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Under the Russian tricolor The Shtandart historical ship celebrates its 20th anniversary

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Under the Russian tricolor The Shtandart historical ship celebrates its 20th anniversary


Sergey Vinogradov

The Shtandart, a historical frigate built based on drawings designed 300 years ago, celebrated its 20th anniversary. It is the replica of the first naval frigate built by Peter the Great in Baltics in 1703. The replica frigate was put afloat with all the honors and celebrations in September 1999. The ceremony was held on Orlovskaya embankment, St. Petersburg, in presence of more than 40 thousand people. Over the 20-year period the Shtandart has traveled 167 thousand nautical miles, visited 127 ports in 17 countries; it has been featured in a dozen films and dressed up in scarlet sails for the famous Alumni Festival held in St. Petersburg.

The Russkiy Mir talked with Vladimir Martus, the frigate captain and the project initiator, about gains of the two-decade-long voyage, old sea dogs and sailor boys (over the years, the frigate's crew included more than eight thousand people from 27 countries), interest in history of the Russian fleet in foreign ports and meetings with Russian compatriots who consider the Shtandart to be a piece of their homeland.

Real wood in the world of plastic

Vladimir, where are you now?

We are laying off in Southampton, UK. There is an exhibition of boats, yachts and various equipment. Everything is white, beautiful, and expensive. The organizers invited us to attract the public - adults and children. And every day we have queues next to our staircases: everyone wants to come aboard and look around. Then they are amazed - is this really possible? Such contrast of soulless plastic and real wood is striking. We tell them about the ship, and show just everything, as we do elsewhere. Such great interest is a good news.

Vladimir Martus

How did you celebrate the 20th anniversary of putting the Shtandart afloat?

Unfortunately, on the anniversary day, we were not even able to make a stop. We left Stockholm and rushed to Southampton - there were only 10 days to sail nearly one and a half thousand miles. The guys, who participated in building of the ship and who are directly related to it, celebrated well onshore. And we were underway, stopped for half an hour and moved on. We had a cake prepared in honor of the 20th anniversary. We didn’t raise a glass - alcohol is strictly prohibited on the ship. Many old-school sailors and yachtsmen who visit us are surprised with this rule, but such rule has been adhered at the Shtandart from its first days.

Building of the Shtandart

Do you have any chance to stop for more than half an hour?

It happens but not often. Remember, just like with a hero in Pirates of the Caribbean - ten years at sea, one day on the beach. We have about the same schedule. In fact, I live on board, it is my house. For 20 years, we have visited all countries of Europe and have traveled around the globe about eight times, if we consider distance in kilometers. We travel across Europe, including sailing, but did not go across the Atlantic. The farthest point where we reached were the Canary Islands.

Wow, a pirate ship!

Judging by what they write about your ship, the Shtandart is associated with a living museum, which provides tours, educates trainees and volunteers, and participates in regattas. Did I leave any detail to chance?

Well, this is what our daily activities are made up of. All these areas are very important for us. But still, I would like to specifically mention tours for visitors that are conducted in ports, and education for trainees. The Shtandart attracts great attention almost everywhere, because there are very few ships of such kind in Europe, especially those in action. They can literally be counted on one hand - the Swedish Götheborg, the French Hermioneand the Shtandart. There are ships in Spain that are called replicas of historical ships, but in reality they are just "plastic fiction." There is huge interest in historical ships in Europe. For us, visitors on board are the chance to show history of Russia, as well as ordinary Russian people who come to a foreign port with good intentions and positive emotions. Our 20 years of sailing is a story of people from different countries coming together.

Is Peter the Great remembered in Europe?

Peter the Great is known well in England and Holland. And this comes as no surprise - he used to visit these countries. People are particularly interested in Peter the Great in the Netherlands and express cordial liking to Russia due to cooperation back in his times. The Dutch remember Peters democratic nature he used to work with his hands, and this is very much appreciated in the country. They respect us in Norway and Denmark, because the captain of the Peters Shtandart was the brother of their very famous admiral, whose significance is comparable to our Ushakov. They know us in these countries and we are often invited to festivals and historical reconstructions.

People in other states are less familiar with Peter the Great. We often hear peoples exclamations: “Wow, a pirate ship!” when they look at the Shtandart. Sometimes we immediately start explaining where the ship comes from and why it looks like that; but sometimes its easier to say: Yes, it's a pirate ship, come in, lets talk and then to unveil the truth on board.

In nearly every port you meet with Russian compatriots, organize tours and historical games for children. How important is this activity for you?

