To 62-year old Electrical Engineer Michael Otto, the out-of-office status in his Outlook will mean more than just vacation this summer. He will spend the next six weeks undertaking a daring attempt to paddle his way around the entire Danish coastline. By himself. In a sea kayak.
If he succeeds, a big dream will come true. Michael took up sea kayaking seven years ago, just around the time he joined COWI's Water and Environment unit in Odense. In his spare time, he has spent a lot of hours in sea kayaks, rain or shine.
The route along Denmark measures some 1,250 kilometres and will take him from the roaring North Sea, along the back of Jutland to Skagen, down along the east coast of Jutland, passing by the island of Samsø when crossing the open sea and the busy channel to Røsnæs in western Zealand. From there, he will sail north of Zealand, down through the Oresund and into the busy channels of Copenhagen and onwards down to Lolland-Falster, through the small South Funen islands, before heading for the main land past Sønderborg. His journey ends at the end of Flensborg Fjord, where he will come ashore and lay his hand on boundary stone no. 1 at the Danish-German border.
If all goes well, that is. Because this is no rookie journey. Only one in about four kayakers that dare this route are able to finish. And many actually sail in teams, rather than going alone, which Michael will be. According to him:
”I’ll be embarking on this journey with great humility, knowing it’s a very long journey. Some days, it may be too windy and I don’t even know if I can complete the entire route. So, we’ll just have to see. The weather will decide what happens.”
Every single detail of the journey is mapped out. The plan is to sail for 30 days and cover 43 kilometres of sea a day, on average. He will sleep in a tent on the beach or at a campsite. He expects to have ten days on shore to recuperate, and he will bring along extra water and dry food.
The first and biggest challenge is the North Sea. His journey will start Monday 15 June at the Vidåslusen lock in the Wadden Sea.
“The tide is tricky and there are often strong winds. The trick is to get past the surf and keep a distance of around 6-700 metres to the coast, where not that many waves break. If I can reach Skagen two weeks in and still feel alright, I’ll consider that job half done even though that section only covers about one third of the route. My first target is to reach the coast of Fanø island Monday evening,” says Michael as he enjoys a cup of coffee in COWI's canteen the Friday before his journey.
”The physical aspect is one thing. I think the biggest challenge will be the mental aspect and being alone for so many hours on these vast distances. I just need to take it one day at a time, and I know that I’ve prepared as well as I can and that I’m in optimal shape.”
Over the course of his seven years as a kayaker, he has completed the highest level of training available in Denmark. He also went on a training trip on the Faroe Island and all the way around Funen. The pressure is not entirely overwhelming – he expects to squeeze in an important customer meeting on route. You see, on 23 June, a Teams meeting is scheduled with VCS Denmark (Vandcenter Syd), which he does not want to miss.
”I accepted the meeting right away when I saw it in my calendar. I’ll find a way to make it work,” says Michael, adding:
“I have an understanding manager, who let me take extra time off to pursue my big dream – and an understanding girlfriend, who’s okay with me spending the entire summer in a kayak by myself. If I didn’t have their support, this journey would not be possible.”
The route was prepared by the Danish association of sea kayakers, which numbers more than 5,000 members. When you complete the journey, you are awarded the red-white band.
If you want to follow Michael Otto on his trip, go to Facebook here.
And for more information about the red-white band here.
Søren Kragh Pedersen
Head of Group PA & PR
+45 2025 7018