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By the year 1890, Finkenwerder, a small island in the Elbe River (near Hamburg, Germany) possessed the largest fishing fleet in the German Empire. Tough competition between the new fishing steamers forced the Finkenwerder fleet to fish even in winter on the high seas which led to bitter loss of life. During the years 1885 to 1970 the fleet lost a total of 97 ewers and cutters, almost always with all hands.
From the typical design of the "ewer", a fishing ship with flat bottom, steep sides and sharply angled bilge a type of "cutter-ewer" evolved which led to the typical Finkenwerder fish-cutter. Of this type of ship only the "ASTARTE", “LANDRATH KÜSTER” and the PRÄSIDENT FREIHERR VON MALTZAHN have survived.
The PRÄSIDENT FREIHERR VON MALTZAHN was built in 1928 by Sietas in Cranz (also located on the Elbe River near Hamburg) for the fishers Fock & Holst. It was christened after the President of the Fishery Fleet of the Fishery Association of Rügen, who while on duty, was killed in an aeroplane crash.
The fishers Fock & Holst were in-laws and ran the ship as a family business albeit unsuccessfully. In 1933 it was forcibly auctioned. The MALTZAHN was then bought by the Cuxhavener sea fisher Jonny Lohse who was its owner for 28 years.
During this time the MALTZAHN underwent a few changes. After its purchase in 1933 Captain Lohse installed a new engine and in 1936 the open hold was closed off and an ice-room was installed.
During the Second World War the MALTZAHN, in this time carrying the fishery fleet number NC 274, and its entire crew were drafted into the service of the German Navy. The ship saw service in the Baltic Sea as an anti-mine ship. At the time of the capitulation of the German armed forces the MALTZAHN was moored in Cuxhaven and thus escaped the fate of war-spoils.
After the war it was time to go fishing again and by the end of the 1950s the MALTZAHN was fishing for tuna in the North Sea. Sadly, in 1961 Jonny Lohse passed away his brother fished for a few years more but eventually the ship was sold to the Wischhafener Yachtclub, who after a short period, passed the ship on to some Spree River -sailors. The Spree-sailors sawed off the pitch-pine masts and removed the false keel. In Berlin the ship was completely gutted and lost its beautiful mahogany cabins!! then their money ran out! Three years later the ship lay once again in Wischhafen. One day, at ebb-tide, she rolled over and was swamped.
In May 1981 the shipyard of Pieter Bieritz in Friedrikskoog, Germany obtained the MALTZAHN. He wanted to restore the ship at his own expense. This never came to fruition and the hull degenerated further.
The Museum-Harbour Oevelgönne Association had long decided to acquire a wooden ship and in 1983 at a cost of DM 5000 it purchased the PRÄSIDENT FREIHERR VON MALTZAHN and towed her under its own direction to the Behrens Shipyard in Finkenwerder. From 1984 - 1989 the ship was restored and maintained under the supervision of the Shipyard Senior Joachim Behrens and has been restored by ABM workers and members of the Promotional Association as well as the Museum-Harbour.
All planks above the waterline as well as the deck have been restored. The deck beams as well as the entire deck have been renewed. A donated engine was installed and the deck fittings rebuilt. Masts and spars were crafted from Douglas Pine by Hannes Benning in Altenwerder. The PRÄSIDENT FREIHERR VON MALTZAHN was re-launched on April 15, 1989 in time for the 800th birthday of the Port of Hamburg.
Today the PRÄSIDENT FREIHEER VON MALTZAHN belongs to, and is maintained by, the Museumharbour Oevelgönne in Hamburg, Germany.
The MALTZAHN was from the very start a motor-sailor i.e. she was underrigged and flew too little canvas. This has been changed because there is no doubt as to her fine sailing qualities. As a model, the sail and rigging of the deep-sea cutter LOUIS UND EMMA was copied giving the MALTZAHN 308 sq meters of sail area (3315.28 sq. ft.) on one and a half masts. The term "cutter" is in this respect based on her hull shape and not on the rigging. The MALTZAHN went to Brest (France) in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2012.