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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Potjer, Andries.

Captain Andries Potjer.

Captain Andries Potjer was one of the early captains of the company and thus joined the company later in his career.  Also he did not stay until his retirement and that makes it difficult to trace his full career. On top of that his brother and nephew also sailed for with Holland America, one as a captain, and the media mixed Aldert and Andries up on a regular basis. Then the Potjer family was a very large family with a lot of sea going members and thus keeping them apart was a major challenge. Hence it could be very well possible that we will discover more information in the coming years.

Andries Potjer was born on 13 October 1856 in Sappemeer in the province of Groningen in the Netherlands. Similar to other captains from the early days he was from the area around Veendam where large sailing fleets were owned. Quite a few of these sea going sailors, mates and captains made the step to Steam and more regular employment (all year around) instead of seasonal when the time came. Baltic ships were normally laid up in the winter when the Baltic froze over.

So he started out in sail and it is unknown yet where. But in May 1882 he joined Holland America and near the end of the year, in December, he obtained his Chief’s Mate certificate. Which in the Netherlands doubles up as a Masters ticket.

His father was Berend Potjer and his mother’s name was Anna Maria Benes. Then the next entry in the Council Registers is on 13 May 1886 when he married in Rotterdam, 4 years after joining Holland America, Elizabeth Maria Moritz (Born 14 Oct. 1858 at Rotterdam and daughter of Adrianus Moritz and Johanna Punselie.)  Father Potjer was also a sea captain based in Sappemeer and sailed to the Mediterranean being in command of the “Kofschip” Emma Obina. (Note: a Kofschip was a typical Dutch design of a coastal ship with a large cargo capacity but not meant for voyages far off the coast. (ED: I have not been able to find a good English translation for the name of this type of vessel)

There were four children:

  • Barend Adriaan (Born 12 October 1886 born in Nieuwpoort) who married Jane Reinders

As far as we can find out, this Potjer also went to sea and sailed on the ss Ootmarsum as a cadet in 1901 which belonged to the same company as his father sailed for. He ended up as the Sr. Captain of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland of Amsterdam  on board the ms Oranje in 1939.

  • Anna Maria Elizabeth (Born 01 November 1887 born in Nieuwpoort) . She married Adrianus Johannes Leonard Moritz (1883-1968) on 19 March 1910. With both last names the same ( mother’ last name and and now the husband, there can be confusion. The wife of Andries Potjer nee Mortiz had a brother named Adrianus who was much younger and he marries the daughter. It seems he was a travelling musician and stayed with the captain’s family when not on tour, and thus met her) Adrianus had been a sea captain himself on the Coastal cargo trade between England and North Germany  but seems to have come ashore in 1912 after having had several accidents/incidents at sea.  This gentleman was the founder of the Dutch Nautical Instrument Company “Observator”. ( e. See note further down). This marriage is annulled in 1923 and she the marries Victor Wilhelm Joseph Meeussen in Brentford UK on 21 January 1929.
  • Aldert Andre (Born 17 August 1890 at Rotterdam) who married Frouwina Hendrika Duit in 1915. (She was the daughter of Captain Duit also from the Holland America Line)
  • Adriaan Rudolf (Born 20 July 1896 at Amsterdam) who married 14 October 1920 with Helena Jacoba Lehman. She passed away on 23 Dec. 1932         (a)

The town register of Rotterdam indicates that Andries and his new wife came down from Groningen and settled down in Rotterdam on 26 May 1886, But they leave 2 months later (on 07 July 1886) for Nieuwpoort Belgium were the first two children are born. Why we do not know but it fits in with his HAL sailing career as there is a two year gap. When he returns to Holland America the family also returns to Rotterdam on 03 April 1888. Three years later on 06 May 1891 the family leaves for Amsterdam. This makes sense as he was appointed captain of the ss Amsterdam which sailed on the Amsterdam to New York service.

