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Historical Kurenkahn on the Curonian Lagoon The
Gil.No.60 barge shown here is a Keitelkahn - u. a. to recognize that the jib and the brummer are seated together. This boat is the real prototype of the model, on which some details have been explained below.

Under the term Kurenkahn (lit.Kurėnas) several types of boats are summarized, which until the end of the Second World War were mainly used in the name of the Curonian Lagoon in the former East Prussia as fishing boats but also as transport boats (sometimes the term is also used for corresponding boat types of the Transferring fresh lagoon ). This collective term occurs mainly in recent times - in historical writings or on site they were simply referred to as fishing boats or were named under their respective names ( Kurren- , Keitel- and Braddenkahn ).

Term Kurenkahn

The name "Kurenkahn" is primarily a local reference to the place of their use and comes from the tribe of the (new) Kurish , who later spoke the Nehrungskurisch , which is close to Latvian, and the fishing of the region since the 16th century dominated and which, among other things, gave their name to the spit and the lagoon. The name does not mean that this type of boat goes back to the cures.

The name seems to be more of a word creation that developed later and outside of this area to designate these boats. The terms Kuren- and Kurrenkahn are by no means synonymous!

design type

The Kurenkahn is a wooden boat about twelve meters long , typical of its shape are the raised bow and a sideline that swings backwards. A special feature, however, is the flat bottom of the boat, which, with a draft of approx. 40 cm, made it possible to navigate shallow areas in the lagoon, as well as easy mooring on the bank and partial pulling ashore (which is not possible with a keelboat is possible).

Since the design did not necessarily mean that there were harbor or quay facilities , the boat type was also well suited to transporting cattle, wood, hay and other loads from usable areas near the shore.

The boats were basically sailed. The fishing with engine power was basically prohibited on the Curonian Lagoon to protect the population. Since fishing with sailing boats was a necessity, it also explains why this type of boat was so widespread (and was continuously developed) until the Second World War.


Kahnboden and Steven

The first step in building the boat was to lay the ground. Pine and sometimes oak planks were preferred for the floor . These were either still green or watered about 14 days beforehand.

The floor was laid completely flat and joined together and only then bent up : Here, above all, the area in front of the main mast was slightly raised, which later improved the driving characteristics.

The stems were made from appropriately crooked oak and placed on the floor: To do this, they were mounted in their final position on the floor, but first had to be additionally supported.

Board and readboard

view, wreaths stacked one on top of the other. Liesbord (upper plank) clinkered.
(see also lower sectional drawing)

In contrast to many other wooden boat types, there was no planking of a previously erected frame skeleton , but the individual planks or wreaths were joined to form a stable outer shell.

The lower plank, the kiming plank, was wrapped around the previously erected floor, and the other curb planks were placed in such a way that the curb was smooth on the outside ( crawler construction ). Only the upper rim , the readboard , was clinkered against the upper board. The number of planks could be different and depended on the type of boat or the board height, but above all on the width of the planks used (although from the point of view of the boat builder, a lower number was preferred - if only because of the lower workload).

The wreaths were made of oak and were put together from two planks (front / back). In order to get by with as little waste as possible, it was also beneficial if the trunks were more conical and slightly curved at the base - the boards thus came close to the shape required for the boat. For a seamless fit they had to be prepared very precisely. In order to achieve the necessary curvature, they were bent over a fire.

After the “shell” of the boat was finished, the floor was trimmed : it was slightly raised lengthways in the middle. The exact reason for this can no longer be determined with certainty - the most likely is that the water that has been taken over has been able to run off to the sides better.

Barge knee and mast bench

Mast bench and mast bench knee Sectional
drawing, rear view. Representation with water-filled skauer. You can see the rolled base and the flushing holes .

Four frames were added later for transverse bracing, but here they were basically called the knee . They consisted of naturally grown oak knee wood . The mast bench knee also served as a support for the mast.

The knees were sometimes used as anchor points for the interior work. Since they later largely disappeared under the floorboards, the interior of the boat was not actually divided; only the storage rooms under these boards were divided into different areas by them.

The only transverse reinforcement that reached into the interior was the mast bench , which ran as a kind of beam from board edge to board edge. It served as an upper store for the main mast.

Interior work

The interior of the barges was kept simple and functional. There were no superstructures ; Viewed from the side, the boat ended with the rather low gunwale . The built-in rooms were not watertight, but rather provided with flushing holes to allow any water that had entered to flow off freely.


All three boat types were each equipped with two simple cabins . Due to their design, these were rather flat. The closing walls were called crates and had doors; Window or similar did not exist. The larger cabin was forward and was used as living space; There were always two simple beds available and since about 1910 a small cooking area has increasingly been built in there.

