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A litte Bit of History

(attachment of the 1993 newsletter)

"Eye of the Wind", originally called "Friedrich", was built in 1911 as a topsail schooner by C Lühring of Brake, West Germany, for the South American hide trade.

In 1923 she was sold to Sweden and renamed "Merry". For the next 50 years she traded under the Swedish flag in the Baltic and the North Seas, carrying general cargo. During the summer months she drifted for herring off the coast of Iceland.

It was not until 1926 that her first engine was installed. Over subsequent years her rig was gradually reduced; firstly her yards were sent down, followed by her topmasts. Later her hatches were re-arranged and her rig altered to that of a ketch. When cargo rates were high during the 1950's she became a virtual motor sailer and was lucky to escape lengthening of her hull, as was the fate of so many of her contemporaries.

In 1969 a fire brokeout in the engine room completely destroying the wheel house and her timber poop deck. It seemed that her life had come to an end. At about this time a group of square rigger enthusiasts were hatching plans to find a suitable hull for rebuilding. Finally in 1973 a deal was struck with the owners of the hulk and from there began the task of rescuing the old iron hull.

The Skandia air start engine was completely rebuilt, as was the poop deck. Areas of shell plating which had been buckled by the fire were replaced with mild steel. Worm steering gear was fitted and temporary electrics were installed. After six months "Merry" was ready to begin her passage across the North Sea to England, where work on superstructure and rigging would be done.

A fitting out berth was located at Faversham, Kent. Owners and friends came together at Easter 1975 to begin the massive task of restoration. Slowly a brigantine began to evolve. The blacksmith's forge glowed as the bands were shaped to suit the spars. Master Rigger Wally Buchanan came to Faversham to live whilst rigging was in progress, and there he remained. Pieces of scrap metal became the bowspirt, chain plates, dolphin striker and other fittings. A nearby warehouse became the rigger's workshop as coils of wire rope were fashioned into shrouds and foot-ropes.

Suitable materials for fitting out the accommodation slowly became available. Western Australian jarrah, which had formed a part of a breakwater at a nearby seaport and crossing timbers from the disused Tenterden railway were fashioned into pinrails. A dancefloor of teak became the deckhouse, whilst church pews became the seats. Panelling from a London bank now enhances the spacious lower saloon.

It was decided that the first voyage of the "Eye of the Wind" would be a circumnavigation of the glove <- I love this one and won't correct it ;-), Ina . "Eye of the Wind" performed well in light airs, averaging 100 miles per day on her 18,000 mile passage to Sydney. The crew of 26, made up of owners and paying crew, found it easy to fall under the spell of this tall, gracious little ship with the windsong in the rigging and bow wash along the hull. The circumnavigation was completed in 1978 in Plymouth (UK) when "Eye of the Wind" became the flagship of Operation Drake. This two-year, round the world scientific expedition involving some 400 young people from 27 nations, under the patronage of HRH Prince Charles, finished in London in 1980.

The vessel has appeared in several feature films including "Blue Lagoon", "Savage Islands" and "Taipan" which was shot on location in China. More recently she has appeared in an Australian film "Desperate Fortune", which told the story of the great British navigator Matthew Flinders. "Eye of the Wind" was also a participant in the latter stages of the First Fleet Re-enactment and the subsequent Bicentennial voyages on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

In early 1990 "Eye of the Wind" sailed across the Southern Ocean to participate in the celebration of 200 years of settlement of Pitcairn Island by the descendants of the "Bounty" mutineers.

On October 7, 1991, the "Eye of the Wind" bid Sydney farewell and began her most adventurous voyage, "Homeward Round The Horn". She sailed eastward across the Great Southern Ocean and at 09.43 on December 10, 1991 Cape Horn was rounded and then she sailed northward to Lisbon to join the Columbus Grand Regatta. In company with thelargest fleet of Tall Ships this century, she sailed to the Americas and on to Liverpool and Bristol, completing an 11 month voyage.

Gone are the days of a diet of salt beef and ship's biscuits. Superb meals are created in the ship's galley by the chef and his assistants. Accommodation is in well appointed two-berth cabins, traditionally styled with all the comforts of home.

To Sail on the 'Eye'
Beneath the stars and the sky
Will capture your heart
And never depart

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