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1919. A wooden hulled, four masted schooner lay berthed in the docks of Seattle. She was as beautiful a piece of shipbuilding as any that has ever been launched by the JH Price Shipbuilding Company. Most certainly a splendid sailor on a bowline with sleek lines that lay easy on the eye. Her name was painted aft in proud white bold letters. She was called Blaatind. Unbeknown to anyone at the time, a varied future laid in wait for her.
1920. The time has come for her maiden voyage. A cargo of lumber was destined for Durban, a port of the Union of South Africa, at the very far end of the furthest seas. But before her sails were raised, she was renamed Commodore.
1924 – 1935. The Commodore quickly proved her worth out on the open sea. She ran hard and fast upon the waves ahead of the wind. She was put to duty between the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii in the timber trade. Soon she was well known all over the States, as her races with the Vigilant, another schooner triggered unprecedented interest.
1935. The golden age of sail was coming to an end and the Commodore laid up in port for lengthy spells at a time. It was time for a change. An adventurous lady of the sea such as she could not allow moss to settle on her hull, now could she? One of the biggest cinematic hits of the time: Mutiny on the Bounty, with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton was released towards the end of that year. And the ship that played the main role? Yes, you guessed it. The Commodore herself.
1941. December. The World was covered by the dark clouds of War. Has been the case for more than two years already, ever since Nazi Germany attacked Poland in September of ’39. The United States did not want any part of it. They merely watched from afar, keeping their noses clean. That was about to change. Early morning, December 7th Japanese bombers attacked the American Fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. America went to War the very next day. Less than a week before all hell broke loose at Pearl Harbour, a four masted schooner sailed out of Washington. She was under new ownership, destined for Durban. Had her departure been delayed a tad, the Commodore might very well have been commandeered for military duty, running supplies or such. By all accounts, a narrow escape. She arrived in the Port of Durban in May of 1942. But here she found herself moored for many months on end because her new owner/captain died around the time they reached the end of their journey.
1943. Local authorities eventually seized her. They then sold her off to The British Ministry of Transport. Their first point of action was to rename her: Commodore II. Shortly afterwards she was towed to Saldanha Bay. Here she was put to work as a floating coal hulk.
1945. Fanie Jacobsz, grandson of former President Paul Kruger bought the Commodore II for a song and a dime. Coal hulks were regarded as old, mostly unseaworthy ships at the time, hence the unglamorous assignment. But Mr. Jacobsz had plenty of money to throw at repairs and renovations, and pretty soon the Commodore II was the only privately owned four-masted sailing ship in the country.
A young Polish merchant seaman, Gena Hrywniak came to Cape Town on a ship that was to be fitted with anti-aircraft guns by British Admiralty contractors, just before the end of World War 2. He had this to say: “Nothing can be more boring than an inactive vessel in port. With time on my hands I strolled daily in the port. That was when I came upon the Commodore II. I could not help but to notice the four-mast sailboat. I was struck by her strong construction revealing large logs from North America. With each new day I liked the ship more and more. I had no doubt that the object of my admiration must have been a beauty, although her incredible state of neglect made it difficult to believe she could hoist sail and prove her worth.”
While the ship slowly got transformed to her best, Hrywniak and Jacobsz forged a firm friendship. When the time came to aim the fore to the waves, Jacobsz asked his young Polish friend to be Second Officer. For the love of this tall ship, his reply was an emphatic Yes. (Later on, he became Chief Officer)
Their first venture would be a shipment of coal to Argentina, and a return cargo of timber back to South Africa. Nothing too difficult there, especially with a sailing ship in such pristine condition as the one they were on. Again, as told by Hrywniak: “The 201-day voyage from Cape Town to Buenos Aires and back was extremely eventful. From the moment we left Cape Town we were dogged by ill fortune. Going up the river Plate the ship got grounded upon a mud bank. Took us all of 40 days to repair the damage, it did. Also, during this time the Commodore caught fire, but fortunately it was quickly extinguished. When at last we set sail for Cape Town and home again, a severe storm such as you’ve not seen before hit us, and damaged the schooner so badly that we knew this to be her very last voyage. I could sense the terror as we entered the tranquil eye of the storm. In a mere second the hurricane came at us with such fury during our fight to survive that we wondered how long this ship of ours could take such an onslaught. The mast, rigging, sails, food reserves and cargo were all severely damaged. The carpenter and crew made what repairs they could and the ship limped home. We suffered a severe shortage of food and water. We near starved to death. Jacobsz became desperately ill and rarely came on deck. But we were delirious with joy because we were going home.”
The Commodore II suffered such severe gale damage that her hull was broken to the point that it was not worthy of repair. All the cargo on board was written off.
1948. The Commodore II got sold for scrap, stripped and dismantled until only a skeletal hull remained. Then she was run ashore somewhere between Woodstock and Milnerton, and duly set on fire. The flames raged for a whole two weeks. At the time this was considered an acceptable way of disposing of a vessel. The sea, the breakers and the sand broke her apart after the fire was done with her. And she was not seen again.
2008. A Storm approached Cape Town from the West over the Atlantic. It has been the talk of the town for days on end. This one will be a big one, if the forecasters could be believed. Shut the doors and the windows. Keep the kids, the dogs and the cats indoors. If you don’t need to be outside, then don’t even think of it. The sky turned into an ominous purple-black-grey confusion of clouds, and it rolled ever closer to shore. The wind howled and the rain rammed into roofs and the windows with wild anger. Beach sand got whirled inland far beyond where sea sand should be found. Big sturdy trees got snapped like match sticks. Streets turned into raging rivers. And the remains of a hull of a ship that drowned beneath the sea sand near Milnerton 60 years ago got dug up and tossed on the beach as if it was a toy.
2018. For the last 10 years the hull of the Commodore moved about as the high tides and the low tides, the ebbs and the flows, tried to figure out what to do with it. Sometimes it would be on the beach, then other times in the shallows of the breakers. It even wandered up and down the river, all the way as far as the old Wooden Bridge, and back again to the lagoon mouth. A conservation effort was initiated, and hence the hull of the Commodore II was moved to its current site, its final resting place, where now it can be viewed by all.
|To log a find on this Virtual Cache:
Answer two questions via the message feauture at the top of the listing, and post a picture in your log.
Question 1. By what name did she go while she was a movie star?
Question 2. At the published coordinates you will find a sign. At the top right corner is a red logo. What are the five English words in that logo?
Picture. Post a picture of yourself or your geocaching compass on or at or near the hull of the Commodore II.
|Virtual Rewards 2.0 - 2019/2020.
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between June 4, 2019 and June 4, 2020. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards 2.0 on the Geocaching Blog.
(No hints available.)