In the Pipeline Q2 2019

M A G A Z I N E

contemporary descriptions, simple illustrations of the ship’s exterior and some theoretical calculations. The ship is a square rigger, meaning she needs the wind directly behind her so, unlike her predecessor, she has a Caterpillar diesel engine powering a hydraulic pump and motor that allows her to easily manoeuvre inland waters as well as avoid being becalmed at sea. Engineer on The Matthew, Steve Morgan explains, “For modern sailing regulations we have to have an engine just to get in and out of harbour, but when we’re out in the open ocean we can put the sails up, turn the engine off and do it the old- school, proper way.” For its maiden voyage, The Matthew replicated John Cabot’s original journey, proving beyond doubt that it was possible in a medieval caravel. Like her predecessor, she took five weeks to sail west, taking on the prevailing winds and zig-zagging across the Atlantic. Returning home was a much easier feat, taking just 17 days. The Matthew of Bristol Trust took on the vessel in 2013. “The furthest we’ve been in the six years we’ve had her was Vannes in France for a festival of sea,” Steve says. “It took a week to get there. “When we were coming back, we got caught in a force 11 gale. The ship was rolling right over, the crests of the waves were higher than the main mast, we were just going up and down and rolling over. But she came back every time and we just rode it out for about 12 hours. So that proved the capability of the vessel even in a force 11.” Formerly a Royal Navy seaman, Steve says, “This is a sailing ship whereas in the navy I was on destroyers. The

Bristol – Sailing free

Servicing 500-year-old technology is not your usual hydraulics job. In Bristol, however, the local Pirtek franchise has been refitting a caravel, albeit a replica, that dates from the Tudor age. The Matthew of Bristol was a small ship of 50 tuns burden (able to carry 50 tonnes of cargo). The vessel, of Portuguese caravel design, is thought to have been a regular merchant ship before having been hired for a voyage of exploration. John Cabot sailed the original Matthew from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497, just five years after Columbus “discovered” America, or more accurately, the Caribbean. Departing Bristol in early May of that year, she made landfall in North America on 24 June before returning to England in August. Her ultimate fate is uncertain and little is known about her technical specification other than what can be inferred from images of her and the description in a contemporary letter of “a ship of 50 tuns and 20 men and food for seven or eight months.” The modern Matthew was built between 1994 and 1996 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s original voyage and she is owned by a charitable trust staffed by volunteers, including some old sea dogs of the Royal Navy. She was reverse engineered from sparse

Image © Shawn Spencer-Smith

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