‘Isn’t this rather an open anchorage?’

The first day of sailing for Carruthers is September 27th, and it takes him and Davies out from Flensburg, so this is our first opportunity to do some serious mapping, though Tim NotCarruthers got us started with his post on the location of their first night after Carruthers’s arrival.

Carruthers wakes on the morning of the 27th to find Davies already awake (of course!) and scrubbing the decks. After a quick dip in the Baltic for a wash – an undertaking described by Childers as ‘a short and furious swim’, a phrase which is missing the obvious words ‘bloody freezing’ – they’re off, out into the Flensburg fjord. They spend the next two days essentially enjoying themselves in this stretch of water, during which time Davies begins to slowly reveal what happened to him in the East Frisians, and Childers gives the reader the benefit of a history lesson which we discuss elsewhere.

Here’s a contemporary map of the fjord – Flensburg’s in the bottom left corner.


And here’s a more modern rendering, via OpenStreetMap – you can click through to a full-size version on the main OpenStreetMap site here.



The first place Davies takes them is to ‘Ekken Sound’ – but remember, at the time of The Riddle of the Sands this whole area is part of the German Empire, and the placenames are all German. Today, the north side of the fjord is part of Denmark, so the names are Danish – the border on our modern map is represented by the purple line down the middle of the fjord. So Sonderburg (which we’ll come to in another post) is now Sonderbørg, and Ekken Sound is now Egernsund. The sound is the body of the water at the top middle of the map, accessed by the narrow strip of water that connect the Flensburg Fjord with the sound.

They sail into Ekken Sound, but Davies is suddenly – and oddly – bored by it, so they now turn around and sail south again, and then turn left and sail south-east down the fjord. And now we must talk of winds, which shouldn’t come as a surprise in a book about sailing. Prepare yourselves for a little sailing lesson – a very little one, we promise.

Davies says the wind is coming from the south-west – ie, from the direction of Flensburg at the bottom left of the map. This seems to be confirmed by the need to ‘gybe’ the Dulcibella as they sail up towards Ekken Sound. To gybe means to turn the stern of the boat through the wind – ie, to change the side of the boat which is ‘windward’ while the wind is coming from behind you. It’s a notoriously difficult manoeuvre for neophyte sailors (I speak as someone who has been thrown into the water a number of times while attempting it in a dinghy), far more difficult than the equivalent manoeuvre of ‘tacking’, which is turning the bow of the boat through the wind. A diagram might help to explain:


The red arrow represents the wind, so in this particular gybe, the boat changes its ‘windward’ side from the port beam (in figure 1) to the starboard beam (in figure 5). In non-sailing language – the wind is blowing on the left-hand side of the boat in figure 1, and the right-hand side of the boat in figure 5.

So, if the Dulcibella is sailing broadly north-east, and needs to gybe, we can assume the wind is coming from the south-west, which helps locate the next place on the map – the place Davies and Carruthers spend the night of the 27th, out on the fjord. Childers doesn’t tell us explicitly where this is; the only clue is the weather. Davies says they will anchor ‘here, we’re just at the mouth of the fiord,’ and then tows the Dulcibella inshore using the dinghy. When Carruthers says, somewhat querulously, ‘isn’t this rather an open anchorage?’, Davies replies that ‘it’s only open from that quarter’.

With my amateur sailor’s hat on, I’d guess that the quarter that the anchorage is open on faces north, as the wind is blowing from the south-west, and Davies is unlikely to choose an anchorage with a lee shore – ie, a shore onto which the boat is blown by the wind. When I was taught dinghy sailing – a long time ago, in a place far, far away – I was told to avoid a lee shore in the same hushed tones as dieting fashion models are told to avoid cakes. It would be safer to have a windward shore, so at worst the boat is being blown away from the shore (though it’s held in place, of course, by the anchor).

All of which suggests that Davies and Carruthers anchor themselves on the night of the 27th on the southern tip of the fjord, around Nieby; here’s a closer view of that bit of the map.


This is all extrapolation, of course – and extrapolation based on somewhat limited understanding of the mechanics of sailing and navigation. Experienced sailors may have a different view – if so, leave them in the comments, and we’ll update the post if necessary.

So Davies and Carruthers fall asleep for the second night on the Dulcibella, at the mouth of Flensburg fjord. Given what Davies is planning to do, you would expect them to wake up the next morning and turn south out of the fjord. But they don’t do that. They do the opposite of that. But that’s a subject for another post.

UPDATE: The estimable Tony Fuell, who may well have to become an Adventure Club Emeritus at this rate, has suggested a different anchorage, a little further out into the fjord at Gammellück – for his full argument, see the comments, but here’s a map showing his suggestion (boxed in red) against my original (boxed in green). As Tony is actually a sailor, I’m going to bow to his experience on this one – even though this anchorage feels a little too far past Sonderburg (Sonderbørg) in the north, but that’s a landlubber speaking. Here’s Tony’s suggestion (click for a bigger image, or click here for the page on openstreetmap.org):



6 thoughts on “‘Isn’t this rather an open anchorage?’

  1. Have you considered the bay near Gemmeluck? On the south side of the Flensburg Fijord, so sheltered from the SW, a sloping beach for a solid sand anchorage, but rather open to the West and North. And near enough to the mouth of the fijord to fall within the story. I even see from Google Earth that a small-boat pontoon mooring has been built off the beach, and several small boats are moored to it. I think that this would be a better bet for an overnight anchorage, even in very calm conditions, than anywhere on the outside. Coordinates are 54* 45.59″N, 9* 52.21″E


  2. Sorry, misspelling: the village is Gammelluck. I may be being a bit conservative here (certainly more so than Davies!), but any big body of water will produce chop, which makes it uncomfortable at anchor. Were it me, I wouldn’t anchor off a beach on the outside with no shelter at all. At least on the inside, you’d be sheltered from winds from east round to (nearly) west, which would be a comfort, certainly in the days when you couldn’t get convenient and accurate weather forecasts. You’d be thinking ahead, even if the night was so calm that they’d had to tow the boat in. Possibly further out on the tip of the headland, but inside, for sure.


  3. And here’s another thought on the subject of anchoring – a subject which assumes great importance later on in the book. A boat will ride at anchor quite securely, even if it is being bounced around by swell, so it’s not the safety aspect (usually) that dictates where you drop the hook. Being aboard a boat that is being thrown around by chop is a very uncomfortable experience (ask any fisherman!) and if you are trying to live on board, as opposed to just fishing, you look for areas where the water is calm and the holding is good. Waves are produced when wind blows over water and the size and duration of the swell is a function of i) the strength or the wind and ii) the distance it has to travel (called the “fetch”). So Davies is quite safe and comfortable when he is at anchor inside a sand-bank at low tide, even in a strong wind, as the wind travels a very short distance and doesn’t kick up much of a swell. But at high tide, the banks cover and the wind is blowing over a much longer distance, so he has to move.


    1. Tony – as ever, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty for an Adventure Club member. I think you’re almost certainly right, and I’ve amended the post accordingly.


    1. It’s odd, isn’t it? Childers uses the word repeatedly for these inlets, which I suppose we’d call ‘firths’. Google Maps calls it a ‘firth’, as does English Wikipedia – but the Flensburg tourist authority calls it a ‘fjord’, as does TripAdvisor.


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