Few ships have left as permanent an imprint on maritime history as the Marstal schooner. The boats are named for the shipyards of Marstal, located on the small Danish island of Ærø. The history of Marstal schooners is a fascinating story of workmanship, adventure, and ingenuity, from their modest origins to their popularity as icons of nautical culture.
The origin of the Marstal schooner
The story of the Marstal schooner traces its roots to the early 19th century, a time when maritime trade was at its prime and the world’s oceans were gateways to discovery and exchange. These vessels were designed to navigate the vast expanses of the oceans with remarkable agility.
Not only were Marstal schooners numerous, and relatively small in size, but they also endured long trips that brought them to remote regions of the world. This earned them the nickname “Sparrows of the Sea.” These two-masted ships with their characteristic schooner rig became a common sight as maritime trade expanded its reach, transporting goods that crossed countries and civilisations.
The Marstal’s trade legacy
The 19th century witnessed the Marstal schooners at the heart of a bustling global trade network. These ships had a unique blend of speed and cargo capacity. This allowed them to play an important role in connecting nations and enabling the exchange of goods. From the coasts of North America to the shores of Africa and beyond, Marstal schooners became symbols of Danish seamanship. These intrepid vessels hauled cod from the fishing grounds to European markets, returning with valuable salt to support the thriving industry in the New World.
Thousands of sailors who embarked on these long voyages, lived and worked on board under challenging conditions, braving all kinds of weather. The legacy of Danish shipping, which stands strong today, draws its roots from the seamanship forged on these vessels. The lessons learned aboard Marstal schooners continue to influence modern maritime practices, echoing the resilience and dedication of those who sailed them.
The evolution of the Marstal schooner
In the late 1960s, a significant shift occurred. The once-thriving fleet of traditional Danish wooden ships, including the Marstal schooners, began to vanish. Some ships found new homes abroad, while others languished in poor condition. The advent of modernization and changing trade dynamics marked the end of an era, but the spirit of the Marstal schooners endured.
One such ship who weathered the storm is Aron of Svendborg, our very own Marstal schooner. Now welcoming guests on enchanting sailing holidays in Southern Denmark, this remarkable vessel has spent 115 years at sea. Crafted in 1906, Aron encapsulates the essence of Marstal schooners, showcasing the elegant lines and robust ‘spring curve’ that defined these ships.
Crafted from solid oak, Aron’s flat transom and sailing prowess pay homage to the craftsmanship of shipbuilder Lars Jensen Bager from Marstal’s renowned shipyard. Aboard Aron, above and below deck, guests find respite in a beautiful haven while embarking on a journey of discoverynthrough Denmark’s islands and coastline. Private bunk cabins, a spacious saloon, and ample deck space invite moments of relaxation and contemplation, as the wind fills Aron’s sails and the serene Danish islands float by.
With over 444 islands, and 368 of them uninhabited, sailing in Denmark is undoubtedly the best way to experience the country’s hidden gems. There are countless reasons to love sailing in Denmark; the incredible soft and gentle landscape, emerald islands, rolling hills, quintessential fishing villages and fairytale castles. Not to mention over 1300 beaches in Denmark, meaning you’re never far away from white sands, secluded anchorages and hidden bays!
All our trips run within the Danish summer season, with low waves and moderate wind speeds to be expected. This temperate weather makes it an ideal sailing destination for a relaxing, skippered sailing holiday. Although it’s impossible to list all our favourite destinations in Denmark, we’ve rounded up our top 5 picks to make your Danish sailing holiday one to remember! ___________________________________
1. Fairytale city of Copenhagen
A must-see destination for any adventure traveller, the vibrant city of Copenhagen is where a number of our sailing holidays in Denmark begin. Meander through old narrow cobbled streets lined with colourful houses, quirky coffee shops and vintage boutiques. Be sure to visit the 17th-century street of Nyhavn – the oldest and most colourful street in the city of Copenhagen. Nyhavn is bursting with architectural delights where cafes line the leafy canal replete with old wooden sailing ships.
