The Baltic, Denmark, and Sweden


THE Baltic may well claim precedence among the seas as the boat-sailers' paradise. Not even the classical Mediterranean can surpass it in interest or beauty. While in the Mediterranean the sailor's mind goes groping back to reconstruct, if possible the craft of Egypt, Phoenicia or Rome, in the Baltic his eye may gaze upon the almost identical longships, or 'keeles', which carried the brave Norse boatmen of old to build up nations in the West.

As the Mediterranean is the nursery of the high peaked lateen, the parent of the long-yard lugsails of the South, so the Baltic remains the sea of the storm-enduring square sail, the parent of the short-headed lugsail of our Northern isles.

The one is the home of the silent, clean-lined, carvel build; the other of the strong, simple clench or clinker-build, first understood and practised by the wonderful old Norse boat-builders, and by them handed down, through the fishing-boats of the Northern nations, to our own time.

But while the interest of its strongly-built boats and the beauty of its wooded, rocky coastline exercise a peculiar fascination upon the voyager, perhaps the chief charm of the Baltic is in the kindly ways and honest hearts of the hardy people living upon its shores and navigating its waters.

No nations of the earth can excel in charm and hospitality the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes. What a voice these Scandinavian cousins might have in the world's doings if they would but settle their differences and agree to pull together! When navigating their seas and enjoying their hospitality, the Englishman can never cease to wonder why the present enmity between them does not give way to the more generous rivalry which is produced by unity of policy. It is not too much to say that the British race, under similar circumstances, would have contrived some scheme of federation which would have enabled the three Norse nations to have presented a united front to the world, and been masters of the Baltic.

It is upon the water, as ever, that political or racial differences are forgotten, and the cruiser may be sure of a hearty welcome, and a friendly hand if he needs it, whatever nationality he may light upon.

It was once when beating up the narrow channel, scarcely twice our length across, into the little port of Landskrona on the Swedish coast, that our forty-tonner went a fathom too far, and as she came in stays, she took the mud and remained fast. A pilot came off, although it was blowing fresh, and eventually, after other efforts had failed, he took off a heavy anchor for us, by means of which we soon hove the ship off. He watched us get it in, and get way enough on our ship to come about again clear of the shoal, and thence go tacking up the tortuous gut, with evident satisfaction.

As soon as we were at anchor, and while we were still stowing sails, he came aboard.

'Good day, Pilot,' I said; 'what do I owe you for that little job?'

'Good day, sar,' he replied in excellent English, taking off his cap all round; 'I just come aboard to see you and look at the yacht; she was built over here.' We offered him supper, or a glass of grog, or a cigar, but he refused all, saying that he'd 'just like a bit of a yarn.' So a yarn we had, a good long one, about the ships he had sailed in, the ports he had visited all round the world, and about the ship, and what she cost to build, her rig, her speed, her virtues and her shortcomings, and an hour after he raised his cap and began to haul his boat alongside. 'Well, Pilot,' said I, 'what do I owe you for helping us get that anchor away?' 'Oh, that 's nothing,' he declared, and he insisted that he only wanted a yarn 'and to look at the yacht again.' In vain we pressed money, food, and drink, and everything else we had on board upon him. As he pulled away in the darkness of the windy night, he was still protesting that all he had wanted was a yarn. And this is typical of the seafaring men of the Baltic Sea who, second to none, have drunk the deep sea spirit, and from some of whom, more than any of the sons of men, it has been my lot to receive kindness and friendship more disinterested, more unique, than I think can ever be met except among the men who have tasted in life the meaning of the great silence, and know it well.


Not less than the men, the craft of the Baltic form a never-ending source of interest, and have very well marked characteristics. With scarcely an exception the sharp stern is used in all the fishing craft, whether Finnish, Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian. Sharp floors, great beam, and considerable rake of stem and stern post, with wide flare forward, are the rule. The boats are nearly always clinker-built in wide strakes of great thickness, and when undecked they usually have high sheer. The materials used are oak or fir, and wooden pegging is much resorted to.

As regards rigging, pole-masts of very good height are usual. Where the old single square sail has been discarded, the square-headed spritsail has generally been substituted (except in the larger vessels where the gaff mainsail is preferred), and the staysail added before the mast to keep the balance of sail.

In the small traders, in which the gaff and boom mainsail take the place of the spritsail, the dandy is, especially on the south coasts, the favourite rig.


