I have sailed on quite a few different types of dinghies. Now a planned tour with a Hansajolle on the river Elbe had me wondering whether this really was a good idea. The Elbe can be quite nasty, especially when tide runs against wind. The Hansajolle, however, had been planned and constructed with those challenging conditions in mind.
With “back to the roots” I don’t really want to imply that sailing on very old or ancient type of boats is my cup of tea. The reference is more in the direction of keeping it simple, reliable and easy to handle. This is something that always comes to my mind when sailing with small boats. With the exception of Classe Mini racers, of course.
Hansajolle – designed and built for river Elbe
The Hansajolle comes extremely close to being a perfect fit for a tiny sailing boat (my definition). The wording “Jolle” (dinghy) is quite misleading, I believe. Her minimum draught is 0,50m, with some kind of stump keel and a fin she is actually more of a tiny yacht than a dinghy. The keel (stump) weighs up to 150kg, and with her bow unusually high (for those times) she can easily manage the larger, short paced waves of the Elbe.
Only 5,85m long she offers a tiny cabin for stowing away a couple of things and keeping them dry, plus lets you sleep cosily surrounded by wood. With a beam of 1,65m she is very “slim”, meaning she will heel quite a bit even in light winds. However, once she’s found her perfect balance between heeling and keel working against it, she is very easy to steer and a beauty to sail.
Right after my first day of sailing a Hansajolle I started searching for literature and more info in the web. Apart from its history, class activities and (highly priced) boats for sale I was quite surprised that two rather famous German sailors had actually sailed a Hansajolle as well, Rollo Gebhard and Wilfried Erdmann.
Famous sailors on a Hansajolle
Rollo Gebhard, three times circumnavigator, sailed via the Mediterranean to Tunis, later on via the Red Sea to Mukalla. Those tours he sailed on his Hansajolle Solveig – back in 1959 to 1961.
Wilfried Erdmann, also a multiple times circumnavigator, including solo nonstop round the world tours with and against the predominant wind directions, toured Northern German coasts and lakes in 2003 on his Hansajolle Kathena Gunilla. He wrote a more than fascinating book about it – which I had read before my first days of sailing on a Hansajolle but remembered only later on (yeah, don’t talk about my memory capabilities).
So, what was it like? Oh, what a joy! First of all, Thorsten’s Hansajolle, built in 1964, is made of wood. Looks good, feels good, smells good. No motor, no electricity, hand-made navigation – I loved it! She behaves like a dinghy, fast to react to any changes to sails, lines or rudder. At the same time, she can handle quite a lot of wind, also paired with choppy waves of the Elbe. Sailing into and out of small harbours is no problem, be it single- or double-handed.
Proud owners – no suprise
Hansajolle owners are usually very proud of their boat – which is no surprise, beautiful as she is. While waiting for some friends to finish their end of day work on their boat I happened to see a small boat coming towards a berth. “Hi, would you like some help with the lines? Oh, wow, is this beauty a Hansajolle?”, that’s how I greeted the sailor coming in. The immediate big smile plus his immensely pride-infused chest very clearly showed his feelings and happiness.
Distracted by sailing on other boats plus lots of activities not related to water and boats, I have not been back on a Hansajolle for a couple of years now. Looking at the two pictures here, however, I guess I need to give Thorsten a call and arrange a day or two on the water…