Photos

Roderich

s/y Hetairos, the Arvid Laurin- designed double-ender that made a record- braking Transatlantic crossing, survived a hurricane in the Indian Ocean and, renamed s/y Roderich, went to be a multi-decade dream yacht for a German cruising couple

New Transatlantic record
"Record-braking Transatlantic crossing by a Laurin-koster", that was the title of a notice in the Swedish yachting magazine "På Kryss & Till Rors", nr 8, back in the year 1973. "A German-owned 14 ton Laurin-koster with the "whale-deck" and of nearly 13 m length, recently launched in Hong-Kong, has settled a new record. The crossing from las Palmas to Barbados took 15 days and 18 hours. That is the fastest crossing by a monocoque hull known today. Only Eric Tabarly's trimaran Pen Duick has made a faster passage, by crossing the ocean in 11 days."

To me, being a teen-ager at the time, this was exciting reading, as my father had recently purchased a Laurin 32, the "Diana".  Reading that a Laurin- koster was the record-keeper, that was just great news!

(The word "koster" refers in Swedish language to a sailing boat of Scandinavian double-ender type, with a stern-stem hanged rudder and a convex-formed underwater profile. A Laurin-koster is a double-ender designed by famous Swedish designer Arvid Laurin (1901–1998).)

Mariehamn, Åland 1984
In July 1984, my wife Leena and I arrived to Mariehamn, Åland, onboard our "3.2 t Laurin-koster" (27 ft) "Lileca". This boat had been commissioned as the lottery-boat for the Swedish Cruising Association (the SXK) in 1956. Her first owner, Lennart Brunnhage, had won the "Around Gotland Race", the major offshore race in the Baltic Sea, overall for the smaller classes. Actually she had beaten the next competitor by more than 7 hours and had also overtaken every single boat in the next class, of bigger boats which had started 2 hours earlier! During the -50:ies and early -60:ies the Laurin-kosters were immensely successful in offshore races and in fact, even in recent days, they still have been very successful in different events.
But of course, today you don't own them for racing in mind.

Arriving to Mariehamn, the last home-port for the old "Windjammers", was always exciting, as there always seemed to be a good chance to spot yachts of interest. And this time we would not be disappointed! Already, in a bay, in just short a distance to the Western Harbour, we saw a 12 Meter at anchor, the German "Westwind" . What a beautiful classic yacht! But for us, this time the "real thing" was a most impressive looking Laurin-koster moored at a buoy, she was by far the biggest I had ever seen. As the double-ender versions of the Arvid Laurin whale-fish decked boats were never built in Finland, we were, at any opportunity, eager to meet one. I instantly recognized the transatlantic record braking yacht, the "Hetairos", which had also been shown on a black-and-white picture in the På Kryss & Till Rors magazine, reaching outside Hong-Kong!

Onboard the Hetairos
The ships' Captain and wife, Walter and Auke Schultze-Freyberg, were German, and seemed not much elder than ourselves, in their early 30:ies, we estimated. There was also a third crew onboard. Sailing a smaller sister-ship, we were kindly invited onboard.

Because of the height of the freeboard of the ship, for us she seemed more of a ship or vessel than a boat!, it was a bit of a sport, boarding from our small dinghy! But Captain Schultze-Freyberg had the fists of a bear, and soon we were safely on deck. By sheer size alone, 35 years ago, Hetairos stood apart from all the other yachts at the yacht club. Even more impressive, however, was her massiveness, the air of immense strength and her striking, outstanding quality of build. This was clearly a ship, built to take everything every ocean ever would throw upon her!
Getting down below, there was a quarter cabin with a double berth to starboard and a quarter berth to port. These quarters were followed by a aft-facing comprehensive navstation to port and a U-shaped galley to starboard. The main saloon was fitted with a dinette-style dining area to starboard, with transverse settees and a dining table in-between.  The table could be dropped to form an extra double berth. Opposite, to port, there was a settee/ berth with cabinets and lockers above. Clearly this layout showed the aim of the ship, being for long-distance cruising rather than for racing. All the numerous cabinets, lockers and drawers showed proof of excellent craftsmanship. I was also most impressed by the massive deck beams. They were all full width for maximum strength. Forward of the main saloon were the heads, on opposite side a wardrobe and drawers to deck level. The fo'csle was traditional with berths and lots of stowage. No cramped crews´quarters onboard here!

