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If you’ve seen the movie Treasure Island then you will already be familiar with the tall ship ‘Earl of Pembroke’. Indeed, more familiar than you might imagine, since the ship actually played two roles in the film; the starring ship, ‘Hispaniola’ and Captain Flint’s original ship, the ‘Walrus’. It’s all part of this amazing ship’s rich heritage that started innocuously enough as a Baltic timber trader named ‘Orion’, built in Pukavic, Sweden in 1945. After nearly thirty years the ship was laid up in Thisted, Denmark where she lay for five years before being bought in 1979 by the company Square Sails based in Cornwall.

After a six year restoration during which her original schooner rig was changed to the barque rig and her name changed to the ‘Earl of Pembroke’, she joined Square Ships’ two other tall ships, providing historic boats for film and TV production use in everything from the afore-mentioned ‘Treasure Island’ to ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ for Disney, the UK television documentary ‘Blackbeard’, TV mini-series ‘Hornblower’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and many others.

Now the boat is in Russian hands and undergoing a serious refit project with the intention of using her for display, film, and private charter purposes. The refit is heavily influenced by the Scarlet Sails tradition, a massive Russian event held in July celebrating the end of the school year based around a children’s book of the same name by Alexander Grin. The event is held in St Petersburg during the White Nights Festival and features spectacular fireworks, numerous music concerts and a massive water show, culminating in the appearance of a tall ship with scarlet sails.

Of course for maximum impact the ships own scarlet sails have to be lit at night, and for this, and many other major parts of the project, global marine technicians Landau UK Ltd were brought in. Established for over twenty years and employing seventeen full time engineers, Landau is used to working on brand new luxury powerboats from the likes of Sunseeker and Princess. But this, says Managing Director Ben Metcalfe, was a challenge with a difference.

“We installed specialist RGB LED lights into the rigging capable of being fine-tuned to achieve an even glow of any pantone across the sails” Ben told me. “You can even control the lights via an app on an iPhone, or switch them to bright white for use as deck lights”. And it’s this level of quality and immaculate detail that runs through the myriad of solutions that Landau was tasked with. “The owners wanted to illuminate the water around the boat” says Ben. “Normally that’s a fairly easy installation of underwater lights but it’s just not possible when the hull is eighteen inches thick!” So instead downlights have been fitted beneath the channel boards on both sides. Landau have also installed a sophisticated navigation system and even a new engine control panel.

“Bear in mind” says Ben “that all of this has to be invisible if the boat is to appear in historic films”. You only have to visit film web sites like IMDB.com to discover lists of ‘movie goofs’; items of equipment that have erroneously appeared in productions, such as the chariot herald in Ben Hur that was famously spotted in the film wearing a wristwatch.

Move inside the ‘Earl of Pembroke’, and Landau’s deep involvement becomes even more apparent. There’s a 20kw Eberspacher heating system with a radiator in every room. Air conditioning has been installed throughout, and so has a water maker beneath the saloon floor (that eighteen inch thick hull creating the need for massive £3,500 skin fittings!). A new hot water system has also gone in. Even fitting a smoke detector system creates challenges. It’s fully integrated and cross linked, so Landau had to channel cabling behind original panelling to ensure nothing was on show.

The interior lighting has also come under scrutiny. The original system in this 145 foot ship was consuming over 200 ampere-hours so Landau installed a state of the art LED system to dramatically reduce the power drain. And there’s a Wi-Fi router giving access throughout the whole accommodation (no mean task given the thick wooden bulkheads) that can be configured to give different crew members different levels and amounts of internet access. It links to either local Wi-Fi___33, a 3G or 4G network, or the ship’s satellite communication system.

Which brings us neatly to the power source for all this equipment. The original generator was removed, and Landau have fitted two 25kVA gensets that work in parallel with an inverter and synchronise automatically on demand. If the inverter becomes overwhelmed the first generator will cut in automatically to supply the ship’s needs, but should demand exceed a pre-programmed threshold then the second generator cuts in seamlessly, ensuring zero interruption in supply. Landau have even installed a PTO (power take-off) for winching up the ship’s substantial anchor.

But for all the amazing technology that Landau have installed in this amazing boat, it’s perhaps the fuel supply system of which Ben is most proud. “We’ve designed and built a fuel transfer system that can transfer between the two main tanks and the day tank, but crucially will remove 99.97% of water and purify down to 7 microns”. It’s a system Landau has developed in-house for large powerboat applications, indeed they have versions that can handle up to 20,000 litres an hour, enough to cope with some of the biggest and most powerful leisure boats on the market. It can even be adapted to work between up to 16 separate fuel tanks.

Landau UK is no stranger to serious high end engineering, as current projects on two Sunseeker 40m, a Princess 40 Metre, Princess 32m and various private and commercial contracts including for the Military testify. But the company’s involvement with the ‘Earl of Pembroke’, and the standard of engineering involved, is nonetheless clearly something very special even by its normal sky high standards.

Completion Time – Eight Weeks

Location – South Coast, Southampton, UK


Thank you for your work on our Protector RIB, I was very pleased with the general standard of work
M Pepper