WEST SYSTEM: Helping the Kranich to fly again
When German boatbuilder Dieter Stöhr acquired the 1936 Kranich from the British Kiel Yacht Club, he knew it was going to take a lot of time and money to launch this striking sea cruiser back in the water. Six years and a lot of WEST SYSTEM® epoxy later, she’s getting ready to fly again.
“She had suffered,” admits Dieter. “Her wood was rotting and her screws were rusted.” However, from the day he acquired Kranich from the British Kiel Yacht Club in the 1990s, Dieter was determined that she’d sail again.
Originally constructed in gleaming mahogany with full sails and measuring 17m long, Kranich – German for ‘crane’ – was a real head-turner in her day. “She was built in the Baltic as a sail training vessel for the German armed forces,” says Dieter. “After WWII, she and her sister ships ‘Storch’ and ‘Flamingo’ were taken by the British Forces as reparations.” The Forces then used them to establish the British Kiel Yacht Club, in 1945, for officers and their families interested in racing.
This classic yacht family were sailed avidly by club members for the next 40 years and originally they held up well. “Kranich and her sister ships were very well constructed; not one was lost at sea due to stress of weather,” says Dieter. However, as wooden boats are so costly and time-consuming to maintain, they ultimately took a pounding. “The club couldn’t bear to see these beautiful yachts being damaged any further,” Dieter says. “So they sold them off gradually to civilian owners – one of whom was me.”
Dieter knew that to restore Kranich to her former glory, sponsorship would be essential. So she languished in his shipyard in Kaltenhof for many years until, one fateful day in 2010, Hamburg publisher and marine enthusiast Niko Gelpke came by looking for a new project to fund.
“I’d worked with Niko on his own boat some 18 years ago,” explains Dieter. “He wondered if I’d restore Kranich with his support for a Hamburg-based charity for underprivileged young people.” Niko’s intention was to donate Kranich to the charity, providing a chance for the youngsters to master sailing and learn how to work as a team. Dieter decided to take the plunge.
A gift from the forest
When restoration began in 2010, Dieter was under no illusions: “I knew Kranich needed restoring from the ground up,” he says. “A lot of the original wood was 80 years old. The plank-ends in the bow weren’t in great shape and the deck and deck beams were badly damaged too.”
However, luck came his way the following year when Dieter received a kind donation from the Schleswig-Holstein forestry authority: a 218-year-old, 30m tall, oak tree felled in Hüttener Forest. “I bought five hectares of another forest in 2010 but the oaks there are quite young and small,” he says. “During sales negotiations, I told the forestry authority about Niko’s aims for the charity project. Very kindly, they gave me this much larger oak tree from Hüttener to use on the Kranich restoration.”
“The forestry authority gave me an oak tree to use on the restoration.”
Dieter used the wood for the ship’s keel. He also replaced all of the original steel frames with oak frames. “Oak is known for being particularly resistant to sea water. However, to really protect and strengthen everything, we also needed to use epoxy.”
“WEST SYSTEM epoxy just works!”
When he says ‘everything’, Dieter isn’t exaggerating. “Everything that it could have been used for, it has been used for,” he smiles. “We’ve used epoxy to restore planks, to glue the planks back and to replace frames and bulkheads”, explains Dieter. He’s also replaced all of the underwater planking and the deck. And what did he use to coat everything below the waterline? You guessed it: epoxy.
For Dieter, WEST SYSTEM epoxy has always been his go-to epoxy system. “I’ve been using WEST SYSTEM epoxy since the beginning of my craftsmanship,” says Dieter, who learned his craft on a small shipyard in Bavaria.
Having tried other epoxies, Dieter says he always finds himself coming back to WEST SYSTEM epoxy products. “I just find WEST SYSTEM epoxy to be so much more reliable and much easier to handle than other systems. Whenever you do something with it, it just works! For that reason alone, it’s worth the investment in my opinion.”
“With our help – and a lot of epoxy! – she will be seaworthy again.”
For the Kranich restoration project, Dieter opted to use WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® mixed with WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast Hardener® and WEST SYSTEM 206 Slow Hardener®. These hardeners allow Dieter to tailor the handling and cure time to suit the specific structural bonding or coating application. The result is an incredibly strong and exceptionally moisture-resistant craft, sure to give the charity many years of service.
So when will Kranich be ready to take to the waters? “Hopefully, next summer!” says Dieter. Before then, the charity will be busy finding skippers to captain her journeys, to give young people the chance to develop and grow with new skills. Dieter believes Kranich will be a powerful ally. “With our help – and a lot of epoxy! – she will be seaworthy again.”
To chart the progress of the restoration of Kranich, visit the Stöhr website.
To discover more about the full range of WEST SYSTEM epoxy products and how they can add strength and durability to both restorations and new builds, visit the West System International website.
Image credit: www.shz.de