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Adventures in Photography: Kruzing aboard the Kruzenshtern
by Greg Lessard

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The tall ship Kruzenshtern appeared out of the mists that enveloped Buzzard’s Bay. The majestic vessel was guided to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy by an escort of two tugboats. While the boat was docked, shouts in Russian could be heard from members of the 250 seamen on board. The sailors frantically tossed ropes to the shore and secured lines on the port side of the ship. The legendary Kruzenshtern had arrived in Massachusetts.
Much to my surprise, as I was photographing the sleek vessel, a tiny lady poked her head over the railing and shouted at me in English. “Hey! I just sailed on this ship from South Carolina. And you can do it too!” This strange greeting became the start of a once in a lifetime adventure.
In short order, Catherine Abrams of South Carolina, explained that she had heard the Kruzenshtern accepted passengers, but few people knew about it. Catherine then introduced me to Yevgenni Romashkin, an officer aboard the tall ship. Soon I was invited to sail on the Russian ship from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to Boston for a very modest fee.


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Kruzenshtern is the second largest tall ship and the fastest in recorded history. She is much more than a football field long and so tall that she does not fit under the bridges in the Cape Cod Canal! Built in 1926 as the German cargo ship Padua, she was given to Russia as war reparation after World War II. She was renamed after the German explorer Adam Johann Krusenstern. The Kruzenshtern has been used as a training vessel since 1961.
On this particular journey, Kruzenshtern carried nearly thirty passengers. These passengers included representatives from a local radio station, a German on vacation, a Russian movie crew, an American tall ship sailor, a lieutenant from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and yours truly.
The movie crew was on board to make a commercial for a Russian Bank. They were filming many scenes involving the captain of the Kruzenshtern. The crew has followed the captain from The State Baltic Academy of the Fisheries in Kalingrad, to various ports around the world. The premise of the bank commercial was that wherever you go, we will be there with you.


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The movie crew filmed the sailors performing various duties all over the ship. I took advantage of the numerous photographic opportunities created by the movie crew. Only once was I yelled at for being in the shot!
While the entire trip was amazing, the first of two highlights occurred when I returned to my cabin for the night. I was surprised to see that a small party had begun among my roommates, one American and three Russian sailors. The party food consisted of half of a watermelon, a small bag of honey roasted peanuts, and I contributed some M&M’s.
The sailors had visited Walmart in Wareham the day before and they had purchased two cases of IBC Root Beer. The Russians had seen the word beer on the box and assumed that they were buying the variety that contained alcohol. They were quite surprised when they found out that root beer was a type of soda!
Yuri, a very large and intimidating looking sailor, began a long conversation with the poignant question, “What does root mean?” After a few minutes of speaking in a mix of English, Russian (Thank you Mr. Sullivan) and pantomime, the meaning of the word root was conveyed. From there, the conversation drifted from politics to movies and baseball. I found the Russians to be very worldly and intelligent. If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought that I was in the middle of a politics class at Bridgewater State College.


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Goodwill and cheer abounded around the table. At the conclusion of the night’s discussion, it was agreed upon by everyone, that Russians and Americans were not very different after all.
The next morning began with me being restricted below decks. The movie crew had hired a helicopter to film the Kruzenshtern under sail. Only Russian sailors were allowed on deck to make the scene appear more genuine.
After the helicopter departed, I was allowed to freely roam the decks once again. I made my way towards the bow of the ship. There was a photographer from the film crew sitting on the bowsprit. Not wanting to be out done, I waited for the photographer to finish and asked the sailor who guided him, to take me out on the bowsprit too.
Climbing the rigging to the end of the bowsprit was exhilarating and terrifying. Fortunately, the seas were calm. Sitting on a narrow beam of wood at the head of a ship that displaces 4700 tons, was the thrill of a lifetime!


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The trip concluded with the Kruzenshtern leading an unofficial parade of tall ships into Boston Harbor for the Sail Boston ’09 event. Among the ships following the Kruzenshtern were the Peacemaker and the Sagres. Along the way, we passed the Coast Guard Eagle, Roseway, Harvey Gamage and Cisne Branco from Brazil. Seeing these fantastic ships in Boston Harbor while on board one of the grandest ships to ever set sail was an experience I will never forget.