German schooners collision. What the hell were they thinking?

What the hell were they thinking? Ease the main and bear off to pass astern before the video started. Or free the main and bear off right after it started. They were in trouble before the clip began, and they just stood there!


Wow! They had plenty of time to make that maneuver. And then at the last moment when they could have shoved the tiller to starboard in a last ditch effort at avoiding or at least minimizing contact while passing starboard to starboard, they did the exact opposite and turned to starboard with the inevitable result that they went into irons across the ship’s bow staring at it as if it had appeared out of nowhere. I don’t hear any orders given. Where was the captain?

WOW! I went past it the other day and the Elbe pilot I had told me they had been out the day before crisscrossing the channel enough that the pilots complained to the port authorities. Then this. WAFI’s come in all sizes I guess.


Entertaining Willie the cabin boy, pernicious little nipper? :wink:

They weren’t even racing!

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The S/V gave 5 short a couple times, they might have expected the container ship to stay clear?

I have noticed that in general recreational vessels are much better at staying clear of commercial traffic in Germany than other places. A pilot there (in Germany) told me that regulations required recreational vessels stay clear of commercial. I don’t know the details, they do seem to scoot out of the way good.

That had to be Astrosprinter’s horn. Even a puny little mouth horn would have sounded louder on board the Elbe 5. Plus it was clearly mechanically timed. And everyone on deck was asleep.

It’s looks like blue man (blue shirt and pants) is operating the whistle. Not sure.

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I heard the order to turn to port, but they turned to starboard, right across the bows of the freighter. Were they all novices on that schooner? I was 200 miles off Portugal crewing in a ketch, outward bound from La Manga, Spain for Portsmouth, UK for a refit. At 2:00 hrs I was woken up in my bunk in the forepeak by the sound of an approaching ship. I looked out from the hatch, and there it was: A container ship lit up like a Christmas tree, on course to run us over. I came out of the cabin to find Skipper on the radio, trying to tell the approaching ship to make way for sail! My son was at the helm grinning like a maniac. I shouted: “for f*ck sake, Mike!” and he grabbed the Verey Pistol and shells, and went up the ladder like a rat up a drainpipe. He then began to bounce flares off the ship. One look from me and Simon hit the engine start and turned us away. I said to Simon, why did this happen on a clear night when you must have had eyeball for at least two hours? He said Skipper said that steam always gives way to sail. “Does it, bollocks” I said. Ship to ship radio at night is a comedy show. We jumped ship at Vigo. There were six onboard to get her home across Biscay and the Channel, so we didn’t worry too much about the lads left aboard with the aristocratic, lunatic skipper. My son wanted to haul him up the mast by his ankles.


Yes, agree.

Could this be confusion of “port your helm” vs “turn to port”? I understand the British merchant fleet had some accidents during a transition period between the different handedness of helm orders vs rudder orders (early 20th C?).

That horn is around E4 or ~330 Hz which puts near the low end for 37m Elbe and near the high end for 150m Astrosprinter.

Here she is in happier times as Wander Bird – 1936 around the Horn.

I doubt it. They were German novices, it seems. “Port your helm” would be lost on them, as it would have been for me. “Turn to port, or starboard” would be the order I would respond to, not being a career seaman. The rule as I understood it, one passed port to starboard of an approaching ship. They should have been well on with that at the beginning of the video.

I think blue man might be in charge. It might have been him that gave the command, a bit later he can be seen helping with the tiller.

He can be seen trying to catch a look at the ship even while he is pushing over the tiller. Seems like more than just another hand.

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Well, the vectors sure didn’t favor what he was trying to do. 30 degree turn to port vs 90 or better to starboard. She didn’t seem to have a lot of weather helm to make it hard to fall off even without freeing the sails aft.

ETA: Her mainsail was down anyway, so there could not have possibly been a problem falling off; whereas there might have been one coming through stays.

If the blue shirt man was hired to be in charge, how the hell did he get the job of running such a unique and important historic vessel. It appears he believed that he was stand on vessel to the bitter end and that the ship would magically move out of the way. If that’s the case, how did he manage to get himself hired?
I don’t see why they hadn’t tacked even at the beginning of the video.

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I’ve seen that clip before. Beautiful craft also crewed by volunteers as I assume the Elbe 5 was.
If a modern dad let his little kids climb that rigging and romp around naked on deck passing Cape Horn in those conditions, Child Protection Services would yank the kids away and send him to jail.
Lucky kids though.

On board ‚Elbe 5’ were 15 crew and 28 passengers.
The 82 years old captain is under investigation.
The Blue Man, before the final fatal manoeuvre to starboard, was running around like a beheaded hen; probably a willing passenger… or the 2nd dishwasher.

German papers write that on the video a command ‘hard to port’ (german = ‘hart Backbord’) is audible, I do not hear that, they must have a better audio.
However, when the Blue Man was putting the tiller hard to port, where was this ‘commander’?


Current whereabouts and back story on the historic schooner.