Pandora is a 46ft LOD gaff rigged 9-Metre R from 1907. Designed by Johan Anker, she is the only gaff-rigged 9mR still in existence and she’s been with the Syse family for seven years now. Our sailing plan this summer was to cruise down to Skagen in Denmark, hopefully reaching as far as Læsø along the Danish coastline before returning to Norway. This would be the first trip to Denmark for Pandora under our ownership. Previously we have sailed her along the Norwegian and Swedish coast, but we’ve never crossed Skagerrak: the strait that runs between the two countries.
Usually, the family spends three or four weeks sailing every summer but lately the sailing interest among the kids has dwindled. The kids aren’t actually kids anymore, but in their late teens or early adulthood, and they want to spend their time off school and university with friends; they want to visit exotic destinations; they need to earn hard cash gained through summer jobs… but they all love sailing the old girl – when they have the time.
However, as my 50th birthday was last year, for a birthday present the three children gave me a promise that they would all come on board for two weeks’ sailing, and so the voyage to cross the Skagerrak became a possibility. But before the summer even came along, two weeks became reduced to just nine days, and my hopes were not high on actually being able to reach the journey’s goal.
On 7 July, 2012 early in the morning in heavy rain, we left the mooring at Blommenholm, just south of Oslo, heading south. Unfortunately there was not much wind, but full of expectations and with a promising weather forecast, we set sail hoping for the best. After 40 minutes the little wind that set us off came to an end and the engine was the only solution if our plan to reach Denmark was to be kept alive. And so the day went: rain, wind, no wind, more rain, and after 14 hours it felt good to let the anchor drop on 5 metres of water in Havstensund in Sweden, have some supper, and hit the sack.
Cruising Pandora is a bit like cruising a small luxury yacht, but without the luxury – though she is 46ft long, she is quite narrow. Even so, there are six good bunks, a pantry and a head. The saloon is small but beautiful, with most of the original woodwork and interior still intact, and when the family is gathered around the table, dining or playing cards, there are few places I would rather be. It is definitely not spacious, but in our family we have a saying that has been indoctrinated into the children from early childhood: “aesthetics are more important than comfort!”
Any voyage down the Swedish west coast offers several opportunities to “cruise the inner fairway” as travelling between the small islands and skerries in extremely sheltered water is known. It is a very picturesque and tranquil way of sailing. Pandora continued south passing several small places such as Gräbbestad, Fjällbacka and Hunnebostrand before hoisting all sail and heading out in the ocean south of Smøgen bound for Marstrand. Moderate waves, fair wind, blue sky and white clouds – close to perfect conditions. As the wind died after a long day at sea, and the anchorage was still a good 10 miles away, there was no other solution but to start the engine again to speed things up a bit.
Entering any Scandinavian harbour in the summer after 20.00 often provides difficulty finding a good place to moor, and the same was the case in Marstrand. Luckily we found a quayside, which was not part of the guest harbour and was adorned by a big sign saying: “No Mooring.” But when you sail a classic yacht you will get away with mooring anywhere, simply because people like to have a classic yacht tied to their pier. So, as the sun set over Marstrand harbour, and with the kids ashore in the dinghy, checking out the picturesque little town, I saluted the sun with a small dram, wishing for fair weather the coming day.
The distance from Marstrand in Sweden to Skagen on the northern-most tip of Denmark is about 35 nautical miles, and the estimated time for the crossing was around 6 hours. So we are not exactly speaking about ocean crossing in this case or even long distance sailing but, nevertheless, it is a voyage that might offer bad weather, sudden changes in wind and wave conditions, and has surprised far more experienced sailors and boats than Pandora and her crew.
We hoisted the sails inside the harbour and headed out of the south strait of Marstrand. The wind was blowing a steady 20 knots from the south-southwest, producing waves of about 8ft and leaving Pandora heading directly for Skagen on a close tack. After about one hour of sailing we decided to reef the main, to make the boat heel a little less and pass more easily through the waves, and so she did. She behaved beautifully for the rest of the passage, cutting through the waves with splashes of water washing the deck and crew for most of the way. Everything went as smooth as silk, the only problem we faced being taking down the sails outside Skagen harbour in a heavy swell. We should have sailed inside the pier, where we later discovered there was plenty of space to perform the same manoeuvre in more sheltered water.
Inside the part of the harbour reserved for visiting boats we discovered we were not the only vessel with Skagen as our destination. Perhaps more than 150 boats were tied up, often as many as eight or ten, from many nations, tied alongside each other. We saw English, German, Dutch, French and Finns, not to mention Swedes, Norwegians, and obviously many Danes as we motored a few rounds to find the best boat to tie up to. We decided on coming alongside a nice Dutch boat before we headed off to explore life on shore, with great fresh seafood, excellent beer and jolly people.
Later, back on board, we were roused by someone shouting, “Is this Pandora?” and as we stuck our heads up we spotted an older man on the quayside, eyeing her with deep interest. I confirmed that this was, indeed, she and he replied, “I used to own this boat, back in the sixties!” The man, who introduced himself as Tore, a fellow Norwegian, was immediately invited on board where he told us his story.
He and two friends had been students back in 1961 when they had bought Pandora, spending their entire student loans to acquire her. They sailed her extensively for three years before passing her on to the next owner and buying a 12-Metre instead. It is always great having old owners visiting – so far Pandora has had no more than ten, including me, and that is not many, considering her age of 105 years – as there are many stories to be told and much information can be passed on. Two of Pandora’s owners have owned her for almost 30 years each, and that is one of the reasons that she remains very original, with about 80 percent of the original planking and most of the interior still intact.
Unfortunately the plan to cruise the Danish coastline was not to be. The weather forecast predicted strong winds in the days to come, and the possibility of being stuck in harbour due to bad weather made us leave Skagen after only two days, heading back again for Sweden. With the wind from behind producing moderate waves and with one reef in the main, Pandora held a steady 8 to 9 knots. Heading home, with the family on board, I said to myself, “Odd, you are a very lucky man.”
All in all, that summer went well. I spent 28 consecutive days aboard Pandora, cruising the Norwegian coast down to Ny-Hellesund and back to Oslo, partly alone, partly with good friends. Everything went very well; the only thing I could have wished for was a little less rain. But who cares, cruising a 105-year-old gaff Metre boat makes the rain seem like a small price to pay.
Odd Syse. Skipper – Pandora
Pandora is for sale through Sandeman Yacht Company.
Built to the first R rule of 1907, it’s likely that Pandora was the first R-Metre boat ever built. Johan Anker was one of the architects behind developing this rule, which was agreed upon in London late in 1906 and was in operation from 1907. During the winter 1906/07 the Anker & Jensen shipyard in Norway built 11 big boats, eight of them to the new rule. Pandora was the first of these to be completed and was launched in February 1907.
During her 100 year – nay, 105 year – history she has had just eight owners; one of which was for 30 and another for 28 years, which is probably one of the reasons why she remains so original and in such great shape.
She was originally gaff rigged, but then re-rigged as a bermudan in 1921, and stayed that way for around 80 years, winning several races meanwhile. In 2001 she was re rigged back to gaff, and awarded the special prize for Best Sailing Yacht at the Risør Wooden Boat Festival in 2007. A full dossier of historical information, including the identities of all her owners, is available as well as many historic photographs of the boat.