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Aug 02, 2020
Sometimes, a title is a simple fact, occasionally it is poetic, and rarely it is more. In this case, for me, it is all three.
First, what are flying jibs, and what or who is Euterpe?
Flying Jibs: the sails above the jibboom/bowsprit; triangular sails set on a stay extending from the head of the foremast to the bowsprit or the jibboom. Jib sails are flying when raised and trimmed.
Euterpe: The Greek Muse of Music, from the Greek Euterpē, entered the English language for the first time in the 15th century.
Flying jib sails are like fingerprints; every rig is unique. Their dramatic form and high function capture one of humankind’s signature achievements, leveraging the elements to explore, transport, and trade.
Euterpe is the Greek Muse of Music and, in this case, the figurehead of the barque Star of India. She is the carved wooden figure gazing out from the bow, just below the bowsprit.
I am drawn to tall ships’ rigs and purpose-built yachts for their innovative resolution of complex engineering challenges. Besides that, they are just plain pretty. Like good art, they capture concepts, stories, and the language of meaning in deceptively nuanced ways. When we gaze upon them, we are often moved in a manner that we don’t at first understand. Over time, we find ourselves applying their lessons to our daily lives’ winds and sea states.
The simple line and form of three or four five jib sails correctly set, trimmed, and filled with the breeze are pleasing to the eye. They touch on our human attraction to symmetry, purpose, and even artfulness.
Flying jibs on a tall ship stir thoughts in me of energetic youth facing into uncertain headwinds, all in for whatever lay ahead. The rhythmic slicing motion of these blade-like sails through open skies is confident and assertive. I also think of the majesty of Victorian paradigm-changing clipper ships that raced tea to an emerging industrial middle class and changed everything, not unlike the internal combustion engine, the airplane, the silicon chip, the personal computer.
Flying jibs suggest passion, strength, and purpose. They are also an access point to an enriched perspective of the arc of time, craftsmanship, adventure, and the greater good. Somehow, the ancient is simultaneously new and vice versa.
The figurehead of EUTERPE honors the goddess of music in Greek mythology. When this ship was launched on the Isle of Man, the age of sail was vanishing. Iron hull plates replaced wooden planks. Euterpe had no doubt observed countless epoch-changing technologies and civilizations since her heyday in ancient Greece. She was forgotten to the world Anno Dominum, yet the shipbuilders honored her significance by reaching back millennia to name their vessel.
The ship we know as the Star of India began life as Euterpe courtesy of Ramsey’s builders on the Isle of Man in 1863. Built during the transition from wooden to iron shipbuilding, she is an example of how shipbuilders carried over many hallmark wooden shipbuilding techniques into iron as they learned to adapt to the new age of iron.
Rigged initially as a full-rigged ship (all square sails on all masts), Euterpe was active in the jute trade between Europe and India.
In 1871, she was purchased by the Shaw Sevill & Company of London and served 25 years transporting emigrants to New Zealand and Australia, ultimately making 21 circumnavigations.
In 1901, she was re-rigged as a barque (the square-rigged aftermost mast converted to fore-and-aft rig). She sailed between the Pacific Northwest, Australia, and Hawaii in the lumber, coal, and sugar trades. After this, she worked the cannery and coal trades between California and Alaska. The advantages of speed in the age of steam power on the high seas rapidly overwhelmed Euterpe’s successive owners, who tried to adapt but could not compete effectively under sail. New owners in 1906 changed her name to Star of India in the naming protocol of other ships in the fleet.
Since 1957, the Star of India has been home-ported in San Diego, where she is kept fully seaworthy by volunteers of the San Diego Maritime Museum. Her last voyage to the open seas was on 18 November 2018.
I visit the Star of India as frequently as I can to capture her in all her moods. Flying Jibs and Euterpe was captured on a weather day in June 2018.
To win my signed print of Flying Jibs and Euterpe, go to MRB Giveaway. While there, please look at my Shorelines, Ropes & Lines, and Wood & Water collections.
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