As daylight faded into dusk over Aberdeen harbour on Saturday evening the people of the "Silver City by the Sea" bade farewell to the German Naval training ship, "Gorch Fock" and her crew, returning home to Kiel.
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Background: As daylight faded into dusk over Aberdeen harbour on Saturday evening the people of the "Silver City by the Sea" bade farewell to the German Naval training ship, "Gorch Fock" and her crew, returning home to Kiel.
Since the great three-masted sailing barque sailed into Aberdeen last Tuesday on her first visit to Britain, she and her crew have down more to foster good relations than a hundred summit meetings. The people of Aberdeen took her and her crew to their hearts. And proof of their feelings was the fantastic farewell on Saturday night.
Over an hour before the Gorch Fock was due to leave, thousands of men women and children were gathered on the quayside and, as the time for her departure drew near, thousands more lined the shore on either side of the harbour entrance. As the sailing vessel moved slowly down the channel the people cheered, ships sirens hooted and the hooters of hundreds of cars joined in the din. Then, suddenly the two tugs escorting her switched their spotlights onto her decks and there was her crew, lining the vessel from stem to stern. Across the water came the sound of their voices singing "Auf Weidershen" and as she glided past the song was taken up by thousands of voices on the shore.
Then the tugs cast off their towing ropes, and as the great, white lady of the seas slipped out into the darkness of the North Sea homeward bound, the strains of the song came drifting back over the waves. It was a moving moment none of those who were there will forget.
Most people had missed the wonderful spectacle of the "Gorch Fock" when she moved into Aberdeen Bay under full sail out of a blue horizon on that sunlit Tuesday morning. Soon after she dropped anchor to wait for the tugs to come out and guide her in she trimmed her sails. But, so many of the thousands of people who came to book over the vessel in port expressed their disappointment that her captain, Commandant Wolfgang Erhardt, sent his cadets aloft on Saturday morning. His order were to "put on all sail", and for half-an-hour the people of Aberdeen were able to witness the magnificent sight of a sailing vessel under full sail. The people loved that gesture and showed their appreciation with that wonderful send-off.
The "Gorch Fock" is the world's newest sailing ship, launched from a Hamburg shipyard last July. She was built to replace the former Federal Navy training ship "Pamir" which went down in with 80 hods including many young cadets in an Atlantic storm in 1957. The Gorch Fock carries a crew of approximately 250 including 150 cadets under training.
There was a storm of protest in Germany over the decision to build another sailing vessel as a training ship. But, as her captain pointed out on his arrival at Aberdeen, she has an auxiliary motor engine and, unlike the ill-fated Pamir, she had proper ballast. On her voyage over to Aberdeen from Kiel, she ran into two big gales but "she rode them out like a duck going over the waves".