On the north east coast of England, it was Sunderland’s proud claim that more ships had been built here than in any other town in the world.
The largest sailing ship built on the North-East coast was the 3,400 ton 4-masted barque Andorinha from Pickersgill’s yard at Southwick. They also built the last sailing ship from the River Wear, the barque Margarita, in 1893. The last Wear shipyard closed in 1988.
When Sunderland was a major port, the granite Roker Pier breakwater was constructed between 1885 and 1903. When this Pier was being built, a tunnel was made to take pipes out to a giant crane. Later on, the lighthouse keepers used the tunnel in bad weather. Some of the old glory days came back to life when about fifty-two entrants in the Tall Ships Race arrived at Sunderland in July for a 450 mile race to Esbjerg. From here, the fleet cruised in company to Stavanger, Norway and then raced to Harlingen in the Netherlands. Every vessel taking part had to have fifty percent of her crew aged between 15-25.
When the first Tall Ships Race was started at Dartmouth in 1956, it was a new use for sailing vessels going to sea to give young people a sense of adventure. Since then, sailing vessels in Europe have made a further comeback by taking people on holiday voyages. The large sea going fleet of commercial sailing vessels of the Netherlands also take part in sail training events. For several days before the race to Esbjerg started, some of the Dutch charter schooners, notable Guilden Leeuw, Morgenster, Oosterschelde and Wylde Swan, had a lucrative time running two hour trips outside the harbour with passengers in the prefect weather.
The 3-masted steel tops’l schooner Oosterschelde of Rotterdam was built in 1918 as a trading schooner and is the last remaining member of the large fleet of Dutch trading schooners built early in the twentieth century. In recent decades, she has made voyages all over the world. The brig Morgenster was built in 1919 as a Dutch herring lugger and was then converted to a motor vessel. In 1983, Harry and Marian Muter rigged her out as a brig and started sailing in 2008.
The 3-masted tops’l schooner Gulden Leeuw of Kampen was built in 1937 as a Danish fishery research vessel. The tops’l schooner Wylde Swan of Makkum was built in 1920 as a fast fish carrier bringing herring back to the market. With her fine lined hull she was ideal for conversion to become the world’s largest tops’l schooner.