Sigyn, built in Göteborg
1887, now museum ship in Turku, is the last remaining wooden barque
used for trade across the oceans. At the time she was built there
were thousands of similar vessels, but she was one of the last ones
built. She was quite small even for her time, considering she was
built for long-distance trade, but well built and considered fast
As merchant ship
In these times the steam ships were taking over the most important
routes; the Suez canal was already built and the Panama canal was
planned. The tonnage of steam ships passed that of sailing ships in
1890, ten and thirty years later in Sweden and Finland respectively.
On the other hand this was the time when big barques of steel were
built. Sigyn was planned for another niche: the small size and small
draught made her suited to also use small remote harbours.
The first decade Sigyn sailed on the Atlantic on tramp trade, mostly
with wood (pine, spruce, pitch pine, mahogany, cedar), but also e.g.
coal, probably sugar, once even hay. In 1897 she made one journey to
Bangkok. After 1900 she sailed mostly in European waters.
After being severely damaged while seeking shelter outside
Kristiansand 1913, Sigyn was rerigged as a barquentine. She was
already old for being a softwood ship and the freight prices on
ocean trade were declining, so a cheaper rig suited for coastal
trade on the Baltic and North Sea seemed appropriate. This changed
with the World War: transatlantic trade became very profitable and
she crossed the Atlantic 12 times in 1915 and 1916.
After Sigyn ran aground in 1917 the copper hooding protecting
against shipworm was removed and sold. Sigyn was thus no longer fit
for the oceans. She was bought by Salsåkers ångsåg, a Swedish
sawmill by the Gulf of Bothnia.
In 1927 Sigyn was sold to Finland, like many other sailing ships in
these times, when steel and steam were taking over in richer
countries. The buyer Arthur Lundqvist from Vårdö in the Åland
islands was one of the last big peasant shipowners. The shipping
companies of the family remain as Lundqvistrederierna.
As museum ship
As representative for "nautical circles" Otto Andersson, rector of
Åbo Akademi, proposed 1936 the foundation of a maritime museum in
Turku. A museum ship was needed and Sigyn was soon considered the
best alternative. At that time there were only a few museum ships
worldwide and Sigyn was to be the first in Finland.
Sigyn was bought 1939 and opened for the public 3 June 1939. Before
the end of the year the Winter War begun, followed by the
Continuation War. Sigyn was damaged, and there was a severe lack of
funds and people for her maintenance.
After the wars there were negotiations about Sigyn sailing as
merchant ship again and thus earning the needed money herself. There
was a shortage of tonnage after the war, so this would be
profitable, but risky. The proposition was eventually turned down
and Sigyn was repaired by donated money. 1948 she was again opened
for visitors. In 1950 she even sailed on Airisto outside Turku as
part of a film, Laivan kannella (Sigyn had had such a role once
before, 1916 for Terje Vigen).
Sigyn's hull was partly renewed 1971–1972 at the Suomenlinna
shipyard. Funds were not sufficient though and not until 1979 was
Sigyn reopened for the public, now again as a barque. 1994 a
floating dock called "Loke" was constructed to prevent the cat's
back phenomenon, and Sigyn's hull was again renewed 1998-2001, now
to a big part. This work was carried out at Sjökvarteret in
Mariehamn, where Albanus and Linden had been built and thus much
knowledge about wooden ships acquired. Some work has also been done
in Turku, where Sigyn now is moored by Forum Marinum in the Aura