The fastest floating hedge!

At the 36th annual Rum-Regatta we participated in the Lüttfischer-Regatta (a race for small traditional fishing boats) in Flensburg’s harbour basin. Due to a lack of wind, we had to rely heavily on our rowing-power.

This year I mustered a formidable crew of beardy Vikings (a floating hedge!), so we gained the lead within only few seconds after having crossed the starting line. I felt a “little bit guilty” about our easy win, as we almost got all the prizes there were: (1) The strange bell-shaped brass object for the fastest smakke was ours, (2) the wooden scoop was ours (officially, because we were rowing so hard that a lot of spray water came over. Inofficially, all the water came in through the many dry cracks), and (3) we almost received the painted oar for the best rowing, but we got that one already last year for not rowing. We returned home with not only rich booty, but also with fame, as we made it onto the front page of “Flensborg Avis”, the local Danish minority newspaper. Once again we had a great time, which was only dampened slightly by the fact that we could not put to sea the next day at the actual Rum-Regatta, as 7 bft in gusts were forecasted. In all honesty, I think with this great a crew it would have been possible, but I put the safety of my crew & vessel first!

A sailful of wind!

On Saturday 31st May we headed out of Flensburg harbour amidst a majestic procession of historical vessels, one of which was DAGMAR AAEN of the renowned adventuerer Arved Fuchs. This time we had plenty of wind and — once a signal flare marked the start of the 35th annual Rum-Regatta — we sailed on a broad reach to the Okseøer.

With the Okseøer abeam, we overtook TUULA which we had affectionally dubbed “the family boat” in a previous encounter. We have a mock-enmity with this boat, as we always end up in a duel off the Okseøer. Seeing that they sailed close to land, I wanted to know how much draught they have. Upon responding 80 cm, I gleefully shouted back that we only had 30 cm and could therefore circumnavigate the island’s shoals in a much closer circle. I don’t know whether this spurned them, but not 1 minute has passed and we witnessed how TUULA ran aground a sand bar, giving us yet another reason to gloat over our opponent’s misfortune. But once we came clear the treacherous Okseøer shoals, we signalised a DLRG boat to help TUULA out of its misery. As the paper reports, it came indeed to TUULA’s rescue (name’s of course not mentioned).

Meanwhile the wind has increased and we had not much ballast to counter-weight the heeling, except for our latest addition to the crew: Davíð, who hails from Iceland, and weights as much, drinks as much, and laughs as loud as the rest of us taken together. So a perfect fit! I met both Davíð and Véronique (from even farther away — Canada) on an underwater fieldschool in Kiel 2011.  For Magdalena from the Italian part of Tyrol and Björn it was the first time in Flensburg too, so we were a truly international crew, but all archaeologists!

We picked up some speed, with the water gurgling along the gunwale and spray-water coming over when riding the waves hard. This was probably the best regatta ever, topped by a truly majestic moment when our course crossed that of the SHTANDART….a scene you’ve only known from pirate movies, with the exception that this was for real.  We returned drenched and tired, but happy. Now a good meal was in order, and of course the quirky prize ceremony was not to be missed, where the first in each class was punished with a mock prize, and the second rewarded with a 3 litre bottle of rum — the local brand — as is ancient and good custom in Flensburg!

The organised chaos

We did not return empty-handed to our homesteads after a couple of days of sailing in Flensburg at the occasion of the 35th annual Rum-Regatta. With a wildly thrown together crew with members hailing from as far as Iceland, Italy and Canada, we managed to win a prize yet again, however not for breaking 3 of 4 oars, as last time, and certainly not for excellent seamanship and professional boat-handling…no…but for not listening. Finally, I found an event where my principal trait is appreciated enough to be awarded. But first things first!


At the Lüttfischer-Regatta, a regatta for small open fishing boats the day before the actual Rum-Regatta, we sailed with a strong breeze up and down the Flensburg harbour basin. I kinda missed some details of the regatta-rules, and despite the kindness of the regatta organiser Gerd Büker who bekoned us that the last leg should not be sailed but rowed, we hurled in our sails in the misunderstanding that the regatta was aborted, while sitting idle on the thwarts with nothing to do except looking for bottles of rum floating around in the water. Fortunately, we got our rum in the end plus a rather nice looking painted oar as rotating trophy for being the “organised chaos”, with the admonition that we have no further excuse for not rowing properly now. Well, I wouldn’t be so sure about it….I am sure we can find one next time!


