"It's Captain, not a General, scout!" First sea voyage of Zawisza Czarny. - Niepospolici
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“It’s Captain, not a General, scout!” First sea voyage of Zawisza Czarny.

The Petrea was a wooden, Danish yacht purchased in 1934 by the Polish Scouting Association. After renovations it was renamed in the honour of Zawisza Czarny – an invincible medieval knight known for his virtues and chosen as the role model for Polish scouts. It became the flagship of the Association and on route to Gdynia called at the ports of Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam, and Antwerp. Wherever it went it was greeted in an atmosphere of excitement and friendliness.

The Zawisza was the largest vessel owned by a scouting association in the world, therefore it was the source of both admiration and envy. The latter particularly among the British scouts who, despite the fact their mother country was considered to be a maritime power, did not have a similar vessel at their disposal. Since the yacht was purchased with assets collected by the public, the crew cultivated an ethos of community and solidarity.

Witold Bublewski was the man behind the idea of the Zawisza and the leader of the sea scouting troops. He was only 16 at the outbreak of the Polish-Soviet War and still he volunteered to defend Warsaw. He returned to sailing during the inter-war period and became the founder of sailing centres and training courses.

It was through Bublewski’s efforts that general Marian Zaruski became the captain of the Zawisza. Zaruski was a cavalier, a Tatra mountaineer, and the guardian of the Polish Scouting Association. It was him who requested for the vessel to be named in honour of Zawisza Czarny (initially it was given the name Scout).  Zaruski earned the utmost respect and despite his repeatedly expressed wish to be called “captain” he was addressed as “general” by the youngsters under his charge. Undoubtedly, he was an icon of Polish sailing of undisputed authority. Such versatile soldiers as Zaruski were, and sill are, a rare find.  Apart from the General’s admiration of sailing he also loved the mountains. His strong need to be of assistance to those in need led him to form the Tatra Mountains Volunteer Rescue Service [Tatrzanskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe]. He remained physically active way into old age.

The first sea voyage of the Zawisza barely marked the beginning. Under Zaruski’s command the yacht completed 16 cruises. It called at 27 ports in 10 countries covering a distance of 14,000 nautical miles.  Every day when the ship’s flag was raised the captain would welcome his crew with the following greeting: “Scouts, be vigilant at sea!”. And the scouts would reply: “We are vigilant, General Master Scout!”.