more than 15,000 souls down in the process, he was cashiered from the Navy for drinking and chasing tail.


When World War Two broke out, the Tovarish was sitting at Novorossisk in the Black Sea. As the Germans approached the port in 1941, the Soviets abandoned the school ship, opening her to the sea. The Germans were able to raise her and tow her to Mariupol where she sat as a floating barracks ship for the Croatian Naval Legion (Hrvatska Pomorska Legija).

The Croatian Naval Legion wore German Kreigsmarine uniforms with a Croat checkerboard emblem on the sleeve. These Adriatic sailors lived and fought from the Tovarish for nearly two years

The Croatian Naval Legion wore German Kreigsmarine uniforms with a Croat checkerboard emblem on the sleeve. These Adriatic sailors lived and fought from the Tovarish for nearly two years

This group of 340 ethnic-Croat sailors was formed by the Nazi-puppet Croatian Government and sent to the Black Sea to man minesweepers and patrol boats for the Germans. The Croatian government hoped that the German Kriegsmarine would use their valiant countrymen on the Eastern Front to gain valuable experience and form the core of future free Croatian Navy. Active throughout 1942, the Croatian Legion owned 31 small sailing-craft and 35 motorboats, which they operated from the mother-ship Tovarish.

In August 1943, with the Soviets closing on  Mariupol, the Germans/Croats sank the ship for the second time, with Soviet aircraft finishing the job. There she sat on the harbor floor until 1959 when she was raised and scrapped. Her anchor was retained In the Town Square near the port gate, where it remains to this day, a 4-ton 1890s Irish anchor in a Ukrainian port.

Tovaris anchor

She was also remembered with a special gold coin for the 300th Anniversary of the Russian Navy in 2000, as well as a postage stamp by the Soviet Union in 1981.



*(As a side note, when the Soviet Navy seized the scuttled German training ship SMS Gorch Fock at the end of the war, she was soon salvaged and repaired as a replacement for the lost Torvarich. Fittingly, that replacement ship carried the name Tovarisch in the Soviet Navy from 1951-90 and then in the Ukrainian Navy until 1999. This kept a legacy of nearly 75 years of naval training on a sailing ship named Comrade, flying the red banner fleet’s ensign. )


The length of the upper deck (register), m 86.73(284.56-feet)
LWL, m     84.00
Beam at the middle, m 12,80, m (41.99-feet)
Depth, m     7.93
The height of the outer bar keel, mm 254
Maximum draft with the keel, m 6.60 (21.65-feet)
Full-load displacement, t 4750
Lightship, t     1150
Deadweight, t 3600
Capacity Gross, Reg. t     2472
Capacity clean, reg. t     2118
By Bruce     3.3
Crew     32
Number of trainees 120
Armament (small arms)

Sail plan:
(Sail area, m2, four-masted barque)
Flying jib –     57.9
Cleaver –     66.3
Midship jib – 62.8
Fore topmast staysail –     68.6
Fok – 226.0
The lower form Marseille – 127.0
The top form Marseille – 142.0
The lower form bramsails – 76.4
The top form bramsails – 92.8
Four-bom-bramsails –     70.0
Main-topmast staysail 1st grotto –     66.6
Main-topgallant staysail 1st grotto – 58.0
The first cave – 243.0
The lower topsail 1st grotto – 127.0
The upper topsail 1st grotto – 142.0
Lower bramsails 1st grotto – 76.4
Upper bramsails 1st grotto – 92.8
Groth-bom-bramsails 1st grotto –     70.0
Main-topmast staysail 2nd grotto –     66.6
Main-topgallant staysail 2nd grotto – 58.0
The second cave – 231.0
The lower topsail 2nd grotto – 127.0
The upper topsail 2nd grotto – 142.0
Lower bramsails 2nd grotto – 76.4
Upper bramsails 2nd grotto – 92.8
Groth-bom-bramsails 2nd grotto –     70.0
Apsel – 68.6
Cruys-topmast staysail – 53.6
Mizzen –    105.0
Mizzen topsail hafnium – 48.4
Total – 3005.0m2

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