They return again on 15 September 1893 to Rotterdam when he is assigned to the ships sailing from Rotterdam. In 1895 he is assigned to the ss Zaandam and the whole family moves back to Amsterdam on 27 August 1895. When he changes company in late 1896 his base remains Amsterdam. Thus the family then stays until 30 March 1926 when he and his wife return to Rotterdam and he is listed a Ship’s Master Retired in the Registrar book.

He passes away on 28 November 1945 at Rotterdam at the age of 89. His wife survived him for another 9 years (19 July 1956)

The pattern of his sailing career while with Holland America was typical of that period. He joined as 2nd Officer on the P. Caland and was on the ss Edam when the ship was lost. Then he was assigned to the ss Leerdam and while on this ship he is involved in the saving of the crew of the Norwegian barque Inga which had been taken on water after colliding with a whale on April 30 1883.  The 12 man and the captain’s wife on board could not lower one of their own boats as the water logged vessel was rolling so badly that it would have crushed any boat entering the water. They were able to attract the attention of the  ss Leerdam.  Captain Slierendregt (see also his bio on this website) asked for volunteers and under the command of 2nd officer Andries Potjer  a boat was lowered with six rowers. The boat then proceeded towards the sinking barque. Volunteers were asked for as the weather was so bad (A severe WNW storm with heavy hail squalls) that it was a gamble whether the boat might make it back.  The boat manoeuvred close to the rolling ship and all 13 were taken over by means of safety lines. Under the eyes of 800 excited passengers everybody was safely brought on board the ss Leerdam an hour later. Later on 2nd officer Potjer received a Gold Medal from the King of Sweden with the Kings name and that of the recipient engraved on it.  Shortly after he is promoted to First / Chief Officer of the ss Leerdam.

 

the ss Leerdam (I) This ship had been bought from a Dutch Ship which had built her for their own account in 1881 and had temporary christened her “Nederlander” (The Dutchman), and as such she is seen here. While waiting for a buyer she was employed on tramp services to the New World until Holland America took her in charter and later bought her.

Then in May 1886 he leaves the company for two years and moves to Nieuwpoort Belgium.  It is unknown why. He then returns in 1888 to join the ss Amsterdam as a first officer. The company had invested in a number of ships as it had to maintain a regular service from Amsterdam, in conjunction with the main one from Rotterdam, to keep the competition away from Royal Boat (KNSM) which also had started a service to New York not long before. Hence the ss Amsterdam was assigned to sail from Amsterdam and Chief Officer Potjer moved his whole family to Amsterdam to save on the travel time between voyages.

 

The ss Obdam.  He was a sister of the ss Werkendam and bought for Holland America’s expanding North America service. In 1898 shew as sold in great haste to the American Government who badly needed a troopship for troops to invade Puerto Rico as the war between the USA and spain had broken out.

One of these new ships was the ss Obdam which came into service in February 1889 and he was send to collect it in London. This ship had been built in 1880 as the British Queen for an investment company and now HAL had bought her together with some of her sisters. This fleet expansion resulted in promotion shortly after. His first assignment was the ss Leerdam and for this he was send to New York to take command of the ship.  Shortly after he is temporary re-assigned as Chief Officer to collect another new ship, the ss Werkendam. This was also part of group sister ships which the company had been buying. The company sent their most senior Master, Captain Bonjer, as the company’s representative to give it a good look over. Once in Amsterdam, Andries Potjer was assigned to her as Captain. However he did not sail on her as the ship did not enter service until February 1890 and hence he was given command of the ss Edam.

 

The ss Dubbeldam by means of a painting by Captain Stephen Card. The Didam and Dubbeldam sailed for such a short period for Holland America that there are no good photos available of the two ships. The known photos are from the period after they had been sold to other operators.

