Meermin, the royal boat that was on the verge of perishing in Arctic waters

The yacht, which is taking part in the Illes Balears Clàssics, was first owned by a member of the Belgian royal family.

The Meermin is another of the protagonists of the Illes Balears Clàssics of the Club de Mar Mallorca, which can be said to be revived after a complete refit that has lasted for the last two years. The history of this boat, launched in Antwerp in 1951, began with the pretensions of Belgian royalty and experienced dangerous adventures in the Arctic seas. However, when she was facing seemingly calmer crossings in the Mediterranean, a leak almost brought her to her knees. Only the help and tow of an American destroyer saved him and linked his fate to Palma, as this is where he landed as a result of the mishap.

It was here that she was bought by her current owner in 1991. Even then, she took part in classic regattas on a number of occasions. However, it was in 2015, after an unfortunate mishap while stranded in Pollença that caused serious damage, that the owner undertook a total refit of the Meermin, from the deck to the masts and the entire interior. A little over a month ago, the new rigging was fitted, which means that the boat has been brought back to life in this year’s Illes Balears Clàssics.

Originally this beautiful sailing boat, a 14 metre Gaff Ketch with a riveted steel hull, was built at the Meyntjens shipyard in Antwerp, Belgium to a design by M. Selleslagh. Her illustrious owner was a member of the Belgian royal family, the Baron de Guy. However, her first owner did not seem to appreciate her beauty and the boat ended up moored at the Dublin Yacht Club, where she soon attracted the interest of Dr. Rory O’Hanlon. This Irish doctor brought the boat to life and took her on great adventures on routes around Greenland and, the most dangerous of all, to Jan Mayen Island, a small, snow-covered volcanic islet at 70 degrees north latitude in Arctic waters. There the Meermin faced gales of force 8 and 9 and winds of up to 60 knots, more than 100 kilometres per hour. The yacht had sought shelter at anchor in Walrus Bay on the island. However, the force of the gale broke the anchor chain and threw the boat against the rocks. By the time the captain had issued a desperate Mayday for help and with the crew in life jackets, the engine at full throttle managed to regain control of the boat just as the bowsprit, the pole that protrudes from the bow of sailing vessels, was smashed against the reefs.

After Dr O’Hanlon’s death, the Meermin passed into the hands of an Australian couple who ended up dedicating it to more leisurely cruises in the Mediterranean. However, there was still another adventure to come, as the ship suffered a major water leak in her steel hull while at sea. Fortunately, a US Navy destroyer, the USS Pebble, was not far away and came to his rescue, towing the yacht to the port of Palma, where he settled. That day his new life began.


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