Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Tall Ships in the San Diego dusk
I first saw her many years ago, in the fall of '99. I was on the Naval Base, arranging to have our household goods delivered to our just-purchased home. After 24 years in the service of my country, I was settling into civilian life.

The light fails as we prepare to go onboard.
The metal brow seems out of place alongside this ancient warship.
The San Diego skyline looks out of place.

I walked out of the Transportation Office and headed to my car, it was a gorgeous day on Narragansett Bay, mostly sunny, a brisk wind coming in off the Atlantic. As I looked out at the Bay, I saw something quite special, something ancient, something I had never seen before.


She was square rigged, with three masts, sailing up the Bay under full sail. I stopped with mouth agape as I beheld this wonder from the Age of Sail. My gut told me she was a frigate, based on her size and the single line of gun ports along her side. I watched her for quite some time, enjoying the spectacle until I realized that I had other errands to run that day. The new home wasn't going to arrange itself!

Back then she was called HMS Rose. I saw her later that same day tied up to the pier at the Yacht Museum, of all places. Built in Lunenburg up Nova Scotia way in 1970, she was operated as a sail training vessel from 1985 to 2001. Her namesake had patrolled the waters of Narragansett Bay back in the days leading up to the Revolution. The old stories say that her fight to suppress smuggling in the waters around Rhode Island led to the formation of what would become the United States Navy.

Seems fitting somehow.




Your Humble Scribe playing the old sea dog.
Somewhere along the way Rose was acquired by a movie company, refitted to look somewhat different than she did originally and renamed HMS Surprise. a fictional ship from the series of novels by Patrick O'Brian (most of which were for sale at the Maritime Museum, surprise, surprise. Pun intended). She looks a bit different than she did back in '99, but it was good to see the old girl again. Damn good indeed!

Yeah, like I know what I'm doing. Good thing she's tied to the pier!
The gun deck has been modified to make more head room amidships. Can't fire those cannon now.
Pikes for repelling boarders.
Interesting stuff. Originally the Rose's armament consisted of 20 9-pounder cannon, ten per broadside.
There are a few stills from the film Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World scattered throughout the gun deck. Provides some nice context.
The Captain's cabin. As there were no Marines aboard to guard it, they used Plexiglas instead to keep the riffraff out.
Another scene from the film.
No, the original wasn't covered with chicken wire. Probably wasn't out in the open either but below under the watchful eye of the Master at Arms.
I'm sure the Royal Navy served the crew à la carte. I do like the idea of a beer ration.
Model of the ship.
North Island from one of the gun ports. Amidst the bright lights to the left are the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Carl Vinson.

The Star of India from the same gun port. In the distance is the USS Midway, which I'll make time to visit someday.
The galley. The Nuke made a point of checking that bellows, good naval officer that she is, it was non-operational.
The bowsprit against the lights of San Diego
Yes, rigging is complicated and yes, each of those ropes (lines in modern nautical parlance) serves a specific purpose. While I understand that there are two types of rigging, standing and running, I am at a loss to explain the many and varied functions of each. Lubber that I am.
A view of the main fighting top. The first platform going aloft on the mainmast. From here Marines would snipe at the officers and crews of opposing ships.
The mainmast, looking aft towards the quarterdeck.
The figurehead of Surprise.
She's a fine ship. I hope to see her again someday.



28 comments:

  1. Great pictures!

    Now, 8 Pints of Beer per day? No wonder they were happy.

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    1. It was probably weak beer, if I had 8 pints a day I'd be singing sea shanties all morning and being flogged all afternoon.

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  2. A lot of really nice pics. Your photography has vastly improved...........

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    1. It's the camera I tell ya, all I have to do is point and shoot and it produces quality shots.

      Of course, you do need to point it at something interesting.

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  3. Master and Commander is among my very favorite movies. As to rigging: "Standing" stands there holding up the mast(s) and other structural uses. "Running" moves, and is used to raise/lower sails, brail yards etc.

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    1. Trust a sailor to give a succinct explanation of rigging. After all, you old salts were weaned on such things.

      Thanks Cap'n!

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  4. Looking at that ship brings to mind the sheer amount of muscle power that was needed to operate it. No power equipment of any kind.

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  5. I'm thinking that the food has improved because the crews don't have to be nearly as large today.

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    1. I would think so as well. Of course, refrigeration is a boon to today's nautical menus as well.

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  6. Great post! I've always wondered how a modern tin can destroyer would fare against a full on, HMS Victory style broadside at close range.

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    1. Ouch!

      A broadside from Victory? That's a lot of iron in the air.

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    2. VICTORY against a DD would not be comparing equivalent types. VICTORY would have to pick a fight with the BIG BADGER BOAT, who would probably have to be told that she had been attacked. Well, actually, an ALASKA would be closer, but they no longer exist, so BIG BADGER BOAT it must be. HMS ROSE would be a BUCKLEY class DE equivalent.

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    3. I get your point Scott but I don't think C W was going for equivalency. If a first-rate like Victory was to go up against an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, if it came down to a broadside at close range, the Burke would be torn to pieces. That's a lot of metal to absorb at close range and the Burke ain't exactly armored.

      On the other hand, if the captain of the Burke survived he would be court-martialed and probably sway from a yard arm for allowing his ship to get hit like that. In reality the Burke should stand off out of range of Victory's broadside and rip her to shreds, either with the 5" gun or let Victory absorb a missile or three. I shudder to think what the CIWS would do to Victory's rigging and exposed crew.

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  7. One thing that struck me about HMS Rose/Surprise is just how small she is. Seriously, it only takes a couple of minutes to tour the entire ship.

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    1. Had a similar experience when I toured Jamestown. They had full sized replicas of the ships the colonists arrived in. One of them looked smaller than the boat I learned to sail in in Hickam Harbor. (Yes, Hickam had a small marina maybe 10 acres in size. You learned quickly about turning a sailboat, because you had to do it frequently.)

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    2. You flew fighters AND know how to sail? What a Renaissance man!

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  8. I think you were a sailor in another life. Nice pics. Good to see you have a bunch of material from your time in town!

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    1. Anything's possible Tuna.

      Lots of material, it's a great town for it.

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  9. A technological wonder of her age! The MRE's needed a little work, though!

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    1. Yeah, I hear you on the rations.

      Though as Juvat mentioned, 8 pints a day?

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    2. A gallon a day, with that being your source of drinkable water, isn't that much. Remember that the water in casks quickly turned foul.

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    3. And again, we're not talking about the kind of pint you'd get at your local.

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  10. She looks wonderful. I had the pleasure of going onboard a few times back when she was tied alongside on Groton, CT, near the SUBASE (80s timeframe). So glad she's well preserved. Bounty was lost in a hurricane a few years ago off the VACAPES; there aren't too many of these old hulls left. Thx for the great pix!

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    1. Glad to oblige.

      I'm still pissed about the loss of Bounty, saw her tied up near Fall River before her loss. Loss of a crew member and a fine ship there.

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  11. Super pictures and a fersure must visit on my next trip. In that first picture of you standing on the deck you look as if you're about to order a flogging. :)

    If we could ever work out the timing I'd be honored to give you a guided tour of the Midway.

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    1. Hahaha!

      Now that last bit would be epic. I'm sure Sandy Eggo would eventually recover. Something to keep in mind.

      (Yes, you have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a whole bunch of terrible ideas...)

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