Half a century ago I signed on as a deckhand aboard a 90-ton trading ketch that had recently been sold out of service in the Danish Baltic Sea. She had made her way to the South Coast of England, where I was based, and was refitting for a voyage to the Caribbean. The old girl was in a sorry state, but she still had the sweeping sheer built into her at Fåborg in 1929. My shipmates and I adzed out new masts, rigged her, caulked her, painted her and, against all odds, sailed her away. Her name was Johanne, and she taught me a lot more about the world than the three years I had just completed in college.

By the early 20th century the glory days of the Viking ships were long gone, the Nordic countries were living quietly, minding their own business, and the Baltic Trader had become the icon of Danish seafaring. Local commerce has now changed, however, and these sweet vessels too have had their day. The modern cruising yachts that have replaced them do a fine job for today’s leisure sailors, but I’m glad I served my time aboard in another era. It left me with a visceral connection to the on the Solent in England for a good while, it was time for change.

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