New Life of the Yacht “Dal”
She lost her mast in a cyclone. She was a “star” of the Chicago World’s Fair as well as a cause of disputes between consecutive owners. Laminated with plastic many years ago, she has been waiting for conservation which would restore her original design from the 1930s.
At present, Complex Jacht, a company comprised of specialists who have renovated, among others, a sailing yacht “Generał Zaruski”, is conducting works on a legendary yacht “Dal”. The repair of “Dal” is the first large-scale conservation undertaking since 1980 when the yacht was brought to Poland. Her renovation is being conducted under the project of construction of the Shipwreck Conservation Centre in Tczew.
Great ambitions of a small yacht
In a way, the history of “Dal” defined and marked the lives of her two owners. Andrzej Bohomolec, a Polish cavalryman, dreamt about crossing the Atlantic on a small vessel. Over a decade later, Ireneusz Gieblewicz wanted to bring “Dal” to Poland. When Bohomolec was leaving Gdynia for Chicago in summer of 1933, the possibility of crossing the Atlantic on board “Dal” for many seemed quite doubtful. After all, the yacht was an 8.5 metre sloop with a 2.15 metre beam, 1.3 metre draft, around 4.5 tonne displacement and 45 square meter sail area. Andrzej Bohomolec was accompanied by Jan Witkowski and Jerzy Świechowski, instructors from a maritime yachting centre in Gdynia.
Success in Chicago
The crossing was going according to the plan until the second half o August when “Dal” was hit by a cyclone. A broken mast caused suspension of the voyage – the yacht reached the Bermudas and, upon completion of repair and ballasting works, continued her crossing on 3rd June, 1934. The goal was to present “Dal” at the Chicago World’s Fair which turned out to be her great success – this small but courageous vessel was admired for completion of such a difficult voyage. In commemoration of the Atlantic crossing conducted by “Dal”, it has been decided to exhibit the yacht (which was purchased from donations of the Polish diaspora in USA) on permanent basis in the post-exhibition area in Chicago.
Destruction of the symbol
For the next few years, the yacht was moored in the exhibition area, followed by a mooring in front of the Museum of Science and Industry and a transfer to the interior part of the museum. The years which followed were marked by a gradual diminishment in the role of “Dal” as a small courageous vessel. Step by step, her history and symbolic value were being forgotten in the United States. In the late 1960s, the yacht started to be an unnecessary burden which simply occupied space in the museum area. In 1967, “Dal” was subject to eviction and was transferred back to the Polish Museum in Chicago.
Repair of “Dal”
It was then decided that the yacht will go back to Poland the same way it arrived in the United States 35 years before. Ireneusz Gieblewicz, a new owner of the yacht and a yachting enthusiast, was a driving spirit of this undertaking. Before the Atlantic crossing, Gieblewicz decided to reinforce the hull by lamination. In the 1970s, polyester glass laminate was a highly popular material due to its durability, high resistance to weather conditions and light weight which made it a perfect reinforcement for a wooden hull of “Dal”. Application of laminate on wood was also a much easier operation than a time-consuming and expensive conservation of the damaged hull. In addition to lamination of the hull, masts and rigging were replaced with new ones.
Andrzej Bohomolec was not enthusiastic about the idea of laminating the yacht and therefore, sued the new owner of “Dal”. The lawsuit between her current and previous owners delayed repair works and consequently, return of the yacht to Poland. Due to the ongoing proceedings, launching preparations took seven years. Upon completion of initial trials on Lake Michigan and participation in Chicago boat show, “Dal” headed to New York. It soon became clear that lamination of the hull was not sufficient in terms of reinforcement which would guarantee an independent and safe voyage across the Atlantic. “Dal” was in poor technical condition: lack of proper conservation throughout the years as well as poor maintenance made her independent crossing to Poland impossible.
Return to Poland
“Dal” was then decided to be shipped to Europe on board “Bronisław Lachowicz” – first to Bremerhaven and then, on her own keel, to Gdynia through Sweden, Szczecin and Świnoujście. “Dal” reached Poland in August 1980, the period marked by important events in the history of the Polish nation. Strikes and the Gdańsk Agreement attracted all media attention and therefore, return of the yacht, which was a symbol of Polish maritime history and incredible courage of her owners, after 47 years from the United States was left unnoticed.
“Dal” in the Museum
After the Gdańsk Agreement was reached, Ireneusz Gieblewicz contacted Przemysław Smolarek, PhD, who at that time held the position of the Museum Director – “Dal” was agreed to be moored at the Polish Maritime Museum after an official welcoming ceremony in Gdynia. The yacht had been exhibited by the Crane for four years before she was placed in a boathouse of the Academic Yacht Club in Górki Zachodnie (district of Gdańsk) in winter of 1985. Towards the end of 1995, the yacht was transferred to the museum warehouses in Tczew.
In summer of 2014, under the “Shipwreck Conservation Centre combined with Studio Warehouse in Tczew” construction project, the yacht was transported to Puck. “Dal” is planned to return to Tczew as one of the main exhibition items of the newly built department of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk upon completion of the repair works which will restore her original design from the 1930s.
Project “Shipwreck Conservation Centre with Studio Warehouse in Tczew – construction of new cultural infrastructure of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk” within the Programme “Conservation and revitalization of cultural heritage”. Supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants and co-financed by the Polish funds.