Danish Cruise 2018
A voyage through the Danish islands
I had had a long ambition to sail in Danish waters after my son had moved to this country to study electrical engineering. I had suggested this trip to my friend Jim Hopwood and a member of Ashlett Sailing Club and we agreed to undertake a voyage from Schleswig in Germany to the north part of the Danish island of Zealand. This would fulfil jim’s ambition to connect two previous voyages. In 2015 he had sailed north along the Dutch and German Frisian islands and in 2014 a voyage from Roskilde the northern part of Zealand, along the Swedish west coast to Oslo in Norway. Schleswig was an ancient Viking port on the Baltic side of a portage from the North Sea. In 2015 Jim had sailed to the north sea port of Husum at the end of his trip through the Frisian Islands.
Denmark is made up of about 443 named islands and the mainland of Jutland. The summer of 2018 was going to be a year of exploration.
One of the great advantages is that you can expand your sailing area by taking you boat to a new sailing area on a trailer. We set sail from Harwich on the Stena line ferry to the Hook of Holland. We took advantage of the light traffic on Sunday 3rd June. Continental lorries take the Sunday off and park up in service areas and rest areas to enjoy a Sunday sleeping in their cabs. We camped near Bremen and set off again for our destination. We formed quite a convoy with jim and his Drascombe Gig, myself towing my Drascombe Coaster “Moksha” and my wife towing a caravan. My wife Glenys was going to be a shore party and meeting up with us at various points on our voyage through the Danish islands.
On the 4th June we reached Schleswig in Germany which was going to be our starting point. Jim had chosen Schleswig as it has a number of marinas and one that was willing to allow us to park our cars and trailers for nearly month and was equipped with a slipway. The Harbourmaster was helpful and spoke good English. He was a little surprised we did not want to use his dockside crane to lift our boats into the water. But being adaptable Drascombers we opted for the slip and we were soon in the water and ready. Glen was camped nearby on a campsite overlooking the fjord.
Tuesday 5th June
At 1000 hours we set off for Kappeln which was close to the mouth of the fjord. The weather was fine and hot (14C to 21C) with good visibility with a variable wind F 1 - 3. The surface of the fjord was glassy smooth. We set off leaving the town of Schleswig behind us. As always major buildings seem to be in a state of repair. The spired church of schleswig was covered in scaffolding. We passed a replica of a Viking ship which was appropriate as the theme of our voyage. The fjord was a combination of wide open expanse of water and narrow channels which reminded me of the Norfolk Broads. The shore line was of green verdant pastures with grazing cattle, tall reeds. The occasional birdlife consisted of moorhens, ducks with brood of ducklings. This was not a fjord as the classical Norwegian fjord with deep water, steep sided valleys but they were still examples of the glacial past where shallow valleys have been flooded.
We stopped for lunch, dropping an anchor near the shoreline and enjoying the peace. There was little traffic to disturb us. After lunch we motored on until we reached the Schleibrucke Lindaunis bridge which is a metal lifting bascule bridge with a combined road and railway. A short wait and we were through. The afternoon breeze gave us a point of sailing to allow us to sail down the fjord. Jim was more successful as he was able to sail closer to the wind and having a larger sail area.
At about we arrived at Kappeln at about 1600 hours which was a few miles from the mouth. We found a mooring at the ASC sailing club on the usual bow to the pontoon. The stern were secured to two wooden piles making an effective box mooring. The lack of tide allows the use of simple wooden jetties and piles. There is no need to have expensive floating pontoons with bridge type walkways.
Wednesday 6th June
Kappeln is an attractive town copper coloured domes on its large buildings. We left at 0930 hours to the mouth which is about an hour away. We negotiated the large modern lifting bridge and headed out into the Force 4-5 ESE wind. The wind was stronger than I would have liked for this long sea passage across the Keiler Bucht (Keil Bay). It was going to be a 20NM trip to the Island of Langeland and the intended destination of Bagenkop. Jim and I had a discussion as to whether go on the inland route and leave Langeland to the east or to head towards Zealand and leave lolland to the west. An alternative port of Marstal was discussed but it was decided to go Bagenkop.
