med Runa i Nordsøen

Tursejlads og turbåde


The architect Gerhard Rønne was a passionate sailor. As early as 1910 he sailed to England during his three week holiday. We present the crew’s accounts of the voyage and tell about Gerhard Rønne and his boats.

A cruising pioneer

Today the name Gerhard Rønne has little meaning to most sailors, but during the years between the two world wars, he was known and admired for his accounts of his long distance passages. Once, when it was seen as good going to reach Laesø or Skagen on a summer cruise,  Rønne sailed a long way up the gulf of Bothnia, to the West coast of Norway or the English Channel, each and every time within his allocated three week holiday and in a boat of his own construction. Not only as a sailor, but also as a constructor of small cruisers was Rønne regarded as a pioneer. 

The architect Gerhard Rønne was from Copenhagen and probably lived his whole life on Østerbro. We don’t have his precise birth date and other information, but he must have been born around 1880, maybe before, and died in the late 1950s. In an article in the ‘Viking’ from 1936 he tells that “already as a small boy I loved the sea”. In the beginning he sailed mainly small dinghies and at fifteen he had a small Kragjolle, which he used mainly for racing.

As a student architect at the turn of the century, there wasn’t the possibility of anything as extravagant as a summer holiday  

“but when I was finished studying and could take two or three weeks annual holiday, it was long distance cruising that occupied entirely my interest for sailing”.

As an architect with a studio, Rønne was responsible for the creation of the Shellhus in Copenhagen’s city square. As a boat constructor, he managed six solidly built and very seaworthy cutters. None of his stories of sailing in the old Sejlsport or any other magazine tell of any serious losses, despite the fact that Rønne never skimped on materials.
This account we’ve chosen to bring to you, concerns Rønne’s first passage over the North Sea with Runa I in 1910. There were only three weeks available and with particularly bad weather, a lot more time was spent at sea than on land. Runa I still exists today and has a berth in Skovshoved, whilst her sister ship, Ran II is to be found at Grenå.

Knew Alfred Benzon

Runa II as far as we know was built in collaboration with the pharmacist and constructor Alfred Benzon, whom Rønne came to know through the Royal Danish Yacht Club. Runa III is today in Svanemøllen Harbour while a sister ship belongs in Marbaek harbor near Frederikssund. Runa IV is today known as Runi of Svanemeollen, whereas Runa V’s home is unknown. The last in the rack, Runa VI was sold after WW2, like so many good boats to the USA, where she still sails. A couple of years ago the owner wrote to Denmark looking for information regarding the constructor. Runa VI is also mentioned in an article from 1936 where Gerhard Rønne tells of that just like her predecessors, Runa VI was built with a gaff rig.

“Some years ago I re-rigged her as a moderate bermuda and haven’t had any reason to regret it. Regarding the interior design I will just say that in a cutter of her size, it’s practical to have the supplies just below the main hatch so one can get a bite to eat even in bad weather.”

Headroom, toilet and other such things that today one would expect from such a boat, Rønne never managed to experience. All of his boats were relatively low in their freeboard and had elegant, flat roofs that allowed waves to wash unimpeded over, but on the other hand didn’t give much more space within than that which the hull made room for.

The trips took place together with two or three friends. Mrs Rønne is never mentioned, so she must have stayed home or holidayed elsewhere. In one article, Rønne remarks that if the time aboard inconvenienced anyone, he hired an experienced sailor.

That was then. Today a cruise would be different than when in 1910 Gerhard Rønne sailed to England, but the experience is thankfully unchanged. A voyage to England on one’s own keel was one of the subjects that interested us most when we discussed Deep sea cruising. The 7-meter Runa was built with that specific objective in mind. There was paid particular attention to seaworthiness; the boat was equipped with a very small roof and cockpit, low and solid rig, storm sail, broad jib, sea anchor, oil bag etc. in brief, a real cruiser based on navigation in open water.