The ss Edam was placed on the South America service to Buenos Aires where the Argentinian economy was booming and lots of emigrants were attracted to this and sufficient cargo going both ways. Based on the early success with the Edam, two ships, the Didam and the Dubbeldam were built shortly after.  With experience on the service it is not amazing that in the next few years he is in command of the Dubbeldam and Didam, However one of the (reasonably) frequent revolutions in Argentina put a stop to the success of this service. The two D ships were re-assigned to New York route but their ratio of cargo to bunkers (South America required a large coal bunker capacity for crossing the North & South Atlantic) made them un-economical for the North Atlantic. Hence they were put in lay-up and alter sold. This gave then in July of 1894 the strange situation that he was in command of both the Didam and the Dubbeldam at the same time while they were in lay-up. In those days there was normally no captain assigned to a ship if it was not sailing. But the two ships were for sale and hence it was deemed handy to have a captain around who knew the ships well and how could extol their virtues.

 

The ss Zaandam (I) This hips as the first ship built by the company in the Netherlands in 1882. She was especially designed for the South America service but made only one voyage before being re-directed to the north Atlantic. This is a painting made by Anthony Jacobson who had a studio in New York and churned out these sort of ships paintings by the dozen. Often depicted under the same angle and preferably in bad weather.

By autumn 1894 he returns to the North Atlantic with the ss Amsterdam. His last ship was the ss Zaandam, also designed for the South America service but after one voyage put on the North Atlantic route. He signs off on 06 September and then suddenly the company records end. In the Personnel records there is an entry in pencil with a question mark behind the word Dismissal so it seems that even the clerk in charge did not know what had happened.

Then in 1897 he shows up as being in command of the ss Hilversum. This was a ship which belonged to the Amsterdam Company Stoomvaart Maatschappij “Oostzee”, which would translate into Steamship Company “Baltic” of Amsterdam. Several of his colleagues had joined and would join him there. This company sailed to the Baltic (where most likely Captain Potjer) had been sailing before he joined Holland America and it was not such a strict disciplined operation as the Holland America Line.

 

The ss Hilversum of the Maatschappij “Oostzee”. (Photo courtesy Maritime Museum Rotterdam)

Shortly after joining his new company he is in the new again. While in command of the ss Hilversum he saves the crew of the German schooner Maria (Homeport Emden) on 09 September 1897 He receives in March 1898 from the German Emperor a pair of Binoculars with inscription. His 2nd Officer receives the same, while one of the sailors received 100 Germans Marks.

Here he remains until 1903 when he retires. He was noticed as the senior captain of the group of Hal captains which sailed for Maatschappij Oostzee. Because there were two Potjers as captain he was known as “Black Potjer” to keep him part from the other one. There was the same situation with the two Captains Bakker which were nicknamed Red Bakker and Black Bakker due to their hair colour. For many years he was on the Board of Directors of the Captains and Mates Association.

Upon retirement he returns with his wife to Rotterdam where he buys a house in the Suburb of Overschie.  Nothing else is known and we only have his dated of death being 28 November 1945. Which means that even with the 5 difficult war years he managed to reach the age of 89. But he could have enjoyed at least 6 months in freedom as the war finished in May 1945.

Note: Observator:

Mr. J. L. Moritz  the husband of the daughter Elisabeth Potjer founded in 1913 a Nautical Instrument making company called Observator. On 16 April 1920 a message pops up in a local newspaper noting that a Mr. A. Potjer was re- elected unanimously  on the Board of the Director.  In 1924 this company goes bankcrupt or is restructured via a bankcrupty procedure and then the N.V. Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Nautische Instrumentenfabriek ‘Observator’ starts trading. (Nieuwe in the Title means NEW) In 1971 Holland America buys a 100% share in this company and changes the name to “Observator N.V.”  The shares are sold in 1988 but the Dutch Human Resources part (Personnel) of the company shares offices with Observator for a number of years in Spijkenisse, a suburb of Rotterdam, until it returns to Rotterdam itself. (e)

 Sources:

(a) Genealogy information via Mr. E.A Kruidhof

(b) Sailing Period with Stoomvaart Maatschappij “Oostzee”. Piet’s Scheepvaart Index

(c) Personnel Records (Stamboeken and Mouvement books) HAL Archives as held by the Municiple Archives of the the City of Rotterdam.

