As of: 07/20/2023 9:06 p.m
Corona consequences, rising prices, worries about young people and also the German bureaucracy make life difficult for the operators of traditional ships. But the fleet holds its own. This is also thanks to the many honorary seamen and seawomen.
The umbrella organization of German traditional ships on the move estimates that the operators of 20 to 30 traditional ships in Germany may have given up since 2019. According to this, around 5,000 traditional ships are still on the move across Europe. In Germany there are probably only 100. Most are run by voluntary associations and they not only take care of their aging pieces of jewelry, but also ensure that young people in particular learn the traditional seafaring trade on board. The current episode of the Dorf Stadt Kreis podcast is all about the current challenges in terms of traditional ships.
Nikolaus Kern, skipper on the “Johann Smidt”.
Nikolaus Kern is 70 years young. A seasoned man, employed and honorary skipper on the “Johann Smidt”. He has been doing this since the 1990s. The 36 meter long gaff schooner is one of four traditional sailing ships belonging to the non-profit association Clipper, the German Maritime Youth Organization based in Bremerhaven. The “Johann Smidt” has moored in Rostock’s city harbor to take 11th class students from Berlin on board. On the one hand, Nikolaus Kern, alias Captain Nikolaus, is looking forward to the trip with the young people through the Danish South Seas, on the other hand he sees dark clouds gathering when looking at the scene. “We have force 8 winds and the fleet is struggling in heavy seas,” he says. The bureaucratic interpretation of the new ship safety guidelines, emptied on-board cash registers, the consequences of Corona, high repair costs and, last but not least, the question of who will take over the helm when the “oldies” disembark are issues that the crews are concerned about. But nobody on board wants to think about giving up.
Silver lining on the horizon
The “Sail Training on Traditional Sailing Ships” was recognized by the German UNESCO Commission and the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) in March 2023 as an “example of good practice in the preservation of intangible cultural heritage”. According to the UNESCO Commission, traditional sailing on traditional ships promotes camaraderie, tolerance and commitment. “In addition, life on board teaches, demands and promotes teamwork, self-assessment, self-discipline and social behavior,” the statement said. This assessment by the “landlubbers” pleases the volunteers and gives tailwind when it comes to “shanghaiing” young fellow sailors and new crew members, as Captain Kern calls it with a smile.
AUDIO: #133 Traditional ships in heavy seas? (39 mins)
Big ships, small ships
In Rostock-Schmarl, at the historic boatyard of the Maritime Museum, the preservation of tradition is also attempted “on a small scale”: It is barely seven meters long, the old Warnemünde dinghy, which two Rostock boat builders built without blueprints but with a lot of enthusiasm and volunteer helpers. Since the Middle Ages, Warnemünde fishermen have been fishing with the “old” dinghies, but by the beginning of the 20th century they had disappeared from the horizon. Thanks to the replica, the museum educators can once again show how hard the fishermen had to earn their living.
Show running under sail
The 32nd Hanse Sail, which begins on August 10th in Rostock, is hoping for up to 150 traditional ships from seven countries to take part. A tough job for the volunteers from the Hanse-Sail-Verein, says the chairman Gisbert Ruhnke: As every year, 80 volunteers will take care of the crews on land. In total, more than 200 volunteers will be at the start of the Sail. While Ruhnke is happy to have the Gorch Fock and the Bima Suci, the training ships of the German and Indonesian navies, as flagships this year, he also admits that he hopes that the big “Russians” will be able to come back to Rostock soon. With a length of 117 meters, the four-masted barque Sedow is the largest traditional sailing ship in the world that is still sailing today, says Ruhnke.
Sailing on the ears
The conversation with Mirja Freye is ultimately about how well-known risks can become new opportunities for the survival of the fleet of “old ladies of the sea”. “Old salt humps”, ship’s boys and girls after the first trip and also the administrative mold whinnying audibly on the high seas have their say in the new podcast episode of Dorf Stadt Kreis.
Reporters from the NDR regional studios with strong stories from the north: Hosts on the microphone are Annette Ewen and Mirja Freye. more
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This topic in the program:
NDR 1 Radio MV | Dorf Stadt Kreis – strong stories from the north | 07/20/2023 | 06:00 a.m