Paddle Steamer Captain Alois Kaufmann


After a long and distinguished career on Lake Lucerne, Captain Alois Kaufmann made his last voyage in command of the paddle steamer Stadt Luzern on Sunday 18th October before retiring.


The Stadt Luzern (pictured arriving at Weggis) is the largest of the five paddle steamers on the lake and is the flagship of the fleet.


Capt Kaufmann joined the SGV company in 1966 as a seaman and gained his first licence to drive the smaller motor boats in 1969. He gradually progressed up the scale, acquiring the necessary certificates to become master of the largest motor vessels and paddle steamers and, in 1984, at the age of 37, became captain of the paddle steamer Gallia.

Three years later, he was promoted to the flagship Stadt Luzern which he has commanded ever since, a longer period than any other of her captains in her history. Altogether he has spent more than forty years on the lake of which a quarter of a century have been as a paddle steamer captain.

When not afloat he has been at the heart of crew training and has been instrumental in teaching each new generation the mysteries and complexities of how to operate and drive the wide variety of ships in the fleet.


Stadt Luzern arriving at Hertenstein

I think that the Swiss paddle steamer captains are amongst the finest ship handlers I have ever seen. Their  ability to put motor vessels and paddle steamers, two hundred or so feet long, pretty much instantly alongside tiny piers often very close to rocky shores is quite breathtaking. The steamers arrive, they make fast and the gangway is put out all in the twinkling of an eye. Turn your back for a second and you have missed it. And all this is done without rope-handlers ashore, without winches to haul the ships alongside the piers and with only a tiny crew. It all looks so easy. But the swiftness, deftness and speed of berthing belie the subtle and complex art which is going on behind it. And Capt Kaufmann is a master of that art.


On his last trip down the lake from Fluelen, there were crowds of friends and well-wishers at each of the piers waiting to say their goodbyes. A presentation with speeches was made in the first class saloon en route and then it was back to Lucerne where Capt Kaufmann bid farewell personally to all the passengers as they went ashore.



All of us at Kingswear Castle would like to send our very best wishes to Capt Kaufmann for a long, happy and well deserved retirement.

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