The "Klabautermann" in Bremerhaven
The Klabautermann is a good-natured ship's kobold. And like all kobolds he is well known for his fondness of playing mischievous tricks. He would also not be a kobold, if he did not have exceptional powers. For example he can foresee storms, or whether or not a ship will sink. Should a storm be brewing, he then informs the crew well in advance. However if the ship should sink, he warns the captain or crew beforehand and then leaves the ship. And that is why the sailors are also afraid of him, because he also announces disasters. On those ships where the captain and the crew are diligent and fair-minded he remains and helps. One hears him rumbling in the freight hold organizing the cargo so that it does not fly around and damage the hulk. And he especially hammers loud with his caulking mallet in search for gaps and foul wood, so that the ships carpenter hears it. Between the planks he unnoticeably seals the gaps himself with this special tool. However should the hammering stop, it is a sign that he has left the ship and then the crew knows that the ship is in danger. As long as wooden sail ships sailed the seas it was easy for the kobold to just change to another ship and he rarely goes on land. If there is a good captain on board, it may well happen, that the kobold accompanies him when he leaves the ship.
The captain also vanished - without a trace and in the middle of the ocean - from the American bark „Elizabeth Bandi“ a wooden tall ship. That was 1919 during the maiden voyage, loaded with wood for Bahia in Brazil. The crew must have been scared to death after the disappearance, because they sailed away with the dinghies. Abandoned, the tall ship drifted like a ghost ship to the island Saint Thomas in the Atlantic. Today we know, that the ship owner was too anxious. Before the wood was dry, he had the „Elizabeth Bandi“ built and sent her off to sea. Because of this the shipworm slipped into the planks and the ship became foul and leaked. If the Klabauter boarded the ship in America, then he surely must have hammered real loud to notify all that the ship was leaking and then probably he and the captain left the ship, because no one listened to his hammering. Some sailors do not want to accept, that they actually believe in the Klabautermann.
Despite all of this the ship safely reached a new harbor. There is no documentation, not even in the logbook, on how it got there. Even hereafter a sense of peace never returned for the tall ship and it's crew. Up until 1966, an accident with a tanker, a severe hurricane, constant refurbishments, new operational areas and even a new name did not allow the cargo sail ship to sail under a good star. In 1966 the three-master came to Bremerhaven in the Museums Harbor. And one of the names this ship - in the meantime a famous windjammer - received, and has carried up until today is: „Seute Deern“, which means in high German „sweet girl “ and depicts the figurehead at the bow of the vessel.
At a time where there are not too many wooden sail ships which have to be hammered to find leaky spots or on which storm warnings would save the lives of the entire crew, Bremerhaven's „Seute Deern“ docked in the museum harbor is a gem of seafaring days still alive today and maybe also a home for the Klabauter.
And so it is not unusual, that there is a unique well close to the museum harbor of the National German Maritime Museum, in the direction of the radar tower. At the top of the well sitting enthroned on a dolphin you will find the Klabautermann. And the one or the other attentive eye surely will no miss: If one stands real close behind the Klabauter and follows his good-willed mischievous smile, looking through a few trees one has a direct view of the „Seute Deern“, the „sweet girl“. In the end, after its long journey from America to Bremerhaven it is the last remaining still operational wooden cargo sail ship in the world and today is the home of a popular restaurant.
Should one very quietly walk through the museum harbor or walk along the New Harbor with its traditional sail ships you might be able to hear it. Especially when night sets in and it is quieter in the harbor: The creaking and crunching of the planks, and the loud rumbling sound, when the wind whistles through the masts. And sometimes also a loud pounding and knocking.
However no one has really ever seen the Klabautermann. Some may believe that they have seen him, however as fast as he appears he also disappears. On the other hand others probably really have seen him, but do not want to believe it or at least do not want to admit it. Finally no sailor and no coastal inhabitant would like to have the reputation of spinning fisherman's yarn.
And certainly a lot of fisherman's yarn has been spun. But then again many stories of the sailors were not believed for a long time and then the truth came out that these stories were indeed true. Stories about sea monsters like giant squids.
Giant squid, ship cemeteries in the open seas and disappearing ships in the Bermuda-Triangle, stories about giant waves, which appear out of the blue and destroy whole ships. All these sailor stories where not taken seriously for a long time. Today we know that they were right. That is why we should be cautious to judge someone too quickly, when he says that he had seen the Klabautermann.
Growing up with seafaring the inhabitants of the Seaside City know when the Klabautermann is on board and even though he plays his mischievous tricks he really is a good-hearted ship kobold. And he likes to make a fool out of people: One thinks one has misplaced something again even though one is quite sure that one had seen it just shortly. Or one can absolutely not understand how the one or the other object can fall down already again. Nonetheless, foremost those, who have already heard him take to heart that he watches over those at sea and that he surely will warn about upcoming storms.
At the entrance to the North Sea the Klabautermann is a kobold, which is gladly welcome on board and in out city.
The Klabautermann-Well in Bremerhaven is the northernmost destination on the German Fairy Tale Road.
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