Henk van Hemmen the Elder’s Hedel (TBT)

My Grandfather, Henk van Hemmen’s favorite ship was the HEDEL.

She was built as AGIRA to LR class for the Norddeutscher Lloyd at AG Weser in 1930.

During World War II she was named the SPREE and in 1944 she struck a mine. She was heavily damaged, but accepted as a reparation from Germany by the Netherlands, towed to Rotterdam, and restored to service there as the HEDEL.

The vessel was owned by Anthony Veder & Co. and my grandfather became her Chief Engineer.

He liked the Chief Engineer’s accommodations aboard the vessel and overall felt she was a ship where all the pieces worked just right.

Her motor is listed as triple expansion. My father once explained to me that she also had a waste steam turbine, but my father conflated her with one of my grandfather’s earlier vessels, the JONGE WILLEM, that had such an arrangement.

Her top speed was 9.5 knots, barely more than Aberration, and she was fitted with a Maierform bow.

The Maierform bow was claimed to be a significantly improved bow shape and was first introduced in 1928 on some fishing vessels. HEDEL must be one of the first larger ships with this bow shape. It is claimed that 6,000 vessels with this bow shape were built. I am not sure if the claim is true. Bow shapes are extremely subject to fashion. Since seakeeping is so difficult to define, it is possible to make claims that can only be subjectively evaluated, and often the best sales pitch wins, for a while.

My uncle Ed pointed me to a great Dutch ship historic database and I found a bunch of pictures of the HEDEL. (If you want to search Dutch ships, click on the “Zoeken” button and select “Schip” and “Database”)

I love this picture, it feels so dynamic.

In the caption it says that it was taken in the IJselhaven in Rotterdam on February 8, 1947 at her return from her first trip to Canada for Anthony Veder & Co. My Grandfather was aboard her as first assistant engineer for that trip. Later that year he became chief engineer and made a number of trips to Canada and the Great Lakes on her. Anthony Veder operated its vessels under Oranje Lijn and they were the main Dutch shipping company for the Great Lakes. My Grandfather sailed the rest of his career with them and became well known as the top cold weather engineer for the company. He often ran the last ship to leave the Upper Great Lakes for the season.  In 1964 he retired from Oranje Lijn. I remember picking my grandfather up at his last ship (the PRINS WILLEM II) with my Father. I don’t think I knew it was his last ship, but I remember my Grandfather being more quiet than usual when he and my Dad carried his gear out of his cabin. I remember him looking at his cabin one more time, turning around, and saying: “Wel, dat is dat” (Well, that is it then).

He loved his sailing days, but once he retired I don’t think he missed them. He had sailed for 40 years and when he retired ashore, my Grandmother said: “I don’t think I can have you underfoot all day. I need some time to get used to that. Go find a normal job”. So he worked as a shipyard superintendent for a number of years before fully retiring.

This is him in the middle of the picture in the late fifties or early sixties on another Anthony Veder ship.

Correction: As soon as I published this blog, my Uncle Ed sent me the appropriate page of my grandfather’s discharge book (monsterboekje) and it showed he was aboard on that trip, but served as first assistant engineer (2nd machinist) . He started sailing as Chief Engineer (Hoofdmachinist, Hoofdwerktuigkundige, or Meester) on the HEDEL in September 1947. In 1949 he switched to the PRINS WILLEM V.