The tall white lady with a rather colourful past

14 09 2019

Photographs from a visit to the Chilean Navy’s tallship, B.E. Esmeralda, which made another return to our shores this week. Singapore is the 5th port of call in the training ship’s 2019/20 round the Pacific voyage that has taken her from Valparaíso to Wellington, Auckland, Sydney and Bali so far. The ship, which last made a call to Singapore in 2017, is a 113 metre, four-masted barquentine built by Astilleros de Cádiz (now part of the Navantia naval shipbuilding group). Initially built as a National training ship for the Spanish Navy, she was transferred to the Chilean Navy during her construction in 1951 before being launched in May 1953 and delivered in June 1954.

Affectionately known as “La Dama Blanca” or “The White Lady”, the ship has been linked to some of the excesses committed in the aftermath of the military coup in 1973 that was led by former Chilean strongman General Augusto Pinochet – when she was allegedly used as an interrogation centre.  The vessel, leaves for Shanghai at approximately 1700 hours today and her seven month voyage will also see her calling at Busan, Tokyo, Honolulu, Papeete before returning to Chilean waters.

More on La Esmeralda:


A peek below decks

Back up for the sunset ceremony

Parting glances …



The White Lady graces our shores

15 08 2012

I just love the sight of a tall ship and it is a shame that we get to see very little of them here in Singapore, and so, I have to settle for that occasional visit to one that comes alongside every once in a while. One such ship, the Chilean Navy training ship, the Buque Escuela (BE) Esmeralda, a four-masted barquentine, on a four-day visit to Singapore, was opened to the public over the weekend and I took the opportunity to pay a visit to it on Sunday. The Esmeralda, which means “Emerald” in Spanish, is affectionately known as “La Dama Blanca” or “The White Lady”, is currently on an eight-and-a-half month training voyage that will see her call at 13 ports in 10 countries – a voyage that started in her home port of Valparaíso on the 22nd of April this year and will end with her return to Valparaíso scheduled for 6th of January 2013. Singapore is her sixth port of call on the voyage which also sees her calling at ports in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, India, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Colombia, and across the Panama Canal in Ecuador.

The BE Esmeralda seen here berthed at VivoCity is a four-masted training ship used by the Chilean Navy.

The Esmeralda, launched at the Spanish shipyard, Astilleros de Cádiz, in 1953, has had a rather interesting history. When her keel was laid in 1946 at what had been the Astillero Echevarrieta y Larrinaga de Cádiz, she was to have been built as replacement for her sister ship, the Spanish Navy training ship Juan Sebastián de Elcano and would have been named the ‘Juan de Austria’. What followed was a series of events that led to the ship being transferred to the Chilean Navy. Construction on the ship was halted in August 1947 due to massive explosions at the shipyard which not only caused damage to the ship, but also resulted in such damage to the yard itself that it brought the yard to its knees. The yard was eventually rescued by the Franco government in 1951. The government formed the Society of Cadiz Shipyards (Sociedad Astilleros de Cádiz S.A.) which the shipyard came under when the takeover was completed in 1952.

Boarding the Esmeralda.

A manually operated capstan on the poop deck.

The capstans are marked with the words Astilleros de Cádiz – the shipyard that built the BE Esmeralda.

Before the takeover was effected, Spain had entered into negotiations with Chile in 1950, on the repayment of debts it had incurred as a result of the Spanish Civil war, primarily from the import of thousands of tons of salt with a loan from the Chilean government. As Spain wasn’t in a position financially to repay the loan, an offer was made to repay this through manufactured products. This was accepted by the Chilean government and part of this included the transfer to the ship (approved in December 1951) which was valued at US$ 2.98 million. Construction then recommenced and the ship was launched on 12 May 1953 and christened the BE Esmeralda. She was finally completed some eight years after her construction was started and delivered on 15 June 1954 to the Republic of Chile, setting sail the following day. She arrived at her home port of Valparaíso on 1 September 1954 via Las Palmas, New Orleans, Panama and Tongoy.

Helm on the poop deck – the words ‘Vencer o Morir’ or ‘Conquer or Die’ the motto of the Chilean Navy is inscribed on it.

The Chilean Coat of Arms seen at the forward end of the deckhouse.