The previously common fire hearth, a sandpit in front of the rear shed, was retained and continued to be used in good weather.

Footboards and fish room

Fish room and anteroom with Skauer .
Floor boards taken out.

The space between the crates was covered with removable boards. The floor was higher here than in the cabins. In the front area there was the fore and fish room, into which the catch was sorted. In order to have a sufficiently deep and secure footing, especially when handling the nets, the floor in front of the aft cabin was lower; Depending on the type, it either rose diagonally towards the fish room (Kurrenkahn) or lay almost horizontally, but then had a step towards this (Keitelkahn).


Since valuable edible fish could fetch higher market prices as live catches, some barges had built a fish box behind the main mast that reached to the top and was in contact with the outside water through holes in the bottom of the barge, the skauer . Opinions on the benefits of this facility were divided - also depending on the fishing area and fishing method - and it was only after 1931 that this increasingly prevailed due to a changed marketing situation. Emotionally, the sailing properties were somewhat worsened by the Skauer; in each case the draft was slightly increased by the loss of displacement.


Steering a Kurenkahn .
Helmhold set in notch. Since the Helmhold was only loosely attached to the steering shaft, it was often secured against loss with a chain.

The control (also rowing) was removable. There were two main reasons for this: On the one hand, it had to be able to be removed when landing in order to avoid damage. On the other hand, the rudder was sometimes hung up when fishing - especially when fishing in the very shallow waters of the Nordhaff, partly out of principle or habit (since it was mainly before the wind , it was not necessary).

The shape of the rudder was characteristic: the rudder tail (also known as Zogel or Zagel) was attached to the shaft below , and even when the boat was loaded it reached a little over the waterline. The front edge of the shaft followed the shape of the stern and was hooked into a corresponding eyelet with a pin. At the top, the rudder was only held by a timing chain (because the curved shape meant that no further pin with a common axis of rotation could have been installed).

The Helmhold ( tiller ) had a typical shape. It was loosely placed over the steering head and bent. The shape was due to the fact that it could be fixed in the notch - a regularly notched bar on the quarterdeck . This notch was typical and indispensable for the barges of the Haff, on the one hand to have your hands free during long journeys and on the other hand to be able to move the Helmhold from one notch to the next with physical effort when the necessary steering forces are large.

Lateral sword

Due to the lack of a keel , the barges had to be equipped with a leeward sword , which is lowered on the leeward side in order to reduce drift due to cross winds. It is rather unusual that there was generally only one sword, which was brought to the required side. (Only barges used for transporting hay were equipped with two swords, as the cargo sometimes made it impossible to bring them.) Since the sword was removable for this reason, it could be used as a shore walk when docking on banks .

Kahn types

The different names of the barges indicate the respective type of fishing, because various structural optimizations have also been made depending on the type of net . However, these were not serious, so that the type of catch depends on the type of boat. B. could change with the season. Roughly speaking, the types can be assigned to different size classes, although a general classification according to this characteristic is not possible, since all types have become larger in their development history.

The usual measure for specifying the size of the boat was the length of the floor. This was also the dimension that was determined before construction (and also the only one that could be precisely determined before construction). The overall length is slightly larger depending on the design (especially the shape of the stems).

Bradden yarn in action
Both the Bradden and Kurrnets were basically pulled by two boats together.

Bradden and kurrnet fishing were generally operated by two boats together, while the whip fishing was carried out by a single boat.

  • Bradden barges are the smallest type of boat.
about 30-32 feet / just under 10 m
The Bradden net was a single-walled train net with a sack and two wings up to 180 m long. It was mainly used for fishing in onshore winds in order to be able to haul it in in shallow water so that the fish could not move sideways but instead would collect in the sack.
  • Barges - medium-sized type.
approx. 33 feet / 10.5 m
The Kurrennetz, however, was a three-walled Gaddernetz with a length of 240 to 300 m. Basically, it was brought out by two boats, facing away from each other in front of the wind, stretching the net between them - there was practically a left and a right ship , which was also taken into account during construction. (This type was the only one that was really suitable for fishing with "all the great specimens".)
  • Keitelkähne - the largest, relatively wide type of boat.
from approx. 35 feet / 11 m
They fished with the keitel , a funnel-shaped trawl. Since the Keitel was pulled by one boat alone, larger boats with more powerful sailing power were required. When fishing, the boat drifted across the wind. (Due to the width they were unsuitable for over the stern to use other types of network.)
Although the Keitel was a type of net that had been in use for a long time, the Keitelkahn type, in contrast to the other two types of punt, emerged relatively late. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that larger and larger vessels were used, which in turn required stronger and therefore larger boats, that this type gradually emerged. The size increased steadily over time, until in the 1930s with 38 to 39 feet (12 m) a value was reached which, in the opinion of the fishermen, represented the maximum of what, also due to the increasing width, still of two men could be served.
Summer guest at the wheel of a Keitel barge
The notch and the characteristic shape of the Helmhold can be seen once again here .