We headed out and set our sails. I reefed my sails and managed to keep a course of 50 degrees which put me in the direction of Aero. The sea state was not particularly comfortable with a wave height of between a metre and two. The waves were breaking and occasionally I would get a wave into the cockpit or over me. The crossing was the longest I have undertaken and the Danish coast was low on the horizon. I thought to myself was wise to undertake a passage in a 22 foot Drascombe Coaster. I maintained this course for 13 NM and at 1530 hours I altered course to the east to take me to Bagenkop. The wind had shifted more to the east and so I was going straight to windward. I reduced sail and I put the motor on and headed straight to my destination. There was a small amount of shipping but they did not present any danger.
There was one particular ship that I had never seen before. When I first sighted the vessel it had the appearance of a tanker with no superstructure other than what appeared to be a mast with a large crows nest. As the ship passed I could see that the tanker was being pushed by a tug and the vessels were being controlled from the tug with its helming position in the crows nest. A type of vessel which is possible in the Baltic with its relative calm seas.
I continued on this course passing the wind turbines on Aero with their brilliant white blades spinning in the strong breeze. I reached Bagenkop at about 1900 hours and moored in the marina and with the assistance of a neighbouring German yachtsman tied in the Baltic manner with the bow against the wooden jetty. I then discovered that Jim was not in the harbour and later mobile phone call revealed that he had got to Marsatal on the neighbouring island of Aero. He had not been able to keep a northerly course to reach where I was and had instead gone to Marstal. Im sailing the larger boat had been able to keep a direct course to Marstal and at a greater speed. He had long disappeared from me and I had been sailing alone for some hours.
My German neighbour who spoke good English welcomed me with a can of beer and we relaxed in the evening sun. I discovered that he was a kitchen designer and fitter. I discovered that he had recently been fitting a kitchen in London and was bemoaning that in the future a Brexit would make such work in the UK more difficult. He told me that the EU is not universally popular in Germany and if a referendum had been held in Germany the result would have been close.
I cooked myself some dinner and went to bed after a long day.
Thursday 7th June
Jim phoned me that he would make his way to me at Bagenkop and we would sail around the south part of Langeland and make our way east to Lolland and the islands to the south of Zealand. At 1100 hours we set off. The wind was blowing from the SE Force 4-5. In actual fact when we got out of the harbour the wind direction was more from the east. We motored around the southern point of Langeland and then headed north. The sea state was just as uncomfortable as the previous day and so I continued to sail until we were more in the shelter of Lolland. Langeland was green and low lying and the southern tip was heathland inhabited by Exmoor ponies who had been brought there in order to keep the scrub vegetation under control. The lighthouse on the point slowly disappeared behind us and we entered the shipping lanes of the Storebaelt which is the main exit for shipping from the Baltic. There were few ships in view in comparison with the shipping traffic of the Solent or the English Channel.
The engine was turned off and a reefed mainsail set an d later these were shaken out and with an easterly wind achieved a speed of over 5 knots. I was overtaken closely by a 30 foot German yacht who seemed to be taking a great deal of interest in this unknown breed of boat called a Drascombe.
We reached a well buoyed channel leading into Naksov Fjord. Scandinavian buoyage is lightweight with a plastic floating post with a spiral brush top of the appropriate shape and colour. I was passed by a large luxurious yacht flying a red ensign and with the owner on the wheel showing a great deal of interest but did not return the usual greeting wave. His wife was reclining behind a large sprayhood at the top of the companionway.
I continued into the Fjord until we reached an alternative passage into an anchorage of Albuen which lies behind a large sand spit at the entrance to the Fjord. Jim was ahead of me and I saw his large brown sail behind the spit. I followed in and we found a wooden jetty with mooring posts. The anchorage was large and shallow with the only signs of habitation being some unoccupied summer houses. The area was obviously used as a picnic destination with tables and benches.
We arrived at 1530 hours on this brilliant summers day at this isolated location. The skylarks were singing and the sound of the breeze in the pine trees. The beginning of June is not the main summer holiday and midweek this beautiful place is deserted.
Friday 8th June
We woke up to another fine day with brilliant sunshine without a cloud in the sky. The wind was in the east blowing a gentle Force 2. I breakfasted in the cockpit and we were ready to sail. The plan was to sail north around the island of Lolland and head east .
We usually use our motors to manoeuvre and to get into a position where we can start sailing. I noticed that jim was having some problems in starting his outboard. Continual pulling of the starting cord got no response and not even the flicker of an ignition. I came alongside and offered to have a go but I could neither get a response out of this reluctant Yamaha. Jim had been having some starting problems and it was thought that it was a petrol supply problem and various parts had been replaced and the engine had been running on this trip. The engine had broken down in about the most remote spot possible. It was decided that with the light breeze Jim would sail and if the wind failed completely I would have to tow.