The ship is apparently the second longest tall ship with a length overall of 113 metres and a length (without her bowsprit) of 94.13 metres. Her two main masts are just a metre shy of the main mast of the STS Pallada which I visited in March 2010 at 48.5 metres in height. The steel hulled barquentine displaces a maximum of 3,673 tonnes. On its four masts and bowsprit, a total of 29 sails can be hosited, providing an total sail area of 2870 square metres and giving it a top speed with sails of 17.5 knots. More information on the very pretty ship can be found at the Chilean Navy’s page on the ship. The Esmeralda set sail on 14 August and is scheduled to arrive at her next port of call, Mumbai, on 30 August 2012. When she arrives back in Valparaíso at the end of the training voyage on 6 January 2013, she would have travelled some 30,414 nautical miles, spending a total of 208 days at sea.

The port sidelight.

A porthole on a skylight.

Brass nameplate for the door to the Midshipmen’s Navigation Room.

The bowsprit.

The fore mast.

A view of part of the fore deck with the fore mast.

The starboard anchor windlass and chain stopper.

The forward main mast and the forward end of the deckhouse.

Part of the rigging on the gunwale.

A tender on launching davits.

Close-up of a tender.

A pulley block.

A peek inside the deckhouse.

A cook in the ship’s galley.

A view of the lower deck.

Close-up of rope work.

A 120 year old vessel prepares to set sail

23 04 2012

Currently berthed at the Marina at Keppel Bay is a 120 year old historic ketch, the H/V Vega, which I first visited in early 2010 and following which I made several more visits during her subsequent stays in Singapore. The vessel, which is owned by Shane Granger and Meggi Macoun, is a beautifully restored top-sail ketch which was originally put to service as an open decked vessel that carried stone and slate along the tempestuous waters off the Norwegian coastline. I was able to drop by again yesterday to say hello to Shane and Meggi, who were in the midst of getting the H/V Vega ready for what has become an annual 6 month-long voyage of mercy which she is taken out on every April or so. The voyage is one that will take the Vega to the distant eastern distant reaches of the Indonesian archipelago with a cargo of much-needed items – medical supplies, farming tools, books, stationery and even sporting gear – a lifeline that many of the remote and often overlooked island communities especially in the Banda Sea area depend very much on.

A coil of rope. The H/V Vega is being prepared for what has become an annual mission that will take her to the Banda Sea.

The H/V Vega is a 120 year old ketch that has been very nicely restored and is now used to bring aid to remote island communities in the Indonesian Archipelago.

With most of the supplies they are carrying over from Singapore already packed in, what was left for Meggi and Shane and two volunteers to do was in packing in the last few items of aid they are carrying from Singapore, as well as getting the boat’s gear prepared for the voyage. The H/V Vega is due to set sail on 25 April 2012 for Jakarta where she will pick up some more supplies for the island communities. A peek below decks revealed the amount that is being carried. Having been designed as a high density cargo carrier, the Vega is limited not so much by the displacement but by its available volume and this was very evident below decks where the items the Vega is carrying seem to spill over into all available space that will possibly make the voyage a rather uncomfortable one for Shane, Meggi and two other crew members who are joining them. Besides the boxes of medical supplies, books and stationery, loose items such as CPUs, toys and sports gear were seen to have been stowed on sleeping berths as well as free spaces in the accommodation areas, including a mechanical sewing machine – once a common household items in Singapore that will be very useful to the island community that it is being delivered to, in the dining area.

Shortlink anchor chain being readied on deck.

Ropes being prepared deck seen through a portlight.

While the Vega has been able to obtain much of what is needed by the communities, as of yesterday, there are some small but essential items that she is short of (see also:

  • 1 x 12 Vdc cool box for vaccine storage
  • Reading glasses
  • Battery for Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop
  • Battery for Dell XPS M1210 Battery type HF674
  • 200x Nail / Hand scrubbing brushes
  • 100x Plastic closeable hand soap carrier (should have a snap to keep it closed in bag)
  • Sharpening Stones
  • Thread and sewing needles
  • Guitar strings (Metal and Nylon)
  • Power cables for desktop computers
  • Cables between monitors and CPU for desktop computers

Anyone be in a position to help with any of the items may get in touch with Shane Granger.

The annual clutter in the living spaces - aid items stowed in the accommodation spaces for delivery to the island communities include books, stationery, medical supplies and a mechanical sewing machine.

Supplies stacked up on a bunk.

The view down into the forward accommodation space filled with medical supplies.

