It is heartbreaking to see old ships decaying away, so we try and keep them going, with various degrees of success. The South Street Seaport Museum, New York has been more successful than most, but even they have been beaten by the steel 4-masted barque Peking.
The 3,100 gross ton Peking was built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg in 1911 for the South American nitrate trade and in 1924 she was adapted to be used for sail training. In 1933 she became the British training ship Arethusa, known to her cadets as ‘Hell on Earth,’ and became a static ship on the River Medway.
By 1975 the Victorian standard of Spartan training was going out of fashion and the barque was towed to South Street Seaport Museum, New York, with masts still standing. The barque was rigged out again, but deteriorated and recently the city of Hamburg agreed to have her back. She was found unfi t to be towed across the Atlantic so there was a plan to put her on a lift ship, but there appears to have been problems with dry-docking the barque.
The South Street Seaport Museum have had more success with their 64ft iron schooner Pioneer, built in 1885 as a sloop. She was used to carry sand on the lower Delaware Bay. For nearly fi fty years she has run day trips around New York Harbour during the summer months. South Street Seaport’s wooden 74ft Gloucester fishing schooner Lettie G Howard is more of a problem, as she has rot in her keel.