Tall Ship Peking at South Street Seaport. photo Wikipedia

For years, the tall ship Peking has graced the dock at South Street Seaport – her 4 wooden [the masts are steel–Thanks to Jim Chambers for the clarification] masts piercing the sky alongside the glass skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan. But now, there is a rumor that she might leave for good.

Built in Germany in 1911, the Peking is a steel-hulled four-masted barque – one of the “Flying P-Liners” sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz of Hamburg. In the 1880s, a barque was named Pudel – the owners wife’s nickname. From that point on all F. Laeisz ships were christened with names starting with “P” and they became known as “the P-line”. Their excellent reputation for speed and reliability soon raised their nickname to “the Flying P-Line“.

Footage filmed on board the Peking by amateur filmmaker Irving Johnson, shocked even experienced Cape Horn veterans and landsmen alike at the extreme conditions Peking experienced during the 1929 voyage around Cape Horn. His footage on the barque Peking would become the famous film, Around Cape Horn.

Here is a snippet from Irving Johns’ documentary of the Barque Peking sailing.

The South Street Seaport Museum who has been searching for a new owner for the Peking, reached an tentative agreement with the city of Hamburg to return the ship back to her city or origin, where it was built in 1911.

From the Tribeca Trib: “Happily, the city of Hamburg is eager to bring Peking home and to incorporate her into a maritime museum there,” Zac Roy, the [South Street Seaport Museum] spokesman, said in an email to the Trib. The Peking will be loaded onto a heavy-lift ship for her transatlantic voyage as early as next month.

The Peking is one of several ships that will be leaving the Seaport this summer, as the institution struggles to get on firm financial footing and prepares to hand over its docking space at Pier 15 to the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Helen McAllister. photo: Will Van Dorp/tugster

With the loss of Pier 15, the museum will say goodbye to 3 ships, leaving five in their fleet. A barge will also move to a Staten Island shipyard.

The 1907 lightship Ambrose, tall ship Wavertree, Pioneer and Lettie G Howard will stay at the Seaport, while the 112-year old Helen McAllister tug will return to McAllister Towing Company who will find a home for her. Little Marion M., a wooden tug will also be moved, to where is unknown at this time.

A fireboat welcome for the Ambrose Lightship’s return to South Street Seaport. photo: Stephen Nessen/WNYC

As reported in the Tribeca Trib: Peter Stanford, Founding Chair Emeritus of Working Harbor Committee and founder of the South Street Seaport Museum said, “The overall reduction is sad. I regret it, and I don’t think anybody understands what the public is going to feel.

Stanford expressed hope on Friday that the museum can acquire enough docking space in the Seaport to host visiting tall ships after the Peking is gone, and one day have a second tall ship of its own again.  “We have to live with what’s happening, but I think we better have a larger vision for the [Seaport],” Stanford said.

The EDC has issued RFPs for Pier 15, at this time there is no word on what will become of Pier 15’s berths.

by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee