Danish sailors make insane harbor entry in high seas

This is what luck looks like. Luck, combined with a whole lot of skill. Notice the person at the front. I'm sure they're locked in with a harness, but that would still be a wild ride.

The harbor is Svaneke, a town on an island in the Baltic Sea. According to this thread at the Wooden Boat Forum, local guides say you shouldn't even attempt entering Svaneke harbor during strong onshore winds. I have no idea what prompted this crew to take a shot, but I'm guessing they decided the alternatives were worse.

Thanks to Happy Mutant role model Marti Siebert for the video!


    1. @Frankieboy: I believe the word you meant to use was “tack”

      I’ve been in a similar situation before, “surfing” a boat in to harbor on a wave. It’s fun, it definitely requires skill, and even with all the skill in the world it can go horribly wrong and end in disaster and death. I’m sure the captain was skilled, I’m sure the captain was lucky, and I’m also fairly certain that he was pretty stupid and, if he didn’t learn from this, he’ll probably put himself and his crew in a similar situation again with less favorable results.

  1. “Well, uh… I suppose if you imagine it like a parking space that you think “gosh, there’s no way I’m gonna be able to fit in there.” But then you fold in the side view mirrors, and sure enough, well, look at that.”

    Brian Griffin

  2. If you listen carefully, you can hear someone yelling:
    “Damn It! Næste gang tisse, inden vi forlader havnen!”

    1. Good one!

      Oops, I mean: god vittighed!

      I agree that this was a clean entrance. Their path would have looked different if they’d been relying on luck.

  3. The a–holes. They came very close to seriously wrecking their ship and requiring rescuers to save their stupid selves, putting even more people at risk. The only thing that would warrant this kind of recklessness is an on-board emergency – and they didn’t seem too worried when they got into harbor.

    1. Come on, tell us how you really feel. It’s important. Humans only have like 8000 years of boat skills stored up, surely we all can use your additional insight.

      Gotta love the ol’ “thread the needle,” though. While the water does look jumpy, the path of the boat tells me that the current is a bit more predictable than it appears. Skills baby, skills.

    2. “The a–holes. They came very close to seriously wrecking their ship and requiring rescuers to save their stupid selves, putting even more people at risk. The only thing that would warrant this kind of recklessness is an on-board emergency – and they didn’t seem too worried when they got into harbor.”

      they have no choice… they’re stuck on a lee shore with a storm blowing… their on board engine can’t cope with that wind in holding their position or making any headway against the wind… they can’t sail out against it either…

      the choice is simple, either try and stay out on their engine and pray for the wind to drop or change to a safer direction, and when the fuel runs out or the engine fails, they will get blown onto shore with no choice in where they are wrecked…

      or else make a dash for the nearest harbour like they did and pray

      ps. the reason they didn’t start jumping around cheering is that unlike the Americans, the rest of the world considers it stupid to jump up and cheer like lunatics when there’s still work to be done… they were far too busy getting things ready to tie up at a mooring or jetty… the wind is still blowing them fast into the harbour…

      pps, in fact, the only time I’ve ever considered it right to jump up and cheer was when Apollo 13 splashed down and the astronauts were safe…

    1. That’s like saying landing a jet on a carrier only looks difficult because of the high speeds and potential to miss the target area.

      These people came VERY close to dying. Inches in fact. Thank God that wave at 0:36 gave them the last little push they needed in order to get past the barrier – if it hadn’t, they would’ve been crushed on the break, and all of those men and women would be in the water facing almost certain death as the waves crushed them onto the rocks.

      I worked for a company that does educational and commercial trips with tall ships, and if any of our captains had pulled a stunt like this, he would have been fired. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they tried to get the captain’s license revoked.

      1. if any of our captains had pulled a stunt like this, he would have been fired. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they tried to get the captain’s license revoked.

        If this is in the US, that’s what a litigious society gets you.

      2. “I worked for a company that does educational and commercial trips with tall ships, and if any of our captains had pulled a stunt like this, he would have been fired.”

        Well, yeah. If you tried to pull an aircraft carrier in there, you’d be in some deep shit too.

      3. I believe the near miss was intentional, they knew the waves were going to push them, so they counted on that when aiming for the opening. If they hadn’t done that and just aimed dead-center, the waves would have pushed them into the opposite wall.

