A Tale of Two Harbours - Harba Blog

A Tale of Two Harbours

We decided to share this personal tale on our blog, because we think that you will likely be able to relate to some of the sentiments the author describes. And because we think it’s an important story that needs to be told. Happy reading! Planning a sailing trip soon? Book a harbour, mooring, docking spot, with the Harba App. Available from the App Store and Google Play.
By Dan Kvistbo

It was a beautiful little oasis, close to the centre of Copenhagen and yet somehow remote in time and space. A rich blend of fishermen and thriving communities of sailors from all walks of life. Colourful fishing huts and fishing vessels. A decent balance of wooden- and fibreglass sailing yachts of all sizes, by the standard of the day. A handful of motorboats, a variety of dinghies, kayaks and canoes. Even the local houseboat. It was the archetype of a perfect harbour. Unusually well protected from the sea, by a long and almost riverlike entry and yet with inner basins just large enough to manoeuvre under sail. Indeed, the marina Skudehavnen would later be affectively described as “the heart of the city”, in a rare publication by Danish author and illustrator, Ib Spang Olsen and fellow co-authors.

It was where I grew up. Where I had my first involuntary taste of seawater, when a jetty turned out to be shorter in real life, than in my mind. Where I first walked on the sea, during the hard winter of 1978-79, the first in a remarkable series of what Danes refer to as Ice winters, when all fjords and inner waters are frozen over. It was where I learned every quirk and gimmick of sailing, mucking about in Optimist dinghies and later Flipper Scows or anything else that would float and move with the wind. Heading still further out at sea, as my skills and self-confidence grew. It was my childhood playground and a fantastic one at that. It was also the base, from where my family and I would sail off on great adventures, throughout Denmark, the Swedish Skerries, the Baltic Sea and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. It was our Carthage. A safe harbour from where we would gradually discover still further horizons and “conquer” new territories, but always return. As a young boy, it was my second home.

But like Carthage, someone was intent on destroying it. As the last recorded Ice winter struck Denmark back in 1995-96, the harbour fell prey to a mixture of municipal- and corporate interests. The Oresund Bridge, connecting Denmark and Sweden, was under construction and the location of Skudehavnen, made it all too attractive a site for the construction process of bridge- and tunnel elements.


Depending on your perspective, you might suggest that the marina merely made way for progress. Needless to say, for me, it was the sad end of an era that had shaped the early years of my life. Seeing your childhood playground turned into rubble. To this day, I still sometimes close my eyes and let my mind wander back in time. And then I sense the unique atmosphere re-embrace me. The sights, sounds and smells of that harbour, the sensations and impressions of a time long gone by. Ah – such sweet memories!

Meanwhile though, entering my teens, I had already moved on to another nearby marina. Teaching fellow youngsters everything I had learned about sailing and navigation, since my parents had carried me across the bowsprit of their first boat, when I was still in my diapers. It was a bigger marina by any measure – in fact the largest in Denmark. It’s where I would spend my entire teenhood. Where I began racing slightly more seriously. Where I met my first girlfriend. It was my new, second home. Today, decades down the road, there’s still a couple of half-hull models of Ynglings (keelboat) decorating the wall at one of the Sailing Club restaurants, carrying brass plates with me and my brother’s names on them. Club Champions 1985-86 or there about. I know, you can sense the pride, right?

But here’s the thing. Another large-scale infrastructure project is currently in motion: A harbour tunnel to let traffic bypass the centre of Copenhagen. Progress? Undoubtedly. Yet the tunnel is projected to run right under that harbour and is threatening the very life of Svanemøllen Marina along with Kalkbrænderihavnen next door. Harbours that are used by an estimated 10.000 people. The best case scenarios look grim. Worst case, disastrous for the long term survival of the harbours. I for one, would be sorry to see my second childhood playground, turned to dust.

It’s not that I don’t understand the need for a harbour tunnel. As a citizen of Copenhagen, I welcome it. But I sincerely hope that the relevant decision makers will listen to the many boat owners, sailors, rowers and friends of the harbour, for whom navigare necesse est – and find a solution that will fully accommodate their needs.


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