Continuing our journey south we left Middelfart on a calm still morning with grey skies and dampness in the air, but not actually raining – always look on the bright side.
Our destination was 39 nautical miles away, the island of Lyø which had been recommended to us by at least two if not three different people on sailing boats.
The day remained grey and we had wind from various directions and varying strength all day, we motor-sailed (usually able to get some assistance from the wind) but were relying on the motor to accompany the sails.
Besides navy vessels which we are seeing most days, we also saw a number of porpoises which got us excited as our year in the Baltic Sea has really lacked sea life overall. Now my fishing heritage instincts kicked right in – if there were porpoises then there must be fish, so out with the fishing lure over the back of the boat – but to no avail, in fact towards the end of the journey we lost the paravane from the line, so not only did we not catch a fish we are also a rig down! (Colleen, I can assure you Phil was on watch when the paravane was lost, he will argue I put it out, which is correct (some hours earlier) but it was then his watch when it was lost).
The wind got right up gusting to over 20 knots as we were preparing to enter the very small poky entrance to Lyø harbour, just what we didn’t want, but the pontoons were very empty so thought we would cheat and pull up alongside rather than box berth as was the set up, well to put it simply – that didn’t work. There was only a small section to pull this move off in (which really was meant for box berths) and we managed to get in around the box berth poles to pull along side but got blown off the pontoon and couldn’t get a line on as there were no cleats or poles to lasso, only rings and we were not close enough for me to jump off and were getting blown further away, abort, abort, abort … which then meant some cursing and too-ing and fro-ing under strong engine power to try and get back out from the poles all around us! So, take two we lined up for a box berth (like we probably should have to start with, but these are always a stress at the best of times and can be a real mess in windy conditions such as we had) anyway we came in down wind beside another yacht to help shelter and tied up no worries at all – sigh!
The following morning we walked into the village in the centre of the island about 1.5 km from the marina and were in awe of this stunning setting. Old houses (of course with beautiful thatched roofs) with magnificent gardens that you can tell have been established for many many years. The autumn colours were amazing and the misty air that day also added to the appeal.
It was very quiet, especially being a Saturday morning, but everything looked loved and maintained. We did see a couple of signs of life; at the dairy the cows were being milked, we were then passed by a tractor as we walked the “main street” and later saw a father and son working on a stone wall together at the front of an impressive property.
The church gardens and graveyard were immaculate and also a little different to what we were used to, as the graves are all surrounded by small box hedges as well as a lot of garden plants intertwined in the mix which are obviously lovingly maintained and the overall look is very very impressive. The church inside was very simple but looked well used by the community.
We found the small village store and chatted with the lady at the counter who told us about life on the island. Predominately it consists of two large farms and then there is also the village which has a decent number of residents. It is obvious that the community cares a lot and comes together to maintain the island, this is obvious with the church, school building (not used as a school as the kids go on the ferry), the town hall etc, we were told that they also eat together as a whole community each month in the village hall. The population on the island is 99 but will be 100 in January when there is a baby due!
And just when you thought the childish “fart” jokes were over (refer last blog post from “Middelfart”) we come across this delightful sign on Lyø , and did we giggle, yes, yes we did, seems Phil’s toilet humour is contagious! Really every home, village or decent person should have a well thought out, considerate “Fart Plan”. As you can imagine every “gas indiscretion” since seeing the fart plan is quickly followed up with the words “it’s ok it was on the fart plan” so much for the traditional “pardon me please, or excuse me” it seems as long as it is on the plan it is ok, can’t be argued with, or declared disgusting or inappropriate – so it pays to have a good plan.
We set off later that day for the short sail of 14 nautical miles to the island of Ærø. It was downwind sailing in light winds so under head sail only, a very smooth enjoyable cruise taking a little over 3 hours. It was really very nice, grey but nice.
The island of Ærø has a surface of 90 square kilometres. It is 30 kilometres long and 9 kilometres wide at its broadest point. There are around 6,300 residents on the island which has evidence (in the form of remains found) dating settlement on the island back ten thousand years. Despite being old the island is very clean and has an even greener future ahead of it, they aim to be self sufficient with sustainable energy and be CO2 neutral by the year 2025. Today they are already considered one of the leading renewable energy islands in the world.
We berthed at the town of Ærøskøbing which is the northern side and pretty much in the middle of the island in the large Trafikhavn basin.
How does one describe Ærøskøbing? I will certainly have a go but really doubt I will do it justice. It is like a perfectly preserved village from hundreds of years ago, indeed it was granted market rights in 1522 and many of the houses are 300-400 years old.
Narrow cobblestone streets, old street lamps, wonky houses without a straight wall painted in yellows, oranges and reds, an amazing array of unique front doors that open straight onto the street, roses growing in the street, lanterns in the doorways, just perfect. It has the title of the most well preserved town of the 18th century in Denmark and the town has just celebrated its 750 year jubilee.
We felt amazingly relaxed immediately which may have contributed to a little over indulging on that Saturday night – hence the title of this blog.
