Lille Bjørn - the boat that has 9 lives

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.

Irene sailing Irene on land Irene on land
Irenes skipper Irenes crew The Arling family Irenes saloon
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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.

Banana at Hejsager Beach Banana in the harbour Banana at the quay The Lund brothers Irene fishing
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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.

Newspaper about the accident
Repairing Irene Repairing Irene Repairing Irene
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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.

Accident at the Priwall Irene salvaged Repairing Irene
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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.

On the way to Hamburg The proud owner on board Irene becomes Frau Wirtin Frau Wirtin launched Frau Wirtin in the Kiel Canal
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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.

Better before ... Starting the renovation
Boat lift Scharnebeck - Elbe-Seitenkanal Towed through German canals
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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.

Colin Archer Leiv Eiriksson as model Putting the mast Putting the mast Irenes new rigging On the slip in Carolinensiel Under full sails Celebrating 100 years
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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.

Out to the North Sea Back home in the Baltic Sea Rostock city port
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At Rostock's big summer event Hanse Sail we were shot on river Warnow:

Sailing with guests Hanse Sail 2002 Hanse Sail 2002
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Lille Bjørn's next journey led her to the old navy shipyard in Peenemünde, where we replaced her sternpost and adjacent boards.

Peenemünde shipyard Waiting for the new sternpost With new sternpost in oak Caulking the new boards
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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.

Demolishing the old bulkhead Planks to be exchanged New fore deck Stone ballast out Lead ballast in
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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.

Christiansø Anchoring in the Karlskrona archipelago Dalarö in Stockholms archipelago Kylmäpihlaja light house Djupvik in Ålands archipelago The Maritime Quarter in Mariehamn
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One more boat

The winter in the Maritime Quarter inspired us to go for one year at Stensund's boat building school!

After a summer sailing in Åland's archipelago we headed for Trosa in Södermanland south of Stockholm.

Fifång in the Södermanlands archipelago Going ashore Our berth in Trosa Starting the boat building Ready for launching
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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.

Towing Pärlan Under Ålands flag The old motor leaving Sailmakers loft The new topsail Winter dormancy in the Maritime Quarter
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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.

Hull renovation

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.

Reinforcement with chicken wire Nailing the wire to the hull Reinforcement complete Plastering Plastering Ferrosheathed
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