Walk Onboard - Museum Ships

The Flying P Liner and Four-masted Barque "Passat"

Lübeck, Germany

September 27, 2009: For a short visit in Germany, I took the chance to visit the Passat, a former Flying-P Liner from Laeisz shipping company, now stationary museum in Lübeck, northern Germany.

Full View

The Passat is out of service since 1957, after a long active life since 1911. For more details of her history look at the Wikipedia entry.

She was decomissioned after the sinking of her sister ship Pamir in a hurricane in the South Atlantic, on 21 September 1957. The Passat had a similar problem in the same year and was about to sink for the same reason as the Pamir: the cargo of loose barley from Argentina shifted and made her list over 60 degrees, her lower yards already touching the waves, yet her captain managed to save the Passat and the crew and, still listing, reach the harbour of Lisboa, Portugal. But that was the end of German trade sail shipping, since the Passat was the last active tall ship.

Finally, the Passat was saved from being scrapped and was purchased in 1959 by the Baltic Sea municipality of Lübeck and is now a youth hostel, venue, museum ship, and landmark moored at Travemünde, a borough of Lübeck in the most northern German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The museum ship of today is well kept in shape, renovations and repairs are done constantly, even when always short of funds, to keep her open for the public. The official web site is

She will never sail again, of course, and her rigging had been reduced to a harbour rigg, that is: all sails and related running rigging lines had been removed since long ago, leaving only the most necessary lines like the braces and lower topping lifts, and of course the standing rigging of stays and shrouds.

On deck, most fittings are reconstructed and painted in the 5 colors white, beige, anti-rust red, green, or black. The most intersting fittings are the brace patent winches and the yard halyard winches behind each mast, all painted in green.

The belaying bitts have been renewed partially, after her active service. That led to the curious fact that some rails have so few holes for the belaying pins, for the reduced harbour rigg only - a detail that an untrained eye will miss completely ...

The running rigging left is worth to be studied for ship modelling, as those lines are still keeping to the old belaying scheme. The shop onboard is actually selling copies of the original belaying scheme plan of the Pamir, which is (almost) identical to the Passat. But You would need to know that and ask for the plan, since the average, always low paid cashier, use to have no clew about any ship details at all :)

These pictures shall not be a replacement for a real visit to the ship, that I recommend very much indeed! I, of course, spent a whole day there ... and I made about 600 photos for my ship modelling studies.

Now I present the best of them here:

The Hull and The Sides

The typical color scheme of the German P-Liners: black upper works, white water band, the bottom in red antifouling paint. Thin beige color lines are the only decoration.

Amidships, the upper black band is the only area that changed its color often, between black (like here), red and even white. The water band has been repainted, it has not always been there.

All other areas of the sides kept this color scheme for all ships of the Flying P Liners.

The Bow

No gold, nor carvings, that would have been to expensive.

The Stern

Forecastle and Bowsprit

Fore Mast

we are going aft from the forecastle, the upper gangway above the deck ...

A last look forward to the forecastle, this time from behind the fore mast

The masts are all painted beige, an imitation of light wooden color (but they are actually steel tubes), with white trucks and white tips at the yard arms. This scheme is still used on most of all active sail training ships.

Each square mast has 6 yards (the course, lower and upper topsail, lower and upper topgallant, and royal). Each square yard, fixed or moving, hangs in a steel rack ring, attaching it to the mast. The lower yard only has a pair of topping lift tackles belaying on the mast foot bitts, stabilizing the whole system of the yards along the mast.

Some details of the shrouds: we are looking up from behind the mast

The shrouds are black, the backstays are white ropes.

The various holes in the top were for the manifold lines of the running rigging coming down to deck from the upper yards. This gives an imagination how many lines are omitted today ... Note also that the upper shrouds have ratlines, whereas the lower shrouds have wooden battens attached, to enable climbing.

Note that the fore top wears the red ensign of Hamburg hanseatic state.

The upper topsail yard (the 3rd), upper topgallant (5th) and royal yard (6th) are in lowered position and hang in fixed topping lifts, of thin steel rope. These yards are lowered when sails furled as can be seen today, and can be raised for sailing using halyard winches (because of their weight!) behind each square rigged mast. The halyards are steel ropes, rolling up on coned barrels of the winches, that are driven by a cog wheel mechanism, that in turn is moved by "Mr. Pop-Eye Armstrong" :) These winches are fitted upon the hut behind the fore mast. The upper gangway leads the full length of the deck from the forecastle to the quarter deck, and makes all fitting reachable for work.

