Gorch Fock 2
Maritime Topics On Stamps:

Two tall ships named
'Gorch Fock'.

Gorch Fock 2

Gorch Fock, whose real name was Johann Kinau, was born 1880 at Hamburg Finkenwerder. He wanted to become a fisherman like his father, but he was not strong enough for that profession. He worked as a merchant’s assistant and accountant. Early on he wrote stories and theater plays, most of them in ‘plattduetsch’ language, the low German dialect spoken in the German coastal regions. In 1912 he published his novel 'Seefahrt ist Not' (seafaring is necessary) which became a classic in German maritime literature. Shortly thereafter his old dream of 'going to sea' seemed to become true. In 1916, during World War One, he was drafted into the German navy. Just two months later he drowned aboard SMS 'Wiesbaden' in the Battle of the Skagerrak, also known as the Battle of Jutland. Two sail training vessels of the German navy were named in his honor, in 1933 and 1958. The cover shows the second bark named 'Gorch Fock' and the stamp celebrating the centenary of the writer’s birth.

On 26th July 1932 the German sail training ship 'Niobe' went down in the Baltic Sea near the island of Fehmarn. An extremely strong thunderstorm squall caused the schooner to list 40 to 50 degrees, the rudder became useless. Attempting to head into the wind, 'Niobe' heeled over completely and capsized within a few minutes. 40 men could be saved, 69 sailors drowned below while attending naval instruction. Whereupon the German navy decided to build a new sail training vessel, to be called 'Gorch Fock'.

The specifications of the first ' Gorch Fock ':
  • Built 1933 at the Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg
  • Three-mast bark with steel hull
  • Length x Beam x Draft   =   269 x 39 x 17 feet
  • 1392 GRT, 1510 ts displacement
  • 23 sails, altogether 1750 square meters
  • Height mainmast over deck of 135 feet
  • Auxiliary engine 550 HP
  • In German naval service: 66 men regular crew and 180 cadets
  • In Soviet merchant service, renamed ‘Tovaristch’: 46 men regular crew, 150 trainees.

Gorch Fock 1
Until 1939 'Gorch Fock' made extensive cruises training naval cadets in seamanship and navigation. During World War II she was stationed at the port of Stralsund. Leaving the harbor in May 1945, she ran on a mine and sank. Other sources report that she was scuttled by her crew. In 1948 the wreck was raised by the Soviet Union and repaired the following three years. 1951 she was commissioned as a sail training ship for the Soviet merchant marine and renamed 'Tovaristch' (‘comrade’) . She was assigned to the naval college in Cherson in the Black Sea. Incidentally, she became the second bark to be called ‘Tovaristch’. Earlier, the Russians operated a four-mast bark of same name which sunk in the Asov Sea in 1943.

In 1957 'Towaristch' sailed around the world and rounded Cape Horn. 1974 and 1976 she triumphed twice during 'Operation Sail' races. In 1992 when the Soviet Union dissolved the bark was transferred to the Ukrainian flag, its home port Cherson being part of that new nation. During 1992/3 the German 'Tall-Ship Friends' organization arranged for public participation in windjammer cruises on the ship. From 1995 to 1999 she was laid-up in England awaiting repairs, but required financing fell through. In 1999 'Tall Ship Friends' offered to assist in restauration work and the ship was towed to Wilhelmshaven. In the year 2000 ' Towaristch ' was a highlight of the world fair 'EXPO at the Sea'.

The Ukraine did not have any funds to restore 'Towaristch'. Her berth was provided free of charge and the Ukrainian crew was fed by the people of Wilhelmshaven. This state of affairs continued for four years while 'Tall Ship Friends' were busy raising funds towards the ship’s future. In 2003 the organization managed to buy the bark from her Ukrainian owners and the dockship 'Condock V' carried 'Towaristch' to Stralsund in the Baltic Sea. Maintenance and much needed repairs started immediately. On 29th November 2003, back under the German flag, the bark was re-christened with her former name 'Gorch Fock'. Presently the ship is open for visitors. Planning includes restaurant facilities aboard and a complete restauration to full seaworthiness and future cruises under sail. (Last report January 2004.)

