The 18th Adventure Club Podcast: Bensersiel, Wrecks & Kümmel

There’s a lot of information to take in as Carruthers, Davies and von Brüning size each other up over coffee and Kümmel in a cafe in Bensersiel on October 19. Since most of their talk centres around wrecks and wrecking, that’s exactly what our talk turns to in this week’s podcast.

First up we reveal our plans to travel down the Kiel Canal on October 2October 4 this year. It’s your chance to receive a free sample chapter and audiobook from us, plus live reports from the canal. This is available to subscribers only. All you have to do to become a subscriber is pledge your support at (01:44)

Tim (notCarruthers) kicks off a chat about the East Frisians’ alleged ‘weakness for plunder’ (5:34); what is ‘flotsam and jetsam’? (06:26); some excellent information gleaned from Bella Bathurst’s book ‘The Wreckers’ (07:54); the relationship between lifeboaters and wreckers (11:34); the link between Kentish hovellers and the East Frisian chieftains called *hovetlinge* (13:15); Prussian attempts to regulate the East Frisian wreckers: von Brüning as the Strandvögte (16:01).

Lloyd (notDavies) investigates von Brüning’s cover story about the wreck of French frigate, the ‘Corinne’. Instead he finds a WW1 submarine (18:12); the true story of Lloyds of London, the wreck of the ‘Lutine’ and its bell( 19:57); another true story about the wreck of the ‘Johanne’ (23:43)

We sample Kümmel (24:56); golfers call it ‘putting mixture’ (26:48); a James Bond connection (28:48); why Carruthers & Davies should be drinking tea, not coffee (31:35).

Boßeln players in East Frisia

Club member Kevin assists us with some information about Bensersiel (34:29); Tim (not Carruthers) tortures Ship’s Dog with a poem about Langeoog (35:29); we try to understand the local street game called Boßeln (37:15); the Cabbage Tour and the proclamation of the Cabbage King (40:33).

Club Business (43:05): Brian advises on what kind of bicycle to take on the adventure; Frankie despairs about wreckers (43:57) Graham’s story of driving across – and nearly into – the sea in East Frisia (44:19); Jeff alerts us to OpenHouse in London and a chance to visit the Foreign Office (47:45); Liz on German sauna etiquette (48:19).

Missions for next week – members assistance required.

‘a pyramid of gauzy canvas aloft, spinnakers, flying jibs, and what not’: let’s explore exactly what sails were being used on ‘Dulcibella’. Give us an education about sails and sail configurations generally, please. (Tim still only knows a bit about ‘what not’)

‘a foghorn’: this is the second reference in the book to a foghorn. What would an Edwardian/Victorian foghorn have looked and sounded like.

Baltrum and the river Ems: we’ve talked about the Elbe quite a lot, but what about the Ems. What kind of river can we expect to find when we finally get out on our adventure?


9 thoughts on “The 18th Adventure Club Podcast: Bensersiel, Wrecks & Kümmel

  1. So your answers to the questions I posed help. My previous suggestion for bike stands. The one issue is the one of price. Keith Bontrager, one of the original mountain bikers and a renowned bike designer, said, “light, strong, cheap; pick two.” It’s a waste to buy a cheap bike, riding it will make you miserable and can cause injuries you’d also need to be comfortable fixing bikes as cheap breaks. Do NOT be tempted by bikes with suspension. If good they are more expensive. If cheap they are crap. In all cases they add weight, increase mechanical complexity and waste energy through pedal bob (pedalling energy converted into vertical bounce rather than forward momentum).

    Flat bars make sense. You’ll see from the Koga bike website that they sell butterfly bars. These would be better as they allow you to vary your hand position, another way to minimise injury risk. For consideration is that whilst there are no hills wind will be an issue. Butterfly bars allow a more aerodynamic position. As an aside with patients who have small vessel disease, whilst working in Edinburgh, we used to ask how far up The Mound they could walk before having to stop. With no hills this is an issue, so a Dutch colleague told me that they ask how far the patient can cycle into the wind. You’ve been warned!

    A point for bike choice is to consider the points of contact, saddle, handlebars and pedals. Handlebars have been covered so now for the saddle. Don’t be misled into thinking that the more cushioned a saddle is the more comfortable. You will need a firm saddle with flex in the main structure. Many have channels or cut outs down the middle to stop pressure on the penile nerve and therefore numbness/impotence. You can get good saddles such as the Selle Italia Q-Bik for around £17.

    Pedals, I’m going to guess you won’t want to be clipped in with cleated shoes. Somewhat confusingly these are called clipless pedals. This was because previously people wore toe clips and it is the absence of these that leads to the -less suffix. Go for a broad platform as this spreads the weight across your foot and you won’t get ‘hotspots’, which can be quite uncomfortable. BMX, or flat mountain bike pedals are the best. You need to ensure that your footwear has a sufficiently stiff shank to spread pedal pressure across your whole foot again to minimise strain. Good off road trainers work well. My favourite are Five Ten shoes, have a look at their “All Mountain Flats” shoes (

    With your comments about mechanical competence I would come back to going for a hub gearing system. It’s marginally heavier but is almost maintenance free, incredibly reliable and cleaner. For what you want you would have easily a wide enough range of gears.

