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Title: Moshulu  
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Subject: Gustaf Erikson, Pommern (ship), Penn's Landing, Independence Seaport Museum, SS Cape Jacob (T-AK-5029)
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The Moshulu at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia
Name: Kurt
Namesake: Dr. Kurt Siemers
Owner: G. H. J. Siemers & Co., Hamburg
Route: Europe to Chile and Newcastle, Aust.
Builder: Alex. Wm. Hamilton & Co., Port Glasgow
Cost: £36,000
Laid down: 1903
Launched: 18 April 1904
Christened: 18 April 1904 as the Kurt
Completed: June 1904
Maiden voyage: June 1904 via Santa Rosalía to Valparaíso
Homeport: Hamburg,
Fate: Seized by the US as enemy asset
Name: Moshulu
Route: (US) Manila, Australia, South Africa
Acquired: 1917
Out of service: 1928
Homeport: San Francisco
Status: restaurant ship
Name: Moshulu
Route: Australia to Europe grain trade
Acquired: 1935
Decommissioned: 1970
Out of service: 1940
Reinstated: 1935 as a cargo ship, 1948 as a grain store
Homeport: Mariehamn, Naantali
Fate: capsized and demasted 1947, sold 1970
Name: Moshulu
Acquired: 1970
Reinstated: 1975 as a restaurant
Homeport: Philadelphia
Status: restaurant ship
General characteristics
Class & type:
  • four-masted steel barque
  • cargo ship, fl. warehouse, restaurant ship
Displacement: 7,000 ts (1,700 ts ship + 5,300 ts cargo)
  • 396 ft (121 m) (overall)
  • 359 ft (109 m) (on deck)
  • 335.3 ft (102.2 m) (btw. perpendiculars)
Beam: 46.9 ft (14.3 m)
  • 212 ft (65 m) (keel to masthead truck)
  • 185 ft (56 m) (main deck to masthead truck)
Draft: 24.3 ft (7.4 m) at 5,300 tons
Depth: 28 ft (8.5 m) (depth moulded)
Depth of hold: 26.6 ft (8.1 m)
Decks: 2 continuous steel decks, poop, midshipbridge and forecastle decks
Installed power: no auxiliary propulsion; donkey engine for sail winches, steam rudder
Propulsion: wind
Sail plan: 4.180 m²; 34 sails: 18 square sails, 3 spankers, 13 staysails
Speed: highest recorded: 17 knots (31 km/h)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
four lifeboats
Complement: max. 35
Crew: 33 (captain, 1st & 2nd mate, 1 steward, 29 able seamen)

Moshulu (ex Kurt) is a four-masted steel barque built by William Hamilton and Company on the River Clyde in Scotland in 1904. The largest remaining original windjammer, she is currently a floating restaurant docked in Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, adjacent to the museum ships USS Olympia and USS Becuna.


Originally named Kurt after Dr. Kurt Siemers, director general and president of the Hamburg shipping company G. H. J. Siemers & Co., she was, along with her sistership Hans, one of the last four-masted steel barques to be built on the Clyde, (Archibald Russell was launched in 1905). Constructed for G. H. J. Siemers & Co. to be used in the nitrate trade, at a cost of £36,000, she was launched in 1904. Her first master was Captain Christian Schütt, followed by Captain Wolfgang H. G. Tönissen in 1908 who made a fast voyage from Newcastle, Australia, to Valparaíso with a cargo of coal in 31 days.

Between 1904 and 1914, under German ownership, Kurt shipped coal from Wales to South America, nitrate from Chile to Germany, coal from Australia to Chile, and coke and patent fuel from Germany to Santa Rosalía, Mexico.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kurt was sailed to Oregon under the command of Captain Tönissen, then laid up in Astoria until being seized when the United States entered the war in 1917. She was first renamed Dreadnought ("one who fears nothing"), then, because there was already a sailing ship of that name registered in the US, she was renamed the Moshulu (which had the same meaning in the Seneca language) by the First Lady of the United States and wife of President Woodrow Wilson, Edith Wilson. Between 1917 and 1920, Moshulu was owned by the U.S. Shipping Board and carried wool and chrome between North America, Manila and Australia.

From 1920 to 1935, Moshulu was in various private hands based in San Francisco. From 1920 to 1922, it was owned by the Moshulu Navigation Co. (Charles Nelson & Co.), San Francisco; in 1922, it was sold to James Tyson of San Francisco; and, in 1922, it was repurchased by Charles Nelson. The big four-masted barque ran in the timber trade along the U.S. west coast to Australia and South Africa from 1920 to 1928. After her last timber run to Melbourne and Geelong, Australia, in 1928, she was laid up in Los Angeles; later on, she was kept in places in or near Seattle, Washington: Lake Union, Winslow on (Puget Sound), and Esquimalt in British Columbia, Canada 100 nautical miles (190 km) north west of Seattle.

