Header image sailing
Header image sailing
Header image sailing

Setting a course close to the wind of romance.

No matter whether you live by the sea, in a flat inland region or up in the hills, great tall ships are a source of great intrigue for everyone. But what actually is a square-rigger and what exactly is the difference between the four-masted barque SEA CLOUD and the SEA CLOUD II, a three-masted barque?

The history of the square-rigger.

After small cargo vessels had developed into large and fast clippers which, although still made of wood, sailed the Seven Seas, the beginning of the 20th century marked the heyday of the huge steel square-riggers, which could carry up to 8,000 tonnes of cargo. However, this was also the final chapter of the square-rigger's development since these vessels would give way to machine-powered ships, thus concluding an era that stretched back several centuries.

Historic square-riggers
Historic square-riggers

Nowadays there are only a few square-riggers which traverse the world's oceans. These are predominantly training vessels and cruise liners. The last of the legendary Flying P-Liners, so called because they all had names starting with a P and were renowned for their punctuality (even when sailing around Cape Horn), was built in 1926. With a total length of around 115 metres and rigged as a four-masted barque with 32 sails covering a total surface area of around 3,400 square metres, this was the most successful square rigger of the 20th century. There are still sailors who know how to handle these great ships in any weather conditions and, now that resources are becoming increasingly scarce, this expertise in the utilisation of wind might regain its former significance.

Side view of the SEA CLOUD

The SEA CLOUD – a four-masted barque.

Just five years after the construction of the last real, cargo-carrying square-rigger, the SEA CLOUD was commissioned in 1931 to continue the tradition of these renowned vessels. This ship is also designed as a four-masted barque; the first three masts are rigged with yards and the last one with gaffs. The square sails ensure rapid propulsion and stand at right angles to the direction of travel. The gaff sails, on the other hand, are hoisted lengthwise along the ship to enhance its manoeuvrability. With a total length of 110 metres and 30 sails covering a surface area of around 3,000 square metres, the SEA CLOUD retains its resemblance to the famous P-Liners. However, the hull of the ship does not have the design of a cargo ship, but rather that of a stylish yacht.

The SEA CLOUD II – a three-masted barque.

With a total length of 117 metres and 23 sails, which also cover a surface area of around 3,000 square metres, the SEA CLOUD II is a three-masted barque which was added to our fleet of wind-powered ocean liners in 2001. By using the most up-to-date materials, ranging from metal in the yards and masts to innovative plastics in the sails and the rigging, it has become possible to increase the size of the masts and sails so that two yard masts and one gaff mast can almost match the performance of a four-masted barque. Experts refer to the SEA CLOUD II just as a "barque" because the number of masts only needs to be specified if the vessel has more than three of them.

How the sails provide natural stabilisation.

The SEA CLOUD and the SEA CLOUD II are both equipped with the most up-to-date navigation systems and safety features, while offering the comfort and luxury of a five-star cruise liner; however, the masts and rigging recall the age of the historic windjammers.

Even though modern sails are no longer made of hemp or wool, but instead of modern plastic fibres, experienced sailors today - just like their counterparts of the last century - still go high up into the rigging to hoist and fasten the sails. This is all about skilful manual work, as opposed to computer-based operation.

The crew in the masts
On board the SEA CLOUD and the SEA CLOUD II, it is all about traditional manual work
A crew member loosens the sails

What both ships have in common is their outstanding seafaring performance and their tranquil character on the high seas. With a shallow draught of under six metres but a considerable mast height of over 55 metres, the ship is stabilised by the enormous lever arms, which, once the sails have been set, have an incredibly effective cushioning effect on the ship's movement. When sailing in good weather conditions along the routes we select for the different seasons, all you can often feel is the sensation of gliding gently across the sea.