Category: News & Views
Created: Monday, 24 January 2011 23:45
Written by Charles Doane
I'm surprised this doesn't happen all the time. I've never been aloft underway on a yacht, much less on a square-rigger. But I've watched square-rigger crews swarm aloft in harbor and, even with the ship firmly tied to a dock, my testicles have instantly shriveled at the thought of climbing out to the end of a yard-arm. The idea of doing it while a ship is sailing, and of leaning way over a spar to haul in canvas with nothing but a little footrope for support, I find simply staggering.
So too, apparently, do a number of naval cadets who were serving on the German sail-training ship Gorch Fock. Word is out that Gorch Fock's crew refused orders to go aloft after Sarah Schmidt, a 25-year-old cadet, fell to her death from the rig. The incident has mushroomed into a full-blown political scandal. German defense minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg has come under severe criticism; the ship's captain, Norbert Schatz, has been summarily relieved of his command; all the cadets have been flown home to Germany; and a professional crew is bringing the ship home from South America. There have also been whispered allegations of sexual abuse.