The Captain-interview (English version)

So, a warm welcome to everyone with the new part of our blog. Today’s occasion’s going to be a very special one. I’ll make a face-to-face interview with the Captain of the Ship. A normal, cool, but if it’s necessary, a strong, serious, direct men. I do hope that I will not disappoint anyone with this part neither, but smuggle something different to the – almost boring – every-day city tours. Than let the party start!

Today’s date is Friday, 07.08.2015. Location: Durnstein, “Zur Emma” restaurant. A pair of “kasekrainer”, 1-2 glass of beer under the sunshades. Just to show something else than the “usual” hiking-tours.

It is going to be my first interview, so please, I ask you to keep it in mind, when you’re reading it. Millions of questions are running across my mind, one is crazier than the other. I try to choose the normal ones, maybe I can make some professional talk. During this time, a nice dog amble out from the restaurant, and slowly approaching my table. Stop, look at me, and take a place. I caressed his head, and from this movement, I had only one hand free. The other one just became as a caress-machine for him, till who knows what time. But it doesn’t matter, I give this time for him. Or her.

A couple of minutes later I have the main questions, the main way. I hope the Captain will be in a mood for a small talk. Meanwhile our dog went away to the next table with a hope for some delicious bits.

So, wish very good luck. I mean for me, not for the dog.

Next date: 13.08, Vienna. 8:00 PM. I’ll meet with our star-guest in 10-15 minutes time. Try to collect myself, concentrate with my mind. Deep breaths. Anyway I’m preparing for my FIRST interview. I mean from the view, that this time I’ll ask, and someone else will give the answers. I’m not familiar with this situation yet.


Waiting at the reception, waiting for The Meeting. But still not coming. Testing me, how serious am I with this interview. He can allow it for himself, and he knows it. Than he just appear, in full-white clothes, elegant. Asking me, where shall we go. Out to the city, into the bar, or up? I said it doesn’t matter, totally depends on him, still he’s giving his time to me, the honor is mine. So he decided to go up. I follow him, can’t do anything else. Can’t say a word. We go up, and sit in the wheelhouse. He ask me, what I would like exactly. I say, I have a few questions to ask from you, because I’m really interested in a few things. He reply, ask anything what I just want, he will answer. Take a seat next to me, put his drink to the table and light up a cigarette. Than I open my book, and start to bombing him with my silly questions, like this:

Adam: – So, we’re sitting here with Captain Andreas, First (?) of his Name, Lord of the Ships, King of the Danube and Rhine. The pleasure is mine to make an interview with you, Captain, and I’d like to say a big thank you again to accept my request. Let me ask the first question. How old are you?

Captain: – 46 years old – wink. 😉


Adam: – Your parents were captains as well?

Captain: – Yes, yes. My father, his father, his father, and etc. My dad was a captain in a cargo ship with my mother, when I was born. They told me, when the childbearing started, immediately docked the ship in the closest port, and called the ambulance. They were there in a minute to take us with my mom to the hospital. We’ve spent 4 days in the hospital, in Rudersdorf, close to Berlin. After that, as soon they let us go, went back to the ship.

Adam: – Than you fell in the captain’s life in a short time, right? 🙂

Captain: – We can say this.

Adam: – And how is the life of a child aboard the ship? I mean, still goes to kindergarten, primary school? Or how is it going? In the morning, the parents send the guy to a special school, and in the afternoon, evening he/she’ll embark the ship in an other port?

Captain: – Not exactly. I used to go to kindergarten just as all the other kids. The difference was, that during vacation times, I spent my time with my family, with my father on the ship, not at home, ashore. After that the primary school was the same. During vacations I went with my dad. But still in the school, I was interested in totally different things, classes. Mechanical things, history, geography, strategy. Nothing what is connected somehow to the sailing. Than, when I’ve finished the school, moved to the military. In the same time I was a student as well, to improve these things what I’ve started to learn during the primary school. But when the Wall of Berlin collapsed, I had to search for a job, to be in the military wasn’t so rewarding anymore. Than I get closer to the ships, again. With my father, we bought an own ship in 1997. I still remember, it was a push-boat, and we named it “Frenzis Pia”.

Adam: – Why did you change to passenger-ship?

Captain: – Because the prices went down. To maintain, to own a ship, it’s not easy, and not cheap. Plus somehow you have to live as well from your earnings, and it was getting harder and harder. With our push-boat, we could sail only in one part of Germany, since it was not strong enough to sail in the Rhine for example. That’s why I decided to change. It was in 2003.

Adam: – Than I think, you have to start from the beginning everything, as a sailor? Since it was a full different company, ship, rivers, everything. Here you’re responsible for people, for humans, not for things, goods. The responsibility is much bigger, as I think.