The mizen is usually lofty and stepped well inboard, and its proportion often gives to the vessel the appearance of a cross between a dandy and a schooner, like the early nineteenth-century schooners on our own coasts. Besides the fore staysail, there are usually in these vessels two or three jibs rigged out on a long jib boom, and square yards and sails hold their own on the foremast for favourable winds, and often even when sailing by the wind. As in the old Dutch galliots, which these vessels often much resemble, leeboards are frequently seen, especially in the shallow waters of the southern coast. A peculiarly antique stern (like that of the King's cutters two centuries ago), with old fashioned wooden davits carrying the dinghy over it, an overhanging bow with much flare, and prominent deck-houses painted in some light colour, give to these craft a character of their own, and help to make them comfortable sea-boats, notwithstanding the low freeboard of the waist when fully laden.

The fishing craft of the Gulf of Bothnia and Finland form exceptions to the usual run of craft in the Baltic in the matter of beam, and are proportioned much more on the lines of the Viking vessels, which they also follow closely in the matter of rig. Like the long 'keeles' of the fifth century, they are nearly always open, and when, as in some of the larger and deeper boats, a shelter is provided, it is placed in the stern of the boat, instead of forward as is usual in fishing craft on our coasts. One reason is, no doubt, that the great height of the bow renders decking unnecessary and inconvenient; added to which the North men wisely like to keep weight out of the hollow-lined bows, and so assist their boats in being lively in the short seas prevailing in bad weather in the Baltic, to which this class of boat must always be kept head on.

The curved and elevated stem and stern posts of these boats remind one instinctively of the Viking ships, and they show how little in some respects the design and construction of those old builders has needed improvement. Like their forerunners, the boats are clinker-built of oak or fir. They are used for cod fishing, and pull from six to twelve oars, with long blades and heavy looms. *1* In some cases yoke lines are fitted in addition to the tiller. It will be noted that an almost similar type of boat, but of finer lines and finish, and slightly larger size, is used by the Norwegian cod-fisherman of the Trondheim district.

The spritsail boats in Finland follow very generally the lines of the small open boats in use among the Norwegians and elsewhere, and do not call for special notice here.



If, as the Danes affirm, the Swedes may be called the Frenchmen of the North, they themselves may at least be reckoned the English of the Baltic. The peaceful inland scenery of their islands, their personal appearance, their enterprise, and their deep reliance upon the sea, are all essentially British. As might be expected of an island race, using the sea so widely, they are splendid boat builders and boat sailers, and have developed a great variety of interesting types adapted to the peculiar conditions of the shores.

The boat-harbours of the Danish Isles consist generally of a couple of timber jetties filled in with big stones, built out on some shallows, or in a sheltered spot at the mouth of a fjord, and enclosing space enough to just hold the boats owned by the inhabitants of the scattered little wooden houses near by.

*1* The purely open boats of this type in the Gulf of Bothnia are about 29 ft. long, 5 ft. beam, and 2 ft. in depth, with a mast about 24 ft. length. The foot of the squaresail is wide, and is extended by a long boom. The half decked boats are 27 ft. by 7 ft. beam, by over 3 ft. in depth, have a shorter mast, and a very square yard nearly the same length as the mast.

Their entrance is often less than thirty feet across, and there is generally not more than four or five feet of water in the haven. Getting under way or bringing up in these confined and crowded little harbours in anything of a breeze requires a quick eye and a handy boat. Even in the most exposed portions of the coasts there is generally one such harbour within reach, if one's craft does not draw too much. The abundance of small harbours, the untold miles of protected waters to be navigated, the charming scenery of widening, narrowing fjord, and the shallow soundings generally obtain, all combine to make this portion of the Baltic a glorious cruising ground for the adventurous small boatman. But he should follow the example set by the Danish fishermen, and never exceed a five-foot draught if he wishes to explore the most charming of the Danish waters.

Mr. E. F. Knight, in his Cruise of the Falcon, has given a delightful description of the beautiful coastline and its fishing population, and of the treacherous weather to which the lovely waters of the Baltic are subject.

For the open water work, the Danish boat-builders have succeeded in developing very powerful boats, considering the draught and size to which they are generally limited by the restricted size of their harbours; and in the wild autumn months they need to have stout craft under them even more than in the beautiful but treacherous summer days; for no sea changes its hue so quickly or so often as the wicked, wooing, smiling Baltic. And as the winter comes and the warning flakes of bottom ice commence to shoot upwards to the surface, boats and men together have many a long hard fight to get home from the clutches of the hungry northern storm-fiend.