Copenhagen is also home to some of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world making it a perfect stop off the boat to enjoy some world-class cuisine! As your vessel departs Copenhagen, be inspired by the world-famous sculpture of the Little Mermaid. For more than 100 years, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale figure has been sitting on its rock at the Kastellet, a former fortress guarding the entrance to the city.
2. The Cultural delights of Bornholm
Situated east of Denmark, the island of Bornholm is known as “solskinsøen” which beautifully translates to sunshine island. The island’s landscape is unusual by Danish standards, with towering rock formations overlooking sandy beaches paired with lush green forests. A must visit destination when sailing in Denmark, Bornholm is known for its long and varied history and culture. Art lovers will enjoy the local crafts – with its artisan history, the island became the first place in Europe to become a designated World Craft Region. Once you’ve found an anchorage for the day, why not visit some of the sweet artist’s studios.
History buffs will fall in love with the rich medieval history that permeates through the island of Bornholm. The castle ruins of Hammerhus showcase the largest medieval fortress in northern Europe, well worth a visit after a morning of sailing. The island is also home to 15 medieval churches, with four unique round churches. The island showcases the fascinating medieval history just waiting to be discovered on your holiday sailing in Denmark.
Danish boat Aron of Svendborg sails to and from Bornholm as part of her sailing season in Denmark.
3. Explore the maritime history of Ærø
Part of Southern Denmark, the island of Ærø is only accessible from the water, making it the perfect place to explore on a holiday sailing in Denmark! This sweet seaport has well earned its reputation as the sailing hub of Denmark. Throughout history, the island has been home to fleets of working ships with a busy marine heritage – with many still active today.
Ærø is also home to the magical Ærøskøbing – nicknamed ‘the fairytale town’. Soak in some mythical Danish history in the best preserved 18th century town in Denmark. Unchanged for hundreds of years, guests can admire the colourful Danish architecture on a visit from the boat.
The harbour of Marstal sits on the East coast and is home to the renowned Maritime Museum, housing over 200 model ships and exhibits from all seven seas. It’s a time capsule of local maritime history, from the very first wooden cargo ships built in Marstal quay to the advance of steam power and evolving cargo trade history. The entire curation has been done by retired seaman and their families and is still run by a team of volunteers. It’s a beautifully put together display of artefacts, photos and paintings with a large collection of Jens Erik Carl Rasmussen, a popular 19th century Danish maritime painter.
Visit Aero on our schooner Aron of Svendborg who was actually built on the harbour edge of Marstal back in 1906!
4. Enjoy star gazing on Møn
An island in South East Denmark that isbest known for its sweeping stretches of white chalk cliffs named Møns Klint. The island is crowned by deep-green forest, surrounded by beautiful beaches and small secret coves. Møn is a paradise for nature lovers and has received international recognition for its unique flora and fauna. The island has in fact been designated by UNESCO as Denmark’s first Biosphere reserve.
After a busy day exploring the natural wonders ashore, spend an evening relaxing and stargazing on the boat as you experience the magic of Scandinavia’s first Dark Sky Park. This makes it officially one of the best places in Denmark to experience the majestic beauty of the night sky. Step back in time on your traditional boat, take in shooting stars and marvel as galaxies pass by without the light pollution of the modern world.
5. History, tranquility and wildlife on the island of Als
Lying close to the German-Danish border, the island of Als is home to the town of Sonderborg. Explore ashore on this typical Danish island oozing with history, tranquillity, and nature! A major attraction is the Sonderborg castle with its beautiful gardens in clear sight of our anchorage. Wander the historic merchant’s houses lining the harbour as you stroll through the Old Town boasting typical Danish tranquillity.
Danish wildlife is waiting in abundance on the island of Als. Rare breeds of amphibians and tree frogs inhabit the damp woodlands found on the island. Als lies at the migration route of birds travelling from southern Europe to Sweden – so bring your binoculars for some Danish wildlife spotting at sea!
Excellent coastal sailing, sweet Scandinavian villages and an immersive maritime culture. Just a few of the highlights to discover on a sailing holiday in Germany! Whilst Germany may not be the first place to spring to mind when booking a sailing holiday in Europe, the North coast of the country borders the Baltic Sea and provides some fantastic coastal sailing. Departing in Germany also offers the opportunity to sail across the Baltic Sea to Denmark and Sweden. Here you’ll find Scandinavian harbour villages with wooden cabins, fairy-tale castle ruins and exhilarating Baltic Sea sailing.
