Every time I do return to my ship to have another couple of hours working time I often wonder what this ship may have experienced through her life of now little more than 40 years. She was built by Fiskars in Turku/Finland and probably sailed over the Baltic. Then she was handed over from owner to owner – probably four different owners as far as I can see today – until she finally came as a family member into my life late October last year.
As far as I know she spent most of her sailing life in the Baltic, as my pre-owner told me, the longest trip he was sailing on her has been into the Skagerrak north of the Danish tip of Skagen. But what was her life before she enriched mine so much? I roamed the written documents I bought all along with her and found a name of a man … the quest began.
Feeling the Breath of Decades
Yacht refit. I´m having a break. Sitting down in the saloon of my yacht, stripped of all her nice Mahagony wooden panels, having taken off the decking and ceiling, away with the folding table – virtually nothing reminds of a nice 33 feet pleasure craft anymore. But having done so, dug deep down to the structural core of the ship, I begin to think of her past. The hours, the days and nights, the weeks and months, the years – all the decades which have been spent by other people with her: Who are these people? What are their stories? This is what makes the history of my ship.
Ships do possess a soul. Brand new ships don´t have one. Soul – or let´s call it character – comes with the miles. Comes with the waves, endlessly passing her bow, the wind, battering her sails and rigging and the men, driving her through the seas. Every mile adds a bit. My ship lives for 40 years now. She has a lot to tell. I can refurbish her from keel to top. I can sand off the old greasy surfaces, paint them with layers of fresh varnish. I can hide her scratches and trowel off her scars. She may look as if she were brand new. She may smell like brand new. But her character will stay. Will live on. That fascinates me. As if I could hear people talk, sitting there with me, having a hot tea, a nice chat, relaxing in the saloon. I love the idea of having them all onboard. Or the other way round: Having her in their memories for ever. And now. Now it´s me adding another chapter to my ship´s glorious life. Looking back would make me understand her innermost. I hope. So I take the phone and dial the number …
The King´s Cruiser 33: Robust, Beautiful yet Fast
Thanks to the internet it was a no brainer to find out that the first owner of SY OLIVIA does live near Hamburg, getting his phone number all along. My first call is answered by a machine and so I introduce myself and leave a message: “I hope you are interested in meeting me – I do have many questions on the origin of the boat, your cruises and experiences with her and look forward to receiving your answer.” It does not take long until the answer reaches me: An invitation to – let´s call him – Richard´s office right here in Hamburg, Jungfernstieg.
A noble address, penthouse-bureau. My heart beats as I ring the bell: A very friendly, welcoming man in his 70ies opens the door: “Ah, the young man – come in, have a seat. My wife has prepared some photo album for you.” It´s a weird feeling, but a nice one. “I´ve bought the King´s Cruiser when I was 32”, he tells me: “I´ve made my first income and my business started to be successful. Being a sailor all my life since I was a small child it was clear that I wanted a boat. Both for me and my young family.” Richard did had a son at that time, right at the same age as mine: “She was the boat of choice. I didn´t wanted to go for another type of boat: Scandinavian-built yachts were as en-vogue as they are today and Fiskars did have an excellent image.”
Offering coffee and having a glass of water for himself, he goes on: “The ship was so beautiful, I can´t barely remember any other yacht back in the mid-Seventies having such a classic yet modern look.” I know what he means: The blue decorative fitting at the top end of the freeboard with the two pairs of portholes make her visually appear flatter than she is. “And she was sailing very well. Responding to every little gentle breeze making her knots, exact and direct at the helm and very forging though when driven too hard or too lazy.” Richard opens a big bag of canvas, takes out four big family album. “You may look them through, take pictures, if you want.”
A Family´s Home: SY SIR HENDRIK
“She was my passion.”, Richard tells me: “I´ve spent every single free hour and most of our family´s spare time onboard SIR HENDRIK”. I stop: Sir Hendrik? “Henrik is my first born son and so this yacht got his name, SIR HENDRIK.” Richard speaks of the ship´s advantages regarding her spacious saloon and the relatively roomy fore cabin (here´s an article on how I want to refurbish this cabin) – well, of course, he adds, this isn´t holding up an inch against modern day cruisers of let´s say 34 feet which offer double aft-cabins and due to their greater width have far more space to offer: “But anyway, back then this was a roomy ship, make no mistake.”