Spa barges and tourism

Today on the Curonian Lagoon in the Lithuanian part there are a few Kurenkähne as excursion boats for tourists - these do not exactly correspond to the historical models, especially in the interior of the boat.

However, the fishing boats have always been used as transport boats, also for trips or errands . They were also used to go to the market or church and even go on excursions.

With the advent of tourism, especially on the Curonian Spit, the actual fishing boats were then also used for tourist purposes. Not as (pure) excursion boats, but also in order to be able to offer the holiday guests freshly caught, self-caught fish in the sense of an increasingly occasional use. In the adjacent picture you can see that holiday guests were also taken on the fishing trip and not (at least not only) pure excursions were offered.


Kurenkahn with sprits sails .

The boat builder equipped the barges with the necessary masts, but the actual rigging was basically done by the fisherman himself. This turned out to be quite different depending on the region. The older type of sails was the spritsail . This was gradually replaced by the gaff rigging , but was able to hold up to the end, especially in the northern part of the lagoon.

The sails were generally made by the fisherman's family. To re-manufacture a sail, an example was used that had proven itself in terms of size and cut. All sails were sewn together from simple, straight lengths of canvas, so they weren't specially cut to be bulbous . As a sailcloth, canvas was slowly being replaced by the better quality cotton from around 1900 . Canvas on canvas was inferior, narrow (650-670 mm) than cotton strips (720 mm), and the cloth had while sailing with a caster be wet - but it was also cheaper, so it cost reasons in part until the 1930s Could last for years. Cotton sails were initially borrowed red . Later it was abandoned and the sails were preserved with a solution of copper violet mixed with lime paint and oil , which resulted in a light green hue.

The durability of the sails was two to three years, whereby this information relates to use in strong winds. Older sails could, for example, continue to be used for longer in summer (with little wind).

Very often nets can be seen in pictures to dry on the mast (which could possibly be confused with sails). In addition to purely practical considerations, there was another reason for this: It was officially required for vehicles that did not fish to report this.


The main mast measured an average of 2½ to 3 feet (almost a meter) less than the length of the boat. He was about ⅓ the length of the floor.

Both gaff sails and spritsails were used without a boom , although the spritsail naturally has none. With the gaff sail, however, one can speak of a simpler design. The gaff was not straight, but had a special curvature (first rising, then ending straight) - appropriately grown trunks were correspondingly popular.

Some of the main sails had reefing devices - but these were rarely used. On the one hand, the large boats were relatively stable and safe in the water with regard to the sail area, on the other hand, it was no longer possible to fish in winds that would have required reefing.

Small sail

Characteristic of these barges is the small mast, which is located in a rather unusual place, namely relatively close to the main mast (about half the length between the main mast and the front edge of the ground) - it is also quite small and therefore carries a rather small sail. This arrangement seems all the more surprising as the jib stands in the way, which means that a rather narrow cut was necessary for this.

The small sail is likely to have been a flexible maneuvering sail, rather than contributing significantly to increasing the sail area. For example, it was held back when the boat was too sluggish when fishing for a wingtip to get through the wind when changing windward .

It is also possible with a two-master to shift the position of the common sail pressure point with respect to the lateral pressure point by pulling and lowering the respective sails and thus also to control it in a certain way, but at least to influence windward and leewardness . This seems less likely here, however, because on the one hand the tax could be set in the notch and therefore the lowest possible tax forces were not a priority. On the other hand, the trimming options are likely to have been rather limited anyway and in this sense not have been in the foreground. It also served to balance the sailing forces while fishing; in order to "stabilize the drifting of the barge with the ejected Keitel net and to keep the axis of the trawl net at right angles to the ship's side".

The small sail (also fore or front sail) was basically a spritsail even in gaff rigged boats.


Due to the small mast, this sail had to be cut in such a way that the small mast did not get in the way of the jib during sailing maneuvers - i.e. when the sails had to be moved from one side to the other . For this reason, the jib was cut rather narrow - in earlier times (before 1900) sometimes even cut out on the leech accordingly.

Bromm and Hitzer

Gaff-rigged Keitelkahn
The foremost sail is a brommer with a relatively long spar.

Special forms of the sails are Bromm and Hitzer. In terms of design, these are small square or lug sails and, due to the special rigging, can probably have been used effectively mainly when drifting across the wind and thus above all when fishing for knuckles, especially because of the increasing size Boats and nets also require additional propulsion power.