Used sports equipment and CPUs being packed.

More boxes to be brought below decks.

A cabin being partially used to stow supplies.

The forward accommodation space as seen from below decks.

Even Elmo is going along on the voyage.

Extreme action on the Bay

9 12 2011

This weekend will see some Extreme action returning to Marina Bay as Singapore plays host to the 9th Leg and grande finale of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series™ – the second time the Extreme 40 circuit will be seen at Marina Bay, the first time being in December 2009. The race will see ten teams featuring 40 of the world´s best sailors racing from Wednesday 7 December to Sunday 11 December 2011 in what is the final and deciding round of the 2011 season. The race will commence at 2pm on each day with the 9th to the 11th being public days, and action can be caught at the Extreme Race Village which is located at the site of the Singapore Flyer, which will be opened to the public from Friday to Sunday.

The Extreme 40 Boat

The creators of the Extreme 40 took the biggest, fastest sailing boat in the Olympics — then made it twice as big and even faster. And no, brakes do not come as standard… The concept of Extreme 40 is to bring the sailing to the public and not the other way round.
The Extreme 40 catamaran is a scaled-up version of the former Olympic class Tornado, all of the dimensions are relative to the Tornado, it’s just twice as big and incredibly fast. Both light -for better speed and acceleration potential – and very stiff – to withstand the huge efforts put on the structure – the Extreme 40s are made of a honeycomb core trapped between two carbon fiber skins. The stability is provided by the shape of the structure, the Extreme 40 being a “rectangle” sitting on the water, but things change very quickly when the wind kicks in and one hull starts to fly: it’s a treat for spectators, and a real challenge for the crew who have to maintain the balance whilst making the most of the boat’s potential. The generous sail area allows Extreme 40s to sail faster than the wind, in just 15 knots of wind, an Extreme 40 is capable of traveling at 25+ knots.

Weekend Race Programme:

Friday 9th December
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
12:00 – 14:00 – Moth Racing
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Public presentation to the top boat of the day

Saturday 10th December
10:00 – 12:00 – Moth Racing
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
11:00 – 14:00 – Optimists Racing and NeilPryde Racing Series
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Public presentation to the top boat of the day
17:00 – 19:00 – NeilPryde Racing Series

Sunday 11th December
11:00 – 12:00 – Moth Racing
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
12:00 – 14:00 – Optimists Racing and NeilPryde Racing Series
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Championship trophy presentation

**please note that times/activities might vary

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Onboard the Audi ultra on Marina Bay

26 09 2011

Thanks to the URA, I had an opportunity to take a short cruise around Marina Bay on the Audi ultra, a 90′ Super Maxi class ultra-lightweight racing yacht. Besides the wonderful views of new Singapore that has blended with some of the old I got around the bay, I was also able to have a quick peek around the state-of-the-art all carbon-fibre marvel of modern engineering.

A cruise around Marina Bay on the Audi ultra provided a wonderful view of the former inner harbour - now part of a downtown freshwater reservoir around which the transformation of Singapore can be best appreciated.

The boom seen against the towering mast - the Audi ultra features a 40 metre high mast.

Another view of the mast.

All hands on deck to welcome a glamourous visitor.

At the helm of the yacht was Geoff Bauchop, who gave a run through of the yacht’s features which includes a 40 metre tall mast. Fully rigged, more than a monster 1000 square metres of sail can be raised. Another feature of the yacht is the canting keel holding lead ballast that weighs almost half of the 22 tonnes that the yacht displaces. At a touch of a button the keel can be moved to the windward to counteract the huge heeling moments induced by the large sails. A demonstration of this was given during the cruise by Geoff, heeling the yacht a few degrees off vertical. Geoff later revealed that the canting keel was also used to bring the yacht under the bridges over Marina Bay the lowest of which has a clearance of only 9 metres into Marina Bay. To allow this, the yacht was heeled over to an extreme angle using the keel to allow the yacht to be towed under the bridge (see youtube video below) – pretty amazing stuff!

Mr Geoff Bauchop of the Audi Ultra team at the helm.

Heeling over ...

... off the vertical - Geoff demonstrating how canting keel can be moved to counteract heeling moments on the yacht.

Looking forward.

