"The Ships"



- a very rare cutter anno 1872 -


Being built way back in 1872, "Nordstjernen" is believed to be the oldest, still existing ship built in Middelfart.
She came back "home" to Middelfart in May 2006 with the purpose of bringing her back to her original appearance.
Meanwhile, - after almost 5 years -, the project of restoring the ship has now come so far, that you have a very good idea of what she will look like when completely finished.

Since I have had the chance to follow the process of restoring her from arrival to her present days appearance, - I have decided to sum it all up with some of my pictures of this fine old ship.
Also I will use the opportunity to add more information and pictures that relates to "Nordstjernen", - like checking out the exact location of the shipyard where she was built in 1872.

First a picture showing her appearance in October 2010 - - -

- cutter from 1872 built in Middelfart, Denmark -
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

Take note of the smaller boat in front of "Nordstjernen".
This is the old fishing smack "Dannebrog" built in the same year as "Nordstjernen", - in 1872 -, and thereby being another example of one of the oldest ships still afloat in Denmark.

"Nordstjernen" is not only old, but also an extremely rare type of ship.
Only one more cutter of the same type transom-sterned construction exists in Denmark, and therefore "Nordstjernen" is quite unique, and well worth to preserve.
Her older and only sister, - "Jensine" from 1852 -, is Denmark's oldest ship still in active service.
It is actually a little bit strange, that only two ships of this type exist today, since this very type, - in the heyday of sail -, was the most commonly used type of ship serving the hundreds of islands and the long coastline of Denmark with its many bays and fjords.

To give an impression of what "Nordstjernen" will look like when she finally gets her sails, can be seen at a photograph I took of her sister, - "Jensine" -, during the "race" for traditional sailing ships round island Fyn in 2007.

"Jensine", - the older sister of "Nordstjernen
Photographed during the traditional "race" round Fyn in 2007.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)


- and here a "sister" from Norway, - the "Gjøa" -, also built in 1872 -
Roald Amundsens ship, - famous for being the first ship ever, that navigated through the Northwest Passage.

"Gjøa", - photographed in Norway in 2008.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

"Gjøa", - photographed in Norway in 2008.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

"Gjøa", - photographed in Norway in 2008.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)


The beginning

"Nordstjernen" was built on the coast south of Middelfart in 1872, at a shipyard called "Sølyst", - which means something like "Sea Pleasure".
The yard was founded around 1850 by ship builder Hans Illum Petersen, and he continued to turn out ships at this location until 1875.
Hans Illum Petersen's younger brother, - Mads Illum Petersen -, was also a ship builder.
In 1855 he started to build boats in Middelfart at "Gammel Havn", - which means "Old Port" -, and since then boats have been built there at the same location where the buildings of the present days shipyard is still in business, and known under the name "Lillebælt-Værftet".

But as mentioned, - "Nordstjernen" was built at "Sølyst" to the south of the city.

I had often walked along this coast, as well as passed these waters in my boats, but always with the purpose of enjoying nature, which is very generous in this area.
But out of curiosity, I one day got the idea of exploring this stretch of coastline specifically with the purpose of finding eventual remains of the old shipyard "Sølyst", - the birthplace of "Nordstjernen".
A quick check of the related sources in the internet pointed at two places as location of the old shipyard, - one was "Skrillinge Strand", - meaning Skrillinge Beach" -, and the other was "Sølyst".
Both locations are marked on modern days maps of the area, but none of them made sense as a ship building site.
Present days "Sølyst", - which is quite a common name in Denmark -, is the name of a big farm, which is placed well away from the coast.
Because of this inland location, it could be ruled out, that ships had ever been built and launched from there.

"Skrillinge Strand" then????   At least this location was at the coast.
Well, - present days "Skrillinge Strand" is quite narrow, and just behind the beach is a cliff which makes it quite impossible to build ships there.
There is simply no good access to the coast, and on the beach there is no space for a slipway, workshops and the huge piles of timber that is required for building a wooden ship.
Again this location made no sense.

But the internet gave more information about the vanished shipyard "Sølyst".
I found that the museum in Middelfart had a very good and detailed drawing of the shipyard.
See following picture.

