After picking up my car, an Audi A3 convertible (Apart from being a big fan of ferries, I’m also a car enthusiast, so wanted something a bit sporty for the high speeds of the autobahn) I was on my way to Rostock. Rostock is a busy ferry port in the north of Germany with connections to Sweden and Denmark.
I ended up spending most of my day here taking photos of the ferries coming in and out, with a bit of time in exploring town as well. After being in the hot sun all day (not that bad by Aussie standards :P) I acquired a bit of red “tan”. After quite a few hours I headed back to Travemünde (Trav-a-mun-da) to photograph the incoming Peter Pan, and then headed back into Lübeck, a city close to Travemünde, where I had booked a hotel.
The next morning, I headed off for Kiel. Funnily enough another ferry port city! Also this is the city where the Abel Tasman was laid up with Aussie crew for a month under a bitter dispute, before heading to Australia back in 1985. Here I saw the Color Magic and Stena Scandinavica in port. They also had a festival on, although I have no idea what it was for… But there was lots of people out and about.
After Lunch I drove by the old HDW ship yards, where six of the Superfast ferries had been built, V to X. After I continued toward Rendsburg, with a particular interest in the legendary ferry shipyard of the 70s, Nobiskrug. They have diversified away from ferries now days, and build superyachts for the super rich. Much of the old yard is still there, even the very slip way that the Nils Holgersson slipped down, back in 1974 and the pier where she was rebuilt into Abel Tasman in 1985. Although I only got to see the yard from across the river, it was special to me to see where one of my favorite ferries was built, even if it had been 44 years earlier.
I also waned to photograph the Railway bridge Abel Tasman was photographed passing under, a little eccentric I know, but I was very glad to have been able to see where the photos had been taken all those years ago.
I continued driving along the Kiel Canal, with a few detours, eventually arriving at Brunsbüttel. This is where the southern locks of the Kiel canal meet the sea where ships can come and go via the North Sea. Its also a large fuel storage area, where ships can Bunker, and the fuel may also go out from there via road to service stations, but I’m not sure. The Abel Tasman took on Bunkers here, and sailed all the way to Jedda in the red sea before refueling.
Having watched some ships pass the locks, I made haste for Hamburg, where I’d booked two nights in a hotel. I arrived before nightfall (Middle of summer remember, its light until almost midnight or so) checked in and went walking to find some diner, which ended up being some fast food in the train station. In the morning I headed for the famous Hamburg Maritime Museum. My friend Steve from Victoria who has worked for the TT-Line of Tasmania since 1985 highly recommended this place, after some of the Abel Tasman’s crew visited it back in 1985 during their time off. He was right, a really great place for any ship enthusiast to visit, in particular all the ship models, 100,000s of them! (On the top floor is where you will find most of them)
The museum visit took me up to lunch time, after which I walked to the city centre along the water. I took a harbor cruise, where I didn’t understand a word, since it was all in German lol. But it made for some good photos anyway.
Before leaving Australia I had sent an email to Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) to see if they would allow me to visit the ship yard, with the connection to the Tasmanian ferries with this site etc. They never replied, I even asked a German chap I know if he had any contacts there, which he did, but still no confirmation. A few days before I got to Hamburg, I sent another email to them asking one last time. To my surprise they replied, saying to call them on Monday morning. (The only day I could visit now due to my schedule) So I called them and spoke to Silke, Executive Assistant at the yard who said she would speak to her colleague. keeping in mind it was also mid summer so most workers were on holidays. Anyway I called back after 10 mins or so and she said I could come, but had to be in a few hours. So I quickly checked out and hit the road from Hamburg for Flensburg in the north of Germany. It was a good run with a high average speed in the little Audi. Just before I arrived at the yard I was involved in a car accident, the other guy pulled across In front of me. Police came etc and we exchanged details. I called the yard to tell them I would be late. And no I wasn’t speeding before you ask. 😛 Anyway, the car was still drivable, with “minor” panel damage, but probably about AUD $10k of damage I’d say.
I arrived at the yard where I met Silke, and was kitted out with all they safety gear. I met Lars, the chap who was to take me around the yard. He is also the yards project manger for the TT-Line newbuilds. Obviously he could not tell me any secret information, but was very positive about the future of the yard and the building of the ships for TT-Line and their other clients. During the yard visit I saw some of the sub sections of hull 781 waiting to come together in the hall. The keel of 781 (Since named “LIEKUT”, which means “straight ahead” in the local dialect of Lower German. The hull was awaiting the installation of the engines at the time of my visit.
