The first Tall Ship

Pogoria 02

    

In 1977 I took a job with the Polish national TV. This gave me a chance to promote sailing. Since the director was an enthusiastic sailor himself I managed to persuade him to build an enormous yacht for teenagers- a three masted 47 metre long barquentine. The director himself came up with her name, which was derived from his favourite little Silesian lake “Pogoria”.

It was the first time a Polish shipyard built a rigged ship. This was followed by another 10 ships being built in the next 10 years. In 1980 the sailing vessel “Pogoria”, with 1000 square metres of sail area was launched and she proved to be the fastest in her class during the Tall Ship Races in 1980.

The Polish Academy of Sciences was running a research station on the  South Shetland Islands and every year it had to solve the problem how to get the scientists there and back, 9000NM each way. I put forward the idea to use “Pogoria” for this purpose. As a result in the winter of 1980/81 I was in charge of a very unusual voyage from snow and ice on the Baltic Sea to the icebergs on Antarctica. We reached the Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station in two months time, the same amount of time it took to get back. It appeared that the voyage under sails takes twice as long longer but is ten times cheaper.

ITA_3743_1024x680In 1982 taking advantage of my job with the TV I announced to all sixteen years olds that whoever wanted to take part in my cruise on the Indian Ocean had to take care of an elderly person in need. Some would not believe, other did not want to devote themselves to this type of work but around 2000 young people suddenly started supporting a Polish social security organisation (Pomoc Społeczna). In the end 30 who made it through the final selection together with teachers of all subjects took part in the voyage. As a result the School Afloat- a high school class on sea, was born. The participants of that cruise met 20 years after and nearly all of them had had success in their professional lives. They also stated that the cruise had been a breakthrough event in their lives.

pogrej

In 1988 I undertook a similar project but this time the crew was international. Ten Russians, ten Americans and ten Poles met on “Pogoria”. English became our common language. We sailed around South America under the flag of the United Nations. The first semester lead across the Atlantic to  Ushuaia on the Land of Fire, and the second through the Pacific along Chile and Peru. Head winds stranded us in the Drake’s Passage for two weeks and we spend Christmas amid the swell.

The participants of that International School Afloat met again on Pogoria’s deck 25 years later (in 2013) and they took part in a commemorative voyage in the Mediterranean.

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