Ugly Ship Contest


Apr 11, 2001
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Today I think I had a close encounter with an Unidentified Floating Object. It looked like a large white shoebox with a point on one end, and something like white McDonald's golden arches lurching from amidships to the stern. At least I think it was a stern- it looked like the spoiler off an old Camaro and went soaring all the way up above the level of the bridge, only this WAS the stern end- and forming a square. This ungainly thing was at anchor off Newport R.I.- I nearly ran into the bridge oogling it in wide-eyed horror. Any idea what this thing was? I thought the Britannic was ruined with those unsightly deck cranes! I also am annoyed wth blue hulls, and RED hulls, even those acqua-green hulls of the old Cunarders make me squirm. Something just plain wrong about hulls not being black,with nice white superstructures and real funnels! Well, okay, Mauretania looked passable enough in grey- but a real ocean greyhound ought to have a black speedy hull, raked funnels (at least 2 please) and a shapely counter stern! I wonder when modern day builders will get the big idea? I just heard Horizon has dumped its Disco for a series of sedate faux Edwardian-style salons and repro antique furnishings-well, it's a start. Got any REALLY Ugly Ship contestants? Photos would be nice!
 
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Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
Hi, Shelley!

I've got a WSL contestant: the Vedic. When I was visiting Jeff Newman to select postcards from his collection to borrow for a Mount Tabor Historical Society program, and saw her I looked once, looked twice and said, "Did Harland and Wolff actually BUILD that??!!" (Yes, folks, they did) See http://www.greatships.net/vedic.html, and note the charming stern view.

Pat W.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Hello, Shelley: The Burdigala, ex Kaiser Friedrich, was probably the most bizarre looking of the classic era ships- visually she appeared to be the misshapen offspring of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and the Imperator, and she was a mechanical failure as well. I think she was probably the only major liner ever returned to her builders as a lemon. Amazing interiors, 'though.

Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt and her sistership Marnix Van st Aldegonde were about as unlovely as ships CAN be. Amazing interiors, 'though.

Magdalena. Ugly ship with equally ugly interiors. Lost on maiden voyage.

The Brasil and Argentina, which persist, like rashes, DECADES after their more attractive contemporaries have vanished. Frumpy, and not an ounce of style anywhere on them, other than the then-controversial provision of nude sunbathing decks inside of the false funnels.

Anything built in France not intended for the North Atlantic run, 1920s through the war. Square funnels. Disproportionately large or small superstructures. Truly amazing interiors.

The postwar Empress ships. Ugly squat and bland. Motel-like interiors.

Then you have the sub-set of ships which ALMOST work except for one bad idea which throws the whole design out of kilter. Like the Rafaello and Michelangelo. And no, I don't mean those funnels, which looked better in person than they did in photos, but the windowless hell which was their cabin and third class accomodation. The deeper you went in those ship, the more claustrophobic it got. One does not appreciate the importance of even a LITTLE daylight coming from a porthole at the end of a passage until one is in an environment where there isn't any, anywhere. Or the Britannic, as you have already said, with those gantry davits. Or Renzo Piano's much maligned but actually pretty Princess "Dolphin" ships with those sleek flowing lines capped with the most graceless funnels ever.

Getting back on topic- the ugliest ship of them all, neck in neck with Johan and Marnix, was the Willem Ruys.
 

Matthew Lips

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Mar 8, 2001
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Daniel - great find! That will take some beating in the ugly ship race. If she'd been human she would have been a witch. If she'd been animal she would have been humanely put down at birth!
 
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Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
For a pic of the Willem Ruys, see http://www.greatships.net/willemruys.html. It's a pretty postcard, though, and may not really convey the right idea. You can sort of see she's basically ungraceful. A photo might be better. Got one?

And I stil think the Vedic is uglier!

Pat W.
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Captain Lord commanded the Louisianian from 1906 to 1909.

So far as ugly ships go, there's nothing that beats the ugly white floating condominiums, otherwise known as modern cruise ships.

Also, I think the Morro Castle was a rather tacky looking ship.
 

Matthew Lips

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Mar 8, 2001
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The name Willem Ruys does ring a bell. Didn't she end up being sold and sailing under a different name. For some reason I suspect I should know this - somebody help, pleeze!
Thanx.
 