It started when we stopped in at the local pub for a pint around 5pm that evening. It just felt right, and it had been absolutely ages since we had been to a pub for a beer & it was Saturday after all, well we actually only stayed for one drink as the small quaint pub was still running like it would have 100 years ago with ashtrays on every table as well as on the bar and every patron had a cigarette hanging out the side of their mouths. We made the very sensible decision (the only one for the night) to go back to the boat for our second drink.
Somehow the evening slipped away as did the beers for Phil and the red wine for myself. Our reasoning maybe that we were very close to Germany and being able to restock our cellar at great (cheap) rates. To be honest I am not really sure what we were thinking but sometime later when we were so full we couldn’t possibly fit any more beer or wine in, it seemed appropriate to finish off a couple of bottles of spirits that only had a couple of drinks left in them, following that we had quite the sing-along to some classic Aussie rock such as Yothu Yindi, Midnight Oil, INXS, Hunters and Collectors.
We then came dangerously close to running out of lubricant for our throats but luckily found some Baileys for myself and Russian Vodka for Phil (yes Rob, you know the pretty Russian vodka bottle). It was about this time that we had serious discussions about entering our dingy in the advertised billy cart grand prix that was running that week on the island….
Yes, we really were quite untidy, and will apologise now to those people whom witnessed this via telephone calls and FaceTime video’s (well it was then 3:15am our time in Denmark, so it seemed appropriate to call people in Australia as it was a Sunday lunchtime for them) although from the laughing on the calls their end I think they found it all very amusing.
It is fair to say Sunday was a write off for us, a well deserved rest day, although we did manage to get the local diner for a hamburger and chips mid afternoon – it helped a lot.
Monday we were feeling much better and headed out to track down the local Grand Prix Billy Cart Bash, it is a 5 day event running over the autumn school holidays for the kids of the island.
They change the track to a different street each day as well as a new challenge each day before the big grand final on the Friday. Monday was practice day, Tuesday they concentrate on speed, Wednesday they added some cans to the track for them to steer though calling it precision driving (they got points for a clear run), and so on for the week until the grand prix final on Friday. We actually only saw those three days as we didn’t stay until Friday, but hats off to Ærøskøbing as it was a great set up, well ran, very popular and fun to watch. Phil was quite disappointed that he missed the cut off age (under 16’s only).
The island provided all the billy carts (about 15 in total) and the kids teamed up into teams of 4 or 5 and took turns going with the remainder of the team having to push them back up to the start after their run before swapping drivers. The billy carts were all really well built, with steering and brakes and despite a small variance in style they all had the same standard in regards to gear, wheels and such meaning no cart had an unfair advantage.
We also visited the other two towns on the island those being Marstal and Søby and to our delight we used the islands “free” bus to get to them.
Marstal is the biggest town on the island but didn’t attract us as much as the endearing charm that we felt in Ærøskøbing. Marstal has a really large harbour, dockyards and lots of affiliated boat works and such as well as a nautical school which for more than a century has trained navigators for the Danish merchant fleet. Its history dates back to the 18th century when it was a thriving sea port and commercial centre.
Most of the housing in the town dates back to the 19th century when almost 200 schooners and cutters would moor in the town for winter behind the 1 kilometre long stone jetty. The jetty was built by during the winters of 1824-1842 by local mariners. It also has a maritime museum which we had heard great things about but none of the outbuildings such as ship builders, steam engine workshops, the schooner ships and such were open so we didn’t go into museum as it was these outer buildings displays that interested us. Much of the town was shut up as the summer season was well and truely over.
Søby is the home of Søby Shipyard, Ærø’s largest workplace and boy was the town a hive of activity when we visited, but all of the infrastructure activity kind. Streets were ripped up being relaid and the ferry dock was undergoing a major reconstruction, they are building a new ferry in the dockyard, the ferry will be ran 100% on electric power, and don’t be misguided it’s a large ferry, for both cards and passengers. Further to this they are also building a new dock and charging terminal to house it, which means currently the towns port (the centre foreshore) is one massive construction zone. From what we could assertion on the information around the project the ferry will be able to run for 20 nautical miles which is the return journey for the ferry to the mainland. Impressive stuff.
Of course a visit to Ærø would be incomplete without seeing the beach huts at both Ærøskøbing and Marstal, these private huts first appeared on the island in the early 1920’s. Unlike the famous beach huts in Australia these are all unique shapes and sizes, definitely not uniform. At the time no rules regulated the construction and no requirements were made of the positioning design or colouring. Of course as time progressed controversy became involved of the legality of them and from 1960 the beach hut case wars over land, leases and such went on for more than two decades.
Today there are 74 huts at Vesterstrand (Ærøskøbing) and 19 at Eriks Hale (Marstal) and the land under the beach huts are on permanent leases and the provisions are rigorous; no annexes, no additions, no installation of electricity or water – everything must remain as it was. The most famous of these huts is the “thatched red beach hut” it was completed in August 1931, today the hut is available to hire and it often used for weddings.
We did drop the lines and motorsail around to Marstal (the eastern point of Ærø) on the afternoon of our last day, this was 12 nautical miles due to having to go a fair distance north before turning east then tracking back south, as the water all around the islands are very shallow, so we had to stick to the buoyed channels. We only moved to knock the 12 nautical miles off our journey for the following day which is us leaving Denmark for Germany!