    In the end, though, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at a bike if it doesn’t fit right. There are many good local bike shops, you’ll hopefully quickly work out if they are looking to sell you what you need rahter than maximise their profit. A bad bike setup leads to bad posture on the bike. An arched lower back, straight arms and extended wrists all lead to problems. Get someone who knows what they are talking about to check your bike position. A good bike fit will do this as standard, just make sure you go wearing what you will ride in for this.


  2. Just as a postscript to your coverage of wreckers, plunderers and lifeboats, the sailing friend who introduced us to the North Sea coasts was warned about – and passed the warning on to us when we sailed there – about the activities of some of the locals. Under the guise of lifesaving, and purporting to be official coastguards, these guys haunt the sea-channels in large official-looking RIB’s (inflatable boats) and in the event of a yacht (particularly a foreign-flagged one) running aground (which is quite easy to do), quickly turn up offering to pull you off.

    If you accept their offer, they will pass you a tow-line and pull you free. So far, so good, but the next thing is, the yacht’s skipper will be presented with a “salvage” bill for thousands of euros, since you have used their equipment to get you out of “danger”. Even if the worst danger you have been in is to spend a few hours waiting for the tide to come in so that you can float off. According to the stories I heard, they can be very aggressive about recovering the money, and won’t leave the yacht until paid.

    I have not had direct experience of this, but such stories are part of the yachtie folklore in the area. Perhaps the old traditions are still beingcarried on?


  3. OK, sails. Very difficult to describe the possibilities without diagrams, but here goes. At the time of the story, Duclibella was configured as a yawl, a small yacht with two masts – main mast and mizzen. Her sails would have been basically of three types:-

    1. Foresails – hanked on to, and hoisted up the forestay to the mainmast by the jib halliard. It would be usual, in the days before roller furling became common, to carry several foresails of different sizes allowing one to be chosen to suit the conditions: the stronger the wind, the smaller the sail.

    2. A mainsail would be hoisted behind the mainmast, and attached to the mast itself either by a bolt-rope running in a groove up the mast, or by hanks of rope. The sail would be held out by the boom and attached to it by an out-haul. Reefing points in the sail would enable the sail’s size to be varied to suit the conditions, but there would only be one mainsail. A point not really made clear in the book is whether the mainsail was hoisted with a gaff or not. A gaff rig has a rigid pole (the gaff) holding out the top of the sail. This type of rig was common at the time of the book, but due to the fact that it is more difficult to handle, the Bermudan rig, where the sail goes to the top of the mast without a gaff has become the most common. If a gaff rig is fitted, another sail, the gaff topsail, could be hoisted to fill in the inverted triangle formed by the end of the gaff and the top of the main mast.

    3. The mizzen sail. normally there would only be one of these, quite a small sail, flown on a small mast set aft in the boat. If the wind became too strong, it would be hauled down and stowed on its boom.

    Other sails: apart from the gaff topsail, if she had a gaff, I don’t think it likely that Dulcibella would have had many other sails. A spinnaker was mentioned, which is a big balloon sail, flown from the top of the mainmast in front of the boat and attached by two ropes to points near the stern. The windward side of a spi is usually held out by a small boom attached to the mast. A very complicated thing to set up and manage, only used when going downwind.

    My advice would be to get a book with illustrations which would make it clearer!


  4. Wikipedia has, I find, quite a few nice illustrations showing gaff rigs and other types of sailing rigs. And several books are advertised on Amazon.


  5. Hi, Lloyd. The Dulcibella illustration shows a gaff-rigged yawl, right in keeping with how I imagined her. It is showing her with what must be pretty much her full complement of sails set.

    From the front of the boat, she has two foresails set, an outer jib and an inner, a gaff-rigged mainsail, a gaff topsail and a mizzen sail. I would assume he probably also has a smaller jib and a (storm) jib made of heavy canvas stowed somewhere.

    I don’t see Davis, who is a practical seaman, having any use for racing frivolities such as a spinnaker. The cost and complexity of the sail and its gear, the room it would take up and the infrequent occasions on which he could set it would rule it out, I’m sure.

    He would run the gear as shown in light winds. In anything more of a blow, he would first take down the topsail, then the inner jib, then the mizzen. As the wind increased, he would reef down the mainsail and set a smaller jib, if he had one. In a real blow, he would use his storm jib with the main reefed right down or stowed completely. With this rig, and the small size of the individual sails, he has a lot of options to enable him to stay at sea in rough conditions. But handling all the gear is much easier if he has a crew, the reason he asked Carruthers along!


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