Hans Illum Petersens shipyard "Sølyst", where "Nordstjernen" was built.
(From the collection of Middelfart Museum)

The old picture of the shipyard "Sølyst" clearly shows, that the location could not be at "Skrilling Strand", - and certainly not at the present days farm, "Sølyst".
But again the internet came to my rescue, because I searched old maps for information.
The farm "Sølyst" was shown with big letters on the old map, - just like it is shown on modern maps.
But in addition to the inland farm "Sølyst", - you also found the name "Sølyst" right at the coast, - written with much smaller letters.
Here was a cluster of houses placed directly by the water, - just like you can see on the picture from Middelfart Museum.
This must for sure be the location of Hans Illum Petersens shipyard "Sølyst!  No doubt about it.
What make me so sure is the half timbered house seen to the left in the picture.
This house is still there, - but many of the other buildings you can see on the old picture have gone today, - just like the name "Sølyst".

See following pictures from the site of this former shipyard - - - -

The site of the shipyard "Sølyst"
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

Above photo shows what I believe must have been the original site of Hans Illum Petersens shipyard "Sølyst", where "Nordstjernen" was built in 1872.
Take note of the half timbered thatched house to the right in the picture.
It shows a remarkable similarity with the house shown on the old drawing of "Sølyst".
At the background you can see the southern end of "Skrillinge Strand" with its tree covered cliff raising from the beach.
Not a good place for a shipyard.
But here at "Sølyst" there are lots of space for a slipway, workshops and piles of timber, as well as easy accessibility.

Another view over the present site of the old "Sølyst" shipyard.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

This small boat harbour is most likely located at the place where the slipway of the "Sølyst" shipyard entered the sea.
In the background along the coast you see the cliff at "Skrillinge Strand", and in the bay just behind it, - but not visible -, is the city of Middelfart.
The forest covered coast to the left is island "Fænø", and almost in the middle of the picture you look straight into the narrow sound, - "Fænø Sund" -,that separates island "Fænø" with island "Fyn".

Where the slipway of the old "Sølyst" shipyard entered the sea.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

A fishing boat leaving Gamborg Fjord, - passing the site of the "Sølyst" shipyard.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

Some treacherous waters to navigate with a sail powered ship - - -
The forested coast in the background is on mainland "Jylland", and to the right in the picture you can see the south tip of island "Fænø".
The sandy reef above the fishing boat is "Fønsskov Rev".

"Nordstjernen", - as she appears here in the end of 2010.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

This concludes the chapter on the "birthplace", - "Sølyst" -,  and the very beginning of the long life of cutter "Nordstjernen".
But did I actually find any traces of Hans Illum Petersens old shipyard?
No, - nothing seems to be left, - at least not visible things.
There is not even a depression in the ground that might indicate, that here were ships once built and launched.
But the small harbour at present days "Sølyst" could actually have been built on top of the remains of the old slipway.
Who knows?????  Maybe you can still find remains of old wood constructions underneath?
But all traces of the slipway seems to be long gone, - and so have the workshops and sheds as well as other buildings, as shown on the old drawing of the shipyard.


2006 - the year "Nordstjernen" came "home".

"Nordstjernen" in Gammel Havn shortly after arrival to Middelfart
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

"Nordstjernen" was towed from Copenhagen to Middelfart in May 2006, - and above picture is taken shortly after, - on June 30. 2006.
I photographed her, - the oldest still existing ship built in Middelfart -,in connection with the naming ceremony of the newest ship registered in Middelfart, - and the visit at the same time of the biggest ship registered in Middelfart.
The meeting of these three different ships was an unusual coincidence and showed a unique contrast, - both in size and time -, which is the reason why I photographed the "Nordstjernen".
It was certainly NOT because of her beauty!
When I saw her, my first thought was:  "A floating chicken shack!"
As you can tell from above picture she is stripped from everything maritime related, that could remind us of the fine old ship she once was.
She had been a beautiful, classic, sail driven cutter or sloop, - but had been converted to a sort of ugly house boat or floating holiday house.
Or a chicken shack!

Try to compare the picture from 2006, - where she is a "chicken shack" -, with the picture from 2010, where she is restored to her former glory as a classic cutter.

"Nordstjernen" from 1872, - in contrast to Middelfarts newest ship, - "Fionia Swan" -, from 2006.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

"Nordstjernen", - with "Fionia Swan" in the background.
(Photography © Karsten Petersen)

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Page initiated:   Nov.01.2010
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