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Crazy old traditions in Sletten Havn

When the harbour Sletten Havn celebrated its 135-year anniversary in 2014, visitors at the celebration witnessed what many might call crazy behaviour.

The fishing hamlet maintains two old traditions that go all the way back to the time when the harbour was built, and which are carried out every 5 years on special anniversary days as part of a big harbour party: the burning of a frigate and tightrope walking across the harbour lido. Both traditions were reinstated in 1979 when the harbour turned 100 years old.

The oldest mention of Sletten is in a letter from 1562, in which the area is referred to as ”Daugløkke Slette” – slette meaning ”a plain”. Back then, the fishing hamlet was home to only 11 families, where today there are more than 130 old fisherman’s cottages and stores.

At the end of the 19th century, the fishermen at Sletten Havn were unable to pay for the maintenance of the harbour. Therefore, they walked through town and practically begged money from the inhabitants. Today, the pleasure boats pay for the maintenance through their berth charges, but there were none of those in the 19th century, and so in order to bring in some money, the fishermen did everything they could to attract visitors to the harbour square.

The burning of the frigate was part of the entertainment and quite a unique event for Sletten Havn. A frigate is sailed out into the harbour and set on fire to the enjoyment of the audience. It is not just any old frigate, though: Every time, the local fishermen spend more than a month and a half on building the wooden frigate from scratch. Even the figurehead at the prow of the ship is carefully carved every time.

However, at the anniversary in 2014, the weather was so horrible that it was not possible to burn the ship during the actual party. The gusts were so strong that even though the frigate was firmly anchored out at sea, the cable broke, and the ship came close to drifting into the rocks. Many among the audience were disappointed when it was decided not to set the ship on fire, but it would have been too dangerous: The village has many houses with thatched roofs that might have been in danger of being set on fire. Instead, the ship was burned a few days later.

The other landmark event of Sletten Havn is tightrope walking across the harbour lido. A line is extended, whereupon everyone can try walking across it over the water. It often happens that one of the brave ones tilts into the water – to the amusement of the crowd. In 2014, several participants wore costumes, making it even more entertaining.

You can also get a chance to experience the shenanigans on the harbour! The next time is in 2019 at the 140-year anniversary. But if you cannot wait that long, the town organises harbour days every year during the last weekend of August.

If you are unable to come by at the harbour party, Sletten Havn is also worth a visit at other times of the year. Sletten still has an actual fishing industry, although not to the same degree as from the middle of the 19th century and around 100 years onwards, which was the prime of the fishing industry in the area. You can still get close to the action, though, when fish are brought into the harbour.

Source: Sletten Beboerforening and Peter ”Skipper” Birch.

Picture:          Havneguide.dk

Coordinates:  Latitude: 55.953550
longitude: 12.535384

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