6 ft. by 13 ft. 8 in. by 5 ft.

For the even more exposed and boisterous waters of the Kattegat, and the western coast of the bleak promontory of Jutland, larger tonnage and greater draught is the rule, while for the eel and other shallow- water fisheries flat bottom centre-board open boats are coming in.

The fishing-boats of Hornbaek, at the northern end of the Island of Siaelland, and of Skovshoved, on the east coast of Siaelland in the Sound and north of Copenhagen, will be probably best known to yachtsmen and seamen, the majority of whom, in vessels of any draught, pass through the Sound in going and coming.


The Hornbaek boats are very characteristic in build, and follow the usual rule of being stem and stern alike and clinker-built. They have considerable sheer, and remarkable flare on the bows and quarters. The sternpost is very raked, and the top is rounded up and cut off, in a manner peculiarly Norse, below the top of the rail, the tiller passing through an open cut in the bulwark, and beneath the rail, which is carried right round. They are cutter rigged, having gaff and boom mainsail and yard topsail set on the pole-mast. They are decked in, and are fast and beautiful sea boats. They are used for plaice and other fishing in the Kattegat. *1*

Almost identical with these boats, in build as in rig, are the sole and herring boats of Lynaes and Hundested, at the mouth of the beautiful Ise Fjord. They have less sheer, less draught, a trifle more beam in proportion to their length, and a lower rail than the Hornbaek boats, but like them they have to face plenty of bad weather in their fishing-grounds around Anholt and in the southern part of the Kattegat.


*1* Approximate dimensions: Length, 36 ft.; beam, 13 ft. 8 in.;
draught, 5 ft.

In most cases the dimensions of the Danish boats are taken from Captain C. F. Drechsel's admirable work on the Danish fisheries. Owing to their shallowness and enormous beam, and their peculiar dish-like section, these boats, when under way, really appear to be all deck, and to have scarcely any side at all. They are wonderfully buoyant dry craft, and their motion in a sea-way is quite peculiar and strange by one accustomed to deeper, narrower builds. *1*


A number of these boats weathering a nor'-wester form a sight which no one who has been privileged to see it can forget.

*1* Length, 32 ft. 6 in.; beam, 13 ft 8 in. ; draught, 4 ft. 6 in.

Another craft, almost similar in every particular to the types just mentioned, except that she is larger and is dandy-rigged, may be here referred to as hailing from Frederikshavn, at the north-eastern extremity of the storm-swept Jutland. This boat is also used in the plaice fishery in the Kattegat, and is, as is very necessary, a powerful sea-keeping type, of very strong construction. The mizen, behind which is the steering well, is often a flat-headed spritsail, and the mainmast is fitted with a topmast. Such a boat would form an ideal rough-weather cruiser. *1*

Plaice, sole, and turbot form an important fishery, and besides the trawl, and shore and deep-water bottom seine nets, spiller lines and tramel nets are used all round the coasts. These fish mostly frequent Anholt and the Aalborg banks, Ise Fjord and the head of the Sound, and some spots on the west coast.

The Skovshoved herring-boats, in which may be included all boats engaged in this important fishery, sailing from the small harbours of the Sound, as far south as Faxe Bight at the south-eastern end of Siaelland, are much smaller in size and are only half decked. The curve of the stem-piece is very marked and gives a very rounded forefoot. The stern-post is as usual very raked, and above the waterline makes that curious elbow, or forward curve, which is characteristic of the majority of the Danish boats, and is more developed in these boats than in any others. They carry their beam well aft, especially above the waterline, where there is great flare. The deck plan is peculiar, the little cuddy which does for a cabin, and has just room for two men to lie down for an occasional spell, being placed aft at the quarters just before the tiny well occupied by the steersman. The boat is open amidships as far as the mast-thwart, with wide waterways along the sides.

*1* Approximate dimensions : Length, 42 ft. ; beam, 15 ft.; draught, 6 ft. 6 in.; tonnage, about 24.

In a boat sketched at Vedbaek these waterways gradually narrowed forward until they vanished at each bow where the boat was entirely open -- eloquent witness of the lifting power in a sea-way of the rounded forefoot and high-flared bows of these boats.