Two of our fleet, traditional windjammer Eye of the Wind and tall ship Iris, call the Baltic Sea home. Our voyages take place in the summer months, when the winds are stable across the Baltic. With perfect conditions for a full set of sails, it is an ideal destination for a fully skippered traditional sailing holiday! To help you get started, we’ve rounded up our top 5 destinations to visit on your sailing holiday in Germany.
Kiel – A Maritime Lovers Delight
A starting point for a number of our voyages sailing in Germany, the city of Kiel is one of the world’s best known maritime hubs. Immerse yourself in this magical maritime atmosphere, with hundreds of years of sailing history and fabled sea stories. The Kiel Week regatta, an international sailing festival, cements the city as a top destination to visit for maritime lovers. Of course it would be impossible to talk about Kiel without mentioning the canal, the world’s busiest, bustling with shipping routes and sailors. Get a true taste of authentic German sailing with our traditional tall ship Eye of the Wind as she sails through the canal on a taster sailing voyage – perfect for a short break in Germany!
Aside from being a maritime hub, Kiel is home to a vibrant cultural scene, making it a great place for a short break in Germany before boarding your vessel. Eight of the local museums here have formed a collective titled ‘Museen am Meer’, museums by the sea. Here you can take in some marvellous collections of ancient art, oceanic research, fine art and local crafts. A visit to the street of Dänische Strasse will have you stepping back in time. Meander through the streets, lined with traditional 19th century buildings full of the local charm and heritage.
Rostock – A 13th Century Masterpiece
Rostock is a top German holiday destination for exploring the many coastlines and islands of the surrounding Baltic sea. Many of our voyages sailing in Germany depart from Rostock as it’s an easy transport hub with direct flights from around Europe. The city was the original home port of traditional tall ship Eye of the Wind when originally built in 1911. Although Eye of the Wind has since circumnavigated the world, she still fits in well at her home port!
Dominated by Gothic brick buildings from the Hanseatic era, Rostock undoubtedly had its heyday in the 13th century. With some of the best preserved historical sites of this period lying within the city bounds, there’s so much to uncover on your adventure holiday in Germany. From the remnants of the city wall and fortification towers to the town hall and monastery that hides hidden garden delights within its walls, Gothic architecture is waiting at every turn. Another must see is the St Marien Church, a prime example of the city’s 13th century splendour. The church houses an incredible astronomical clock, still functioning today nearly 500 years on. For some (slightly!) more modern history, visit the Warnemunde Lighthouse, built in 1897 and still in use today. The lighthouse also provides an incredible view of your sailing area in the Baltic sea.
Eckernförde – Home of Natural Relaxation
Whilst originally a traditional fishing town, Eckernförde is now best known as an Ostseebad, a spa resort. This means it’s a local German holiday destination hotspot for relaxation and spending time on the beach. Enjoy three miles of stunning beaches, backed by a beautiful promenade brimming with local boutiques.
Visiting Eckernförde on your German sailing holiday offers the chance to immerse yourself in the natural world and truly connect with nature. The area has an incredibly diverse landscape. Coastal seaside trails, shady forests teeming with wildlife and blossoming meadows with an abundance of native flora, all of which can be explored by bike or on foot. After working up an appetite with a day of sailing and exploring, enjoy some traditional cuisine. Perhaps indulge in the freshly caught local fish that Eckernförde is known for, or sample other local delicacies in the town’s charming restaurants. The town is the perfect blend of Danish and German cultures, shown in the local architecture with traditional rust red cottages and narrow cobblestone streets.
Stralsund – unesco world heritage site
The oldest city in Pomerania dating back to the 13th century, Stralsund tops the list for history lovers sailing in Germany. The old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its outstanding brick gothic buildings that survived the world wars. There is even a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage exhibition for those who want to learn more. The town has an abundance of historic churches to visit, with St Mary’s Church, built in 1383, once standing as the world’s tallest structure. Step inside the incredible octagonal tower for panoramic views across Stralsund, the Baltic Sea and Rugen Island. Rugen Island, well known for its striking white chalk cliffs, lies just off the coast of Stralsund, and could potentially be a stop off the boat on your travels sailing the Baltic Sea with tall ship Iris.
