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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackeral Beach


Newsletter for Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia  Volume 7, Issue 82; May 2005     


Horst Kanngieser was a remarkable man. A Hemmingway sort of figure; a boatie; an intellectual. Very much his own person. But as Scotland Island ferry driver, he served the community well, making some 600,000 safe passenger trips in his 19 years of circling the Island and Bays. At his Funeral on 19 April 2005, there was standing room only - and sad goodbyes to the strains of "I am sailing" - for he never did get to do his big dream trip in "Empede".

The Kanngieser family goes back to 1604 in Lispenhausen, Germany, and Horst was born in 1941. He was the eldest of three brothers: one, would become a professor of mathematics in Hamburg, the other, senior forester near Gottingen. Horst graduated in electrical engineering in Ulm and started working for Siemens, but at 24 the wanderlust got to him. He headed for South Africa, did a stint with Olivetti in Johannesburg, and travelled to the Kalahari Desert - where his fascination with scorpions, spiders, and snakes began. He hitched an old freighter from Capetown to Rio, returning to Germany in 1967. That year he met Tilly in Munich; his soul mate. They emigrated to Australia, and again he worked for Siemens. But restless as ever, Horst and Tilly bought a Kombie and set off to explore the great brown land.

By 1971 they were on board the 24ft Van der Stadt “Alcioni” learning to sail along the east coast. But arriving in Gladstone, they learned about the cyclone season, so stayed put to earn some money. Horst worked at the smelter and Tilly at the hospital. Then they were off on a 5 year round the world voyage in a 35ft Boden design steel boat “Myuna”: - Indian Ocean - South Africa - Atlantic - Europe - West Indies - Pacific - and home. In his Eulogy, Horst's lifelong friend Peter Vincent recalled first meeting them in the Caribbean in 1976. "Curious about the Ozzie flag, I tapped on the hull and up popped a jovial face with beaming blue-green eyes. 'Yes' came the gruff guttural voice 'we are Australians'. In those days, Horst protected their floating territory with a bristling moustache and machete worn in the belt!"

When Anja was born in 1980, they were back in Gladstone working and living on the yacht "Jandu". Paul was born in 1983. Soon after, they set sail for New Caledonia, but in Horst's words, it was getting to be "three against one!" So by 1986, he and Tilly had settled down in a shed on Scotland Island and were building a house. The next year, Horst started driving with Church Point Ferries, and worked "the puddle" until shortly before he died. Tilly began her job in aged care. - Horst was the kind of father who gave his daughter Nietzsche to read at 15 and an Anarchist Cookbook on leaving home. He delighted in her feminism. Anja now has a Melbourne University scholarship for doctoral study of the political and artistic culture of 20th C Berlin. Paul has graduated in Applied Science at the Australian Maritime College.

For someone that loved to go walkabout, or trek off on his BMW; the local snake-charmer, a man who found great strength in his own company; the daily grind on the ferry was a hard ask. And being from Germany was not always easy in a community that's solidly middle-class-Anglo. Some folk reacted to Horst's blunt style and heavy accent. But Horst's friends knew him as compassionate, funny, sharp witted, a roguish pioneer, loyal, honest, and reliable. As Peter put it: "Horst was straight as a die; a man who never compromised or high jacked his soul."