  4. That’s a well-designed little harbor there. Vast difference once they get inside it.

    And yeah, this is a level where I can’t even tell if they’re JUST THAT GOOD or JUST THAT STUPID.

  5. What else should they do? They can’t stray with out with that boat, so they would have to get into harbour. Better wreck in harbour than out in the open. Plus I’ve seen fishermen here do that several times here in Gothenburg Arcipelago without crashing.

  6. Bah, they came in under power!

    Real sailors would have come in under sail.

    And probably underwater…

  7. You’ll notice that their entire controllable sail area consisted of a small triangular tablecloth. And even with only that the rather large boat spent quite some time on its side. My guess is that they were being blown onshore and preferred to have it happen at a harbor.

    1. Great Danes indeed! While I’ve never piloted in seas like this, it sure looks like confidence and skill got them into the harbor.

  8. I’d like to believe it was incredible skill that guided them to safety, not luck. Think of it this way, if it had been luck, then as soon as that boat made it into the harbor, all of the crew would probably be cheering, “What good luck we’ve had, not crashing into that tremendous obstacle!” But instead, they were as calm as could be. Calm as if they KNEW there would be no trouble in navigating the craft, because of their INCREDIBLE BOATMANSHIP. Must be that viking blood.

  9. This isn’t skill, it’s stupidity and luck. If that wave had pushed them slightly farther over, they’d have holed the boat on the rocks there and sunk it in the harbor entrance, where it’d be a danger to any other craft trying to get in or out.

    What would have been the prudent thing to do is to turn around and head up or down the coast to somewhere with a safer harbor entrance, or to wait it out offshore (where there are no rocks to hit, and the waves aren’t breaking) until the weather calmed down.

    Here’s what happens when you put your boat in a stupid position and luck works out differently for you:

  10. Entering Svaneke harbor ain’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could sail right the breakwater or get smashed on the rocks, and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?

  11. You know the old saying: it’s easier for a boat to enter the harbor at Svaneke during high seas than it is for a rich man to get into heaven.

    Also, totally skill.

  12. Much like the other commenters, I am also extremely pissed off about this for no apparent reason! Yargh! LOUD NOISES!

  13. I wonder if the angle of the footage distorts the difficulty of the entry? What might it have looked like from onboard the ship itself, where your frame of reference shifts with the waves you ride?

    I have to side with the thought that this was a skilled maneuver, purposefully utilizing the motion of the waves, as judged from sitting directly upon them. The professional demeanor of the crew adds to this thought.

    ~D. Walker

  14. Looks like a skilful piot to me. Probably not the first time this boat has had to rush to harbour, probably not the last. Practice and experience makes for mad skillz

    1. what amazes me is that most of them weren’t even wearing their life vests!

      Those bright orange coveralls are flotation devices, and odds are pretty good that the rest of them are wearing “float coats”.

      Speaking as a Coast Guard veteran who’s “surfed” in a 44-foot motor life boat, I have two things to say:

      1) There was a lot of skill on display there. There was a degree of luck, too, but the timing, the angle, the careful, precise momentum — this guy was smart and skilled, not stupid.


  15. Surely there is an internet “law” regarding people’s seemingly unending willingness to post highly critical comments about subjects they know absolutely nothing about with absolute certainty.

    Fact even the most experienced of us know absolutely nothing about the actual motivation or circumstances and I for one just appreciate a fine display of skill and experience.

  16. It was windy, and a bit rough, but that wasn’t a foolhardy move, it was a calculated entrance. They were under full power, and while there is a long list of things that COULD have gone wrong, sailing is about balancing risk. Agree with the above “horrors of a lee shore” posters above. Well done, not foolish.

  17. I’m voting for an extremely skilled skipper with vast local knowledge making the best of a bad situation and succeeding gracefully.
    Or, it was an unusual, non-fatal case of get-home-itis, a disease that had claimed the life of many an aircraft pilot.
    Incredibly brave or incredibly stupid — take your pick.

  18. Landlubbers, and those who haven’t sailed much except for beach boats, should calm down. Experience, skill, and timing just when to gun it, made for a clean entrance to the harbor. A very long way from insane or irresponsible.