I also had a chance to see what was below decks – where the carbon-fibre used in the construction of the hull was quite evident. Construction is mainly of carbon-epoxy sandwich – using high modulus carbon fibre which has been infused with epoxy resin and cured at high temperature on the extremely thin skins with a nomex honeycomb core that allows a rigid yet lightweight construction. The skins I was given to understand were only 2mm thick on the outboard surfaces and 1 mm on the inboard surfaces – hardly enough to resist any impacts with floating objects. Kevlar – the stuff of bullet proof vests and military helmets are used in strategic areas just to provide the impact resistance.

The view above decks seen from the opening of the companionway.

Under the glare of the tropical afternoon sun - the boom seen through a hatch from below decks.

The carbon-fibre epoxy hull features skins of 2 mm on the exterior surface and 1 mm on the interior separated by a nomex honeycomb core.

It is below decks where any illusions that sailing is a glamourous sport almost immediately evaporates, as the heat under the tropical sun-baked carbon-fibre deck quickly becomes apparent. Racing yachts are built with minimum weight in mind and air-conditioning machinery are not always considered essential. Sleeping accommodation is provided by hammock like hot berths that line the boat sides and the crew rests on the windward side – to help in offsetting heeling moments to the leeward side. Amidships, a navigation console is arranged – here onboard computers help with navigation and communications. What is also evident below is the powerful hydraulic rams below a clear perspex window at the bottom of the hull that moves the canting keel.

The navigation console below decks.

A window to the powerful hydraulic rams that control the canting keel.

The Audi ultra has been brought in and will be based at Singapore’s One° 15 Marina to promote the development of professional and big boat sailing and will help in the hands-on training and development of sailors and will be used to participate in races under the Singapore flag and crewed by a combination of Singaporeans and experienced International yachtsmen and women and is supported by the Singapore Sailing Federation. More information on the Audi ultra and the Audi ultra Racing Team can be found at the Audi ultra Racing Team’s website.

Sailing on the bay.

Sailing is being promoted as a sport in Singapore.

Marina Bay - formerly the inner roads is now being promoted as a sailing competition venue.

A last look at the Audi ultra.

A date with a 117 year old

6 11 2010

With a few friends, I paid a visit to the H/V Vega, which is in Singapore for a short stopover before heading off on 9 or 10 November 2010 to the Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta, where she will be deployed as a press boat. It was my second visit to the historic top sail ketch which I first visited in March of this year. The ketch has been wonderfully restored in 1995 having been built in 1893 as a stone carrying vessel for voyages in the harsh climes of the North Sea and in the Arctic and is a marvel of 19th century craftsmanship and certainly a joy to wander around and photograph.

I love the old sailing ships for the rigging that seems to clutter the main deck.

The Vega is a very photogenic boat and is a joy to photograph.

During this visit, we had the opportunity to have a chat with the very friendly owner and master of the ketch, Captain Shane Granger and his wife Maggie (who incidentally was responsible for the wonderfully designed cabins below deck). Captain Shane was able to share with us some of the experiences in carrying out the humanitarian aid work that the magnificent vessel is engaged in, a lot of it in the outer and remote reaches of the Indonesian Archipelago – places that are ignored and often forgotten by the authorities and mainstream aid organisations.

The very affable Captain Shane Granger, owner and master of the Vega.

Another view of the rigging.

Among the stories that Captain Shane shared was how the gift of very simple things that we take for granted can transform the lives of the inhabitants of the remote islands. With a gift of pencils and erasers, children were able to have the tools necessary to learn to write, where they had been taught to do so previously on a slate that was the moistened sandy ground beneath them. The erasers had been particularly treasured by the teacher, as it meant that exercise books which were in short supply could be reused by erasing the deliberate light scribbles of the children on the pages of the books.

The not so friendly ship's cat eyeing the camera suspiciously.

Besides school supplies, the Vega also delivers aid in other forms such as much needed medical supplies once a year to her regular destinations around the far east of the Indonesian Archipelago. She was able to receive sponsorship for some of this and among the benefactors were Jotun Paints in Singapore and hopes to continue the good work with further sponsorship. More information on the Vega can be found at her website, as well as on my previous post on her. Captain Shane can be contacted at the Vega’s email address. The Vega is due back in Singapore in April of 2011.

Old tools including a traditional caulking tool at the bottom - traditional methods and materials are used in the upkeep of the ketch.

The ketch's anchor.

A pirate awaits the visitor below decks.

The visit provide some of my friends the opportunity to climb up the mast ... well part of the way at least ...