A Great Sail
Trip Start Apr 29, 2011
109Trip End Sep 03, 2011
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The forecast was for winds from the E to NE at speeds of 10 – 20 knots (F4 – F6) with poor visibility in any rain. Now the direction and strength was good but of course the rain wouldn’t be as welcome. However, initially there wasn’t a whole lot of wind either, so for the first 3 hours we travelled under engine and sail and then, we were able to travel under sail alone, a reefed main and fully deployed genoa
About 3 hours from our end-point, we were finally overtaken by our Swedish neighbour from Gr÷nh÷gen, Stefan Johansson with his family in their yacht, an Elan 434 'Con Dios’ and he passed close enough to enable me to take their photo, which I will forward to them when I next get access to the internet.
The Peapod Islands (Ertholmene in Danish) of which Christians° is the largest by far, is a cluster of small skerries and islands. The only other inhabited island, apart from Christians°, is Frederiks° and this is attached to its’ bigger neighbour by a pedestrian footbridge. The channel between the two islands make a natural harbour, given winds in the right direction and it was this feature that first caused the islands to be converted to a naval base and fortress in 1684 by King Christian V of Denmark. After a humiliating defeat to the Swedes in 1656, when Denmark lost a significant amount of territory, the Danes needed a base to watch Swedish movements in the Baltic and whilst Bornholm would have been the natural choice for this base, construction techniques at the time together with the lack of a suitable topography, precluded this and hence the development of Christians°
The island fortress saw quite a lot of action during its life as a military garrison, not least of which was the bombardment by the British in October 1808 during a period of hostilities between Denmark and Britain. The plan was to invade the islands after softening them up with the bombardment but we withdrew after four hours, due to the spirited return fire from the islands and the onset of inclement weather. This must have been a great relief to the garrison but perhaps not so popular a decision with the political prisoners that also numbered among the inhabitants here. Life after all this excitement carried on as normal thenceforth until 1855, when the fortress and garrison were wound down and the only inhabitants became the former soldiers and their families who were allowed to use the buildings as homes, whilst the menfolk turned their hand to fishing. In 1926, the islands became protected by law and to this day, they are administered by the Danish Ministry of Defence and as such, are not part of any county or municipality so the inhabitants do not have a vote in county elections, which I guess is no great hardship. Today, the population amounts to about 100 full time islanders, who make a living from fishing, herring curing and of course, tourism.
Coming back to our passage, we decided to take the southern, downwind entrance to the harbour and this proved to be the right one, as it was here and only here that facilities were available for yachts to tie alongside
It had been an exhilarating sail, we had covered the 71 miles in under 11 hours, from letting go the lines to switching off the engine, having tied up at the other end. All that was left for us to do then was to have a cup of tea and generally unwind. We had decided to treat ourselves to a meal out that evening, as a hello to Denmark and this is what we did, entering the bustling bar and restaurant at 19:15. We had a bottle of wine and a nice piece of some variety of flatfish each, with potatoes and a few (very) vegetables and whilst I had promised to myself not to whinge at the bill and in fairness I didn’t, it still was steep at ú80. We won’t eat out again until Germany!