of the ship:
The LIBRA was badly damaged during World War II and ended up on the Rhine
atStürzelberg (a small community between Neuss and Dormagen). From the
stern on the starboard side there was a big piece missing; the place was walled
up with stones. At some time, new plate was welded in and the location is
clearly visible from the inside. Also, there are still welded up bullet holes
to be found. The Tjalk (scow boat) was used at anchor for fishing and sat on
the bank of the Rhine for years (maybe 20 years?), rusting after the death of
the fisherman Balthasar Richrath . In the village the ship was called "der
Schokker". When I took ownership I was "the man from Schokker".
1973 the condition of the boat was:
Apart from the hull, there was nothing original. The hold was welded shut. The
super structure - built in steel - looked something like a garden house with
normal wood windows. Below deck I found a welded live-well used to keep the
fish catch alive. For this, the previous owner had removed a number of ribs.
Through the open rivet holes Rhine water flowed to the live-well. An engine was
never installed (perhaps a motor once stood on deck). Stern tube and engine
mounts, as well as rudder and leeboards were missing. On the foredeck an
opening was welded shut. From its shape it looks like it allowed a pole with
counterweight to be rigged. Thus, one could quickly lower the mast together
with the rigging, pass under a bridge and just as quickly, reset the mast and
sail on. In the photo, only a part of the welded-closed "opening" is
to be seen. The rest disappeared with the installation of the skylight.
After the ship was "gutted" (except for the foredeck, which although
greatly in need of repair, could be maintained) all that remained was a
virtually open hull (not unlike a dinghy) which was heavily rusted where the
live-well was installed. This area, I cut away and then welded the hull halves
together. The only clue to the surgery is the different heights of the
skirting- board at the weld. The shipyard plaque remained. Now the ship,
renamed "Schildkröte" (meaning "Turtle" in German),
measures 14.9 m. from stem to stern, so that it can be run on German inland
waterways with a sportboat captain's license.
As a pattern and guide for the quasi-new built boat I used the book "Ronde
en platbodem jachten" (In English, 'Round a Shallow-water Yacht) from a
Dutch author. The aim was to create an easy-to-use sailing ship, with pleasing
lines and a spacious comfortable interior; one which can be sailed by two
people (me and my wife). Since the hull consists only of curves, this form
should also be reflected in the superstructure. So there is hardly any corners.
The equipment rack at the stern is unusual on old ships but can't be beat for
its functionality. The mast is from glued wood and hollow for weight reasons.
The halyards end on the mast, the sheets in the cockpit. The leeboards and
rudder are made of steel, the latter provided with a broad profile, thus it is
very small but with large rudder effect. The critical positions of the mast and
leeboards originate from plans in the above book and are obviously correct; the
ship is balanced on the helm, trims well, can withstand a lot of wind and sails
up to 8.5 knots (but the waves shouldn't be too high). For sailing to windward,
the engine is run so that excessive drift can be avoided. The Hanomag diesel
was built about 1965 and is still running reliably . I have converted it to a
quick-start glow plug. It now starts in 10 seconds; before it took up to a
minute. Originally, with gaff rig and no jib ( 05.jpg ) Schildkröte was
re-rigged with Bermuda main, staysail and jib.
The interior is built partly in solid mahogany and partly from marine plywood.
A pot-bellied stove heats the ship when cold weather comes. As pensioners we
spend several months each year on board. So far, in 10 years, we've put more
than 10,000 nautical miles of the Baltic Sea in our wake.