The sail training ship "Gorch Fock"
Landmark and ambassador
Kiel is the home port of the GORCH FOCK. On the Navy's sail training ship, officer and NCO candidates are trained for further service in the fleet. Nils Brandt was in command for almost eight years and provides an insight into life with and on the imposing three-master in 15 questions with his answers.
Captain Brandt, what sparked your love of seafaring?
In our family, the love of the sea and seafaring is a tradition. From my grandfathers to our own children, sailing has been one of the important things in our lives.
What memories do you have of your training period on the GORCH FOCK?
As an enthusiastic sailor, it was something special for me to experience my first sea voyage with the Navy on the GORCH FOCK. And to this day, it is the shared experiences on the sail training ship that always come back to life in the stories at our crew parties and meetings. I only have fond memories of the good things and great impressions.
What does it mean to you to be commander of the Navy's only sail training ship?
For better or for worse. For me, it is a special task to introduce the young people on the GORCH FOCK to seafaring, to let them experience the dimension of the sea and to impart the team spirit that is so important for operating the tall ship. However, the long time spent in the shipyard also showed us as a crew the other side. The ship became ammunition and headline news without actually having anything to do with it in terms of content. We as a crew also had to learn this and have chosen "We are GORCH FOCK, storm tested and suffering tested" as our motto.
How do you and your family cope with the long absences at sea?
My wife - and later our children - have been aware of it from the very beginning, and our life together was characterized by long absences due to the sea voyages. Our son once asked me why I didn't become a letter carrier. The question referred to the fact that it comes every day. There have been moments with me, too, when I have asked myself, "Why am I doing this and putting my family through this?" My wife kept telling me, "It's your job and you enjoy it. Eventually, it's going to change." So when the question was asked whether I would like to go on the GORCH FOCK as commander, my wife knew that this was my greatest professional wish and she was happy for me that it was now coming true. At that time, we could not have foreseen that it would last so long.
What is the most extraordinary souvenir you have brought back from a trip?
I always try to bring back local wines and honey, as these products are also a reflection of the country.
Is there a particularly crazy, funny souvenir about the GORCH FOCK that you have come across somewhere around the globe?
There is indeed such a souvenir: At the HanseSail, a woman from the Erzgebirge gave me a handmade bobbin lace GORCH FOCK in a frame. This was really something special, besides all the other things that always reach us as a crew. Curious is also the fact that North Korea issued a stamp with the GORCH FOCK in the 80s.
What do you miss most about being on board - apart from being at home?
Nothing, it's a great job for me, an exciting workplace with idealistic people and lots of challenges.
What does a normal working day on the GORCH FOCK look like for the marines?
In port, it is characterized by many administrative tasks, personnel management, repair and maintenance work, sports and training sections. At sea, with cadets on board, the day begins with reveille, hammock muster, followed by sea watches, practical and theoretical lessons, clean ship and well-deserved rest periods. Boredom never occurs at sea, as it is always different due to the weather.
And how did you spend the long time in the shipyard?
In the shipyard, we were accommodated on the residential boat KNURRHAHN from Kiel. This allowed us to keep the shipboard routines and stay together as a crew. In addition to the daily routine, we also assisted with the shipyard work, for example, rigging the masts and rigging. But there were also phases when there was not much to do and the future was uncertain. That put a lot of strain on us as a crew.
Are there any traditions or rituals that are important to you and that your crew particularly cherishes?
There are a handful of traditions that we maintain as tall ships and marines: Sailor's Sunday, the mizzen sheet, blowing the whistle on the day's routines, the hammock muster, and one or two things more. All of this creates identification, a sense of community, and sometimes pride.
Is there a memorial plaque on board for those who have died?
The dead and those who remained at sea are always in our hearts. There are memorial plaques for the comrades in Berlin at the memorial in the Bendlerblock.
What is most annoying?
The doldrums, as they force us to adopt a special maritime composure.
Is sleeping in hammocks a big challenge?
The first few nights in port you have to get used to it, but the first nights at sea show very impressively how nicely you can sleep in a hammock in a swell.
What do you appreciate most about Kiel as a home port?
It's the sailing city, you live on the water, you see water sports everywhere and the lively student atmosphere keeps the city young and attractive.
What is your favorite place on the Kiel Fjord?
On board the GORCH FOCK at the GORCH FOCK pier, right between the inner fjord and the outer fjord in the heart of the lifeline.
Whether the GORCH FOCK is currently in its home port of Kiel or gliding through the oceans, you can see here.