Gorch Fock 2
The specifications of the second ' Gorch Fock ':
  • Built 1958 by Blohm & Voss shipyard, Hamburg
  • Three-mast bark with steel hull
  • Length x Beam x Draft = 292 x 39 x 16 feet
  • 1760 ts displacement
  • 23 sails, altogether 1952 square meters
  • Height mainmast over waterline 148 ft
  • Largest yard length 79 ft
  • Auxiliary engine 800 HP, later increased to 1,660 HP
  • Speed under sail max. 16 knots, with engine max. 13,7 knots
  • 69 men permanent crew, 200 officer and NCO cadets

The second 'Gorch Fock' has four sister ships still afloat, all built all between 1933 and 1938 at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg. There is the first 'Gorch Fock' ex 'Towarischtsch', the U.S. Coast Guard’s 'Eagle' ex 'Horst Wessel', the Portuguese 'Sagres II' ex 'Albert Leo Schlageter', and the Romanian 'Mircea'. Greatest possible safety installations were key to the construction of these ships. The result is that all of them are still in sailing conditions to this day. Consequently, the post-war German Navy had 'Gorch Fock' (2) designed and built along the same construction plans, with the most modern safety and navigational equipment available at the time. 'Gorch Fock's (2) hull, masts and yards are made of steel. Approximately 300 tons of iron ballast in her hull provide for good stability even at a theoretical list of 90 degrees. A high freeboard and additional bulkheads provide security against water damage.
Gorch Fock 2

Gorch Fock 2
Gorch Fock 2
'Gorch Fock' is the sail training ship of the German navy. Officers and petty officers candidates receive here an important part of their practical and theoretical training. Since 1997 women participate in it too.
The first course started in July of 1959, which found a successful conclusion with a cruise to the Canary Islands. Approx. three training cruises have been made every year since. During the winter the ship rests in its home port Kiel or undergoes maintenance work in a ship yard.

Gorch Fock stamp
Gorch Fock cover
The ship has been in service for over 45 years already. During this time up to the end of 2003, 134 foreign training cruies have been successfully completed.
In 1987/88 'Gorch Fock' sailed around the world in 336 days. The distance covered was 33,572 nm, with 19 ports of call in 15 countries and on five continents (80th- 83rd voyages). In 1996/97 'Gorch Fock' sailed approximately 36,000 nm in 343 days, 65% of the time under sails alone.
With these cruises 'Gorch Fock' serves as Germany’s Good Will Ambassador promoting world-wide peace, friendship, and understanding between countries and peoples . As such she participated in 1976’s Bicentenary of American Independence in New York and the Bicentenary of the foundation of the Australian nation in Sydney in 1988.

Gorch Fock cover
Since 1960 'Gorch Fock' participates in international tall ships meetings and races. Those are the annual 'Cutty Sark Tall Ship Races', 'Operation Sail' spectaculars, and special races like1992’s Columbus Race across the Atlantic. Each time the bark was among the foremost places, eight times she was the fastest ship arriving at its destination. The best run during a watch (distance sailed in four hours) amounted to 61.6 nm corresponding to an average speed of 15.4 kn. The best day’s run was 323.2 nm, that is 13.4 kn on average.

Upon commissioning day in 1958 the Hanseatic City of Hamburg assumed the sponsorship for the 'Gorch Fock'. 1982the state parliament of Schleswig-Holstein followed establishing another sponsorship/partnership. 'Gorch Fock' took part in numerous attendances at Hamburg’s ‘Harbor Birthday’ celebrations. In her home port Kiel she serves as flagship leading the annual windjammer parades during the ‘Kieler Woche’.
Gorch Fock 2
This cover and cancel show the 'Gorch Fock's wooden figurehead, a wandering albatross. In December 2002 the albatross was lost in a stormy English Channel. A new one was carved and installed weighing 350 kg. But exactly one year later in high seas in the Bay of Biscay this second albatross was also torn from the bows. Now, in the spring of 2004, yet another albatross version is being installed on the 'Gorch Fock', this one made of strong but light-weight carbon fibers.

Gorch Fock 2
Gorch Fock 2
Towards the left we see the bow of the 'Gorch Fock’ (2) in her home port Kiel. On the right we see a donation receipt label issued by the German Society for Rescue at Sea depicting this beautiful vessel.

Coming soon:
A Seemotive report on the three sister ships of ‘Gorch Fock’ (1) and (2):

  • ‘Eagle’ ex ‘Horst Wessel’,
  • ‘Sagres’ (2) ex ‘Albert Leo Schlageter’,
  • ‘Mircea’.

© 1998 - 2004 Bjoern Moritz, all rights reserved.

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