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2019-10-13

La Grace, a replica of a brig

 

La Grace is a replica of a brig from the 18th century. The original ship of Augustine Herman (Augustin Heřman in Czech) bore this name (which roughly translates as “Graceful”) during merchant and exploratory travels around Europe, United States, Caribbean and across the Atlantic Ocean. La Grace was also renowned for her corsair activities. Especially well-known is her victory over two Spanish barques carrying sugar, tobacco and wine near the coast of Guatemala. This modern replica is utilised solely to teach the art of old-time seamanship. Her crew is mainly from the Czech Republic.

The construction of the vessel had started at the end of 2008 in a commercial shipyard at Suez, Egypt, under supervision of vessel's captain Josef Dvorský and ship constructor Daniel Rosecký (who are now co-owners). The main reason why Suez was selected for a construction site was utilization of traditional boat building procedures, which are still prevalent there. A wooden model had to be made first for the Egyptian builders, as was usual in the 18th century. The boat was then constructed according to this maquette. Due to the importance of the Suez Canal in global trade, high quality Scandinavian wood is readily available in Egypt. This wood was the most usual and favourite shipbuilding material in the Age of Sail. However, the keel and the frames are made of extremely hard and sturdy camphor wood and mulberry wood. Planking and decks timbers are made of Finnish pine tree wood. But nowadays, original Chapman’s blueprints are not sufficient to build a boat. Because of that, a 3D model of the boat was also made based on these blueprints. The virtual representation was then utilised to make even more detailed plans. A large amount of calculations were necessary as well (e.g. a stability assessment). Masts, yards, blocks, as well as steering wheel and cannons were made in joiner's shop of Vilém Pavlica at Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic. Dozens of volunteers from all over the Czech Republic worked since June 2009 and helped to complete the equipment. In December 2009, all the material was shipped to The following year was mainly in the spirit of 21st century technology. Boat’s engine, electric generator, water and power distribution were installed. Most of the work was again conducted by a joint effort of both experts and volunteers. La Grace was launched on 5 December 2010, nearly two years after the construction began. In the next few weeks the ship was at anchor, receiving finishing touches and fitting out; primarily the fitting of sails and rigging supervised by Viktor Neuman, the ship's sailing master and boatswain.

 

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Augustine Herman, First Lord of Bohemia Manor (Czech: Augustin Heřman, c. 1621 – September 1686) was a Bohemian explorer, merchant and cartographer who lived in New Amsterdam and Cecil County, Maryland. In the employment of Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, he produced a remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay regions of North America, in exchange for which he was permitted to establish an enormous plantation that he named Bohemia Manor in what is now southeastern Cecil County, Maryland.

Land rights to the area now known as St. Augustine, Maryland were granted to Herman by Lord Baltimore prior to 1686 but the Herman family was never able to lay proper claim to the title.

According to the most reliable evidence, Augustine Herman was born about 1621 in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia; the location he himself stated in his last testament. The claim that he was born in 1605, as the son of Augustine Ephraim Herman, and Beatrice, the daughter of Caspar Redel, has never been established, nor has the belief of some that he may have been the son of Abraham Herman, the evangelical pastor of Mšeno. Accordingly, the claims that his father was a wealthy merchant and councilman of Prague, who was killed in 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years' War, remains hearsay.

Herman was trained as a surveyor, and was skilled in sketching and drawing. He was also conversant in a number of languages, including Latin, which he successfully applied in his diplomatic assignments with the British.

There has been much speculation about Herman's early years. It has been asserted that he made a trip to North America in 1633, when he allegedly signed his name witnessing the Dutch purchase of lands from the Native Americans near the later site of Philadelphia. Some also claim that he made voyages to the Dutch Antilles and Surinam and that he claimed to be "the first founder of the Virginia tobacco-trade," which began in 1612. All these claims are undocumented and highly questionable. The witnessing cited above may have been a mistranslation of the original Dutch document, and all these events would have required him to have been born about 1605, married at 45, and lived to over 80.