The Læsø-Frederikshavn route in snippets
It would be possible to write a thick tome about Læsø’s connection to the mainland. The following will give the reader very short snippets about seven ships and four landing places – important elements of Læsø’s lifeline to the wide world.
Before 1872: There has always been traffic between Læsø and the mainland. Islanders had to get out, and come back home again. Civil servants flitted to and fro with their families and possessions. Adventurers wanting to experience a new place would visit. Messages and reports had to be delivered to help keep the kingdom together. The postal routes also worked in such far flung areas. Everything was done in open sailing boats steered by skilled sailors who knew the waters and how to land on open beaches.
1872: Vesterø Harbour was built and readied to serve the postal route from Læsø to Frederikshavn with the newly built decked boat the Ane Margrethe. The boat was owned by the islander Chr. Kiel Larsen. He served the route for the next 15 years without a single day off for sickness.
1887: The 1st of May: a newly founded steamboat company consisting of two islanders started the SS Læsø (1) on the route between Læsø and Frederikshavn. The decked boat was not completely redundant as it still worked as relief vessel for the steamboat.
1908: Vesterø Harbour was expanded with a new basin to the north. The Læsø steamboat’s permanent mooring place moved from the old harbour to the new basin, where a new warehouse was also established. Here the steamboat had its mooring until 1971.
1918: On the 20th of September, the newspaper reports that the owners of the SS Læsø (1) terminated the contract with the post office, because the shipping company had been running at a loss.
1918: Tuesday 26th November was a great day in Læsø’s modern history. This day saw the first AGM of the Andels-Dampskibs-Selskabet Læsø (Læsø’s Cooperative Steamboat Company).
1918: On Tuesday 10th December the privately owned SS Læsø (1) sailed its last voyage. The next day the newly founded cooperative shipping company had its first trip. This was with the motorised decked boat the Edith of Læsø.
1919: On Monday 17th March Andels-Damskibs-Selskabet Læsø sailed its first voyage on the route between Læsø Frederikshavn with its own ship the SS Læsø (2).
1928: By now the cooperative’s steamboat from 1919, the SS Læsø (2), already had many years behind it, and need a replacement. This was provided by the shipbuilders in Frederikshavn and the SS Læsø (3) set sail in 1928. The steamboat – with its red plush sofas – served loyally for no less than 33 years, a record in the company’s history.
1945: The Directory of Supply and Provisions gives permission for the Læsø steamboat to take over 17,020 kg of coal, at the price of 1,376 DKK, 62 øre, which had been left by the Germans. The coal was among many other materials meant for use in connection with the planned artillery battery in the Nordmark.
1947: SS Læsø (3) was refitted in the Svanemølle wharf in Copenhagen, so that it no longer ran on coal but on oil. From this point on we are talking about the SS Læsø (3) with more space for cars.
1966: The shipping company ran into great difficulties. Only five years old, the MS Læsø (4) was far too small and did not live up to the demands of the time. What was needed was a roll-on roll-off ferry; and a new ship would have to have two decks, one for cars and one for a lounge. This was made possible because Anholt needed a ship, and Ærø had one perfect ship too many. Læsø had its first ferry the MF Læsø (5).
1971: Gradually the space both on land and in the harbour grew too tight in the 1908 northern basin. Vesterø Harbour expanded with a ferry landing in a newly established outer harbour. Here the MF Læsø (5) had its new home until it was replaced by a new and larger ferry the MF Læsø (6) in 1981.
1981: The new ferry is, up to this point, the crossing’s most elegant ship, with lots of space in comfortable lounges. Built by Ørskov’s Shipwharf in Frederikshavn it cost 33 million kroner.
1997: Saturday 14th June was a day of celebration for Læsø. More than half of the island gathered at Vesterø Harbour, where the refitted MF Læsø (6) was named the Ane Læsø, and the brand new ferry the Margrete Læsø (7) took up its new ferry-berth – the second in the extended outer harbour.
2000: On 10th April the old cooperative from 1918 was dissolved. Their activities had before then been transferred to the new Ferry Company Læsø I/S.
After 2010: One thing is certain – after 2010 a Læsø ferry will sail every day from ... hold on, now it’s not so certain anymore. Will it sail from Vesterø Havn? Or will they build a new harbour far out in the sea at the end of a dam in the South West? Or maybe at the Northern Rønner? Will Frederikshavn be at the other end of the route? Or Sæby? Or some third harbour? One thing is entirely certain – the future will show. And just as certain: there will be a sailing - every day.