Bat’kivshchyna: Ukrainian Tall Ship
This magnificent vessel was once a derelict mired in the riverbank mud of the Dnipro River near Kyiv, Ukraine. A enterprising & unique man, Captain Dmytro Biriukovich salvaged her, restored her & now sails her to ports all over the world as Ukraine’s ambassador of sail.
Captain Dmytro Biriukovich, owner & captain of the Batkivshchyna, was born in 1937 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dmytro was born along the banks of the Dnipro River into a family of architects. He became a sailor as a hobby but soon realized that this was his avocation as well.
Bat’kivshchyna has a steel hull re-enforced with ferro-cement. There is room for 24 persons to sail in safe & reasonable comfort. The fore cabin sleeps 6 very comfortably. The main cabin has room for 10 with 5 cabins all with bunk beds. The Captain’s quarters will sleep 4 but are they are normally occupied by just him, his wife & their youngest grandson, Phillip.
Bat’kivshchyna’s masts are hinged. This them to be lowered with the assistance of the anchor winch. With an experienced crew in Kyiv the masts can be lowered in 45 minutes and raised in 40 minutes. There are several bridges on the Dnipro River the ship cannot pass without lowering the masts.
This system saved days of sailing by allowing the ship to enter the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal from their wintering port of Norwich, CT. When the Great Lakes Challenge ended the Captain Biriukovich sailed the “Bat” down the Mississippi River after first lowering the masts.
My introduction to the “Bat” came at the hands of a fellow American, Glen. We were sitting in the ex-pat hangout, O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Kyiv when he came in all excited about this fellow he had been introduced to just minutes before coming to O’Brien’s. He was of course speaking about Dmytro Biriukovich. Glen was enraptured with the concept of a sailing ship going to the OpSauil2000 in the USA. He invited several of us to accompany him to a party that evening to meet the captain.
At the party we were introduced to the captain, his wife, their daughter & her American husband. Dmytro & I began discussing ferro-cement boats. It was something I actually was conversant upon having been around this concept for years in Tampa, my hometown. He explained how he & his brothers had restored the derelict vessel now named ‘Bat’kivshchyna’.Â The hull reinforcement using ferro-cement was a something that he was extremely proud of & it was evident that he knew it was a feat of accomplishment.
Several days later we all went for a moonlight sail aboard the ‘Bat” & I was hooked. I agreed to assist in any way to make her arrival in the USA a momentous event. Little did I know what I was in for in the course of events.
Upon my arrival back in Florida I began to contact by e-mail & telephone Ukrainian-American organizations all over the USA. Some sent money as requested, others wanted more information, some wanted to schedule tours of the vessel when it was in a US port near them. Everyone wanted to sail aboard the ‘Bat!’
The time came. The ‘Bat’ sailed from Kyiv down the Dnipro River into the Black Sea, through the Bosporus to Istanbul, Turkey. From there she made her way across the Mediterranean to the Pillars of Hercules & entered the Atlantic Ocean. In kyiv & here in the USA we were in contact via cell phone & e-mail with the Dmytro’s son-in-law. We were concerned because the vessel had no radar, had a makeshift communications system & was crewed by a folks who had no open ocean experience in a tall ship.
Eventually the ‘Bat’ arrived in US waters off of Puerto Rico where she put in for some needed repairs. She was supposed to make port in Miami but time constraints had her abandon that plan & sen there to Richmond, Virginia to prepare for the OpSail-2000 Parade of Tall Ships into New York City on 4 July.Â My wife & I packed & headed to New York City on 1 July. We made contact with the OpSail liaison for the ‘Bat’ & he directed us to the marina where she was docked. At 7AM we boarded the vessel & prepared to get underway to meet up with the other tall ships of OpSail-2000. We were assigned our place in the sail parade as a consort vessel for the Polish ship, a 330+ foot. You need to remember that the ‘Bat’ is just less 100′ in length. The morning was foggy. About 10AM we were approached by a Coast Guard boat and ordered to follow them to our intercept location. Not long after we began to see ghostly masts looming through the fog as the ships began to sail majestically into Sheepshead Bay. Our Polish friend was number 18 in the line up & we fell in along side to her starboard bow. As each ship sailed under the bridge to enter the waterway to New York harbor we were greeted with horns honking from the cars & trucks passing over head. The fog burned off by 1130AM & we entered the harbor coming down the channel to the basin where the Statue of Liberty stands & those ships who had a shallow enough draft were led up the channel even further. Eventually we turned back & went to our docking assignments. Once docked the gangplank went down & visitors were welcomed aboard.
Ukrainian souvenirs, t-shirts of the ship, baseball caps, & more were sold to help finance more fo the OpSail-2000 tour for that year. US-based Ukrainian organizations donated enough money to obtain a fine radar system, a good radio-telephone communications system & other needed equipment.
The ‘Bat’ stayed in the US that year, wintering in Norwich, Connecticut. The next spring she voyaged up the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes where she paraded in the OpSail-Great Lakes in cities such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto & others as well. When that season was over the ‘Bat’ sailed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans & into the Gulf of Mexico. Eventually she passaged the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean . Bat’kivshchyna has been to Australia, the Philippines Islands, Hong Kong, Yokohama-Tokyo, Honolulu & other pacific ports of call. At present she is in entering winter docking for re-fit & overhaul. Next year the plan is for the ‘Bat’ to visit South Africa & India.
You may contact the “Bat” by e-mail at:Â firstname.lastname@example.org
Captain Dmytro Biriukovich
Copyright Â© 2006-2008 Donald R Houston, PhD. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.