We set off and made good progress and Albuen slowed disappeared. The coast of Lolland as well as the whole of the coast of Denmark is populated with wind turbines. Their size is deceptive as they seem to take a long time to reach and and then pass. Jim in his large Gig is able to carry a much larger sail plan and is able to make the most of any wind. My coaster which is about half the weight and giving away four feet in length is never able to keep up.
At about 15:30 hours Jim hove to and came to a halt. I called him up and thanked him for waiting for me and allowing me to catch up. He told that he had only hove to in order to make a cup of tea. At that point I was very envious as I had to make do with sips of bottled water and biscuits from the goody box. I thought oh to have a big enough boat to have a galley.
At about 16:00 hours the wind fell away and I put the motor on. I caught Jim up and I offered a tow which he gratefully accepted. The Gig is about twice the weight of the Coaster and we must have looked a strange sight.
We reached the port of Kragaenæs which is a modern port with ferry connections to the nearby island FejØ. The marina was right next to a campsite and there were convenient hammerhead walls to which I could tow Hippo and moor. The warden of the campsite was very friendly and was eager for us to stay as long as possible as there was going to be a party on the Saturday night. One of the reasons for heading to this particular port was that the almanac and chart indicated that there was the possibility of finding a mechanic to repair Jim’s outboard motor. The warden cum harbourmaster was unable to supply any information and enquiries at the local sailing club proved negative. Part of the problem was that it was now the weekend and the Scandinavians have a reluctance to work overtime and in particular a weekend in June.
We had travelled a distance of 19 miles of which the last two hours had been spent towing Hippo. The sea had been kind with light winds and a flat sea.
Saturday 9th June
As nice as this marina was there was a desperate need to find an outboard mechanic and the reckoning was that we needed to get to a large a port as possible. The wind was still being gentle with a Force 3 easterly. We were also sailing into a more sheltered area as we sailing into the island archipelago south of Zealand. We set off at about 11:30 hours and I towed Hippo out of the harbour where jim set sail in the direction of Vordingborg a larger town where it would be possible to find a mechanic. We were also making use of the weekend to make some distance when such services were not available. Hippo had also been having some problems with the centreplate and it was not possible to raise as the hauling strap had become detached. Jim had carried out a temporary repair whilst we were in Albuen.
The plan would be that I would maintain an escort if the wind failed again and a tow was required again. Hippo sailed a distance of about 5 miles when we were abeam the island of Fejø. I commenced the tow again and we continued our voyage to Vordingborg. We managed to maintain a speed of approx 3.8 knots. The area was shallow with buoys placed at large distance.
The bottom varied in depth between 25 metres and 0.8 metres and it would appear the bottom was like a washboard. At about 16:00 hours there was a crash from the centreplate and I ran aground. I noted that Hippo had also ran aground and Jim later told me that there was a very loud crash and he checked the bilges to make sure that he had not been holed. From the sound of the centerplate it was a rocky bottom. I pulled my plate and headed for deeper water which I could see on the chartplotter. There was a little resistance but we managed to get into deeper water. Jim later discovered that he had lost his centreplate altogether.
We carried on with our tow and moved into a channel between Zealand and Falster which is bridged by the Storstrømsbroen. If anybody tells that you that are no tidal currents in the Baltic. Do not believe them. As we approached the bridge we could see the tidal stream on the buoys and bridge towers. More importantly our progress slowed to about 2.5 knots. We passed under the bridge and we negotiated the complex channels marked with buoys and leading marks. We arrived at Vordingborg at sunset and we tied up to a convenient hammerhead on the jetty. I had been towing for over 5 hours and we had completed a 25NM journey. Jim cooked a beef steak dinner for which I was very grateful.
Sunday 10th and Monday 11th June
Jim’s search for an outboard mechanic began but as we found on a Sunday the Danes took it very much as a day of rest. The Scandinavians attitude to working overtime and out of hours is that if the work cannot be done in the allotted hours it can wait until the next working day. This attitude is bred of a highly unionised labour force and socialist principles in that workers rights have to be protected. There were no staff in the harbourmasters office and a payments for marina services were dealt with by the automated vending machine which took bank cards and dispensed coloured tapes to be placed around the forestay of your boat to indicate that you had paid. Jim managed to find an advertisement on a noticeboard which gave a website address. Searching the website on his smartphone he was able to send an E Mail. There was no reply from the telephone given.