The answer is simple: I feel nice when Russian people feel nice. Sometimes it hurts that so many Russians have left and live outside their homeland. But when you see how nice it is for people to meet a piece of their homeland, you experience strong emotions. We try to let our compatriots know about our arrival in advance, invite them on board.

History is alive and the ship is real

During tour on the ship, what do you try to convey to your visitors first?

I tell the story of how the Peters Shtandart was build and emphasize that Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg and the fleet not to fight, but to trade. I also try to show that history is alive, and the ship is real to the extent that anyone can participate in the sea voyage. In some sense we have chosen the Peters mission for ourselves - we gather young people from Russia and other countries so that they communicate, exchange experiences, and Russia becomes familiar with Europe.

What surprises visitors in different countries the most?

For example, the fact that everything on the ship is wooden. And the fact that our sailors sleep in hammocks. And they really sleep in them. In fact, it is very convenient when the sea is storming and the ship is rocking. They are surprised by how authentic is everything they see.

Can any person become a crew member?

Special training is not required, appropriate health is the most important. Trainees pay a certain amount, compensating our expenses for sea passages. If a person has come 23 times and proved his efficiency as an intelligent sailor, he can change his status to volunteer and travel with us for free. They help us navigate the ship and coordinate trainees. There is always an international multilingual team on our board, and the English language sounds on a par with Russian. Now we have an English boatswain, volunteers from France and Germany. By the way, some of them, being on a Russian ship, feel desire to learn Russian and succeed in this.

I read feedback from your visitors in Sweden. They compare the Shtandart with the Vaza, the famous Swedish ship, which is exhibited in Stockholm for museum visits. Do you think the comparison is justified?

I hope the comparison does not relate to the fate of the Vaza and theShtandart (the Vase sank leaving Stockholm harbor - author). The Swedish ship is older than ours - it was built in 1628, and ours - in 1703. The epoch is about the same. There is some kind of similarity, and 85 years is rather insignificant difference for ordinary people.

What have you understood about the Peter's fleet navigating the Shtandart for over 20 years?

This is a very long professional conversation; there are a lot of observations. In simple terms, I think I managed to really get used to condition of a man in Peter's time, a man who steers the ship, which had no engine or navigation equipment back then. When the weather is suitable, we approach the berth and perform unberthing with sails, without using devices. At the same time, we always use satellite navigation, although we mastered a sextant, but its inaccuracy is too high. I understand that the experience gained by us while operating a historic wooden vessel for two decades is unique and most probably no one else has it.

Do you plan to write a book?

Even before putting the ship afloat, Viktor Krainyukov, a historian, and I published The Shtandart Frigate, a book on history of the ship. I would like to publish beautiful stories about the ship sailing. I think it needs to be done. There are such plans, but work has not yet been launched

Great ship needs big screen

The Shtandart has been featured in more movies than many successful actors. Please tell us about the most large-scale projects.

There have really been a lot of films. Filmmakers are attracted to the fact that the ship is in action, and nothing needs to be changed here - the camera can work any direction. The Dutch made films about Willem Barentsz and Admiral Ruyter on the ship, which were shown on big screens. The British made movies about Peter the Great and the Romanov dynasty, as well as about Peter Pan. The Norwegians shot several pirate films on our ship. Filmmakers from Germany made a film about a German man who sailed with James Cook. The Spaniards made a historical film about journey of a sailboat with a plague vaccine to the other side of the Atlantic. Even Sesame Street was filmed on our board.

How do sailors from meeting merchant, passenger or military vessels react to the Shtandart?

Sailors are people who have seen everything, and it is not easy to surprise them. Russian sailors almost always greet us; they message by radio that they are happy to meet us. There are many Russian sailors in the fleets, therefore, at least once a week someone joyfully calls us over the radio and we are talking about common acquaintances and about previous meetings. It's very nice.

What modern equipment do you use while sailing?

We have a complete set of modern equipment almost since the ship was put afloat - a navigation computer, radar, radio equipment, powerful engines and generators. But we concealed everything so that visitors do not see all of those.

Have there been many repairs in 20 years?

Every year we perform preventive maintenance and check whether everything is in order - the bottom, the screws. And two years ago we performed a major overhaul and replaced about 40% of the ships structures. We changed everything that rotted and did not inspire confidence; cladding boards, deck, and stern were replaced completely. The overhaul took 5 months. Great scope of work was performed - we worked for 12 hours almost seven days a week.

Does the Shtandart sail under the St. Andrew's colors?

The St. Andrew's flag is the flag of naval forces. If we raise it, then, as military vessel, we will have to coordinate entry into any country through diplomatic channels six months in advance. We raise the St. Andrews flag for ceremonies, on holidays. So we sail under the Russian tricolor.

Photo courtesy of Vladimir Martus


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