Girl power with a sea view

Germany’s youngest captain is holding her own as the new boss of the Priwall ferries

She is young, slight and blond and she knows what she wants. As the youngest captain in the German shipping industry, Dorothee Gaedeke dropped anchor in Travemünde in 2018, swapping “her” coaster ILKA for the Priwall ferries in the seaside resort. The 30 year-old is now the first female head of ferry operations run by Lübeck urban transport, and she is mastering her job with conviction and professionalism.


Born in Lübeck, Dorothee Gaedecke inherited her love of the sea from a young age. Even as a child, she was allowed to accompany her father on sailing trips across the Baltic where the rocking of the waves gently lulled her to sleep. No wonder, therefore, that she very soon knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a captain! So after school, she single-mindedly completed her degree in Marine Engineering in Bremen. It was quite clear to her that she was entering a male-dominated domain. “Sometimes I was the only woman in the courses and the same again later on board ship”, she says. As a woman, do you have to be better than a man? “Yes, that is expected of you, in fact, you always have to prove yourself. It wasn’t always easy”, she recalls looking back. “As the only woman in the crew, I frequently had to defend the honour of women in a man’s profession, but the clear hierarchy on board helped to define your position. Everybody did their job and there was no room for prejudice or macho talk.” After only 24 months as a 1st Officer, she achieved her goal, and was awarded her captain’s licence as one of the few women in Germany to hold this qualification. Respect!


Dorothee Gaedeke sailed all over the North Sea and the Baltic in the MS ILKA before deciding to return to land and swap her place on the bridge for the job in the small ferry building in Travemünde. The reason was love which was yearning for her on land. But she didn't want to do without the familiar roll of the waves completely. So together with her fiancé, she fulfilled a dream and bought a sailing boat. “That was the deal”, she says laughing. “I can’t give up the sea altogether.” And the two of them spend all their free time on the water, as he too shares her passion for the waves and the sea. That is happiness!


For Dorothee Gaedeke, the job as manager of ferry operations represents a major challenge as she is responsible for 34 employees — from the ship’s captain to the check-out staff — three large car ferries and the two Norder ferries for foot passengers and cyclists. And of course it also includes the smooth operation of ferry traffic to Priwall and back. No easy task as after all, the ferries carry more than three million passengers and around one million vehicles per year. She recounts that she also enjoys taking the helm on one of the ferries from time to time, and her eyes light up, but that is a rare occurrence for reasons of time, she says. Her new honorary office also promotes girl power in a male domain. She has been elected as the first female chairperson of Lübeck’s Association of Ships Officers and Captains. “A great honour”, she says proudly and smiles with great self-assurance. “As a woman, I can really make waves.” Hats off to her!

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My favourite place in Travemünde is the steep coast of Brodten. I like to take walks here at weekends and I can really relax while doing so — preferably with my fiancé and our dog Momo. Always with a view of the sea, of course. Naturally.

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