Captain: – Yes, it’s bigger responsibility, since you can reproduce a thing, a part of a car, or some materials, but not a life. By the way, I did not start from the bottom again, thanks to my previous experiences. Started as a 1st Officer aboard, and from there I climbed the ladder. OK, I had “only” three steps in front of me, second-second Captain, who is always a second Captain, first-second Captain, who can be a first Captain, when the original first is on vacation, and the 1st Captain, who’s The Captain of the ship.

Adam: – Than let’s say, if I decided, I want to be a Captain as soon as possible, how is it working?

Captain: – First, you have to complete a special school, to have a kind of qualification. After that you’ll be a deck-man on the ship. If you were good, after 3 years you can get a promotion to be a sailor for at least 4 years. It is not easy, physical work, but worth it, if you really wanted to be a good captain. If you keep up with the good work, next stage is the 1st officer. Here you have already a big responsibility, because you are in charge for the safety, for the sailors in a part, sometimes you sail in the locks, looking after the ship. Slowly, step by step you get familiar with the ship, the technical part of it, if you wish. Here you spend 2-3 years more depends on, and after that, you’re a skipper, a second-second Captain. And so on. Of course, the “reputation” is very important as well. Not that you’re a friend of someone, or you came from this family and than you’re a star. You have to work hard, to be very good to have a good reputation from your bosses, from your leaders aboard the ship and from the office. And they could say, yes, this guy is ready for a promotion. And between the Captains, there aren’t so big differences, only the experience. The most experienced is the First Captain, with a bit less experience, he’s the first-second, and the greenhorn is the second-second.

Explaining with a lot of feeling :)
Explaining with a lot of feeling 🙂

Adam: – So the Captain also had finished a kind of school before you jumped into the middle of the business. Weren’t learning by yourself only from the internet and the books, like an autodidact, but used to be educated by professors?

Captain: – Yes, I could call myself lucky, because I had had really great teachers in the school and in the companies as well, where I’ve been working. Plus, my father showed me a thousand small things, what you did not learn in the school.

Adam: – And if you reached the level of the Captain, what’s next?

Captain: – First of all, you have to get there. Have to pass a lot of exams, have to get a lot of licences for different rivers and it’s parts. Then you have to pass successfully a radio- and radar-handling exam, to get the paper for those. You have to sail more and more as the time pass to gain experience. Later, if the First Captain and the Company were impressed and satisfied with you, then you can get a kind of promotion as a first-second or First Captain, depends on your actual position. Respect for the elder, more experienced college is necessary, just like for the other captains, other ships.

Than someone simply doesn’t want to be a first captain, it’s too much responsibility and things like this, doesn’t feel ready himself. And about the respect again. Our first-second Captain, Andreas, my best friend. We’re sailing 14 years ago together. Sometimes we spend 1-2 years in different ships, but after a while, come together again. We are best friends, in our civil, private life. But in the wheelhouse, at the workplace, on duty, it’s nothing. I’m serious and strict with him as well, just as with you or anyone else in this ship.

He had a lot of stories to tell, the pages filled up so fast
He had a lot of stories to tell, the pages filled up so fast

Adam: – Is there a big difference between the 110 and the 135 meters long ships?

Captain: – Yes. Exactly 25 meters… (laugh – direct.). To be serious, almost nothing. One-two extra things, but the basics are exactly the same, doesn’t matter if it’s 25 meters longer or 1,5 meters wider. OK, during docking, or going into a lock, you have to watch out more carefully, but that’s all. Mainly all of them are the same, just like the cars. If you could drive one, you could drive all. You just have to feel your vehicle, that’s all.

Adam: – And if I got the driving licence, than I can sail everywhere, just like with the cars?

Captain: – This part is a bit different. Europe has 4 main rivers: The Elbe, the Oder, the Rhine and the Danube. First, you have to get a licence for one of these rivers, to be more strict, at least one part of the river. Because the rivers have different parts, otherwise to learn the whole river in one time, it’s too much, it’s too long. When you got the licence for a part of a river, after that you can sail that stretch and the surrounding smaller rivers as well. The main point to have part from the 4 main rivers. For example, if you got the paper for the Rhine from Koblenz to Mainz, you can sail that distance, and! From Wurzburg till Remich, the river is yours. Since Wurzburg is located next to the Main, which is running to the Rhine in Mainz, from there you sail toward to Koblenz, there make a right turn to the Mosel. And on the Mosel, till Remich, Luxembourg.

Adam: – And what happens, if none of the captains had a licence for a part of a river, or it is impossible?

Captain: – Of course, it’s possible. That is why we call pilots aboard sometimes, as an extra person. He knows the stretch of the given part, and has a licence for it. And sometimes, I could sleep a little 🙂

Adam: – Oh, now I understand! Sometimes it’s better not to have a licence for a part. Do you have a favorite stretch of the rivers?