•  •  •

At the pretty little harbour of Rodvig, however, the boats were mostly decked before the mast; no doubt owing to the very nasty sea to be met with here, away from the shelter of the Sound, especially when a strong south-east wind is blowing on to the shallows of the Faxe Bight.

These boats are from 24 to 25 feet long overall (22 to 24 LWL), and 8 to 9 feet beam (the beam more often than not exceeding one-third of the overall length), and have from 3 feet to 3 feet 6 inches draught. The mast is stepped well back, 8 to 9 feet from the bows, and is a stout spar standing 21 to 24 feet from the deck. The mainsail is a flat-headed spritsail.

24 ft. by 8 ft. by 3 ft. 2 in.


The spreet, standing at an angle of about forty-five degrees with the mast, is about 22 feet long, and its end stands a little below the line of the masthead. In its cut and proportions the sail is directly opposed to the principles usually followed in the fore and aft mainsail, the peak standing lower than the throat, and the foot being several inches shorter than the head, so that the leech stands up and down, the peak standing over the clew. The shape is, at first, by no means taking to the eye accustomed to well-peaked sails, although it undoubtedly results in a very flat-setting sail when close hauled; and it is quickly and easily reefed, and can be reduced to very snug proportions in a blow.


The foresail is a big powerful sail running on the stout forestay. Like the mainsail it is generally tanned, and together they form the working rig of the boat. A light triangular or jib-headed topsail hoisted on a long spar and a large jib set on a light-running bowsprit are used in fine weather. It is noticeable that the Danish fishermen, like the Norwegian pilots, hold on to the fore staysail when it blows, although the British smacksman takes it off before any other lower sail when there is any weight in the wind, and prefers his small third or storm-jib which, as he says, presses down a boat much less than the staysail, and has far more lifting power. The Dane or Norwegian, however, owing to the great beam of his boat, feels the pressing influence of a staysail far less, while in his high-flared overhanging bow he has all the lifting power he requires. It is curious how, for racing purposes, we are coming back in this country, as they are in America, to greater beam and greater overhang and flare forward.

Both mainsail and foresail have generally three rows of reef-points in them. The mainsail is held by a rope lacing to the mast. It is stowed in a bunch on the mast, and when set is first hoisted well up by the main halyard and then hauled out to the spreet-end by the out-haul.

When brailing up the out-haul is let go and the two brails are hauled upon, the peak and head of the sail being thus brought down alongside the mast. The sail is never brailed up at the throat while standing on the spreet, as is always done in the Thames barge and other sprit-rigged boats in England.

A very handsome type of little cutter comes from the neighbourhood of Nystead in the Isle of Laaland, less peculiarly Danish in type, and having a transom stern and much straighter stem-post. She is flatter floored and more straight-sided than those already described. She has a lofty pole-mast and standing bowsprit, and is used for the herring net-fishery. *1*

The herring fishing extends all through the quiet Belt as well as the Sound. Stake-nets are extensively used along the shores, especially in the spring fishing, while the greater part of the autumn catches are made by drift-nets.


The solitary island of Bornholm, lying in the Baltic, has some good boats of its own. The open boats used for the important herring and spring salmon fisheries are dandy rigged, the main and mizen sails being spritsails with a slight peak to them, but still very straight leech. A yard topsail is sometimes carried, and is set on a kind of sliding-gunter topmast passing through a cap in the usual way, the heel of which comes down to within reach of the deck. The raised stem and stern posts are very straight. They are mostly 22 feet long and 8 feet beam, and about 3 feet 8 inches internal depth.

*1* Length, 26 ft; beam, 9 ft; draught, 3 ft 6 in.

The larger decked boats used in the salmon fishery are of the sharp-bottomed wide-flared build, very like the smaller Skorshoved boat. Forward the stem-head is carried up some three feet in height, reminding one much of the Gulf of Bothnia boat. From here an open rail runs right away aft to the quarter. A small deck-house aft gives a peculiar appearance to the boat. She is a pole-masted cutter, the mainsail having no boom, and being sheeted to a horse inside the stern The perpendicular line of the leech and the very square head of the gaff topsail are not at first prepossessing.

The salmon frequent several of the shallow fjords of the islands, and are caught in large numbers off Bornholm on the west, south, and south-eastern sides. The drift-net is largely used, and floating hook-lines are set in deeper water outside.

