Please select your home edition
Edition
Mackay Boats

German tall ship mutiny after cadet's death fall

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 24 Jan 2011
Gorch Fock in action SW
Life on a tall ship is meant to be an adventure, but after a female recruit called Sarah Schmidt, 25, was killed when she fell 100 feet from the foremast, the rest of the cadets had had enough, and they mutinied against the captain.

It happened in Brazil in November, on Germany's most famous sailing ship, the Gorch Fock, and has caused serious embarrassment to military chiefs in Germany.


The elegant tall ship, named after the German poet Gorch Fock who died in a 1916 sea battle, was on a round-the-world sailing trip when the incident occurred, but as a result of the mutiny the journey was forced to be cut short. The ship was launched in 1958 and for over 50 years has been a familiar sight in ports around the world, but since the mutiny the Captain has been relieved of his command and the ship taken out of service.

At a parliamentary committee hearing on the incident, Hellmut Königshaus, the Commissioner for the Armed Forces of the Bundestag told the committee, 'What followed was, simply, a mutiny.'

Officials said the sailors did not want to continue their voyage after the tragedy in the harbour of Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, and refused to get back in the rigging for exercises.

Norbert Schatz, the captain of the ship, cabled back to Germany that he was in a 'Captain Bligh' situation – a reference to the famous Mutiny on the Bounty of 1879 when sailors on a British warship overpowered their cruel captain, William Bligh, and cast him adrift in an open boat.

Captain Schatz said: '[I am faced with] indiscipline and a refusal to carry out orders. They [the cadets] display a lack of co-operation with the ship’s command and are guilty of mutiny and inciting the crew.'

In the end four were flown back to Germany – but it was not the end.

The other 66 trainee officers were also refusing to sail on and in the end all of them had to be put on a plane back to Germany in the most embarrassing incident of a breach of military discipline for the republic since it was formed in 1949.

He was described by the cadets as being insensitive, a hard taskmaster and indifferent to the death of the young woman. According to the cadets, rather than enjoying the romance of the Age of Sail, they had to endure seasickness, cold, the terrors of climbing high masts on a heaving ship and irregular sleep in order to learn the Navy's brand of spirit.

They say they were pressured to get back up the mast from which their colleague fell to her death and refused to do so.
But Captain Schatz accused the recruits in turn of being too soft.

In a letter to military chiefs probing the mutiny, he said: 'As a boy I climbed cherry trees in the garden of my neighbour and was also able to get down quickly if he came home. 'But the motor-coordination skills of today`s youth are questionable because they sit for too long in front of computers all day instead of climbing cherry trees.'

Mr Königshaus wrote that many of the officer cadets 'did not want to go aloft after the painful loss of their comrade and others did not want to continue on the Gorch Fock.'

The letter continued that there had been 'great pressure' on cadets to climb the rigging. 'If you don’t go up, you’ll fly home the next day,' an instructor is supposed to have told them.

The barque has a crew of 85 training officers and able seamen who teach intakes of up to 138 cadets at a time. Down the years it has trained 14,500 cadets. Many remember it as harsh, while others have told reporters they found it an adventure.

The vessel, 89 metres long and with a mainmast and foremast 45.3 metres above the water, has a diesel engine that can push it to 12 knots. Under sail it has exceeded 18 knots. Cadets sleep in hammocks stacked high in a single room.

The oldest ship in the German Navy, it has continually taken part in Tall Ships races and sailing parades round the globe during goodwill visits, but her future is now uncertain...

North Technology - Southern SparsProtector - 660 x 82Zhik AkzoNobelb 660x82

Related Articles

A Few Rays - When you think of sunscreen as a filter....
If a sunscreen is a filter of UV rays, how much is enough? If a sunscreen is a filter of UV rays, how much is enough? Where the skin is exposed and a sunscreen is working for you, it is filtering UV rays. Some of those rays always get through. The percentage of the high energy UVB rays (said to cause sunburn) that get through to cells in the skin can be determined by the claimed SPF of the product you are using.
Posted on 25 Apr
Boat International partners with NZ Millennium Cup 2018
Boat International partners with NZ Millennium Cup 2018 to celebrate superyacht regatta’s tenth anniversary Boat International Media, the global authority on superyachts and the luxury lifestyle that goes with them, has today announced that it will be partnering with the NZ Millennium Cup superyacht regatta, to be held in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in January 2018.
Posted on 22 Apr
A Few Rays - What is Broad Spectrum Protection?
What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays (UVA, UVB and UVC) only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. UVA and UVB sun-rays are however the biggest contributors to skin damage from sun.
Posted on 19 Apr
Coast Guard urges boating safety common sense
Coast Guard reminds mariners that as the air temperature is warming the water temperatures are still dangerously cold The Coast Guard is reminding mariners Friday that as the air temperature is warming the water temperatures are still dangerously cold. With the rise in air temperature, the number of boaters, paddle craft users, and water enthusiasts taking to water activities also rises.
Posted on 15 Apr
A very difficult day - Got fuel to Cape Town
Well after my dismasting I have spent the last two days motoring North towards Cape Town trying to collect myself Well after my dismasting I have spent the last two days motoring North towards Cape Town trying to collect myself and to intercept Hong Kong container ship M/V Far Eastern Mercury who had been diverted by Maritime Rescue Coordination Center Cape Town (MRCC Cape Town) when I had issued a Pan-Pan during my dismasting.
Posted on 8 Apr
Lisa Blair heads to Cape Town under motor following dismasting
A PAN PAN was called at 0300 (AET) / 1900 (SAST) signalling an urgent threat to her safety and this remains in place. Lisa Blair has assessed the damage to her yacht, Climate Action Now, after being dismasted 895 nm south of Cape Town in 40 knot winds and seven metre swells early in the morning of April 4, 2017. She made a PAN PAN call over the radio at approximately 0300 (AET) / 1900 (SAST) signalling an urgent threat to her safety and this remains in place.
Posted on 4 Apr
A Few Rays- Calculate how long your sunscreen lasts.
Confused by SPF's? It’s easy to calculate how long you will be protected by using the following process. Exposure to the sun is a serious issue for all those who venture on the water. Confused by SPF's? It’s easy to calculate how long you will be protected by using the following process.
Posted on 2 Apr
Coast Guard joins Arctic stakeholders in historic forum
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft joined leaders representing eight coast guards of Arctic nations U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft joined leaders representing eight coast guards of Arctic nations in signing a joint statement Friday. The statement adopts doctrine, tactics, procedures and information-sharing protocols for emergency maritime response and combined operations in the Arctic. The Arctic Coast Guard Forum is an operationally-focused, consensus-based organisation...
Posted on 24 Mar
Coast Guard Foundation announces tribute in New Orleans
Coast Guard Foundation announced that its Tribute to the Coast Guard District will be held at the National WW II Museum The Coast Guard Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the education and welfare of all Coast Guard members and their families, announced today that its annual Tribute to the Eighth Coast Guard District will be held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana on Friday, March 10, 2017.
Posted on 7 Mar
Coast Guard Foundation announces Scholarship Season now open
The Coast Guard Foundation, a non-profit organization, announced that it has kicked off its 2017 scholarship season. he Coast Guard Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the education and welfare of all Coast Guard members and their families, announced today that it has kicked off its 2017 scholarship season. Accepting applications from March 1st through April 15th, children of enlisted Coast Guard members may apply for annual scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
Posted on 28 Feb