The steel rope halyards go up, through a sheave hole in the masts, and down again, being attached to the moving yards.

On the picture below, not the doubled main stays and main topstays coming down and being devided by the mast.

The tackles belayed on the mast bitts are: the heavy lower yard topping lift (3-sheave-blocks), and the 2 single-sheave block tackles of the upper topsail sheets and upper topgallant sheets, here not attached to sails but to the yards, to prevent their moving in the wind - after all, it is a reduced harbour rigging now.

Looking aft of the fore mast, we see another hut, and boats on the rails: note their color scheme and green coverage. The big cargo hatches on deck are also covered with a green canvas, over the beige hatch doors.

Main Mast and The "Island Deck"

The upper gangway leads us the the main mast, which stands on a special "island" deck. This was an invention by Laeisz shipping company, harbouring the steering hut and a variety of wooden hatches for the crew.

The white shielded outlook on both sides show that this was the place where the navigators did their job.

On the same spot, on the rails just before the main lower shrouds begin, there were the running pendants of the fore lower braces. These pendant (of rope) were not moved, only adjusted; the moving of the yards was done by the patent brace winches behind the main mast (and the same system applies to all square masts, hence the last patent winch stands behind the mizzen mast). These braces are of steel rope.

The patent brace winch. Note the coned barrels. All are moved simultaneously and coordinated by a single cog wheel mechanism, making it easy to swing around the 3 lower yards. The 3 uppest yards were still braced traditionally by ropes only, going to the side rails of the respective mast behind.

Looking up the main mast. Note the large, 3-leged lower yard rack, and the big blocks behind the top: they lead the braces to the patent winches.

The long side rail is renewed and has only the few necessary holes for belaying pins. The original one had 34 pins, and all belayed with ropes.

And this is my more modern version of the Pamir plan, in English and German; it is not geometric but schematic for clarity:

There are some slight differences between Pamir and Passat, although they are sister ships. I never figured out these differences, though ...

Behind the patent winches, there are the halyard winches, like at the fore mast, so the arrangement of the island deck fittings is quite crowded:

And behind of all that is the steering hut, in polished natural wood, same as some of the crew hatches:

Jigger Mast, 2nd Main Mast

This mast stands in a lowered position, on deck between the "island" and the quarter deck.

A small hut just behind the jigger mast bears the halyard winches and patent brace winches

A last looking back to the fore, then again the upper gangway leads to the quarter deck with the mizzen mast

Mizzen Mast and Quarter Deck

The mizzen mast, the last mast onboard, is different from all other 3 square rigged masts. The Passat is a barque, not a "full rigger", so the mizzen mast has no square yards, but 3 gaffs instead, for fore-and-aft sails.

The doubled mizzen sail (lower and upper), attached to three gaffs instead of the traditional two, was introduced on most of the late windjammers in Germany, for the same reason that all sails were once doubled: they were too big to be handled.

On top of the lower and upper mizzen sail was the triangular mizzen topsail.

So it has no halyard winches, but the patent brace winches to take the 3 lower braces from the jigger mast. These winches stand in front of the mizzen mast, in contrary to all other masts. Why? There are no yards on its fore side that could disturb the lines. Also on its fore side there is the boat boom, used today as stabilizer for the visitors gangway.

Behind the mizzen mast, and below the mizzen boom, again some hatches and a capstan ...

... and the auxiliary steering wheel

The mizzen boom sheets are doubled

Inside, under the Island Deck

When You step down from the upper gangway that connects the forecastle, the island deck and the quarter deck, You can enter the ships inner accommodations, arranged for musem visitors

Inside, under the Forecastle

Leaving the island hut, You pass the lower deck with the fore mast

Under the forecastle is the anchor winch

Inside, in the Hold

Below the front cargo hatch is a small museum showing pictures and plans, and the hold as a whole.

You can imagine how much cargo it was in those day, and how little that was in comparison to our modern super container ships. Along those, the Passat looks like a toy ship

Go and visit this ship, and see it with Your own eyes :)