SIR HENRIK? I remember finding a Lloyd´s certificate within the 15 kilograms of papers: OLIVA is her christening name and I did indeed found a wooden panel with this name printed on the back of it. So, in her first life her first owner did re-christen her into SIR HENRIK and sailed her some 15 years. I know from my previous owner who took her over from his pre-owner under the name of OLIVA again and he was the one who gave her the name OLIVIA which she is flying now – and will be flying under my command.
While I am skipping the pages through the photo album I do see dozens of yellowed pictures showing a happy family, little Hendrik and his then still younger than myself dad and a lot of pictures from various sailing trips. It feels exactly how I wished it should be: Diving into a faraway past on a faraway ship, seeing people who were young at that time and – what a saddening touch – are in their last decade of life. And my ship. Suddenly, as if there is a connection, I am back onboard …
Danish South Coast, Bornholm, Gotland and Finland
“We sailed her mostly from a Baltic harbor, most of the time from the Schlei.”, Richard tells me. Which is interesting, because the Schlei is the fjord where I´ve found her and had my first steps on her decks, had her sailed for the first time as well. “We went out for the Danish South Sea which is a marvelous sailing area, all the islands and hidden places. Back then in the Seventies sailing wasn´t that big – there were only a few people going around in their boats so it was always a big adventure to explore a new island, drop the anchor in an unknown bay and have the shore explored by our children.” Times of calm and peace.
“We went up to the Swedish coast, Gothenburg and further north, as well as Bornholm – a dream, you should go there too!, and of course Gotland.”, Richard looks at me but his eyes are staring somewhere else. He is onboard the boat well. Can he smell her odors? Taste the salty air and feel her heeling in the waves under the pressure of the steady broad winds? “Finland is most beautiful, one of the nicest areas you can probably sail to in the Baltic. The archipelago of the Finnish coast, beautiful and empty islands, hundreds of them!”
His phone rings. I hear him speaking to his wife: “… yes, yes, he´s here and looking at the pictures right now …” After hanging up he conveys greetings from her. How welcome I feel and how truly happy this old man is, seeing me, hearing my – rather short – story of the ship and getting to know that there is another man caring for the boat and trying to make a cozy family´s yacht out of her: “She is such a lovely yacht. You may have a smooth cruise with wife and children – or, just as we did occasionally men only – a fast regatta. She´s not the lightest yachts and certainly not the fastest, but she can stand a lot of wind and we did make it port first not once because of her fine seaworthy qualities.”
Speaking of the Seventies …
“You may find this interesting”, Richard gives me a brochure: The original sales brochure of Fiskars praising their then latest yacht, the King´s Cruiser 33. Just six pages. No texts, not a single word printed. Just pictures: I do see a party of five having a Seventies dinner in her saloon, kids playing in her forecastle and a girl having a lonely dream in the quarter berth – page one. Page two and three depicts her cross-section, showing the principal anatomy of the ship.
Pages 4 and five are dedicated to the comfort and coziness again. Still I do wonder: Today´s brochures compile some 50 to 70 pages full of all sorts of information: From 3D CGI-renderings showing the theoretical scope of the boat to minimum 8 to 10 pages full of glossy design-studies how to customize the interior of the ship, pages over pages full of rigging and electronic features and everything packed with highflying texts done by ad-experts. In the case of the King´s Cruiser 33: Nothing. Just a ship, people having fun and a cross section. That´s it. This is how a yacht has been sold 40 years ago. I love it.
We talk for some 2 hours. My lunch time is up and Richard has another meeting coming up. He just can´t stop telling me story after story. Hearing him talk is nice. Not so much because the sailing stories are so griping, but more so his dedication and true elation when he speaks of OLIVIA/SIR HENDRIK. She was in good hands, I know now, and the things she went through under his command have been joyful, full of fun and love for his children and his wife. Lucky times, as he´s stating several times. I´m sure that if I return onboard I will now have a more profound understanding of her past. The murmurs I hear from time to time, the shadows of the past – are a glow of a happy people spending happy times onboard the ship. My ship. My lucky ship.
Do you own a used yacht? Have you done some research into her past as well? I am looking forward to your stories as well.