The story behind Strażnik Poranka (Guardian of the Morning) is an example of a perfect tale full of suspense and the uncanny, where facts mix with myths and the resulting legend still vividly describes its nearly 60-year adventure.
In 1965, when the vessel was built in the Stogi Boatyard, now the Jospeh Conrad Boatyard in Gdańsk, as a prototype for a new series, no one could have imagined that its fate would be as stormy as the waters on which it was repeatedly sailed. Proudly bearing the name Opal, which was given to the entire line of yachts shortly thereafter, it has been marked by links to the military and navy since the very beginning. First, it was in the hands of the Sekcja Żeglarska WKS Legia Sailing. In the very same year, its members established the Atol Yacht Club, which took the vessel on its maiden voyage.
The most important person associated with Opal was Ryszard Kuklinski. When the yacht was owned by the Atol club, he served as vice-captain for training and later as captain, being part of the club’s management board. Under Kukliński’s command, the yacht served Atol for nearly eleven years – until 1980. Most of the officially unconfirmed, as befits a good spy story, yet fascinating stories about the unit are associated with this very period. This is related to Ryszard Kuklinski’s activity for the American intelligence service. Kuklinski, who had been working for the CIA since 1970, was to take part in counter-intelligence operations onboard Opal, as a result of which he would acquire and supply confidential information on Warsaw Pact activities to agents of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The situation of the yacht and its service to the military changed in 1980. Due to its deteriorating technical condition, it was not approved for waterway traffic and was eventually written off the Atol club’s inventory. This allowed Ryszard Kuklinski to buy the vessel, which he did later that year. Awaiting renovation, Opal was stationed in Gdynia, in the sailing basin at the Naval Sailing Training Centre, while Kuklinski continued his military and intelligence activities.
At the end of 1981, Kuklinski was evacuated by CIA agents to the United States, following the receipt of information about possible leaks in the services and the resulting immediate threat to his life and the life of his family.
For the next three years, the yacht was in limbo until 1984, when it was confiscated by a court order and then handed over to the Central Maritime Museum in Gdansk. The condition of the unused yacht, longing for the sea, was deteriorating until it was bought from the State Treasury by the Yacht Club of Poland in Gdynia a few years later.
For the first time in almost a decade, the yacht was to be restored and launched, but before this could happen, in 1996, the Yacht Club of Poland began to face serious financial problems and the previous works proved insufficient. The decision was made to sell several units, including Opal, which was bought in 1997 by the Gdynia-based company Atlas, which intended to hand it back to Ryszard Kukliński from the very beginning.
The operation was successful in 1998 when Kukliński flew to Poland for the first time since being evacuated to the United States. Renovated, handed over to Kukliński and renamed Opal II, the unit was to finally find its place in the Colonel’s new homeland. However, Kukliński abandoned his plans to transport it to the United States. Initially, he decided to auction the yacht off and donate the money to the Foundation for Victims of the Polish People’s Republic Regime, which he established, but in the end, the yacht remained under the Polish flag as it was donated to the Christian School Under the Sails. The main aim in choosing the organisation to which the unit was to be donated was the idea of the patriotic upbringing of the youth. The same idea influenced the renaming of the yacht in 2002. Based on John Paul II’s message from World Youth Day in Toronto, the new shipowner decided to name the vessel Strażnik Poranka (Guardian of the Morning), under which it is still known today.
From 2003, Strażnik Poranka was a training yacht stationed on the Croatian island of Iž, near Zadar. During this period, nearly 1,500 young people took part in training voyages at summer camps, training courses and yachtsman courses organised by the Christian School Under the Sails. It was returned to Poland in 2015 for repairs and with the intention of leaving it in the Baltic for further sailing training. However, due to numerous perturbations, the yacht once again could not undergo a comprehensive renovation.
Six years later, in November 2021, thanks to the signing of a notarial deed between the Jack Strong Foundation and the Christian School Under the Sails, the yacht’s next adventure has begun!
The purchase of Strażnik Poranka by the Foundation has two objectives, both in line with the will of Ryszard Kukliński himself: to restore the vessel and educate young sailing trainees, brought up in a patriotic spirit, and to save this valuable monument to history, that is the yacht that will allow us to restore the memory of General Ryszard Kukliński in Poland and abroad.