(d) All other information: Author’s archives/ research  and contemporary newspapers.

(e) Additional Genealogy information and “Observator” information via  Mr. Guus Vreeburg

Sailing Career: (c)

17 May. 1882      2nd officer                                         Caland                   60,–

?? Sep. 1882       2nd officer                                            Edam                     60,–       until it was lost

?? Dec. 1882       2nd officer            Obtains Certificate First Mate Steam/ Deepsea

01 Jan. 1883        2nd officer                                          Leerdam              60,–

?? Jun. 1883        First officer                                         Leerdam              100,–

10 May. 1886      Dismissed,

05 May. 1888      2nd officer                                            Amsterdam        60,–

10 Aug. 1888       Chief Officer                                      Edam                     100,–

01 Nov. 1888      Dismissed

03 Nov. 1888      First officer                                         Amsterdam        100,–

13 Feb. 1889       Dismissed

17 Feb. 1889       to London to collect the                Obdam

18 Mar. 1889      Captain with the NASM                                                 200,–

To New York to take command there of the Leerdam.

05 Apr. 1889       Captain                                                 Leerdam              200.

10 Dec 1899        Temp dismissed

11 Dec. 1889       First officer                                         Werkendam       200,–

With the Harwich boat to Liverpool to collect the ship.

21 Dec. 1889       Captain                                                 Werkendam       200,-

01 Jan. 1890        Captain                                                 Edam                     200,–

23 Jun. 1890        Temporary payrise to 300,–

28 Sep. 1890       Captain                                                 Amsterdam        300,–

01 Apr. 1891       Relieved from command

01 Apr. 1891       Captain                                                 Didam                   300,–

07 Aug. 1891       Captain                                                 Dubbeldam        300,–

23 Dec. 1891       Captain                                                 Maasdam            300,–

04 Feb .1892       Captain                                                 Dubbeldam

27 Mar. 1892      Captain                                                 Didam

22 Feb. 1893       Captain                                                 Dubbeldam

30 Nov. 1893      Captain                                                 Spaarndam                                         (temporary)

06 Jan. 1894        Temporary dismissed

14 Feb. 1894       Captain                                                 Dubbeldam

10 Jul. 1894         Temp. in command of the ss Didam, at same time in command of Dubbeldam

25 Oct. 1894        Relieved from Didam command

26 Nov. 1894      Captain                                                 Amsterdam

01 Jan. 1895        Captain                                                 Dubbeldam

26 Jan. 1895        Captain                                                 Zaandam

28 Jul. 1896         In charge of looking after the Caland

(Update December 2013, per “Movement & Mustering book this did not happen as he continues to sail with the Zaandam and  Captain Van der Schoor is assigned.

Remains with Zaandam until 06 September 1896  (then Van der Schoor de Boer takes over)

Dismissed ??      Joins Stoomvaart Maatschappij “Oostzee” of Amsterdam  (b)

1897                       Captain                                                 Hilversum

1898                       Captain                                                 Leersum

1900                       Captain                                                 Ootmarsum

1903                       Retired

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. w.j. de bruijn

    August 1, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Een broer van deze Andries is mijn overgrootvader Bernard Potjer, ook gezagvoerder (1858-1910) . Er is best veel over de zeevarende Potjers bewaard gebleven. Maar over Bernard kan ik maar weinig vinden. Nu stuitte ik op een bevolkingsregistratie in Rotterdam in 1898, waarin stond dat zijn vorige woonplaats New York was. Dat zou veel kunnen verklaren. Maar ik heb geen idee, hoe en waar ik daar naar hem kan zoeken. Kent u misschien een aanknopingspunt, met name in het zeevarende wereldje? Misschien vraag ik het onmogelijke, maar met “nee” ben ik ook tevreden.

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