Another spot that is well worth a visit is the German Oceanographic Museum, Germany’s largest aquarium and oceanographic collection. The fascinating exhibits provide an in-depth understanding of the native flora and fauna found in the depths of the Baltic Sea. You’ll soon be an expert on the natural world beneath the waters on your journey sailing in Germany!
Flensburg – Artisanal delights Await
A port at the head of the Flensburg Fjord, Flensburg is a popular destination for local shopping and sampling of artisanal goods. As a starting point for some of our voyages with tall ship Iris, why not spend an extra day here soaking in the blend of German and Danish cultures and enjoying some of the local events during the busy summer months. The historic lanes and traditional merchants courtyards in the town have transformed into modern cultural delights. The small restaurants and boutiques, artisan workshops, cafes and galleries, are perfect for soaking up the unique local culture.
If learning more about maritime heritage is top of your list when sailing in Germany, spend an afternoon exploring the historic port’s collection of boats from all periods of history. The next stop surely has to be the museum shipyard, containing boats recreated from the 18th and 19th centuries. The historic nature of this part of Flensburg means that traditional windjammer Eye of the Wind fits in rather well!
Join us for a sailing holiday in Germany
With all this to discover and more, if you’re feeling ready to start your adventure holiday sailing in Germany, find out more about sailing here with windjammer Eye of the Wind or tall ship Iris.
With ice covered fjords, colossal glaciers and soaring mountains, the wild and fragile landscape of Svalbard is on the bucket list for many of us. But as with any truly world class destination,travelling to Svalbard can seem daunting, with an overload of travel information to be found online. We are well versed in travelling to this remote destination, so whether you’re looking to join us for a skippered sailing tour of Svalbard, or you’re just searching for some top tips for your own journey, let us take you through a simple guide of everything you need to know before you visit Svalbard.
What you need to know about travelling to Svalbard
Svalbard is part of the Arctic circle and is the northernmost settlement in the world. Although many think of Svalbard as an island, it is in fact the name of the entire archipelago, home to nine unique islands. The main island, Spitsbergen, is home to the main settlement of Longyearben, where our tall ship Noorderlicht departs from. The other islands are less inhabited, and it’s important to remember that visitors cannot leave Longyearben without a registered guide due to the dangers of Polar bears and the harsh local climate.
One of the most important things to remember when planning a Svalbard holiday is the fragile nature of this landscape, and the impact that visitors can have on it. A sailing holiday on our traditional tall ship is the most sustainable way possible to travel to Svalbard when compared to a larger cruise, but it is still important to consider your impact on the environment here. Svalbard is being greatly affected by the effects of climate change and this will only continue in the future, with a particular impact on the local wildlife. This shouldn’t be a reason not to visit Svalbard, as long as you are visiting with a company that adheres to the strict regulations put in place to protect Svalbard. Noorderlicht is one of few boats that has been awarded an annual licence to operate in the area.
How to get to Svalbard
The easiest way to travel to Svalbard is through a connecting flight. Tromso or Oslo in Norway both have several connecting flights a day to Longyearben. Most major airports in Europe have flights available to Tromso and Oslo. Once you’ve touched down in Longyearben, there will be taxis and buses waiting to meet each incoming flight, stopping at the marina where Noorderlicht is based on request. If you’re planning to stay in Longyearben before or after your trip, the airport shuttle service will stop at all hotels in the centre.
Where to stay Svalbard
Of course the best (and most unique) place to stay on your visit to Svalbard is on a traditional tall ship! Where else will you find handcrafted accommodation, all inclusive meals freshly prepared by the onboard cook, and a new arctic view to wake up to each day? However, if you’re looking for some more traditional accommodation, perhaps before or after your Svalbard sailing adventure with us, we recommend visiting the tourism board for a full list of hotels and places to stay. These include modern hotels, independent apartments and even the world’s northernmost campsite for visitors in the summer months.
