TOURING the DANISH ISLES on "DIOGENES"

in Scandinavian history

A tribute to dad and one of

his many creative adventures

One of the largest home-made rafts

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Our dad, Leif, is an adventurer and a creator. He was born in a small Danish fishing village during WWII on the island of Lolland, and moved to the small fishing village of Thorø Huse at the age of two. Later, in his mid-twenties, he moved to New York City, USA, and afterwards he took part in growing a company from a handful of people to several hundred. He traveled the world with his job and together with his family, he bought an old country-house and spent 40 years to completely rebuild it... and then he's a boat builder. Leif has designed and constructed several catamaran boats in his home, some in fiberglass and one with several elements in carbon fiber. However, one of the most unique boats was a huge wooden trimaran raft made in 1971 together with family and friends.

 

The core team was four siblings, Leif, Palle, Johanne and Søren, two cousins, Hans and Helen, and their friend Laurits. All aged between 17 and 27 years. The first idea came in the summer of 1970: "Imagine to make a raft and then just let it drift into the unknown". Just like the drift voyaging from the Americas towards Polynesia by pre-Incan people, as tested in the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition by Thor Heyerdahl. Having further matured the idea the team wanted to build a raft with big sails and keels which could travel windward rather than only downwind as the Kon-Tiki, allowing them to reach any point regardless of the direction of wind.

 

During the winter of 1971, the team collected oil barrels and timber logs from the local Tobacco factory. Sails were cut and sewn from canvas tarpaulins. The raft was assembled in early spring. It became a 13x5 meter wooden boat with four lines of oil barrels (a trimaran) and a 12m mast with a sail of 60 m2. It had a relatively large cabin with several berths and a galley with a gas cooker and a grill. Total weight was 2,5 metric tonnes. Due to its 52 oil barrels, the raft was named "DIOGENES" after the Greek philosopher who discarded all his possessions and lived happily in a barrel.

 

Leif, the team and their friends spent the vacation periods during 1971-1973 on the raft, touring around many Danish islands. At some point, the dream of rafting/sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Caribbean started to grow. Leif even obtained a quotation from a lorry driver for transporting the raft from Denmark to Morocco/West Sahara where an expedition could be kicked off. But his career and family took over and changed the path of his life. Instead, Leif started completely re-building an old country-house dating back to 1777. The boat was disassembled during 1974. Amusingly, the wooden logs were re-used as ceiling beams in the country-house and therefore became a central physical part of the family house, our childhood "nest".

Pics taken by our dad Leif from 1971-1973 when the raft was created and used for tours around the many Danish islands:

Where it all started: Funen, Denmark
Where it all started: Funen, Denmark

In the Danish archipelago around Funen island, with all its small islets.

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The DIOGENES wooden raft
The DIOGENES wooden raft

In beautiful sunset silhuette

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Our dad Leif in 1971, 27 years old
Our dad Leif in 1971, 27 years old

Rowing towards the raft. He had just returned from a couple of years in the US. One of his new projects became raft building with family and friends

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Firstly, a model was build
Firstly, a model was build

A complete 1:10-sized model of the raft was created and tests showed that it could sail upwind; the mast and keels needed to have the right position to give stability and seaworthyness. The cans are from the local cream powder factory. Every bits and pieces was sourced from local factories. From left: Palle, Søren, Helen, Johanne and Leif

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Oil barrels are preparred
Oil barrels are preparred

They were bought from the local tobacco factory. 52 oil barrels each with a size of 200 liter. Leif and Hans in the picture.

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The wooden mast is prepared
The wooden mast is prepared

Sitka spruce was selected for as the skeleton of the raft. Sitka growth very tall and the wood has good strength and elasticity. From the left: Laurits (a project hangaround), Søren, Leif, Helen, Karen-Lise, Anne.

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The sail was handmade...
The sail was handmade...

...during the winter of 1970/71 in the yard of Ninna and Harry in Thorø Huse. Ninna and Harry was the parents of Leif, Palle, Søren, Johanne and Birgit, i.e. our grandparents. Old canvas tarpaulins where stiched together during the winter nights. Here Anne, Johanne and Palle working with the knitting.

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Assembling the raft
Assembling the raft

During the Easter holiday season of 1971 the raft was assembled in Torø Huse bay for the first time. There were even snow fall at that time! In the picture: Laurits, Palle, Leif.

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Adjusting log lengths
Adjusting log lengths

Hans & Leif

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Preparing for the next season...
Preparing for the next season...

...during the Spring time. Every Spring, the raft was lifed on land and had to be serviced with tar after a tough winter.

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Assembly
Assembly

Flat iron was heated in a forge until the fitted the wooden logs. It was all tied up together with the barrels. Leif and Søren in the picture.

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The mast is transported
The mast is transported

Søren transporting the mast across the shallow waters in Torø Huse Bay - the small fishing community where it all happened

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Raising the mast
Raising the mast
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Almost there...
Almost there...

From the left: Leif, Palle, Laurits, Søren and Hans.

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View from atop
View from atop

It has a height of 12 meter and one could easily climb on a wooden ladder to a navigation platfrom. From this viewing / navigation platform they could easily see the bottom of the ocean and navigate the raft. In old times, sailors such as Captain Cook utilized the same principle.

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Hoisting the sail
Hoisting the sail

As per Danish naval traditions, of course, a coin was placed under the mast to promote luck in times of bad weather. Some of the wooden blocks was sourced from the old fishermen in Thorø Huse.

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Baptism
Baptism

A small party with friends, neighbors and family to celebrate that all the hard work with building the raft was finally over: It was named DIOGENES after the greek philosopher who discarded all his possessions and lived happily in a barrel.

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First tour
First tour

On Whit Monday 1971 DIOGENES had its first sailing trip. It was to the nearby island, Bogø, a 20 km tour

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Longer trips followed
Longer trips followed

Here sailing in the South Danish Archipelago (Sydfynske Øhav), under the bridge at Svenborg Sound

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Lookout
Lookout

From the mast one person could have a great view over the horizon

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Summer sunset at Avernakø Island
Summer sunset at Avernakø Island
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Relaxing on the way to Lyø Island
Relaxing on the way to Lyø Island

Helen and Johanne are having a break on the main deck with the open kitchen window in the back

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View from the rudder...
View from the rudder...

...sailing at 5 knots speed

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Preparing dinner
Preparing dinner

Hans, Leif's cousin, is preparing dinner - incl. food with onions. The rescue latter is on the right if somebody would fall off.

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Lunch time on deck
Lunch time on deck

During the second season the raft was equipped with a wheel to more easily steer the raft. In addition, two car seats was installed, one for the helmsman steering the weel, another for the rudder. From the left: Søren, Leif, Karen-Lise and Elisabeth.

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Summer sailing
Summer sailing

Summer vacations, smaller holidays and weekending during 1971-73 was spend on the bout. Usually 5-7 persons could live together on the raft. Hans and Johanne in the picture are sunbathing on the deck

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Leif taking a salty shower...
Leif taking a salty shower...

...with old-fashion solar heated water. It was filled with water in the morning and heated during the day to allow for a warm wash in the afternoon.

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Leif and Hans
Leif and Hans
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Kate on a summer evening...
Kate on a summer evening...

...whom later on got married with Hans

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Sunset view to Avernakø Island
Sunset view to Avernakø Island
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