In the first 12 hours of my one week vacation, I had to confront myself with hair-raising assertions. Initially I wanted to pay the Capitan of the School for Ships youth in Bremen a short visit. As I walked toward him in the back aisle on the “Sail training Vessel”, he greeted me with the words: “You have a true sailor’s walk.” This was probably what he saw but the truth was something else.
Just as I got on the train to Hamburg I started a conversation with a man about 40 years old. ”Pamir” he said,” I was on it as well, as a 15 year old, 25 years ago”. And he started telling that the journalist and documentary writer Heinrich Hauser wrote an amazing book about the 115 day journey from Hamburg to Talcahuano, Chile. On this trip alone, three out of 27 men of the ship’s crew members, fell from more than 25 meters height and that one ordinary seaman died.
One sailor fell near Montevideo from the foresail stay with his jaw and arm broken. And with the fall of the third, an ordinary sailor, who probably had a guardian angel to pick him up, because his upper body had fallen into bracing ropes running outboards, reducing his injuries to some dents and bruises. He only had to use supporting armbands.
However, handling the sails became tougher, because two deck mates had broken arms and three others were too sick to get out of bed. For each watch there were now only 2-3 men left. Each of our 4 shifts consisted of 15 men.
While the man was telling me about his incapability to work because of an abscess in his lower leg near Cape Horn, I came forth with the remark that an abscess can leave behind the interesting impression, for example, like the Capitan of the sail training vessel who wanted to detect a real sailor’s walk on me one hour age. This was stupid of course, because I had an ulcer on my upper thigh, which forced me to waddle. ”Oh no, is it true?” asked the man and gave me more photos, given to him in Talcahuano. After arrival in Hamburg we said goodbye.
Next we went north, to a small town with an opening to sea in the East and then to a small train station in the West. There, in the twilight of a November afternoon, Ulrich, Susan, Jan and Regina were waiting to pick me up, while the other members of my favorite school class 1953/53 welcomed us in front of the ice cream parlor called Palermo located on the city-road. Their Hello was huge and pressure to tell them a lot grew markedly. They found the resurrection of the flying fish very good. The unsung story of the La Plata song “Don’t cry for me Argentina” was not understood and they did not believe the story with the railway event from Paranaque to Curitiba. Until I got out the photos given to me in the morning, a photo show was not possible, because my two 6×9 Films each with 10 recordings, photographed with a box (acquired for 10 DM),were not yet developed. Nevertheless, the 25 boys and girls were delightful and interested. Since my embarkation in July on sailing ships, they had engaged themselves for tall-ships and their crews.
So the Schleswig-Holstine ex-prime minister Friedrich-Wilhelm Lübke*), who passed away a year before, went to sea at the age of 13 and undertook a sea journey and had straightway all nautical patents in his pocket. Later he wrote several great seafaring novels that were really more exciting and more mysterious than my narratives.
They kindly gave me two short excerpts from the 236 page novel “Cape Sidney Head or hell in sixty days” from the year 1943, reading:
The last sentence from the preface: “This book is knowingly written in the usual seaman’s language. May the often wrongly dispraised sailors, who in reality are guys with children’s hearts, have an open road to the hearts of the people thus their journey will have a blissful ending.”
*)F.W.Lübke; His seven year younger brother Karl Heinrich Lübke (1894-1972) was federal German president from 1959 to 1969.
It seemed to me they lacked cosmopolitan openness, and I imagined, in the upcoming days that I would speak only little about the Pamir, and just in case to tell the honest truth. On this first day of vacation, I was confronted with too many questionable stories. Was I supposed to say: No sailor’s yarn, please?