The Hetairos was built double-planked in solid teak wood. As the inner and outer horizontal planking are laid intermediately on different levels, you get a completely water tight and very strong "panel" construction. On Hetairos additionally, closely spaced heavy frames are really reassuring.

Because of her heavy scantlings, I imagined that she probably was deplacing a few tons more than the 12 tons, as on her designers', Arvid Laurins' board.  But this seems somehow typical for many cruising boats built to his plans. Perhaps already the lines plan, showing powerful, seaworthy hulls, have been tentative for the builders, and dimensions and equipment may have been adapted with this in mind. And of course, during the era of the one-off built yachts, the owners/ commissioners might also have expressed their own wishes in this direction. Also, some yards seem generally to have built heavier yachts than others, I have found by comparing details on the theme.

Having visited this unique yacht, it is seems quite clear that the builder, David Cheng in Hong Kong, knew his trade. This magnificent blue water cruiser is a reassuring testimony for that!

Having been guided around down below, we moved to the cockpit, to meditate what we had seen. We then much appreciated listening to the Captain, telling us about the cruises they had undertaken on the oceans of the world onboard this ship. Of course, I was very impressed by the fact that the Hetairos had crossed the Atlantic faster that any other monohull boat in those days, in the early 1970:ies. The Captain did not make much fuss about this, and he did not regard the Hetairos as being exceptionally fast. True, they had averaged around 8,5 knots during the crossing, and for sure, the Hetairos is capable of making fast passages, when easing the sheets and when the wind is freshening. But going to windward in a sea way, you should not try to point her to high, other ways you will loose speed. Going upwind, you cannot compare to modern fin-keeled designs. And beside of all that, to what extent had the transatlantic crossings been reported and documented in those days? However, still by today's standards, 15 days and 18 hours make for a fast passage, even for significantly longer modern cruising yachts!

Overwhelmed by all we had seen and experience onboard the Hetairos, we returned to our Lileca. How tiny she felt, by comparison! But no doubt, they were close sisters and they both belonged to the same distinguished family, the seaworthy whale fish-decked Arvid Laurin double-enders!

A letter from Germany
Next winter we got a kind letter from the Schultze- Freyberg couple, telling us that the Hetairos had been sold. But they were on their way again, out on the Atlantic Ocean, this time in a recently launched 65- feet yacht, designed by Henry Scheel. Together with the letter, they had sent in annex a couple of articles from the German yachting magazine "Die Yacht", nr. 22/79 and nr. 5/85. In these articles surviving techniques in different types of boats on the oceans of the world were described.

Getting into a storm in the Indian Ocean
According to Captain Walter Schultze- Freyberg in "Die Yacht" nr 22/79 the Hetairos was underway from Sydney, Australia bound for Cuxhafen, Germany on 4.2.1979, when the barometer started to drop quickly. The weather forecast from Mauritius did not contain any warnings, a Force 6-7 wind was forecasted. On the Hetairos it was decided to keep a safe berth to the Rodriguez Island, in case weather conditions would change. On the 6th of February the wind increased rapidly to Force 8 and waves reached an altitude of 5- 7 m.. The mainsail was dropped and the storm jib hoisted in order to be prepared for worsening weather conditions. With the storm jib set, speed remained at about 6 knots and the going was stable. During the following night, at 03.30, suddenly the head stay brakes and the storm jib has to be dropped. The rig is secured with halyards. With all canvas dropped the Hetairos turns and lays sideway, ahull in the seaway. All equipment on deck has to be lashed or moved down below. Laying ahull, the Hetairos creates turbulence to windward, due to the sideway drift, and this turbulence seems to calm the motion of the approaching waves. The decks also remain more or less dry.

By now the Mauritius weather forecast sends a hurricane warning, the center of the hurricane "Celine" is located 20 nautical miles SE of the island, and an area of within 500 nautical miles is affected. On February 7th, by 18.00, the hurricane has reached the Hetairos and visibility is down to zero. As the sea is building, waves turn pyramidelike and wave crests disappear.

Surviving "The Hurricane Celine"
The Hetairos starts to roll heavily from the one side to the other and at about 21.00 o'clock she is knocked-down 90 degrees to leeward. Objects fly around and also some solid water find its way down below during the knockdown. The crew starts working on the bilge pumps, but soon these get clogged, between others, by around 70 music cassettes that, for a reason or another, have unrolled. There is quite a mess around, also as some leaking oil has found its way to the bilge

On deck, the radar reflector, mounted 4 m. above deck level, is completely demolished, the spinnaker poles and the life raft have worked loose from their brackets. The spinnaker poles are lost but the life raft can be recovered by the hard struggling crew.