Jim Kalafus

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You are probably familiar with Willem Ruys under her final name, which was Achille Lauro. She was built in the Netherlands, as were her older sisters Johan and Marnix, and sported (as did they) a particularly ugly superstructure on top of visually less offensive hull. Willem Ruys was a company director who was executed by the Nazis ca 1944. Marnix Van st Aldegonde was lost during World War 2, while Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt was substantially altered (into a far more handsome ship) and was destroyed by fire as the Lakonia in the 1960s. Willem Ruys, laid down in 1939, entered service post war, and made a few transatlantic crossings as well as her Colonial service. She had her superstructure altered when she was taken over by Lauro (after, believe, it was destroyed in a shipyard fire) and ended up considerably better looking. What made her stand out on the ugly scale, ahead of her hideous older companions, were her interiors, which were Las Vegas-quality tacky before there was such a thing. The mermaid staircase was bad enough for Carnival.

But maybe the Burdigala was uglier.

The Vedic was certainly a prime contender for the title ugliest. But I find her kind of interesting looking.

And the pre-alteration 4 funnelled Windsor Castle and Arundel Castle are near the top of the list as well. I was reminded of them when I saw that stern on the Vedic.

And, in pioneer days, the ill-fated City of Glasgow was certainly no beauty.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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There IT is- beat with the Ugly Stick- The Golden Princess- I had to creep out on the pier to see her name on the bow yesterday and was late to church- but it must be seen to be believed. Call the HULL Police!
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Jim Kalafus

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How ironic. That thing on the stern was lifted from the bridge design for the Vedic. I still think she represents an improvement over the Dutch ships of the 1930s
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Apr 11, 2001
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I used the word bow loosely- this thing is curved around -no sheer or whatever- looks like molded fiberglass- more curves than an old Corvette Stingray- but in all the wrong places! Somebody fetch the smelling salts!

[Copyrighted photos deleted. MAB]
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Other than the Old "Burdy's" funnels being too tall, her decks looking like a swayback mule, the deck cranes like a 1950's erector set, the ventilators like a nest of pit vipers with open mouths and running rust like oozing sores and flaking paint worse than an old Floozie on a Saturday night- heck- she's a real beaut!
 

Tracy Smith

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LOL, Shelley, you've got me rolling on the floor laughing.
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By the way, where did you see that montrosity, the "Golden Princess"? Looks more like the "Muddy Fishwife" to me! I think a garbage scow would look more graceful!
 

Jim Kalafus

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Yes, that description of Burdigala was apt. She gets my vote as the absolute worst-ever ship entirely apart from her appearance. Ca 1900 NDL had approached two German shipyards, each of which was to design and build the fastest ship in the world on an all-or-nothing basis. Vulcan built the attractive record breaking Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. Schichau came up with the Kaiser Friedrich. Her 9 day Maiden Voyage crossing was a humiliating disaster, and subsequent mechanical overhauls didn't improve anything. NDL wanted to return her. The builders wanted to repossess her and charter her to Hamburg American- which was briefly done with unspectacular results. She was then laid up for 12 years. In 1912 she was sold to Sud Atlantique in France, who renamed her Burdigala and put her on the South American run. A year later she was laid up again. During the war she was put into service as an auxiliary cruiser, and was sunk -or put out of her misery, perhaps- in late 1916. In terms of sheer wretchedness it would be hard to find another ship which combined such ugliness with mechanical ineptitude. Great interiors, 'though. My guess is that the snapshot of the Burdigala was done some time in 1915 when she was being taken out of lay-up before military service.
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Jim Kalafus

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One additional ugly ship and then I may have exhausted my list- the 1939 Pasteur, Sud Atlantique's replacement for the l'Atlantique was a fairly strange design, too. She never entered passenger service for the French, instead she was a troopship until 1958, and after a redesign in Germany became the Bremen. Her hull had better lines than did l'Atlantique, and the forward end of her superstructure turned up a decade or more later on the Andrea Doria and Cristoforo Colombo, but what made her stand out and look downright bizarre was that she had a single funnel which sat almost atop the bridge; was about twice as high and wide as it should have been, and stood at right angles to the deck with almost no rake at all. The 1958 replacement funnel was the one which should have been there all along.
 

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