How a self-made boat sets off on its maiden voyage

DIY-project „Bagalute“

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Claudius Schulze built a boat, without having the foggiest idea about structural engineering, displacement physics or engine maintenance. The knowledge comes from internet tutorials, the power from his friends. After many months in his open-air shipyard in Wilhelmsburg, the goods ship "Bagalute" has now been launched. An interview after the maiden voyage.


Kim-Lara Oswald

Kim-Lara Oswald has been living in Hamburg for two years and refuses to buy an umbrella.

More from Kim-Lara

Photos: Kevin McElvaney

You've launched your self-built boat – how did it go?

Everything worked out brilliantly, went faster than expected. In it dropped, done and dusted. I was incredibly relieved. Of course, it was another real load of stress to get everything finished in time, because the crane had been ordered. Then we sailed once across the dock as a test, moored the boat and opened a bottle of fizz. So no major tours so far.

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You've been working towards this day for some months now, how did you feel in the few minutes when it was hanging from the crane?

I was pretty scared it would go wrong – but didn't have a clue what could go wrong or how. Of course, the risks were that the boat wouldn't float the way it should, that it would be lopsided or would take on water. Or that it would go to pieces when it was lifted in.

The Bagalute is afloat, now the interior fitting starts – how would you sum things up so far?

I was taking on quite a lot, building a boat is a huge undertaking. Structural engineering, displacement physics, engine maintenance – things I hadn't the foggiest idea about. I couldn't have done it on my own: I posted an invitation on Facebook to find people to tinker with it and put it together, then there was the inner circle, around ten friends who came out here to the shipyard very frequently. I have a friend who's a structural engineer, he did all the calcs for me to make sure the thing would hold and not fall apart. Another one is a physicist. When all's said and done, the Bagalute was planned and built according to common sense – and not by rules. Each person contributed their own individual important part.

Meet Maker Claudius Schulze

Building a boat

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A lot of your helpers came to your open-air shipyard in Wilhelmsburg after work or at the weekend. What bait did you use to tempt them?

I didn't really need any. It was just amazing fun. The shipyard by the Hafenmuseum in Wilhelmsburg is really beautiful and a good way of unwinding from a dull office job. Building something together and creating something – that really gets you going. We were a nice, happy band and now we'll soon be sailing on Hamburg's waters together.

What became of your idea of building a boat for 500 euros, mainly from scrap?

A mad, Christmas-fed inspiration. Because the more the idea developed, the bigger the plans became, the costs as well, of course. In some instances the budget also got a bit out of hand. For example, I totally forgot to include screws in the initial costing. I spent more than a thousand euros on them by the end. You think screws are such little things. But you need quite a few of them for a boat.

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There's more about Claudius and his "Bagalute" in the first issue of the new Hamburg city magazine "gentle rain":

You revealed to the city magazine gentle rain that the Bagalute was also going to be a cultural stage for story-telling events and dancing – what else are you planning?

I'm not sure of the exact details of what I'll do with the boat in future. Initially, the Bagalute is intended for Hamburg and the port of Hamburg. But to head off for the Dove Elbe on the occasional weekend would be great. The whole project was always one step at a time anyway. It was a big step to get the boat to water. And that worked out fine.

Thank you for the interview and ahoi!