The Brommsegel (also Brummer or Brummsegel ) is ultimately a special jib that is enlarged by a spar or yard in the sail area and is placed on the main mast instead. It was introduced around 1890/95 and its initially short spar has been enlarged over time (and thus its appearance more characteristic ). The boom was not only used for drifting, but also as a large jib when sailing and sometimes even set together with the jib (see picture at the beginning of the article).

The Hitzer (also cattle jib , dog or flecksegel ) resembles the cut of the Brummer. However, it was placed at the end of the gaff (the gaff nock ). In the case of spray-rigged boats, the heat hardly seems to have occurred.

Spa pennant

Spa pennant from Nidden (2004)

The spa pennants have been typical of the spa barges since the second half of the 19th century . They were only used incidentally to determine the wind direction, but as a sign of the place of origin and the fisherman. As the latter, they were increasingly colored and decorated with carvings (eagle, anchor, elk, heart, wheel cross, ship) and “tell” whole stories about the owner's family in pictures.

The year 1844 is considered to be the birth of the cure pennant. The control of the numerous fishing boats on the lagoon and compliance with the fishing rights assigned to the fishing villages turned out to be hardly possible. The fisheries administration then issued a regulation according to which all boats (not just the fishing boats) had to carry a widely visible identification mark. The pennant on the mast had to be at least two feet long and one foot wide. Every place on the lagoon was given a certain flag and every region a certain color. In addition, one could recognize the purpose of the boat by the color of the pennant tail.

See also


  • Werner Jaeger: The fishing boats on the Curonian Lagoon ISBN 3-895-34160-6 .
  • Hans Woede: The pennants of the Kurenkähne. History - meaning - customs. Wuerzburg 1966.
  • Martin Kakies: The Curonian Spit in 144 pictures. Rautenberg 2002, ISBN 3-8003-3009-1 .

Web links

Commons : Kurenkahn  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Ultimately, of course, the size of the sail area is decisive for the sail power , so that the actual drive was ultimately the demand for larger sails. On the other hand, there are of course design barriers but also criteria of usability and safety that speak against a mere increase in the sail area - against over-rigging. A larger sail area always makes a boat more prone to heeling . A sufficient safety reserve could be obtained by increasing the dimensions of the boat at the same time (especially the width here).
  2. At least the Keitel in the foreground allows such an interpretation.
  3. To what extent this assumption actually applies, can probably no longer be determined with certainty today - the location and size of the small sail, however, make this intended use appear most likely.
  4. So far, no written evidence has been found for this statement, but Hitzer almost exclusively contains photos and drawings of gaff barges. In addition, in the northern part of the lagoon - where sprayer barges were more common - whitefish fishing was forbidden anyway and therefore the heater was probably unnecessary. Picture 9 of this gallery seems to show, however, that it also sometimes appeared in spritsailers.

Individual evidence

  1. a b This claim cannot be substantiated directly. Jaeger writes in the glossary: ​​“Allg. naturalized term for boats of the great sail fishing [...] Mostly so called by laymen and writers. “He hardly uses this term and it does not appear in the literature cited there.
  2. Jaeger: The fishing boats on the Curonian Lagoon , p. 104 (right below)
  3. Fishermen from the Memelland , extensive article about fishing on the Curonian Lagoon
  4. a b c d Jaeger, chapter: The construction of the large boats from p. 107 (Boden p. 107 f., Steven p. 109 ff., Mollen p. 129, Bord p. 117 ff., Knie p. 128 ff, Mast bench p. 136 f.)
  5. JAEGER, p. 140.
  6. JEAGER, p. 166.
  7. JEAGER, p. 167 ff.
  8. JEAGER, pp. 172-180.
  9. JAEGER, p. 181.
  10. a b http://www.das-alte-nidden.de/kaehne/kaehne_keitel.html
  11. Fishermen from Memelland , extensive article on fishing in East Prussia and the Curonian Lagoon (here on the various nets)
  12. a b c JAEGER, p. 348
  13. brochure of the "Ethnographic Museum and Court of J. Gižas, Dreverna" - exhibition of boat building at the Curonian Lagoon, (www.dreverna.eu) The statement also can be in the Lithuanian stories of Hermann Sudermann understand - so in the trip to Tilsit , which takes place in a Kurenkahn!
  14. Jaeger, e.g. BS 197 (ru)
  15. Jaeger, pp. 245, 268, 270
  16. Jaeger, e.g. BS 407 (ro)
  17. Testimony of a contemporary witness who took part in such trips as a child on vacation.
  18. This is proven by pictures, e.g. B. in Jaeger, pp. 18, 19, pp. 49, 51, 53.
  19. Jaeger, p. 265 ff