RumRegatta 2013

This time we had splendid sailing weather: At 11:00 a signal flare indicated the start of the regatta and we sailed with a gentle south-westerly breeze to the Okseøer (“ox islands”), which marked the first leg of the regatta for the smaller vessels,  including small fishing boats like ours, but also Viking ship reconstructions. These islands were first mentioned in the “Jordebok” – an early 13th-century Danish census. Incidentally, that is not the first time that Skíðblaðnir came across place-names mentioned in the Jordebok. In 2010 we followed the inner route along the Swedish coast described in an itinerary, which was also included in this census.

Once again the sail area proved to be insufficient to keep pace with the rest. Especially the Arendal sjekts were extraordinarily fast…they must have crossed the finishing line when we circumnavigated the  Okseøer. But once we rounded them, we caught up to the field on a close-reach. Few metres before the finishing line, the wind suddenly stopped, and we were compelled to ship the oars. At 16:20 we crossed the finishing line as the 61st vessel of 99 registered ships. This was a truly fantastic day, and our sluggishness was rewarded by spending more hours amidst a fleet of historical ships.

LüttfischerRegatta 2013

On the day before the main race – the RumRegatta – we participated for the first time in a regatta for small fishing boats in Flensburg’s harbour: the LüttfischerRegatta.

Shortly after the starting signal, our right-of-way was ignored by a sjekte, which ran over one of our oars with a great cracking sound, instantly followed by my cursing. We needed the oars as auxiliary propulsion whenever we tacked (yes…I know…the boat ain’t well trimmed).  With our good oar cracked, we had to rely on the old spare oars in the course of the event. We tried to catch up to the main field and did quite well under the circumstances. Later, the wind freshened to force 6 bft, maybe even 7 bft, and now it became clear that the spare oars were indeed not fit for service, as they both cracked during heavy rowing. To make matters worse, a very strong gust of wind pushed us onto a lee shore, and with only one oar (of four) left intact, which we needed badly for tacking, it became almost impossible to manoeuvre. So we took in the sails and waited for a tow. Together with another boat, we were towed back to the harbour, where we could at least view the spectacle from land, where small bottles had to be fished out from the water, which could be later traded with bottles filled with rum – the local brand. Regrettably, we had to skip the latter part, but we still won a prize: The charismatic regatta-organiser Gerd Büker couldn’t decide whether the daredevil feat (of pushing crew & equipment to such limits that lead to the loss of almost all oars) commended for a particularly good or a particularly bad skipper, but I received the “tough luck tiller” with pride…at least some form of recognition!

Pech Pinne

Skíðblaðnir signed up for the next RumRegatta!


In anticipation to find a crew for the 34. RumRegatta in Flensburg (9.-12. May), I just signed up Skíðblaðnir. Last time round we were a “bit” hard pressed to find a crew, so we had to revert to the most contemptible practice of shanghaiing some sailors from a foreign port, i.e. Esbjerg. Despite the offhanded attempt to summon a crew on the vigil of the race was rather…erm… hectic, we participated in the race itself with the greatest laid-back attitude we could master. Admittedly, our effort to avoid the first prize* at all costs was a little bit exaggerated, as we came in almost last (* i.e. the first receives a mock-prize as punishment for being a pubertal hotspur, whereas the second receives a huge bottle of rum). But maybe we are in line to win large quantities of rum this time!

RumRegatta 2012

Here are some personal impressions of the 33. RumRegatta, a race only for historical and traditional vessels :

It is worth mentioning that this year’s crew consisted entirely of archaeologists. Just two days before the regatta started, I got notice from three volunteers from Esbjerg, all international students enrolled in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark. While most of us usually excavate shipwrecks and record meticulously ship-timbers, it was for all of us a refreshing experience to see maritime history in action. We did not aspire to win any prize (not least because we reached the start line only one hour after the starting signal), but enjoyed the day at Flensburg Fjord and the truly magnificent sight of a fleet of historical vessels under full canvas.

This shot was taken when we passed the finishing line. Perhaps we took the “rum” in the regatta too literally, but to our excuse, we carried also port wine and beer.