Captain: – Hmmm. Hard question. To be honest, I don’t have a particular, favorite one. All the parts, all the rivers are amazing, beautiful, because of different things. Passau-Durnstein, Komarom-Budapest, breath-taking landscapes. And all of the amaze me every single time. Every time different, and still the same, that’s why I can’t choose only one part.

Adam: – I totally agree with the Captain, I think the same. They are totally different places, you can’t compare them. Next question is about the work and free time here. How do you work, how many free days, weeks do you have per year?

Captain: – We don’t have free weekends, but do have free weeks. Most of the times 4 weeks work, 2 weeks free between the Captain. About the sailors, sometimes happens that 6 weeks work, 2 weeks free, depends on the company, how they decide. Captains have 120 free days all together in a year, what, let’s say, doesn’t sounds so bad.

Adam: – Correct.

Captain: Next question?

Adam: – Yes, yes. Have you ever crashed with a ship? I mean, crash with an other ship, or hit a bridge, a lock, or go to shore with the ship?

Captain! :)
Captain! 🙂

Captain: – No, not yet (touched the wood, laughing). One I lost a propeller, but the ship was able to move, still, so we hadn’t had a bigger problem. Of course, as soon it was possible, we stopped the ship to fix the problem, and put up the spare one. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. That was the biggest “crash” of mine. By the way, a fully dead ship is almost impossible to be happened. We have 3 different system to keep it moving. It’s never happened before, that all the 3 systems were broken in the same time. If it would happen, we still have the anchor, as a last-last option. But it still depends on the experience of the Captain. If there is a problem, there’s no time to think a lot. Do what you think is the best, safety first! You did lose one propeller, an engine, or both of the engines. You still have the bow-thruster in the front. Small, but still strong enough to pull or push the ship to the shore. To make a right decision as fast as possible, it’s not easy. Or, if there was a fire in the back of the ship, and we’re going downstream, and the wind is coming from the back. You have to steer the ship immediately to the shore, to save the passenger’s life. But you can save your ship as well, for example, if you turn the ship 180 degrees. So the wind will blow from the front, and it doesn’t help the fire anymore to burn in more space. These small things could save lives, ships, and money.

Adam: – Smart, very smart! What is your best memory since you’ve been sailing? One day, or really one moment?

Captain: – I don’t have really just one moment. Just like when you asked me about my favorite sailing stretch. All moments are nice, and I’ve lived a millions of beautiful times. But I can’t choose only one. When everything is good, excellent, perfect, the passengers, the crew is happy, every mechanical thing is working properly, the ship is clean, everything runs as it supposed to be. When everyone give 100% into their job, these moments, days are the most beautiful for me, that’s why I love to do this. And now the next question is about my worst experience, right?

Adam: – Captain, now who is asking who?

Captain: Haha. Maybe, when I had a big fight with one of the Hotel Managers. Yes, surely that was the worst. We’ve been so far from each other, we couldn’t have the same opinion, never. And the crew was with him. I knew, what happened, what did he say to whom, and in the end, I was alone against the whole ship’s crew. I spoke with the company, this is the situation aboard, but nothing happened. And that was the worst part. That you gave the best of you, everything you do for them, really everything, and no feed-backs, no thanks, no smile. What else, you are the bad guy aboard. So I left the company, and came to this one.

Adam: – I’ve never thought that the Captain has this kind of “experience”. A ship can’t run well, if the leaders of it are not in the same team, sure.

Captain: – Exactly. You can see here, in this ship, everything is wonderful, peaceful, everyone is playing in the same side, we don’t have big fights. Everybody works very hard, and we have to appreciate it.

Adam: – What makes a Captain to be a GOOD Captain?

Captain: – It’s probably a question for the crew, since they feel, they decide, who is a good Captain, and who is not. Why, how. So I can’t answer this question, let’s ask you colleagues.

Adam: – If you mentioned the crew. How do you like your crew in this year?

Captain: – 🙂 (laughing out loud). We do have a really excellent crew in this year, I have to say. Everyone, works in the galley, in the restaurant, in the housekeeping, with the nautical or at the reception 🙂 I can’t complain so far. But you have to work for it, to say something like this. You know, candy or banana.

Adam: – Yes, I know the sentence. Dear Captain, thank you for you patience, for your time and answers to my questions. It really means a lot to me. I hope I did not bore or annoy you during the interview.

Captain: – Come on, I was happy to tell stories to you, thank you. If you had any questions, just let me know, feel free to ask, I’ll answer if I could.

Captain Smurf! Thank you again!
Captain Smurf! Thank you again!

So that was my interview with the Captain! My first interview, I do hope you will like it as much as I did. Thank you 🙂


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