At around 23.00 hours, the Hetairos is once more knocked-down, but this time the ship is falling from the top of a wave, through the air, until the ship side hits the sea surface. The time span for the free-fall felt like an eternity to the crew. Even in spite of falling from such an exceptional height, there is almost no sea water ingress this time.

On deck the lifeline stantions have been heavily bent and the wind-vane is completely demolished. "The force of the wind was such, that you had to turn your face down to leeward, in order to be able to breath through your mouth", Captain Schultze-Freyberg explains in the article.

After having cleaned-up the uppermost on deck, the crew turned back down below, where there was a complete chaos. The ships' batteries had worked loose from their fittings and flew through the air until hitting the galley, smashing parts of it. The charts were soaked with bilge water and battery acid, so the majority of them were destroyed. An engine bed bolt was broken. The sextant had come adrift from its box and was bent behind repair. Bits and pieces of china and of the petroleum lights were all over and the crew hurt their fingers, when trying to unclog the bilge pumps that were soaked with parts of glass, the china and all other sorts of rubbish mixed in the bilge

But there were no structural damage, whatsoever, discovered on hull or deck. And, before all, the crew was very happy that nobody had been seriously injured during this exceptional knockdown

On February 8th the wind drops at last to Force 7 and the crew starts cleaning up and making smaller repairs onboard. The engine is not working anymore but the storm jib is hoisted and the Hetairos is heading for Mauritius. The radio aerial is also out of use, and thus there is no possibility to establish the ships' position, until an merchant ship is met on counter course and the precise position is informed by its officer. In the morning of February 12th Hetairos entered port in Mauritius.

 

Reports, lessons learnt
Based on meteorological reports on hurricane "Celine", that the ships company received, upon the arrival in Mauritius, it was established, that the Hetairos had been within 30 nautical miles from the center of the hurricane. The wind speed had exceeded 40 m/s /80 knots and wave height had been reported being 11 m.. Thus the estimate by those onboard the Hetairos, that the ship had fallen 8 m. from the top of the wave through the air, seems realistic, perhaps even a bit underestimated.

In an article in nr 5/85 in "Die Yacht", dealing with storm tactics at sea, the author of the article, Michael Bohmann, expresses his astonishment that any yacht, of whatsoever type or build, could survive such a knockdown, as described. Taking into account the sum of the forces of the ships' displacement added to the momentum/ energy of movement against the sea surface hitting the deck house and its side scuttles (=windows) it feels almost unbelievable.

The Captain, himself, was surprised that nobody got injured during the hurricane.

The fact that the Hetairos survived the hurricane that swept over the Indian Ocean and the Mauritius sea area on the 6th- 8th of February 1979, and did not even suffer any major structural damages, whatsoever, I believe, must be due to the Laurin-koster hull design, incorporating the "whale-fish deck", and the exceptionally strong construction, scantlings and quality of build of this particular ship. The heavily build low cabin top with its small side scuttles proved that also this detail of design was accurate. Also, the double-plank construction in teakwood had stood this severe test.

 

Lying a'hull worked out well for a long-keeled yacht, such as the Hetairos, Captain Walter Schultze Freyberg comments, as the resulting turbulence to windward, caused by the sideway drift, calmed down the approaching waves. If he would be caught at sea once more in such weather conditions, onboard this sort of yacht, he might well chose the same tactics again. But on fin-keeled yachts, he believes running before wind and sea bare poled, with lines or drogues to reduce speed even more, would be the tactic to chose, this in order to avoid that the boat would loose control and roundup and lay sideway, beam to the sea

Fare Well Hetairos
The letter from Walter and Auke Schultze Freyberg, dated the 12 th of March 1985, was to be my last link to the Hetairos. Our much loved Laurin-koster, the Lileca, also turned out to be a bit cramped as my family was growing. The Laurin-koster remained our favorite design, as these boats combine structural strength, seaworthiness and sailing performance to a fascinating blend. Thus we went looking for a larger wooden sister-ship. In spite of eager search and contacts to owners, all our attempts remained unsuccessful.

As working life turned more and more demanding and time consuming, we went for fibreglass boats designed by Sparkman & Stephens, ranging from 36- 43 ft. We stayed with these fine boats for 25 years.

