Mercator - The Museum Sailing Ship
Author: Dave Armstrong / Published: 2013-01-13 17:45:11 +0100 / Last Updated: over 2 years ago
OSTEND - The former sail-trainer, the Mercator, is moored as a floating museum. Mercatordok Oostende, between the city hall and railway station, is the location. She was designed by Adrian der Gerlache for the merchant fleet of Belgium and the early Flemish mapmaker, Gerardus Mercator, gives her the name.
Mercator maps are those that helped sailors by giving accurate shapes of land masses and reliable lines of constant compass bearing. Modern maps now try to give an idea of comparative size too (eg. Peters maps.) The ship is a magnificent example of a 7708.26 ton steel barquentine or schooner-bark, with three masts and 15 (formerly billowing) sails.
They enabled a top speed of 13 knots, using the full crew of 150. She achieved this within a total length of 78.4 m and a beam width) of 11m. If you were to climb any of the masts, you will be at the dizzying height of between 39 and 41m. (that’s around 130 feet, to you!) Interestingly the ship was rigged as a topsail schooner in her original configuration.
Built in Leith, near Edinburgh, for launch on April 7th, 1932, she was designed to race as well as function in an ambassadorial capacity before WWII.
She actually won one important race from Oslo to Ostend in 1960 and competed in the Torbay-Lisbon and Brest-Canary Islands races in the 1950s. Pre-war cruises took place for 7 most adventurous years, bringing back a Belgo-French scientific expedition from French Oceania and the remains of the “apostle to the lepers”, Father Damiaan, from Molukai Island, near Honolulu, in 1936.
The British Embassy persuaded the captain to remain in the West Indies, and later in Sierra Leone during the war, after he had left Ostend on a cruise.
Captains van de Sande and Ghys were in charge of her for all of her great Belgian voyages. She returned to Ostend after being used as a submariners’ rest-ship and received a very necessary refit for her next voyage in 1951. In 1964, Mercator was retired, I’m sure forcibly, to spend her days as a great tourist attraction in Ostend.
She did manage a short sail to Antwerp in 1993, but now has a place in Belgian hearts as a National Monument! Displays of hammocks as used by the crew and portraits of the two captains looking down on you just as they would have done in the 30s make her a real historic site.
The outstanding fittings and sailing rigs can be seen inside her but a virtual visit is also available online.
Image Credit: © Toerisme Oostende
Phone: +32 (0) 59 51 70 10
Ostend Blog Posts
OSTEND - For the last weekend of August, Ostend moves its location to the shores of the ‘beer sea’ as Belgian breweries, local restaurants and food trucks pull out all the stops for the annual North S ... [ read more ]
OSTEND - A cosy, relaxed atmosphere and happy expressions on the faces of beer lovers from all around the world greet me. This is, above all else, what strikes me when I visit the first ever North Sea ... [ read more ]
OSTEND/OOSTENDE - We witnessed it with our own eyes. There was more than just one solitary message in a bottle washed up on Ostend beach. Far more than that... an entire armada of bottles came ashore, ... [ read more ]
OSTEND – The queen of Belgian seaside resorts does not have an immediate association with beer as far as your average beer lover and tourist are concerned. Nevertheless, it was in this city that ‘De ... [ read more ]
OSTEND - Ostend is one of those places that keeps having to reinvent itself. Blame those tides. Not those plying the beach, though – those of history. © CATS ... [ read more ]
You must be logged in to leave a comment
MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE - “Their cuisine is on a par with that of the French and the portions are generous...” When people discuss the Belgian art of living, it won’t be long before the term ‘Burgundian’ ... [ more ]
BRUGES - Eleven years ago it all started off on quite a modest scale in the medieval town hall of Bruges, under the imposing gaze of the Belfry. Now, in 2018, the Bruges Beer Festival has spread its wings and encompasses... [ more ]
GENVAL - It’s 1909 when John Martin, a Brit, makes his home in Antwerp, earning his living by provisioning sailing vessels. Before long John’s deliveries are heading onto the ships of the Red Star Line, ... [ more ]
NAMUR - At the 6th edition of the Brussels Beer Challenge, hosted this year by the city of Namur, Belgium once again lived up to its cast-iron reputation as one of the most important beer countries in the world. ... [ more ]
STEENHUFFEL - The annual hop harvest at Palm Belgian Craft Brewers is truly a festival of and for the people. We survey the busy crowds on the last Sunday in August in the hop field in the shadow of the ... [ more ]
Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup
Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.