Shipping on Lake Zel
Captain Toni Fürstauer and the ships on Lake Zell
Ship operation at lake Zell
Ships have always been operating on Lake Zell. At the beginning, mainly fishermen and farmers from the vicinity used the lake as a traffic route. Later, with the beginning of the tourism, the lake became a place of relaxation.
In 1860, the municipality bought the lake from the State and this event also marks the beginning for commercial shipping. At the beginning, clever ship boys from Lake Chiemsee came and offered to rent their rowing boats to tourists. Their busyness could be contained in 1883, when the obligation to declare a business was introduced. Since then, shipping on Lake Zell has been lying entirely in the hands of the local community.
First, a steamer with the name 'Stefanie' ran tours on the lake. The escaping fume, however, contradicted the promised experience of a 'scenic ride' and already at the beginning of the 20th century electrically driven boats came in use. Short after World War II, in 1947, the pride of Zell's community put out to lake: the 'Libelle' ('dragonfly'). The boat was a community project of the municipality and many local businesses. Even today, she still cruises on the lake sometimes but for a long time, she was used as a tour and ferry boat.
Full steam ahead
The touristic boom in the 1960s and 1970s demanded for more and more modern boats. The 'Großglockner' and the 'Kitzsteinhorn' took up service in 1965 and 1965 and still operate on the lake. In 2005, eventually, the biggest ship arrived in Zell am See: the 'MS Schmittenhöhe', accommodating 250 passengers. At the moment, the fleet on Lake Zell comprises four ships: The “MS Schmittenhöhe” and the 'Empress Elisabeth' (former 'Kitzsteinhorn') as tour boats, the 'Großglockner' as a ferry boat and the 'Libelle' as an oldtimer ship for special occasions and evens.
A passionate captain
Beyond that, he basically knows everything about the lake, as he spent many years working for the municipality, responsible for lake management, fishing and fish farming. Afterwards, he returned to shipping in the 2000s. The Schmittenhöhebahn AG took over the shipping operations from the municipality and was looking for experienced staff. And until today, there is no more experienced captain than Toni!
Change of perspective
Toni is never bored by his cruises on Lake Zell. The particular view onto the town and into the surrounding mountains from the lake is an attraction not only for passengers; also the captains appreciate their work place that always offers a different view, depending on the seasons and the weather conditions.
But concentration is in demand! In summer, it can be pretty crowded on the lake: 'Then we swim in a soup with fried butter pearls', says Toni Fürstauer and refers to a traditional Austrian soup. Therefore, it is important that not only the captain but the second captain keep an open eye.
Experience is in demand!
The shipping company Zell counts seven captains and during the high season they are supported by temporary helpers. Future captains must spend three years by the side of an experienced captain before they are allowed to steer the boat on their own. Experience is everything, confirms Toni Fürstauer and explains that only a captain who knows his ship like the backside of his hand is able to handle it appropriately and, in particular, precisely. This facilitates the work and protects both machinery and the nerves of colleagues, especially when in spring and fall the ships are to be maintained and, if necessary, repaired.
True passion and enthusiasm are the most important requirements for this job, says Toni Fürstauer. He wants the passengers to feel this too because a ride with a ship on Lake Zell should, above all, make them happy.