But the memory of "the ultimate yacht", the magnificent Laurin-koster, the Hetairos, remained vivid. Several times during all these years, I tried to trace her, but always failed in doing so.

 

The Rendezvous 25 years later
After quarter of a century, finally, we met her again! And once more, in Mariehamn!

This was in the year 2009, and, since last time, yachting really had changed dramatically. Not at least regarding the size of yachts. In 1984 Hetairos had really stood out, apart, then she seemed enormous, compared to the others. Now, 25 years later, she was still large, but in spite of this, there was now a considerable lot of yachts significantly larger, at the pontoons of the Ålands Segelsällskap.

This massively built 41 ft Laurin-koster was easy to recognize, she still looked as she did 25 years ago, apart from a tall, sturdy bowsprit of steel tube construction, that had been retrofitted. And she certainly could be described as, using words of Swedish author and yachting journalist Curt Gelin, when describing her smaller Fiberglas sister, the Laurin 32, in his book "500 segelbåtar i test" (=500 sailing boats tested): "The strongest of all… no other exciting sailboat seemed capable of handling so much heavy weather and punishment.". Also when it comes to the Hetairos, real life has proved this to be true, not at least in the Indian Ocean, back in the year 1979! She really shows what can be achieved, when combining the talent of her designer, Arvid Laurin, in the international yachting circles recognized as "the Swedish Genius" at the time, and the skills of the master craft men at the David Change Yard back in Southeast Asia.

 

The ship gets a new name, s/y Hetairos becomes s/y Roderich
When the first owner sold the Hetairos back in 1985, to German couple Elke and Peter Mikoteit, he had reserved the ships name for his next yacht. That was why the yacht was renamed s/y Roderich. This new name "Roderich" has German mythological roots. Suits her well!

 

Two legendary Laurin-kosters meet
This time Roderich took part in the Annual ICCY- Cruise (International Council of Cruising Yachts) and Mariehamn had been chosen Port of Destination. When it came to us, we were homeward bound from the Swedish archipelago, on board the Casella II.  We had purchased her a couple of years earlier.

The" 4.4 t. Laurin-koster "(31 ft) Casella II had won the "Around Gotland Race" overall in 1959 and the following year she had very been successful both in the Bermuda Race and the Transatlantic Race. In the Transatlantic Race she was by far the smallest participating yacht, but if she would not have broken her main boom in the mid-Atlantic, she might probably have taken line-honours in her class. Now she came in second (on sailed time), just 4 hours after the winner s/y Belmore. Belmore, the famous John Illingworth design, had been skippered by Commander Errol Bruce and his 5 Royal Navy Officers' crew. Owner of the Casella II, Yngve Casell, wrote a book about those exciting ocean races, "Atlanten lockar", a classic in many a bookshelf in Scandinavia! All together, what a coincidence we thought!

Unfortunately we just had time for a short visit onboard the Roderich, as the ICCY- Cruise participants would continue their voyage, and the owner couple had to make their ship ready to set out to sea.

But what a pleasure, to once more have had the opportunity to walk this substantial ships'- deck and to admire to the magnificent wood work down below, before the Au-revoir

Further contacts
During the coming years we remained in contact with Auke and Peter through E-mail, but unfortunately we did not meet anymore during our voyages.

Also, I came to realize that working with the maintenance of a wooden boat outdoors in the cold Finnish climate did not suit me well. Having to recover after launching instead of going out sailing did not feel meaningful. Thus we made the hard decision to sell the Casella II, this excellent historical yacht, to a good friend, who was dedicated to take good care of her. Having been brought up in a knowledgeable family with Arvid Laurin designed boats, Petri for sure knew what he got into.

In Denmark we found Svinga, a very sturdy semi-custom build Fiberglas Laurin 32, with a beautifully crafted wooden interior. Starting the shake- down cruise from close to Roderichs' home waters, had made us hopeful to maybe meet her, but she was certainly further away cruising, as it was Mid-July, vacation time.