  19. It looks difficult but It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two meters.

  20. fantastic post, matey, and extra credit for it having nothing to do with digital technology or steampunk or unicorns or bananas

  21. “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two meters.”

    Swangelok – what do you mean? Sorry, not trying to be difficult – I just have no clue!

    1. I didn’t either but my brain told me “bullseye womp rats” means, pull into harbor with precision in spite of them waves. And 2 meters means “6 feet” and T-whatever probably tells us the size of the boat.

    2. Seriously? Has Star Wars so faded from the popular consciousness?

      *sigh* The T-16 reference that swangelok (and I, slightly more obliquely) referenced is from the original Star Wars, referencing the size of the target they X-Wing pilots would have to hit to destroy the Death Star.

      These kids today…

  22. My previous comment was only a general observation.

    The only thing I’d have to say to these mariners is “Welcome ashore! Bouncy out there, eh?” (After offering to help to secure their lines, of course.)

    As to the difficulty of their maneuver, I’d have been more impressed if they had done it at night…but then there would have been be no video of the action, now would there?

    People should try to keep in mind that what appears reckless action to some, may be but safe routine to others!

  23. I dunno about crediting this guy with skill. He came in way sideways and all out of shape. You don’t turn that much hull that fast with the rudder and engine that most sailboats carry. Unless you’ve got some serious power you’re just not going to horse that thing around quick enough. And if you’ve got enough thrust to think you can try that trick, why not lay off shore with the bow into the wind and ride it out?
    And no, I’m not an armchair sailor. Spent plenty of time on big water in all kinds of weather and lost one relative in a solo sailing accident.

  24. That was nothing but fine seamanship. The skipper turned the boat to windward each time a wave came through in preparation for being pushed off course by the wave. He *had* to steer for the breakwater in order to not be washed against the opposing one.

    Don’t dismiss this as reckless. Study it and learn.

    1. Perhaps so. But luck counts for something.

      “If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?” -Stanislaw J. Lec

      “As long as we are lucky we attribute it to our smartness; our bad luck we give the gods credit for.” -Josh Billings

      Both from:


      I have myself have heard it said, that people make their own luck, and that fortune favours the brave.

    2. If they had been 24 years old and had done it in a Melges 24, SA would have been calling them the greatest sailors of all time.

  25. One more, from the same source, for your contemplation :

    “A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.” -James A. Garfield

  26. Well, maybe just one more – oddly appropriate to this video, IMHO, if the earth be changed to the sea. Again from the same source:

    “There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity.”
    – General Douglas MacArthur

  27. Sometimes I get rather tired of the ceaseless complaining in the comments. They made it into the harbor – that’s all the video shows us. How or why they did it and the context surrounding the event are all left to conjecture. Why, then, do you get yourself all worked into a farting rage over it? You don’t even know what it is you’re fuming about! You’re just inventing things to be mad about!

    From what I can tell, they approached the harbor at an angle, predicting that a wave would slide them through. It was a dangerous move, but given how small the boat was, it was either capsize in open, stormy water or capsize right there at the harbor. I guess I’d go for the harbor, too. Their success is a testament to the skill of Danish sailors. It’s just a shame they lost all the round shields from the sides of their ship.

  28. Delighted to know there are others here who also know and go SA – where I’d seen this clip first today. This mutant is happiest when on the water…

    I’m going with skip who *really* knows his boat and some outstanding local knowledge. If you have to shoot an entrance like that on a regular basis even on less breezy days you do get pretty good at it pretty quickly…

    Also, to clarify for non-mariners, remember when watching this that boats steer from the back [by the rudder], unlike cars which start the turn in the front…

  29. I’d rather be lucky than good any day of the week.

    Not sure which these guys are!

    @ all the anti-American BS

    Bite my shiny American ass.

  30. It’s not a ship, it’s a boat. Not a captain, but a skipper. And this business of the boat tipping? It is what it is designed to do.

    This is not a car, it is not a motorboat, it is a sailboat, an ocean racer. These folks are ocean racers, which means they are better sailors than people who don’t race, better sailors than YOU. So STFU. Really. You’re making yourselves ridiculous.

    Sailing is a dangerous sport. You dig it or you don’t. You can do it the half-assed cruising way, and have a wine rack on the boat and take girls out on Sunday afternoons and stay in the harbor if it rains.

