Veteran cargo ship sails again after refit

Avontuur returns to cargo service (Photo: Timbercoast) Avontuur returns to cargo service (Photo: Timbercoast)

The two-masted schooner 'Avontuur' - nearly 100 years old and once regarded as one of the last true cargo sailing ships of the last century - is back at sea again.

The gaff-rigged Avontuur, built in1920 at the Otto Smit shipyard in Stadskanaal in the Netherlands, sailed to La Rochelle from Brake in July after completing a 20 month refit in Germany. Mid September it was sailing to Canada and was due back in France mid November after an Atlantic round trip of about 10,000 nautical miles.

The 43.5m long and 5.9m wide Avontuur, which now carries a regular crew of six and 10 volunteers, was in active service as a Dutch-owned cargo ship until 2005 in the North Sea, Baltic, North Atlantic and Caribbean. It then served until 2011 as a passenger ship on the Dutch Coast and along the West Friesian islands.

Eco-conscious investor and ship captain Cornelius  Bockermann told Maritime Journal it was bought in 2014 “in relatively poor condition” for the sail trading company Timbercoast which he heads.

Between November 2014 and July 2016 Avontuur underwent a refit at the specialist sail and workboat shipyard Elsflether Werft on the Weser.

Because the ship had already been converted a number of times over the years, it had to be restored to its original condition as a cargo carrier before entering service. Bockermann told this correspondent “the ship was completely gutted and rebuilt from keel to mast top”.

To meet regulations “additional bulkheads had to be installed and the fore-peak  bulkhead had to be moved a few centimeters to the stern”, he explained “while all materials, equipment and other fitments had to meet today’s safety, fire protection and equipment standards”. The rigging was rebuilt to Middendorf and GL standards.

Avontuur today is the equal of any other cargo ship of its size and class”, said Bockermann.

Steel-hulled and drawing 2.1m, it now flies the German flag and is classed by RINA. It is of 124GT and carries 114 tons of cargo in a hold measuring 7.5m by 3.3m and of 135m3 capacity.

Avontuur has a John Deere 6081 AFM auxiliary engine on board, operating a fixed propeller, and a 20 kVa generator from Mitsubishi. Other power listed is supplied by 20 Sunware 4266 solar modules of 2.1kWP capacity, two 400W wind generators and a 24V/110 Amp shaft generator

Sail enthusiast Bockermann is keen to demonstrate that sail shipping can again be a viable transport alternative. “We have a clear message” he says. “We want to draw to people’s attention what is wrong with the world’s trading fleet and show that goods can be transported safely and emission-free by sea. … Conventional shipping is an ecological disaster”, he declares.

By Tom Todd

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