In the shallow fjords among the islands, in the Little Belt, or up the flats of the Aalborg banks on the eastern coast of Jutland, flat-bottomed open skiffs, as usual stem and stern alike, are used for eel and plaice and other shallow-water fisheries. They are fitted with leeboards or centre-boards, and rigged in one or other of the usual fashions.

All these shallow waters of the coastline bear witness to the ingenuity of the local fisherman in the multitudes of stake-nets and basket-work traps with which unwary herrings, eels, and flat-fish, and even more sagacious deep-water fish such as cod, are beguiled. Not even the much-staked waters of the tropics can compete with the Baltic in the multiplicity and variety of these contrivances.

*1* These boats run to about 33 ft. long, 11 ft. 6 in. beam, 4 ft. 6 in. draught aft, and 4 ft forward.

While the principal scenes of the herring fishery are in the Kattegat and through the Great Belt and the Sound to the shores of Bornholm, the cod and haddock frequent mostly the west, or North Sea, coast of Jutland, and the boats used in this fishery are large, powerful craft. Some of the regular North Sea dandy rigged smacks are now used in this fishery with counters and straight stems, but the visitor to the little port of Esbjerg will find plenty that is novel and interesting in some of the stout cod-line boats lying there, or in the beamy little traders from the south. A typical Danish type of boat used here is about 87 feet in length, 13 feet 9 inches in beam, and over 6 feet in draught. She has a curious turn up to the stem-head, not unlike the snub-nose of some of our modern racers. She is, as usual, stem and stern alike, but has full rounded ends and sharper bottom than is usual. She is cutter-rigged with gaff and boom mainsail, standing bowsprit and topmast of very English proportions.

The open boats are spritsail rigged, with an also much more familiar shape of sail. They have straight overhanging stem and stern posts, and a great deal of flare and sheer, and are very round at the gunwale at each end. They run up to 26 feet by 8.

In this fishery, which is carried on in many spots round the eastern Jutland coast, and among the islands, as well as out deep in the North Sea, the hook and line is much used, while stake-nets and traps are used in the Belts, and in the more sheltered shallow waters of the main islands.



Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the Swedish boat-builder is his love of beam and solidity.


No stronger, finer sea-boats are to be found in the world than some of these Swedish fishing craft.

The open boats used in the cod and herring net fisheries are, in their way, perhaps the most remarkable craft afloat. Their characteristics are monstrous beam and great strength. For a length of 17 feet some of them have a beam of 13, and yet, owing to the beautiful curves, there is no sense of awkwardness about them. They are clinker-built, with sharp floors and raking stern-post, and carry one large spritsail. The head of the sprit, instead of being pointed for fitting in the grommet at the mast, is generally forked. *1*

*1* Dimensions:




25 feet 8 inches

9 feet 10 inches

3 feet 3 inches.

17 feet 0 inches

13 feet 0 inches

4 feet 0 inches

The big-decked Swedish mackerel boat is not less remarkable. That she is clinker-built, stem and stern alike, and has a very raking stern-post, and great beam, goes without saying. She has hollow floor, and a deep heel, and is about the strongest and most powerful sea boat of her size in the world. There is a double rail all round. She is dandy-rigged, with the sprit, mizen, and main sails familiar in the Danish and Norwegian boats, and a very long topsail-yard running up and down the mast, sliding gunter fashion. The mast being very stout there is, as usual, very little rigging, there being a single stay on each side, and no runners.

There is a threefold sheave at the masthead to accommodate the mainsail, spreet, and fore staysail halyards. The mainsail is set by hauling out on the standing spreet, as already described in the Skovsboved boats, and is brailed down in the usual Scandinavian manner to the mast. It can be reefed down very small.

The sheet travels on a horse. The mizen has no standing rigging, and has a double sheave at the masthead, through which are rove the mizen-sail and mizen topsail halyards. The sheet leads to a wooden boom over the stern. *1*

Of the very remarkable square-rigged cargo-carriers of the inland waterways about Gotenburg I have unfortunately no experience. That they are able hold a very close wind is apparent even to the railway traveller, and they will probably amply repay the investigation which I hope one day to give them.

*1* Small boats of this type are also built. Dimensions:




36 feet

17 feet 0 inches

7 feet 5 inches.

28 feet

9 feet 10 inches

3 to 4 feet.






Contents: Mast & Sail

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