The Grace Harwar was a three-masted ship of 1,816 tons, built in Glasgow in 1889. When she was scrapped in 1935, she was the last full-rigger on the seas. The Grace Harwar began her career sailing under the British flag, and was sold to a Finnish owner in 1913. Captain Gustaf Erikson bought her in 1916, and sailed her for the next nineteen years, primarily in the Australian grain trade.

The Grace Harwar developed a reputation as a man-killer. In 1907, under the command of Captain C.S. Hudson, the ship was sailing from Australia to Tocopilla, Chile. Captain Hudson's young wife was on board. Already suffering from tuberculosis, she died off of the coast of Chile. The ship returned empty to Australia with Mrs. Hudson's body in the ballast. Supposedly, Mrs. Hudson put a curse on the ship before dying-- that it would kill one man on every voyage.

Cursed or not, the ship had a run of bad luck thereafter. She was caught in a hurricane while in a Chilean port in 1913, and severely damaged in another hurricane in Mobile, Alabama, in 1916. A third hurricane found her in the South Atlantic in 1919, and badly damaged her again.

In 1929, maritime journalist Alan Villiers and a photographer named Ronald Walker signed onto the ship for a passage around Cape Horn. The Harwar curse got Walker; he was killed in a fall from the rigging five weeks into the voyage. Later, the second mate (who blamed himself for Walker's death) went mad, and to top it all off, the ship ran out of food, but was fortunately able to flag down a steamer in the North Atlantic.

Villiers and Walker shot both film and video of the voyage. Villiers wrote an article on the voyage for National Geographic magazine in 1931, and later wrote a book about it. The ship was already on its last legs, and was scrapped in 1935. She was too small to be profitable in the last days of sail (some of the larger four masted barks could carry nearly twice as much cargo), and could not be expected to make back the cost of any repairs.

While the last ocean-going full-rigger was not preserved, others of the type were, such as the Wavertree in New York's South Street Seaport museum.


Source: Alan Villiers, The War With Cape Horn. London: Pan Books, 1971.

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