Historical story

Grand Duchess Elisabeth:From a world first to a landmark

When it was launched in 1909, the motorized freighter was a world first as the "San Antonio". The three-master came to Elsfleht in 1982 as "Ariadne". On June 12, the school and cruise ship is christened "Grand Duchess Elisabeth".

by Irene Altenmüller

On March 14, 1982, there was a folk festival atmosphere in the Wesermarsch. The marching band plays at the harbor and at the barrage of the town of Elsfleth and hundreds of onlookers have gathered to celebrate the arrival of the "Ariadne". The historic three-masted gaff schooner will in future have its home port in Elsfleth, and the flag of the city of Elsfleth is already fluttering on the jib boom. The tall ship is the first training ship to dock in the city's harbor since World War II. A few weeks later, on June 12, 1982, Duchess Ameli von Oldenburg christened the gaff schooner "Grand Duchess Elisabeth", in reference to the merchant marine training ship of the same name.

1909:The "San Antonio" is launched

With this christening, the "Grand Duchess Elisabeth" already had an eventful history behind her. On August 19, 1909, the ship was launched in the Netherlands under the name "San Antonio". The schooner is being built to replace a ship of the same name that collided with the German naval cruiser "Emden" and sank just a year after it was built. The German Reich had to finance the new building for the Dutch shipowner because the "Emden" had caused the collision.

Three masters with a diesel engine - a world first

At that time, the "San Antonio" was a world first in merchant shipping:it was the first cargo sailing schooner to be equipped with a diesel engine, and the three masts could be folded down so that the ship could also pass the low Rhine bridges. In the next few years, the ship travels to South America and the Mediterranean. In 1914 it ran aground off Morocco, but was able to free itself again with the help of the engine. Another incident followed in the winter of 1929:the "San Antonio" capsized off Copenhagen. Because the ship is loaded with wood, it floats on its cargo and can be salvaged.

In 1936 the "San Antonio" was converted into a coaster with auxiliary sails. During the war it is used to supply the Allied troops with supplies. After the war, the ship sails under the Swedish flag, changes hands several times and gradually falls into disrepair.

New life as the cruise ship "Ariadne"

Before the "Lissi" came to Elsfleth as a training ship, she had already served as a freighter, coaster and cruise ship.

In 1973, Hamburg captain Hartmut Paschburg finally bought the "San Antonio". He breathes new life into the dilapidated ship and has it converted into a three-masted schooner. Under the name "Ariadne" the tall ship became one of the best-known German windjammers, but from 1978 Paschburg increasingly turned his interest to the "Sea Cloud".

Elsfleth is looking for a training ship

The "Ariadne" was used for cruises on the Mediterranean and the Caribbean until 1981. In the same year, the "School Ship Association Grand Duchess Elisabeth" was founded, with the captain and shipowner Horst Werner Janssen as its president. He was commissioned by the then Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht, to make the nautical school in Elsfleth more attractive. The school has a long tradition, since 1832 you can be trained there to become a captain on long voyages. But since the war, the practical part of the training is no longer possible there - a training ship is needed.

Stormy crossing:The "Ariadne" comes to Elsfleth

Power failure and other surprises:A storm makes the transfer of the three-master, then christened "Ariadne", a challenge for the crew.

In October 1981 Janssen discovered the "Ariadne" at a small remote pier in Piraeus, Greece. He charters the ship and has it transferred to Elsfleth by Captain Uwe Ode and a crew of students from the nautical school - a crossing not without problems:First there is damage to the gearbox, then the power goes out temporarily in strong winds, and finally the power goes on too holding tank over and the contents pour into the wet cells on board.

1993:Fire on the "Grand Duchess Elisabeth"

The "Lissi" also survived a serious fire in 1993. Today she sails on many big sailing parades - here for example on the "Sail 2015" in Bremerhaven.

Despite all the obstacles, the "Ariadne" finally arrives in Elsfleth. The "Lissi", as the ship is affectionately called, soon starts to work as a training ship for the training of young seafarers. A severe setback follows on March 31, 1993:a fire destroys the interior of the ship, and hardly anyone believes that the "Lissi" can still be saved. But the school ship association does not give up, collects donations from the population and from local companies. The rescue succeeds, the ship is repaired and modernized.

To this day, the schooner, which is around 64 meters long, travels the North Sea and Baltic Sea - sometimes as a training ship for nautical students and prospective sea captains, sometimes with paying guests and a volunteer crew. In 2008, for example, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then Foreign Minister and current Federal President, sailed with us.

Co-sailors are welcome on the "Lissi"

The "School Ship Association Grand Duchess Elisabeth" with its current 920 members, of which around 200 are actively involved, continues to take care of the ship. The club and the ship are open to everyone:anyone who wants can learn to sail on board and take the sailor's exam on the "Grand Duchess Elisabeth". And anyone who prefers to sail into the port of marriage instead of out to sea can also get married on the "Lissi" in the captain's lounge.

Technical ship data of the "Grand Duchess Elisabeth"

Year of construction :1909
Total length :63.70 meters
Width: 8.23 meters
Maximum mast height :33 meters
Sail area :800 square meters
Nation :Germany
Homeport :Elsfleth
Owner :Training ship club "Grand Duchess Elisabeth" e. V.

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