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Paul Dean

With Drake, More Miles to the Galleon

April 30, 1988|Paul Dean

The vessel's only blueprint was a shipwright's jotted formula that was more his rule of 16th-Century thumb.

The bredth is arbitrarie, ye depth must never be more then 1/2 ye bredth, nor less than ... the length never less then double ye bredth nore more then treble. . ..

Yet there were paintings and manuscripts of the ship, Flemish seascapes and English engravings to examine and cull. Her original berth in London was known and that could be measured to decide length overall. The Pepys Library at Cambridge University yielded some scraps of evidence. More fragments were found at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, England.

And in 1973--to Elizabethan music and the quiet pride of her architect, Loring Norgaard of San Francisco--a perfect replica of Sir Francis Drake's galleon, the Golden Hinde, slithered into a launching at Appledore, Devon.

The reproduction has since clearly outsailed the original.

The first Golden Hinde--an oak-walled, three-masted, 22-gun warship that in 1579 brought Drake to the California he called Nova Albion--completed just one circumnavigation before being lost to rot and dismantling.

The second Golden Hinde--authentic from her cast-iron culverins through oakum caulking to flax sails--has been around the world, visited San Francisco to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Drake's California landing, sailed to Japan to star in a television miniseries, recrossed the Atlantic for a tour of the British Isles, returned to North America for Expo '86 in Vancouver. . . .

And currently, the Hinde, all 100 wooden tons and 100 stocky feet of her, is berthed at Ventura Harbor and will be on public display until May 19. Then she sails for San Pedro and Marina del Rey and Long Beach and San Diego. . . .

"We're on a four-year meander around the United States," said Sue Quinn, able-bodied seaperson, lay historian and publicist for the Hinde. "We've done about 23 ports down the West Coast from Canada. . . . We'll spend the summer in Southern California, then through the Panama Canal to Texas and end up in the Great Lakes.

"Eventually, we'll sail back to England to become, we hope, a national exhibit."

The Hinde is owned by two Englishmen, Roddy Coleman and John Carter, who alternate as on-board managers of the tour, its 20-person crew and Sea Surveyor, the galleon's mother ship.

Coleman and Carter aren't in it for the bucks. Or the pounds. "We have no financial sponsorship, no government aid and we're totally dependent on public support through the money we get from tours of the ship," Quinn explained. "We hover at times, but we survive."

Then why do it? Because the owners are altruists who believe in the romance of square-rigged seamanship and the magnificence of Drake's achievement.

Here, they say, is an exquisite replica of his vehicle.

Here, there, everywhere, they believe, are young minds and questing adults who still might be inspired by Drake's example.

"The Hinde may have been re-created to keep history alive," Quinn added. "But what we have now, by sailing her, by touring her, is a living history."

Such life comes from the obvious accuracy of the reproduction. That's real pitch on genuine Italian hemp rigging. The masts are fir and the ribs are oak and their construction scars came from a hand-swung adz. Drake's cabin was reconstructed from historical descriptions of its size and furnishings.

The cannons fire. Halberds and pikes hang on the lower deck. So do lanterns and grappling hooks in this cramped battle station just tall enough for powder monkeys. All is as it was. Right down to a period crucifix on the main deck where Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. Even to the Elizabethan spelling of "Hinde."

It's a shock to hear a telephone ring.

"Good morning," Quinn answers. "Golden Hinde."

I'd bet a doubloon to a doublet it was Liz asking for Frank.

Golden Hinde, Ventura Harbor, Ventura, open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to sunset. Adults $3, children $1.50. Information: (805) 650-8311.

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