 

Decades of enjoyable cruising under sail
For a long period of years, Elke and Peter took part in the yearly ICCI-Cruises, with destination ports in the North Sea Region as well as in the Baltic Sea. One year Savonlinna, on the Lake Saimaa in Finland, had been chosen as Port of Destination. This lake side city is famous for its Summer Opera Festivals in the medieval Fortress of Olavinlinna, when built, on the Russian border. In quite a distance from the southern parts of the Baltic Sea, you might say! On top of that, you have to pass through the Saimaa Canal, on Russian territory, which might well be a bit of extra excersise. This did not stop Elke and Peter onboard the Roderich, they made the voyage from Germany and back home in 25 days, during their Summer vacations. On their return voyage, they spent almost a day struggling upwind outside the City of Hanko, on the southernmost tip of Finland, where the Gulf of Finland meets the Baltic Sea." During those days, the borders to the Baltic countries were closed, no option then!", Elke reminded me in an E-mail.

Other years were spent on more salty waters and again Roderich met heavy weather, across the North Sea, underway to Norway.

When entering into port, Elke was, many times to the surprise of the by-watchers onshore, the one to hold Roderichs' traditional ships' wheel. After having learned the skills of maneuvering the Roderich alongside or bow-to it was logical that Peter, because of his stamina, would be the one to go ashore with the mooring ropes, from the side decks or the high bow

Fitting out and maintenance
sent Elke and Peter some pictures we had taken, when onboard their ship in Mariehamn back in 1984. They enjoyed the pictures, as they reminded them of what it looked like, when they took command.

In those days, the jib and the head sails were still attached to their stays by hanks and hoisted by hand. No furling head sails, just traditional seamanship! And there was no bowsprit fitted either. The original skylights above the main saloon were also later replaced by deck hatches, in order to secure future water tightness from above decks. Among others down below, FX... the original stowe and cushion clothes had been replaced.

Taking over a ship of this magnitude is a long time commitment, you get to learn her step-by-step as years pass by, the time perspective is longer and the ownership turns into a life-style.

Earlier Peter and Elke took care of all the maintenance work by themselves, but later on they also commissioned some jobs by professionals. A new teak deck was installed in 2003 and the original engine was replaced by a VW Alpha diesel engine in 2007.

Also from maintenance point of view, the earlier mentioned heavy scantlings/ the dimensioning of all constructions and the first class materials used, combined with high quality craftsmanship, pared with a intelligent design, are very valuable assets. Although already 48 years have passed since her launching, and despite of all the heavy weather sailing Roderich has experienced during her lifetime, she is still completely watertight, even at launching in Spring after the Winter season spent in a shed ashore. I believe this would be hard to achieve for a wooden hull of any other material than teakwood and without the double- planking construction.

 

Towards the future
Not only the yachts have changed during the years passed. Socializing in ports is not as spontaneous as it used to be. Elke and Peter miss all the old friends they used to meet and the new friends they used to make when on passage. Earlier people always used to gather around the Roderich, when she had entered into port. Nowadays, few recognize this sort of yacht, they say.

Unfortunately faith had it, that Elke and Peter never got the possibility to fulfill especially Peter's long time dream, to undertake a voyage over the oceans onboard the Roderich. Because of health reasons, they could not, to deep regret, make these plans come through and they will have to part from this unique ship.

To me, Roderich represents a ship that offers a cosy floating home in splendid maritime tradition, where the traditional sailor finds fulfillment of all his dreams, but also, simultaneously she is a ship that has the capability to take you safely and in comfort to every destination on Earth.

I believe I understand how they feel.

And I wish that Roderich will find a responsible new owner, who will continue to take care of and appreciate this outstanding ship and maritime heritage and thus will find fulfillment for his dreams.

 

Ships' details:

Name:  Hetairos/ Roderich
Model: Cutter rigged Laurinkoster
Designer: Arvid Laurin, Sweden
Yard: David Cheng
Year of buildt: 1972

Length (LOA): 14.82 m
Length (LOD): 12.25 m
Depth: 2,20 m
Displacement
(on lines plan): 12 tons
Keel weight: 5.4 tons

Hull: Double planked teak
Deck: Teak
Interior: Teak
Keel: Lead

Rigg: White coated aluminium spars, cutter jib and headsail on furling gears
Sail area: Main sail 40 m2, cutter jib 20 m2, genoa 63 m2
Engine: VW Alpha diesel 75 HP, year 2007

Believing above Ships'details to be correct, for verifying, a closer survey is recommended.)

 

Fredrik Ekström, Kyrkslätt, Finland

(The Author of this narrative was brought up on the Laurin 32 Diana, was earlier the owner of the 3,2 t Laurinkoster Lileca, the 4,4 t Laurinkoster Casella II and is today the owner of the Laurin 32 Svinga.)

 

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