The Sailing Yacht
The ship was built in 1896 at Christian Lautrup's shipyard in Copenhagen as a sailing boat without engine, larch on oak frames. She was named Irene and was owned by the Arling family of Aalborg / Denmark. These pictures are from the early 20th century.
World War & Fishery
Since 1917 Irene was registered as Danish fishing vessel AS22. At that time her first engine - a hot-bulb engine with 8hp - was built in. She had various owners in Aarhus, Skærbæk och Årøsund, and had the nickname "banana" among the fishermen because of her hull. In the 1940ies she got a 45hp diesel engine.
Accident & Salvage
12th of march, 1948, Irene ran on a sea mine and sank – her skipper Aage Ravn and seaman Villy Christensen died. The ship was salvaged and repaired. Until the 1960ies she was in use as fishing vessel.
Average & Decommissioning
Decommissioned from fishery, she went aground at German Priwall (sailing vessel Passat is seen in the background) and her port side was destroyed. Again, she was salvaged and repaired.
Around 1964 the ship was taken to Hamburg, new owner being German actor Frederik Schneyder, and became leisure yacht named Frau Wirtin with home port in Neustadt/Holstein at the bay of Lübeck.
Back to original looks
In the 1970ies the ship became more and more neglected. 1980 Jörg Zabel bought Frau Wirtin in bad shape. He named her Helena, took her to Ditzum/Ems and began a major refit to bring her back to her original loooks. Here she is towed through the German canals.
Christoph Essing built a gaff cutter rigg taken after the Colin Archer Leiv Eiriksson (source: "Colin Archer and the seaworthy double-ender" by John Leather). He renamed her Irene av Skærbæk, new home port became Oldenburg, with berth in Carolinensiel on the German North Sea coast.
Current owners take over
The draught of 1.85 meters made the ship quite impractical for the shallow tidal coast. When we found and bought her in 2002, we sailed her to Rostock, continued with fitting her out, and named her Lille Bjørn.
At Rostock's big summer event Hanse Sail we were shot on river Warnow:
Lille Bjørn's next journey led her to the old navy shipyard in Peenemünde, where we replaced her sternpost and adjacent boards.
During the next winter the boat got a new fore deck and bulkhead, as well as changing the ballast in stones and sandbags for 2 tons of lead ballast.
Baltic Trip 2003
After 9 months Lille Bjørn was seaworthy and ready to sail in the spring of 2003. We went northbound to explore the Swedish and Finnish archipelagoes via Bornholm, Öland, Stockholm and Åland up to Rauma. A transmission failure near Turku obliged us to stop for a while at Hirvensalo boatyard. In Åland's capital Mariehamn we had the opportunity to replace Lille Bjørn's topmast and crosstree. When autumn came, we decided to stay in Åland over the winter.
One more boat
In the spring of 2005 we returned to Åland with the Enklingejulla Pärlan in tow. And Lille Bjørn showed Åland's flag.
After the journey to Sweden, the old engine OM621 had sung it's last verses: we needed to replace it with the successing model, a OM615 with 60 HP. In the Maritime Quarter's sail loft, we also sewed a new topsail for Lille Bjørn.
Shooting of "Iris"
Lille Bjørn appears in the movie "Iris" filmed 2010 in Sweden and Åland. The story plays in the 1890ies.
Check out the trailer here. Can you see Lille Bjørn?
During the passage from Vårdö island back to Mariehamn the gearbox was torn from it's fastenings, and we had to reach the berth under sails only.
During three summers 2014 - 2016 Lille Bjørn's hull was renovated by coating with ferro cement - to achieve both strength and tightness. Ferro cement has been used since the 19th century as building material for seaworthy yachts, freight and working vessels, as well as coating for saving old boats - so called ferro sheathing. The method is quite inexpensive but very labour intensive.