We spent the day walking around the town where all of the shops were closed except for a convenience store run by a middle eastern family. We purchased some bread and water. We walked around the town and visited the ruined castle with it’s complete tower called the Goose tower.
We walked back to the marina and on the shore side we found a fish restaurant and bar. We sat down for a couple of beers and I was joined by my wife Glenys who had driven down from Nyborg where she was camped with the caravan. We had lunch from the restaurant. This restaurant specialised in fried flat fish and chips with salad. The accompanying garnish was Remoulade. The ingredients consist of mayonnaise, parsley, capers, onions and mustard. Very delicious.
On Monday I was awoken by activity next door on Hippo. An outboard mechanic had arrived with his van and was diagnosing the problem with the engine. In about 20 minutes the problem was found to be a defective ECU. The decision was made to replace the engine rather than to repair as the repair would have cost about half the price of a new one and the part could not be obtained for a week. A new replacement could be obtained from Copenhagen the next day. Jim took the decision to replace although it was not going to be as powerful or sophisticated.
Tuesday 12th June
We were now in area of Danish archipelago which is made up of shallow and narrow channels. The area is crisscrossed with road bridges connecting the islands off southern Zealand. The channels which are not like Norwegian are green and low lying. The landscape is covered in woodland, wheat fields in the first stage of ripening and half timbered farm houses painted in red and white the colours of the Danish flag. The Danes are a wonderful friendly people. There is nothing like to gladden an old man than a response to your smiled greeting to the many attractive blonde females than an un self conscious and confident reply of “Hi Hi” . There is much written about Danish culture and hygge but in reality it is a long history of collective caring for their own. The Danish tax system ensures the less fortunate are cared for. With tax rates starting at over 40% and quickly rising, but despite this the population are content knowing that they will get it back in social benefits.
We were bound for the island of Nyord which is north of the larger island of Møn the wind was in the west at Force 3-4. It was cloudy with predicted showers. The route was easy down wind sailing , a twisting route through the islands with a buoyed route. At times the buoyage was placed at the limit of vision but with the help of my chartplotter we were able to find the route.
We sailed under the Ulvsund bridge which is between Møn and the main island of Zealand and we sailed onto the island of Nyord. The small harbour surrounded by a wooden breakwater could not have been bigger than a football pitch. The place seemed to be deserted other than a few fisherman who were taking their afternoon refreshment in a small hut. We walked into the village and found a small village made up of a few farms and single storey half timbered houses. There was an octagonal church which was unlocked and on entering we found what looked like a confessional which seemed strange in a Lutheran church. On closer examination we found it was a small church organ. Walking further into the village we found the shop which because of the hour it was closed. It looked like a farm outbuilding. On the outside of the village we found a pillarbox building and in it there was an information board. Evidently the island was the home to a pilotage service. Pilots were farmers as well as seamen but their right to offer pilotage between the hazardous waters between Møn and Zealand was restricted to those who owned land. The pilots were quite autocratic and the right to pilot a vessel was granted to those who could row out and get to the vessel first. The pillarbox building was a lookout point.
We cooked on board and met with a number of other sailors who were heading north in the direction of Copenhagen.
Wednesday 13th June
Another cloudy day but light westerly winds Force 2-3 bound for Rodvig. We followed again the well buoyed channel and into Fakse Bugt (Fakse Bay). I was sailing with a reefed main and managed to keep up with Hippo despite his lack of centerplate. At the end of the channel I shook out the reef and made a good 4 knots. We made our way across the bay and the sea state got a little rough as we lost the shelter of the land. We arrived at Rodvig mid afternoon and moored in the harbour. We had travelled about 16 NM. Rodvig was quite a modern town with fishing vessels and there were a variety of bars and restaurants on the quayside. There was enough time to getto the local supermarket and stock up our stores.
Thursday 14th June
The day was sunny with good visibility with wind from the South West Force 4. We were bound for Dragor which is on the edge of Copenhagen airport and 22 nautical miles away. The passage involved a sail across a large bay called the Køge Bught and landfall a great distance away.
We left the harbour taking care to keep clear of a large number of gill fishing nets strung between post. The coast at this point consists of a cliff called Stevens Klint. The rock is white and quite distinctive. We also passed a partly ruined church at Høejerup which is on the cliff and part of the church has fallen into the sea.