    Or you might just love it. You might just take the time to learn how to do it right. And that means you don’t stay at the dock if the wind kicks up or if it rains or if there are some waves.

    Granted, these are not the conditions in which you leave the harbor. But if you are out already, possibly making a crossing from elsewhere, well the weather, it can and do kick up.

    This is not irresponsible behavior. It can and does get worse than this. If they had waited, it might well have gotten worse. Just being out in weather like this is hard work. Storms can blow for days. Gear can break, people become exhausted and they might just run low on sandwiches and Gatorade.

    So in they come. I’m sure their hearts were going. I’m sure they were concerned. But, as my son said when he watched the video with me, “They’re surfing the hell outta those waves.” And then he grinned, like the saltwater crocodile that he is. Because my kid, he does this stuff, he races in this stuff, for fun.

    So to all those guys who want to revoke the “license” of the captain – while you are at it, you’d better get those mountain-top removal folks to flatten the ski mountains and, I dunno, pu
    t training wheels on dirt bikes.

    This kind of sailing is just real, that’s all.

    1. Damn straight! Not reckless at all. Practiced. The ride would be fun if it weren’t for having to thread the needle to get home.

      This is why I don’t drive. I’d rather trim.

      I’d also be surprised if the bow person is tied in. I think that harness that he/she’s wearing is a flotation device designed to inflate if you hit the water. They probably didn’t assume that position until right before we see them so they would have been in the pit with everyone else.

  31. “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
    -J R “Bob” Dobbs

    BTW, the front of a boat is called the bow.

    1. -J R “Bob” Dobbs????

      Where did you get that junk?

      How about:

      I’d rather be lucky than good.
      – Lefty Gomez

  32. That’s why there are countries where you need a license for sailing. I have one, and the first thing you learn about bad weather – try to stay out at sea. No matter how bad it gets (you can always heave to), it’s better than loosing the boat (100.000$+) and probably some lifes. A sailing boat in good shape can stand almost every weather. The risks with a leeward port and those unpredictable drifts were definitively way too high.

  33. Guys, as a person with some sailing experience, it’s not either skill or luck, it’s both. And yeah, they didn’t cheer because they weren’t finished yet, until the boat is tied up; you might notice they nearly hit the bulkhead inside the harbor, nearest the camera man, while rounding that last corner.

    A sailboat engine is not that powerful, it’s only auxiliary propulsion, there was an enormous amount of skill involved in surfing those waves, up the crest, down the trough… but, any one big wave could’ve smashed ’em up against something. I also agree, they probably had no choice in trying to make that harbor, vs. staying out.

    This is not some Johnny Knoxville Jackass stunt, this is the kind of thing dedicated sailors often commit to, and this can happen. You play the hand mother nature has dealt you, without fear. Once in a while, you might end up clinging to a rock, watching your boat go under. That, is sailing!

    First thing I would teach my guests, when I used to go out on small, unstable day-sailers or cat’s in heavy winds, is be prepared to jump clear of the boat and rigging if we’re going over, and I tell you to.

  34. “It’s not a ship, it’s a boat. Not a captain, but a skipper. And this business of the boat tipping? It is what it is designed to do.”

    Nonsense. It is a yacht, not a boat. Captain is a social title. He or she is a yachtmaster. Skippers are either insects infesting cured meat or commanding officers of naval ships — take your pick. As to a vessel “tipping,” vessels either pitch fore-and–aft, roll side to side, heave up and down, surge back and forth, yaw or corkscrew or sway bodily side to side.

    One tips a valet or people like you for their knowledgeable advice.

  35. The earlier post regarding the expense of sending an emergency crew is likely coming from the perspective that mountains should be flattened so skiers don’t get hurt. Plenty of folks don’t get why expense is put into getting a thrill out of being alive. I picture them with saggy jowls like that old cartoon dog, or the updated version of that character as the pitiful town communist. But I digress.

    I was dumb enough to get aboard a boat with a skipper who was candy-flipping shrooms and ecstasy. I myself was stoned but that’s beside the point. His new buddy, the former marine, was apprehensive about getting on the boat. I didn’t know the guy, my close friend, equally flipped out, and decked in his custom Halloween outfit, red sheer panty hose, Captain America boy briefs he used as he pouch for smokes and chapstick, and belly revealing undersized worn out T-shirt, knew him and had sailed with him now some few months at least.