When is the best time to visit Svalbard
Sunny Winter – 1st March to 16th May. The most ‘normal’ season on Svalbard, with a clear distinction between night and day. After the long polar winter, nature awakens, and the landscapes become more diversified and teeming with wildlife.
Polar Summer – 17th May to 30th September. Polar summer includes the Svalbard phenomenon of the Midnight Sun where the sun rises on the 20th of April and does not set again until the 23rd of August. This phenomenon is a wonder to behold, and also marks the true awakening of flora and fauna found on Svalbard as the temperatures reach the highs of 6˚c.
Arctic Winter – 1st October to 28th February. Arctic winter includes the Polar night, when the sun sets on the 26th of October and does not rise again until the 16th of February. With the archipelago embraced in darkness, this is undoubtedly one of the best times of year to see the Northern lights in Svalbard!
Our sailing trips to Svalbard run between April and September, meaning there’s a chance to sail in the Sunny Winter and Polar Summer. Sailing in these months means you too can experience the incredible phenomenon of the Midnight sun or even the Northern lights. The months between April and September are well known for being the best times of year to see the widest variety of wildlife on land, sea or sky!
Things to do in Svalbard
Guided hikes in Svalbard
Although many operators in Svalbard offer hikes and excursions around the island, these can prove costly. The most economical and environmentally friendly way to see all the top destinations in Svalbard is on a sailing adventure with us! All our voyages have daily guided hikes ashore which are an amazing way to see all that Svalbard has to offer, and discover the incredible flora, fauna, geography and history of the area.
Watch out for wildlife
The call to visit Svalbard for many starts with the chance to see some of the world’s rarest and most endangered wildlife. Sailing in Svalbard allows you to get up close with some incredible creatures in their natural habitat, with minimal disturbance to them and their environment. Although the old tale of there being more polar bears than people is not quite the case, there are still many chances to see Polar bears in the wilderness as they explore the ice. The Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic Fox and Sibling Vole – who all thrive in these conditions as they are capable of building up enough fat reserves to survive the harsh winter, are common spots in this corner of the world.
The sailing waters around the archipelago are also home to many incredible marine animals that make a once in a lifetime spot on your trip to Svalbard. These include mystical fairy-tale Narwhals, and over 10 different species of whales, including Blue, humpback, fin, Beluga and Minke. Spend time on the spacious, open decks of tall ship Noorderlicht watching out for these creatures, and have your binoculars at the ready for some more frequent sightings of walruses, seals and the incredible bird life here.
Ghost town exploring
Svalbard has a plethora of ghost towns and whale hunting stations, quite literally frozen in time. Explore the historic Russian settlement of Pyrimaden, the town named after the pyramid shaped mountain that it sits next to. Now largely abandoned, there is a small hotel which houses the Pyramiden Museum alongside a post office and souvenir shop. The town has been well preserved, largely due to the cold weather and offers an incredible insight into the long mining and whaling history of Svalbard throughout the centuries.
Explore the numerous Glaciers
All of our voyages and trips to Svalbard make sure to visit to some of the area’s most impressive glaciers. Being on board Noorderlicht with its shallow draft means exploring bays that cannot be reached by land or by other larger tour boats in the area.
One glacier that Noorderlicht visits regularly is the breathtaking green-blue bay of Magdalenafjord, one of the most impressive in Spitsbergen. With a gorgeous beach, impressive vistas of the mountain tops and glaciers, this bay is an incredible stopping point. A truly rugged landscape, its vastness is impossible to explain with words. The local fauna has taken over and there are regular sightings of reindeer, polar bears, and walruses.
Head to Trygghamna bay on your sailing adventure trip to Svalbard, before a guided hike to Alkhornet cliff where some 10,000 pairs of different seabirds breed. The carbonate cliffs are more than a billion years old, meaning you’re truly at one with an ancient landscape. If you’re not feeling up to the whole hike, simply marvel at the tundra landscape at the base of the cliff, with gentle grazing meadows for the local reindeer, as well as many great wildlife spots of arctic foxes and polar bears.