There was a lot to take care of. The trip had to be done within our three-week holiday, so one was became quickly aware of the fact that one of the first conditions for a successful voyage would be luck with the wind and from the first day. Later, when the departure date got closer, the rush became considerable, there were long lists of waters, sea charts, a current charts etc., the list of provisions was also extensive. The skipper’s navigational skills got a good going over with the sailing instructor Funder, whom he often sent a friendly thought, when later sat calculating rations in the small cabin. R. was skipper, T. helmsman and J. was the chef.

Departure was set for Saturday afternoon on the 18th of June, but it was evening before we were finished with the stowing of supplies and equipment. At 1?.25 we cast off and headed out of Kronløbet. With a fresh Northerly we stood away and out of Kongedypet and Drogden, using lighthouses and lightships against our bearings for the last compass correction. Then there followed a great crossing over Køgebugt with a clear sky and a fresh wind.

Sunday the 19th at 03.00 we passed Stevn Lighthouse and at 05.15 Bøgestrøm buoy. At 08.00 we anchored at Peter’s Yard, but our little anchor didn’t hold and before we had time to drop the big one, we drifted aground. We were quickly afloat again, and lunch tasted twice as good after our healthy warning.

11.00 we heaved the anchor and beat up to Masnedø. It blew hard from the North West and although there were five reefs on the boom, Runa lay low under the gusts. 14.30 we came into Mesnedø harbor where the captain’s brother, having joined us until here, alighted. We anchored in the middle of the harbour and went below for a cup of tea before saying farewell.

All of a sudden, we felt a shock. Our sea anchor (small anchor I think he means) had again failed us and a gust of wind had landed Runa on top of the underwater remains of an old quay. So we tried all kinds of tricks to get free but without success. The general mood aboard fell to rock bottom; we had better things to spend our time doing than standing aground in Masnedø harbour. Eventually we came up with the idea of going aboard the steam ferry and asking the skipper to help us with his winch. Our request was met with great compassion and a line was soon passed to Runa, the winch started and in no time we were again ready for new adventures. After that episode, our little anchor was abandoned and we only used the large one.

16.40 we were outbound again; at Tokosten[1] outside Dyrfod Flak[2] we wrote the log. 17.30 was a wet beat up to Vejrø in a fresh gale and the sea head-on; conditions only Smålandshavet can produce. 21.10 we passed Vejrø Flak and set our heading for Tranekaer. We had a pleasant sail over to Langland where after we followed the coast down.
Monday the 20th 0100 we passed Kelsnor Lighthouse. Heading South West to West after Bülk. Still fresh wind from the North West but it had eased enough to let out a couple of reefs. 0600 we passed Bülk and at 07.15 anchored at Holtenau to register ourselves for the canal passage. The papers were easily dealt with thanks to an agent who gave us the comforting news that it would only cost 15 mark. Although that was the only pleasant surprise during the passage through the canal except for the pleasant landscapes we passed.
There were already quite a few small sailing vessels waiting and we were organized into two lines. At 10.00 the steamer came and pulled away with us in tow. The morning was spent in the bunks or on the deck under the burning sunshine. All the clothing, wet from the earlier, was quickly dried, whilst at the same time, the unfortunate helmsman was baked.

There were many quite lovely places along the canal, particularly nearing Rensborg where the canal is surrounded by terrain partially covered by forest. The tug stopped every time it passed another large steamer and we had to moor up to posts while it passed. We had to we well tied up as the waves were violent and we struggled to keep ourselves away from the moorings and the other boats, which were more capable of taking a beating.

Translation by G H Gilbert

[1] Perhaps Toko Rock
[2] Near Vordingborg


  1. how can I contact the owner of this blog for a book about Gerhard Rønne? Thank you,

  2. for any information regarding 'omruna' please contact me by telephone +33 (0) 6 04 45 43 80 or by email

  3. I am currently working with the French historian Jacques Taglang on a book about the history of Gerhard Ronne and his yachts to be published in December this year. Please feel free to contact me to keep informed of exact dates and how to acquire the book at
    Best wishes,
    Nigel Pert


Post a Comment

Popular Posts