THE SLOW LIFE
Yachting World|December 2020
A LATE SUMMER CRUISE IN DENMARK PROVES A TONIC FOR TOM CUNLIFFE
TOM CUNLIFFE

The North Sea is all right if you like that sort of thing, but what with wind farms, gas rigs and shipping lanes it’s not what it was when a sailor could walk across it on the backs of the herring shoals. In recent years my wife, Ros, and I have taken to cruising Scandinavia, and rather than face the 600-mile trip each way, we’ve been keeping our American cutter Constance in Denmark.

As it happens, a lay-up in Augustenborg Yachthavn’s climate-controlled shed costs less than leaving the boat weeping in the drizzle on a patch of dirty gravel back home. Anders and his men handle her as if she were their own and it’s two easy days to drive to the boat from the south of England with the necessary car-load of gear.

Until the Year of COVID, Denmark’s low-lying shores had served as no more than a pleasant pathway to the more spectacular skerries and highlands further north. In 2020 we weren’t able to escape to the water before July, and there’s meteorological sense behind the fact that Norwegian and Swedish yachting winds up in September. This left us with a truncated slot. We considered giving it a miss, but that was never going to happen.

Ros and I have done our time on marathon-mileage cruises. This is our conclusion: you may win a cruising award for visiting 25 harbours in 28 days, but you’ll be like the cove who joined the Navy to see the world. What did he see? He saw the sea!

This season we decided to take it easy, with a leisurely mooch around the tiny ports, sand-spit anchorages and lowlying islands of Denmark. Engine hours would tumble and we’d have time to sail at four knots if the wind dictated. Let me recommend this approach to all who seek respite from the rollercoaster of daily life. It won’t help you if you’re what Ros calls ‘a driven man’, but for most of us it’s like a cold beer on a hot day.

BEST LAID PLANS . . .

However, the plan went to rats on day one. The mast was stepped, the engine re-commissioned, all systems checked and working, the sun was well up and a sweet breeze promised. Then Ros snapped her ankle over on a dodgy bit of paving and went down like a sack of coal. Fearing a fracture, I bundled her into the car and drove to Sonderborg A&E. There was no fracture, but she had a bad sprain and couldn’t put her foot down for days.

Ros is no quitter, however, and a week later we were off, bound for the land-locked anchorage of Dyvig 10 miles down the shallow Augustenborg Fjord. The following morning dawned bright and fair, so we sailed 30 miles up the Little Belt to the improbably named but utterly charming town of Middelfart.

Most of the time, sailing southern Denmark is basically heavenly and that day was typical. Land was always in sight somewhere, and the islands and sounds guaranteed flat water. Motorboats were notably absent and those we did meet clearly understood about wash and cut their speed politely. Our progress, therefore, even in the light airs, was undisturbed. For someone used to ocean seas, the English Channel and the washing machine of the Solent on a busy Sunday afternoon, it was bliss.

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