Walk in Whalers footsteps
Although all our voyages visit sites of whaling history, we also run a number of voyages with a special focus; ‘Sailing in the Whalers Footsteps’. The history of whaling is long, often controversial, but it no doubt plays an important part in the heritage and modern day community of Svalbard. Get a feel for historical life on your visit to Svalbard. Voyage to the 17th century island of AmsterdamØya to witness the remains of daily life in the arctic wilderness. Or visit Kvitfiskstranda, ‘white whale beach’ where there are reminders of the past hunting of Beluga whales, which fortunately have returned to swim in the bays here.
What to pack for a trip to Svalbard
We provide a full extensive packing and kit list ahead of your voyage to Svalbard, but here are just a few of our top tips;
Layers, layers and more layers! Quick-drying layers are a must so you can adjust quickly depending on the temperature. Warm, lined, waterproofs are necessary, as well as base/thermal layers and water-proof boots. All clothing and accessories for a cold winter environment such as hats, scarves and gloves. Sun protection and polarised sunglasses are also necessary due to the sun glare from the snow!
Although the arctic climate means that keeping warm is of the utmost importance, below decks on Noorderlicht offers a warm respite from the cold, so you’ll need light, comfortable clothes for relaxing times on board.
Our secret top tip for a trip to Svalbard is to mark your boots, as most places indoors in Longyearben you have to remove your shoes before entering. This is due to a decades old custom leftover from the days of mining, where the local residents had to remove their boots to enter shops and restaurants to avoid the mess of the coal dust!
Join us for an adventure sailing tour of Svalbard
If you’d like to learn more about a visit to Svalbard on a sailing adventure with us, head to Noorderlicht’s page to find out more information about specific voyages. If you’re interested in learning more about the location, head to our Svalbard destination page for all the latest information!
The Baltic Sea is a fabulous place to sail offering easy access to several European countries, including Denmark and Sweden, each with a differing coastline and culture. Home to thousand of islands, sailing in the Baltic Sea is a fantastic mix of sheltered coastal sailing with open water, wilder crossings. Experience gorgeous unspoiled coastline dotted with isolated archipelagos, untamed nature, islands and coastal villages each home to fabulous seafood restaurants, bars and interesting architecture. A well known destination for the adventure sailor, sailing holidays in the Baltic Sea are fast growing in popularity. A number of our fleet offer tall ship sailing in the Baltic Sea, read on to discover why we love venturing in this diverse, inland sea.
Ruggedly beautiful, the Baltic Sea is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes and there are numerous national parks in the area, set up to preserve and protect. With lands steeped in mythology, sailing in the Baltic proffers the chance to follow in the footsteps of the Vikings. Uncover an eclectic range of islands some home to craggy coastlines with others offer sweeping stretches of white sands and sheltered swimming. Each of our vessels sailing in the Baltic Sea allow plenty of opportunities to explore ashore, joining in with adventure activities, meeting the locals and discovering the picturesque beauty.
Baltic Sea Sailing Conditions
Sailing in the Baltic is variable depending not only on where you sail, but when. We are pleased to confirm that all our ventures sail during the Baltic summer, a season of small waves and moderate wind speeds, making it ideal for a relaxing, skippered sailing holiday. Drink in the fresh sea air, dine on delicious locally sourced food whilst turning your hand to traditional seamanship. Sailing in the Baltic enables you to visit a new destination each day, experiencing the beautiful landscape from the sturdy deck of a tall ship. Explore cosmopolitan harbours, appreciate the gentle countryside views and ancient castles and towns that line this part of the world. Join traditional schooner Aron, traditional tall ship Iris or windjammer Eye of the Wind, all perfect for beginners or old hands wanting to get to grips with sailing in the Baltic Sea.
The Scandinavian Lifestyle
Scandanavia is the home of “Hygge” – a concept that translates to a cosy feeling of togetherness, the feeling of wellbeing and warm atmospheres. So wherever you sail, whether with family and friends or as a solo traveller, you’re sure to be greeted with welcoming and friendly nature. Although all our sailing holidays offer all-inclusive meals cooked by the onboard chef, we allow plenty of time to take in the mouth-watering local cuisine and culture ashore. The rich history of Scandanvia permeates through to the lifestyle of today, making the country an incredible location for those seeking to switch off.