In 1935, the Moshulu was bought for $12,000 by Gustaf Erikson. On 14 March 1935, when the contract was signed, Captain Gunnar Boman took over the ship and sailed it to Port Victoria. Gustaf Erikson had her operate in the grain trade from Australia to Europe. In 1937, John Albright sailed on her as a young seaman. During the period of Erikson ownership the working language of the ship was Swedish, even though it sailed under the Finnish flag. The ship's home port at the time, Mariehamn, is in the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands of Finland.

At the end of 1938, the ship left Belfast for Port Lincoln and Port Victoria, in South Australia, with later famed travel writer Eric Newby, then aged 18, on board as an apprentice seaman. Moshulu arrived in Queenstown (Cobh, Ireland) on June 10, 1938, after 91 days at sea, winning the very last race of square-rigged sailing ships between Australia and Europe.

The ship was seized by the Germans in 1940 when she returned to Kristiansand, Norway, with a cargo of wheat from Buenos Aires under the command of Captain Mikael Sjögren. She was derigged step-by-step in the 1940s, and, after having capsized in a storm close to shore at a beach in Østervik near Narvik in 1947, she was demasted by a salvaging company to be re-erected, stabilized, and towed to Bergen in July 1948. The ship's hull was sold to Trygve Sommerfeldt of Oslo. A few months later, the ship was transferred to Sweden to be used as a grain store in Stockholm from 1948 to 1952. Then she was sold to the German shipowner Heinz Schliewen, who wanted to put her back to use under the name Oplag as a merchant marine training ship carrying cargo.[1] Schliewen already used the four-masted steel barques Pamir and Passat (both former Flying P-Liners) for that purpose, but before Moshulu was re-rigged, Schliewen went into bankruptcy. In 1953 Moshulu was sold to the Swedish Farmers' State Union (Svenska Lantmännens Riksförbund) of Stockholm, and again it was used as a floating warehouse beginning on 16 November 1953.

In 1961, the Finnish government bought the ship for 3,200 tons of Russian rye; she was towed to Naantali, a town near Turku, and she continued to be used as a grain warehouse.

In 1970, the ship was bought by the American Specialty Restaurants Corporation, who rigged her out in the Netherlands with phony masts, yards, and lines and eventually towed her to South Street Seaport, New York City. Other sources have it that The Walt Disney Company bought the ship but soon transferred it to the American "Specialty Restaurants Corporation".

In fiction

The four-masted barque Moshulu, the ship on which Eric Newby, the writer of The Last Grain Race, sailed. She is today a restaurant ship at Philadelphia, PA, United States

Moshulu is famous through the books of Eric Newby. At the age of 19, he apprenticed aboard the Moshulu. He joined the ship in Belfast in 1938, sailing to Port Lincoln in Australia in 82 days with a load of ballast stone, a good passage for a windjammer. They took 4,875 tons of grain on board in Port Victoria and sailed back in the spring of 1939 to Ireland, beating a number of other sailing ships with a passage of 91 days. During this time, Newby took part in all the tasks necessary to run and maintain the ship, such as constant chipping of rust and painting of the ship, changing from storm sails to fair weather sails and back again, and perpetual overhaul of the standing and running rigging - all of this on top of the day-to-day tasks of sailing the ship. The crew at the time was predominantly Finnish and Swedish, and nationality was a source of friction amongst the crew throughout the voyage.

The journey was documented in Newby's books The Last Grain Race (1956) and Learning the Ropes: An Apprentice in the Last of the Windjammers (1999), the latter being a book of photographs he took while aboard. The title of the former book refers to the last grain race before the outbreak of World War II. While windjammers exist and sail the seas to this day, the last windjammer carrying cargo was the Peruvian Omega (ex Drumcliff) which was in use until her loss in 1958.[2]

Moshulu, like all grain ships, was lightly manned; during Newby's time on the ship the total crew numbered only 28, including 4 officers, the cook, the steward, and 8 sailors in each of the port and starboard watches. Routine tasks such as wearing the ship required every crew member to be involved, meaning lost sleep for the free watch. If a sailor became ill or injured, chances were slim that he would receive treatment ashore, especially since Moshulu made no stops between Europe and Australia during Newby's voyage. When a man like Newby applied for a position in the crew, the captain had him climb to the top of the mainmast, pointing out that at sea he might have to climb it while it was swaying wildly. For many applicants that was enough; they were never seen again.

The Moshulu was seen in the movies Rocky (shown during one of Rocky's workout sessions along the waterfront) and The Godfather Part II (seen as the young Vito Corleone arrives in America in 1901, two years before it was built), as well as in the end scene of the movie Blow Out.

See also

For examples of other large sailing ships:


  1. ^
  2. ^
  • Sven-Erik Nylund: Inte rädd för någon, Vasa 2001, Schildts ISBN 951-50-1195-7 (in Swedish)

Further reading

  • Newby, Eric, The Last Grain Race, Secker & Warburg, London, 1956; Penguin Books, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., 1986. ISBN 0-14-009571-3 (pbk.)
  • Newby, Eric, Learning the Ropes - An Apprentice in the Last of the Windjammers, John Murray, London 1999. ISBN 0-7195-5636-8

External links

  • History of the ship from the restaurant web site

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