“How the hell do we get out?” I thought while stuck at the dead end of a tiny marina north of Copenhagen. We had borrowed a Jeanneau 35 sloop for two weeks on the tail end of a European holiday in May. (Our kind hosts with three kids are taking our Cal 39 next summer.)
All the boats were packed like in a sardine can, stern-tied to floats anchored every few feet. What we should have done is reverse slowly out. But it was the third day aboard and I was unsure how she would respond with twin rudders and a very wide transom. So I steered a tight circle and promptly snagged a float as a brisk headwind caught the bow. Onlookers came to the rescue and pushed the bow back into the channel. With huge relief, the float untangled and we fled the cosy harbour. Luckily, the next port of call had room on the dock and we tied alongside for two nights.
Meanwhile, an e-mail arrived from the hosts saying a harbour master contacted them to report damage to a float line. Word spreads fast in these tiny communities and someone had snapped a pic identifying our vessel. He estimated a nominal sum to fix it and we gladly paid up. Forecast was for strong winds so we didn’t want to tempt fate and returned home early to the downtown marina. Copenhagen was a wonderful place to explore from what became our floating motel room.
From the little we saw, the inland coastline is rather flat and boring. Think Delta with busy marinas every few miles. Sweden is within sight and sailors crisscross easily as part of the EU. Danes are wild about sailing. And most boats are well-built, often from local shipyards. It’s usually windy. Summers are long (with dawn waking me at 4am) and winters dreary with just a few hours of daylight. So they were flocking to their boats, plazas and parks to enjoy the sun.
Marinas forego fingers in favour of either floats or pilings for stern-tying. A tricky business as you must secure the stern lines first to prevent the bow hitting the dock. Then run forward to tie up by leaping ashore or reaching for lines. Some pilings are plastic and give-way as you motor in. More forgiving than our sharp dock corners. This “box-docking” system doubles the marina capacity while reducing maintenance. Our host’s marina uses a computerized pass card for electrical outlets and facilities. We topped ours up a few times then got a refund when departing.
Wandering about town, it was easy to understand why taxes and cost of living are so high. The cityscape is a marvel, a blend of centuries-old brick & tile and sleek low rise apartments and offices with that Danish design flare. (Could use a bit of bright colour among the many shades of grey.) Subway runs 24 hours, every 5 minutes everywhere. Aside from the ubiquitous urban graffiti, streets are clean and tidy. Bicycles have their own lanes. Everyone seems affluent, blond and tall, most fluently bilingual. Be forewarned, coffees are $10.
Denmark is our sixth boat swap after Greece, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia and Nova Scotia. It may be our last as the anxiety of sailing a new boat in a strange place is all too real. Yet I hope there’s another on the horizon as the adventure outweighs the risk.