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All Hands Hoy with DEVONthink

June 14, 2022 — Eric Böhnisch-Volkmann

More than 50 ships in 46 years. More than a lifetime of stories and encounters, but also changes. With the digitalization of seafaring, DEVONthink found its way into the life of chief engineer Hartmut Kellner. He takes us on a journey through the adventures of his life.

Born in November 1947, Hartmut was raised in Gernrode on the northern edge of the Harz mountain area. A simpler time when burrows were used as caves and trees became the greatest lookouts. Already back then, Hartmut Kellner heard the powerful call of the sea. In the surrounding ponds and lakes, little boys and girls would enjoy a swim or paddle around on wooden rafts.

Old photograph of Hartmut as a child, paddling on the water with a girl in an aluminum boat.
An aluminum aerial delivery unit left behind by the Americans in 1945 became the ship in which young Hartmut daringly set sail with a companion.

And at some point back then, fascinated by the breathtaking stories of his grandfather Carl, Hartmut follows the long-heard call, and the waves of time carry him out to sea. While still at school, Hartmut passes his toolmaker exam and applies for a job at the Deutsche Seereederei (German Shipping Company) in Rostock in 1966.

Once I set my foot into the world of seafaring, the adventure of life began to blossom.

But the way to the management level of ship command is a long one. Years of practice paired with a lot of theoretical training at the maritime school were to be mastered until he finally obtains the whole portfolio of internationally required certificates.

Portrait photograph in black and white showing Hartmut in his uniform.
From 1966 to 2012, Hartmut Kellner sailed around the world on over fifty ships while only working for two employers.

Not only the German reunion in 1990 brings many changes to people’s lives. Working with computers also transforms seafaring in a multi-layered process that Hartmut himself calls the »four-way metamorphosis«: cargo, containers, computers, and communication.

Fax machines make way for satellite communication, and the work of the radio officers is now done by the captain and the engineers themselves. The desire to end this suddenly appearing paper mess on his desk brings the now chief engineer to us and to DEVONthink.

Black and white photograph of a control room in which a desk with computers and paper documents can be seen.
Working with computers does not mean the end of paper. Not on land and not at sea.

All the wonderful memories from seafaring, official communication, private letters, testimonials, and certificates, end up scanned and carefully organized in three databases: General Knowledge, Navy, and Personal.

If data cannot be made searchable using OCR, it is amended with links and annotations. And since our last WinterFest, Hartmut also uses Hookmark to integrate his countless images into Google Photos. This way he is always well-prepared for his lectures at the Nautical Association and for his work as an examiner at the Rostock Training and Education Center.

I used to carry a Leatherman on my belt, next to my torch. Today, DEVONthink is my new Leatherman.

Hartmut’s travels took him to even the most hidden place in the world. He rapturously reports on the view from Corcovado over Rio de Janeiro at night, or a trip from Colombo on Sri Lanka to Mount Candy. Amused, he tells us about a bird at the entrance to the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore who whistled the River Kwai March every time it spotted a European.

January 1st, 2013, the ship pulls into the harbor and Hartmut’s great adventure on the high seas comes to an end. Proudly, Hartmut shows us a painting of the engine room of a container ship, a farewell gift from his shipping company NSB.

Hartmut's watercolor painting showing the engine room of a container ship with a huge engine and two people on the side.

His life is adorned with so many beautiful stories, surely all of them worth telling. We are proud to be a small part of such a long and extraordinary story. Thank you, Hartmut! We hope to experience many more years of new adventures at your side.