New York

Everything is piped down, the ship has gone to sleep. I am getting accustomed to my hammock. In the dark thoughts rise — how did I get here and what is awaiting me in the forthcoming four weeks.

In February I’ve watched a film about the German sail training ships that were built at the beginning of the twentieth century. They introduced a Norwegian barque – Stadsraad Lehmkuhl – that is still operating and takes trainees on board. She was launched in the German town Vegesack near Bremen in 1914. Then she was named “Grossherzog Friedrich August”. In 1918 she was handed over to the British and sold to Norway in 1924. She was renamed Stadsraad Lehmkuhl. I searched around the internet and found the homepage of the Stadsraad Lehmkuhl. There where some voyages listed for the year 2001. The highlight was a trip from New York to Brest. Two weeks later I saw a film about a sailing trip from Bergen to Scotland on the Stadsraad Lehmkuhl. After seeing this report, my mind was made up. In the following week I booked the trip and bought a flight ticket to New York, arranged the trainride from Brest back to Frankfurt. Fortunately, I had saved up for a present to my ex-wife’s fiftiest birthday. The reason of the saving gone, it payed up for the whole voyage.

This morning Ron took me to the airport in Frankfurt, I boarded a plane to Paris, and after a two hours stop for buying cigarettes I was on a plane bound for New York. Slowly Europe vanished behind us. I had time to take a nap and then we reached the North American coast. The first thing that took my notice was the different color of the landscape. In Europe the color was green and brown, now the dominant color was a dark bright red. I had filled in the forms for the US Customs. For the lodging of the first night I wrote “SS Stadsraad Lehmkuhl”.

When I reached the counter, the officer sent me to the office for professional seamen. There I waited for nearly two hours amidst seamen from Russia, the Philippines and other parts of the world. Then finally I was cleared to enter the US. Now my luggage had vanished and I searched for the Air France counter. When I introduced myself, the clerk hurried off to fetch my luggage from a plane bound for Europe. At last, everything was cleared away and by bus and taxi I reached the “Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum” in Manhattan, where the Stadsraad Lehmkuhl was moored.

 

When I got off the taxi, I got the first sight of the ship. It was impressing. I carried my luggage to the pier and requested the permission to board ship. John, the ship’s sergeant, welcomed me aboard. He showed me around the trainees quarters and handed me my hammock, in which I was going to sleep for the next three and a half weeks. When I knew where to string up my hammock, I started clearing my things away and a short while later I was on deck again. There Uwe, the boatswain, asked me to give a hand in getting the leftover luggage of the former crew on shore, where it was stowed into a truck. He kept us busy, and soon everything was cleared away. I met the first other trainees, Ian, an Englishman, and Ben from the US. Since it was our last evening in New York, we decided to take a walk to Times Square. There I bought some souvenirs and made a phonecall to my daughter Alexandra, telling her that I had arrived and everything was alright.

Then we searched for a pub to freshen the hawser. We found a bar near the pier where they served Guinness, and after some pints we walked back to our ship to get a good night’s sleep.