We headed out into the bay and I shook out the furled mainsail and unrolled the foresail with about 20 NM to go. About half way across the bay the wind direction changed to the south and I lost all shelter from the land the wind strength continued to increase. The sea state was getting quite uncomfortable with waves breaking. I furled all of the sails completely and lashed the mainsail to the mast as best I could. I would have liked to take the gaff down but due to the motion of the boat I was unable to reach the toggle. Luckily with a following wind the sails did not flog. I started the engine and continued. The motion may have been uncomfortable without the aid of a steadying sail but I felt comfortable controlling the boat. There were a number of waves taken on board but only one that came right into the cockpit which required pumping to remove the couple of inches of water.
As I approached Dragor the following seas were quite large and the boat was pitching quite a bit. The Drascombe Coaster is a lightweight boat and rides the waves well and does not crash through them. Jim in Hippo warned me to an offshore reef and I took a diversion to seaward. At last turned to port to enter the harbour and the waves were getting larger in the shallow sea. I steered carefully to ensure that the waves were taken properly on the stern.
Moored in the old harbour and close to the centre of town. Jim and I enjoyed a large glass of beer in rather expensive cafe next to the quayside.
Friday 15th June to Sunday 17th June
Today was my 65th birthday and we were bound for Copenhagen. The weather was sunny and clear with the wind in the West Force 2-3. We left at 09:30 hours and conditions were much calmer from the previous day. There were excellent views of the Oresund Bridge and of the Turning Torso skyscraper in Malmo in the distance. We made moderate progress at about 3 knots. Jim was unable to make good progress with the loss of his centreplate and resorted to his engine. The wind was failing and i followed suit.
We were following inshore the channel which runs over the oresund crossing. We passed under the flight path of Copenhagen airport and it was apparent that we were approaching a major city. The shoreline was crammed with industrial buildings including on of the most environmentally friendly power stations which burnt the city’s rubbish. The sloped roof also incorporated a ski slope and green grass. Denmark’s commitment was apparent as rows of wind turbines were placed in the shallow sea. There was a row of twenty identical turbines all turning in unison in the bright sunlight.
We turned west into Copenhagen harbour and passed cruise liners, taxying seaplanes and and other craft. On the shore there were other major buildings such as the Amalienborg Palace, the Opera House, Nyhavn etc. Our destination was a marina in the centre of town in the Christianshavns Kanal. We passed under a lifting bridge into the canal. The canal was full of all types of boat and after a mishap in mooring in the wrong place eventually found a quiet berth in the marina proper at the direction of the young harbourmaster The charges were 750 Kr (£90 ) for 3 nights but where else would we find accomodation in the centre of Copenhagen for that price.
On a Friday evening the place was buzzing with all the bars, restaurants, food vendors filled with people of whom the vast majority seemed to be under 30. The streets were full of cyclists and the canals were full of electric hire boats with revellers swigging their beer and champagne. I was moored under a quayside restaurant with patrons eating and drinking on outside tables. I was joined by Jim, Glenys my wife and her friend my son also joined from his home in Malmo. I treated everybody to an upmarket meal in a steakhouse.
We spent the next couple of days sightseeing around Copenhagen and enjoying visits to Tivoli Gardens, and the Mermaid which as usual was covered in Chinese tourists. We enjoyed a trip around the canals on a large sightseeing boat. On the Sunday we met Andy Cooper at the airport. We travelled there on the brand new driverless Metro train. Andy was going to come on the final part of the journey and continue with Jim on the Rugen cruise.
Monday 18th June
The final part of the trip to Helsingor which would take us to the northern tip of Zealand and take us north of the latitude of Roskilde which was the starting point of our 2014 Viking Cruise. The day was sunny with the wind from the south west at Force 3-4. The planned trip was 22NM away up the coast through the narrowing channel between Denmark and Sweden. The expectation was that the weather was going to deteriorate and so I raised a reefed mainsail and the mizzen furled. As the day progressed I shook out more sail and maintained a speed of about 3 knots. I was unable to keep up with Jim even though he lacked a centreplate. We arrived at Helsingor at about 15;30 hours and I motored for the final 2 hours. The ferry traffic to Helsingborg on the Swedish side was busy and had to give way to two of them.
The marina was busy and we provided some amusement to a local yachtsman who was surprised as to our small size undertaking a long voyage. Drascombes may be small trailer sailers but they are seaworthy in the right conditions and provide just as much enjoyment.