    Let’s just say I’m glad that he didn’t leave San Diego’s extensive harbor, and that the dingy he got caught in his life line trying to back out of the slip is probably going to be OK. The looks on the folks faces on deck when this happened was classic.

  36. They did catch a serious lucky break with that wave at 0:36 but you gotta love it. No fenders out, no life jackets on, no fear!

  37. “Candy Flip,” great name for a boat!

    I could also swear I heard the term well before Ecstasy was around, but it was still a ref’ to a combo of two drugs, like speedball was for cocaine and heroin. Everything on the web now ref’s acid and E, but I’m sure I heard the term many years before E was around.

    I dunno, psych’s and E are hard enough on your brain, each one alone… that seems like just asking for trouble, from the burn-out.

  38. “I’d also be surprised if the bow person is tied in.”

    Agreed. Many landlubbers just don’t understand that sailing (and sometimes swimming!) means putting yourself in harm’s way, in a skilled and practiced and calculated manner. That, is sailing!

    The bow-man couldn’t hop around if tied down, though it’s still not unheard of to clip to, as desired, the… “safety fence” (dang it, suddenly can’t remember the proper term), when the risk of going overboard is very high.

      1. Unless they are on the deck, and actually intended for the foredeck crew to clip onto, in which case they are jacklines.

        Of course if you never get past the yachtclub bar, you don’t need them or know what they are.

        A lifeline is intened to catch you in a slip/trip. A jackline is intended to connect your tether to. If you tether to a lifeline, you’ll likely rip a stanction out of the deck when the going gets rough. Once the stanction is gone, you are likely gone too. Rig your boat properly.

  39. Depoe Bay, on the coast of Oregon, has a tiny rocky chute that boats have to run as part of crossing the bar. The bridge overhead makes for great spectator viewing when the waves run high. Coast Guard keeps busy in that area.

  40. “… if you never get past the yachtclub bar… the stanction is gone…”

    In the yacht club bar, we spell it “stanchion.” I also didn’t specify, where exactly the clipping occurs on/around the lifelines (as low as possible), when the vessel isn’t rigged with jacklines. I’ve seen stanchions ripped out when the lifelines are put to use exactly as intended, too.

    Never scared to learn more, regardless. Barkeep!…

  41. My guess is that the skipper was under experienced and began to panic. Rather than continue to ride out the storm with the staysail (someone else called it a tablecloth, I think), he decided it was a better option to risk scraping up the side of his boat coming in to port (I can’t see the boat getting completely wrecked before it got towed all the way into the harbor) rather than risk capsizing or getting demasted. It was definitely an operator error to not check the weather before going out, and to stay out in that weather without the proper experience and training. If you want some honest, real, experienced opinions on the subject, I suggest you take Annon #55 and zuludaddy #58’s advice and hop on over to forums.sailinganarchy.com for better analysis.

  42. Yeah, my friend was asking me why nobody got that. Me, personally, I’m no good at Trivia… anyhow:

    General Dodonna: The battle station is heavily shielded and carries a firepower greater than half the star fleet. It’s defenses are designed around a direct, large-scale assault. A small one-man fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defense.
    Gold Leader: Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are snub fighters going to be against that?
    General Dodonna: Well, the Empire doesn’t consider a small one-man fighter to be any threat, or they’d have a tighter defense. An analysis of the plans provided by Princess Leia has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station. But the approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It’s a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station. Only a precise hit will set off a chain reaction. The shaft is ray-shielded, so you’ll have to use proton torpedoes.
    Wedge Antilles (Red 2): That’s impossible! Even for a computer.
    Luke: It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two meters.
    General Dodonna: Then man your ships. And may the Force be with you.

  43. Many thanks cycle23 and others. That whole SW thing passed me by, largely. As for the explaining of refs, next time, I’ll google – apols.

  44. Absolutely insain. I know the harbour and it´s crazy to try the manouver they did. A few nautical miles away is the much bigger harbour Nexø where they wouldn´t face such a terrifying challenge.

    Perhaps they are skilled sailors, but this was close to certain disaster.

    At Bornholm the sea is not to be played with, often have we chosen to stay at land due to terrible weather.


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