You can see a section about my visit here
After lunch in Flensburg, I headed south again and stopped the night in Bremen. Next morning I headed for Bremerhaven, a place Synonymous with ship building, and in particular for me, the legendary Schichau Seebeckwerft (SSW) the builders of the boxy Peter Pan (Spirit of Tasmania) and sisters, the first Olau Hollandia and Britannia and of course the birthplace of Superfast I & II as well as many other interesting ferries. Unfortunately they went bust back in 2009. The site is now the Seebeck Offshore Industriepark where there seems to be a few businesses involved in off shore wind power industries.
Some of it is abandoned and the large sheds used for prefab seem to house a transport yard. It was really cool to walk around the local area and get a feel for the place these ships were built, but its obvious that SSW closing has hurt the local area, but seems to have been able to cope. After walking and driving around the area, I when into the city to visit the maritime museum. The musem wasn’t quite what I had in mind, as there was nothing on modern shipbuilding in Bremerhaven, a bit of a oversight in my opinion. The staff told me to go to the nearby Bremerhaven museum, where there was a very small bit about on it, a lot less than it deserved I felt, as it would have been a major employer of locals up until 2009.
My visit to Germany was quickly drawing to a close, as I had to return the car to Düsseldorf that evening. So I made the 470 odd km trip at a high rate of knots, an experience any one who loves driving should do! Best I got out of the Audi was 240km/h! but I soon learned at those speeds you need deep pockets, as the amount of fuel burned quickly adds up!! I returned the car, with its damage from the accident, to which they made me fill in more paper work.
Next morning I boarded a train for Amsterdam, a few hours trip. I did a bit of wandering in Amsterdam for a few hours, watching the world go by, but no weed. At 3pm I boarded the shuttle bus to Ijmuiden, where the DFDS ferries depart for Newcastle England. Tonight, I was to sail with Princess Seaways, the beloved ex Spirit of Tasmania!! I had first traveled on this ferry as a child going on family holidays to the mainland of Australia. I recall asking my father about the vessel as we laid in the cabin, and him telling me it was known as Peter Pan and she was from Germany. An amazing thing from a far away place! I remember it was a sad day when she sailed out of the Mersey river in Devonport, back in 2002. She holds a very special place in my heart, as the ship that started my life long obsession with ferries, and why I have traveled all over Europe and am writing this now!
Anyway, I boarded and found my cabin, this isn’t my first time back onboard since she left Oz, I was onboard back in 2017. Not a whole lot had changed since then, but she was still in really nice condition, and I was really happy to be onboard. I did the usual run around exploring the ship to check everything out before departure. Next I knew we were underway, so out to take a few shots. Before I had come, I’d asked fellow ferry friend Gary Andrews who works for DFDS, if he could help me arrange a visit to the bridge. Shortly after departure I approached the reception to see if it was going to be possible to go up on the bridge. They said yes, but not for another hour or so.
So after, I went back and was escorted up to the bridge were I met a really friendly Danish guy named Andreas, who was in command of the ship at that time. Maybe a little crazy, but I had made a shirt for the occasion of sailing onboard with a photo of her as Spirit of Tasmania on it, he liked it haha. We chatted about the ship and general operation conditions for over an hour or so, after which he offered to show me around the ship after his watch finished at 8pm. So I went quickly had some dinner and then met up with him at 8. He showed me right through the vessel, engine control room, engine room, stores, steering room, work shop, stabilizers, the old K deck and old swimming pool, where some evidence of her time in Tasmania was found, with a hostel locker sign and Australian power sockets.
The tour continued up to the garage deck, crew mess, hospital and finished up at the firefighting store room. Andreas invited me to the bridge in the morning to watch the arrival into Newcastle. After being on my ferry high I retired to my cabin. In the morning breakfast was in the buffet again, then some time outside before going up to the bridge. The Captain was there also, another friendly guy. I found it really interesting to be on the bridge during the manoeuvres in the river and the communication between the crew. After saying goodbye to the bridge team, I went back to my cabin to get my stuff and disembark, bye until next time old friend!
Then onto the bus into Newcastle, where I would come back to Amsterdam the next night with the sister ship King Seaways. See you in part 4