June 25, 2012
We arrived in Bremerhaven early in the morning, cruising into the channel with hardly another ship in sight. To the port side appeared a massive loading dock for cargo ships, with large cranes ascending into the sky. The radio onboard crackled with voices in German, crossed signals from nearby vessels. As we neared closer to the port, the channel became increasingly narrow, with only 100 meters on each side in which to travel. The helmsmen sweat and glare with concentration as the First Officer calls rudder degrees from the sun deck. After an hour or so of sailing through the narrows, the city of Bremerhaven appears. Large modern buildings mix with the poignant old church at the center of town. Tug boats, cargo ships and barges, with their round hulls fill the waters, in stark contrast with the Götheborg. We are escorted to the locks by a tug, as the ship moves into the concrete enclosure. The lock is filled with water as the Götheborg rises, slowly and steadily upwards. The locks are opened and the Götheborg slips out into Bremerhaven.
The landscape has changed, and above the lower docks, masts peek over the bow of the ship as we travel down the narrow passageway to our space at the festival. We pass colorful banners on each side of the inlet, representing the many provinces of Germany, townspeople looking out from their windows near the water and waving. We are once again guided to our anchorage by a tug, loud and slow, it’s engine growling as it pushes the weight of the Götheborg at its side. Tow lines fly through the air as we near land, parting the spectators to either side as they land on the ground below, pulled and fastened to secure the ship to the shoreline. A snare drum rattles loudly in a long rumble as the Captain slowly walks down the gangway to the waiting dignitaries below. The crew sings a shanty as the crowd smiles ashore. The sweet smell of German pastries fill the air as the many carts and vendors at the festival prepare the days first food.
With the song and shaking of hands over, and the Captain returning to the ship, the crowd loudly applauds. People crowd into a line parallel to the ship, eager to come aboard. The midday sun beats down on the deck, and the crew sweats heavily, continuing to work to prepare the ship for the public. The ship sits proudly here in Bremerhaven, towering above all others, flying the German flag to her port side as a sign of respect, with our own flag flying aft, the blue and yellow brightly waving in the warm summer rays. Five days she will sit, welcoming the multitudes, a centerpiece at the festival. Soon she will be at sea again and leave beautiful Germany for home, once again to sail into Swedish waters
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