Kiel, Germany. May 11th 2015
There is an air of expectation on Hoppet this morning. We all woke up at 6 am to have porridge and coffee. Now preparing for departure from the Olympic harbour of Kiel. We are about to enter the Kiel Canal, and this is a historical moment for Hoppet. She has never been this far before. Never sailed more West, never entered the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea. So from now on Hoppet is sailing on ”unknown waters”.
Maybe it is time to introduce the ship properly to all people following the Meeting the Odyssey project. After all, Hoppet and its crew are the ones that will meet all participants, or at least all those who are sailing. She is the literal ”same boat” of this project, and I am so proud to be able to sail on her both in the Baltic and in the Mediterranean Sea.
Hoppet is a galeas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galeas). Her name is Swedish and has a double meaning: ”The Hope” or ”The Jump”. She was built as a cargo ship 1925-1926 in Spithamn in Estonia by Swedish speaking Estonians, a minority that habited the West and North West coast of the country. Hoppet’s first trip went to Stockholm, but she would not return to Estonia before decades later. On her way back from Stockholm Hoppet was sold to Finland, where she stayed also during the Second World War. The Finnish ownership during those years probably saved her from being destroyed. All similar ships built by the Estonian-Swedish community in those years were destroyed in one way or another during or after the war by the Soviet state. When the war was ending, Hoppet was forced by the Russians to be used for military use, sailing together with 49 other ships from Hanko in Finland to Haapsalu in Estonia, where they would take on Russian military and then attack the Germans at the Estonian islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. The Russian officers on board the Finnish ships ordered the captains to go fast straight up on the sandy beach. Although they had a gun pointing at them, the Finnish skippers tried to save their ships by switching gear to neutral and revving the engine. However, many of the ships did not survive the rocks and were later turned into wrecks by the autumn storms. Fortunately, the Finnish sailors were able to save Hoppet and get her back to Hanko in Finland.
Hoppet did her last trips as a cargo ship in 1965. After that Hoppet was sold to Stockholm. She stayed there for many years, getting quite run-down and forgotten. Later Hoppet was recognised by a woman who had grew up in Estonia and in 1944 fled to Sweden with her family. She decided to take the ship back to Estonia and get it restored. It was a huge project and the renovation lasted many years. Today, Hoppet is owned by an Estonian wooden boat association called Vikan and the only part of Hoppet that is from the original ship is the anchor winch! All the rest has been exchanged during the years of careful renovation first in Stockholm, then in Finland and finally in Estonia. Still in these days all sails are handled manually, and the ship is registered as a historical ship.
The galeas Hoppet is called ”the last of its kind” and indeed she has in a way become a symbol of survival. She survived the difficult years of war where so many of her sisters were destroyed. Then she was reborn through the heroic input of many carpenters and sponsors. And now she serves as an educational and cultural heritage ship, carrying on the tradidion of wooden boats and sailing from one generation to another. This tradition nearly vanished from the Estonian coasts during the Soviet time, as many boats were nationalised by the State and people were not allowed to walk even close to the coast line, all in order to prevent people from escaping. By forbidding any kind of sea tradition for almost 50 years, the Soviet state almost succeeded in erasing the knowledge and routine of boat building, sailing and navigating in Estonia.
However, it seems the Sea is something that will never stop fascinating people in all parts of the world. As long as there is the sea, there will be boats and people traveling on it. So also in this sense the Hoppet is a symbol of survival – the survival of a sailing community and a sailing knowledge. The people of the Estonian coast kept their secrets and when Estonia became independent in 1991 the sailing tradition increased again.
Today the owner of Hoppet, the Vikan association, is proud of the wooden boats and traditional sailing knowledge that it is representing and supporting. During this trip from Tallinn towards Italy we have with us eight cadets of the Maritime School in Estonia, and this is a unique possibility for them to practice real sailing.
Brunspüttel, Holland. May 12th, 2015.
Now we have passed the channel, waiting by the lock before the North Sea. There seems to be a heavy wind out there, up to 25 m/s, and we do not want to enter that weather… So we wait. We paint the deck. We study charts. We read books and we go for walks. Sailing is about waiting, after all. Waiting for wind, for good weather, for less bad weather.
Matilda von Weissenberg