The Åland seafaring tradition
Situated in the middle of the Baltic, the Åland Islands have a long tradition of sea-faring. This, combined with a weak economy, led to them becoming the final stronghold of the windjammers after their routes were usurped by steamships. Gustav Erikson, the last of the great sailing ship owners, went to sea at the age of nine and eventually became the owner of up to 20 square riggers in the twilight years of merchant sailing ships. By then the South Australian grain trade was about the only profitable route for these great vessels but even then only if costs were pared to the bone. Of the 13 ships which took part in the 1939 grain race, chronicled by Eric Newby in his wonderful book The Last Grain Race, ten were owned by Captain Erikson.
Moshulu, on which Eric Newby enlisted as an apprentice seaman, left for Australia in 1938 from Belfast and, thanks to Ralph who had worked for the Erikson Company in Mariehamn, we learned that the Pommern had also docked in Belfast the same year. Suddenly there was a palpable link with a bygone era for us.
The Erikson company continued though reduced until the name and last few ships were sold in 2006.
Pommern, a sister ship of the Moshulu, in which the author Eric Newby sailed