Small house living – why?

We don’t really have a tiny house, but considering that there’s four of us sharing our 85 m2 we do have a relatively small apartment. What we have is two bedrooms, combined kitchen and livingroom – and a garden. We actually wanted more space, it seems that everybody has more space, right? But it turns out that small works out great for us, at least so far.

Before coming to Bremerhaven I didn’t realize that a city i Northern Europe could be so badly built. Bremerhaven was one of the main cities for the German navy during WWII, and was therefore heavily bombed by allied forces. After the war, houses were rebuilt, but there was just not the money and time available to make first class housing. And now it’s been about 60 years and all the old houses really need to be renovated. It’s happening, the whole city is slowly being upgraded, but there’s still a long way to go. And our flat was old, cold and slightly moldy. Not a great place for adults, and definitely not for kids. And additionally, we just didn’t have nearby outdoor areas, so our daughter spent a lot of time inside.

We actually preferred staying in Bremerhaven because of logistics, especially because Esben is away for two weeks at a time for and I then need to take care of kids and a full-time job. But then I saw an advert for a flat in a terraced village house with a small garden, right next to a play ground and very close to Kindergarten and school. And it was built in 2010, and was an organic passive house. I went to look at it with my sister, who just happened to be there, and ten other people who were also interested. But I called the owners the next morning, and after being second in line for about a week we were finally told that we could have the flat. It was awesome. We were moving to the village Sellstedt. And Esben still hadn’t seen the place.

The main reason we really, really like our place is the surroundings. Being foreigners in Germany we just don’t have a huge network of people with kids, and in the city, being in a kindergarten doesn’t mean that you live near all the other Kids. So Runa just didn’t have that many friends. As our new place is right next to the playground, she can run out and play whenever there are kids around. Plus, the neighborhood is full of young families with kids her age, and they are all in the same kindergarten right around the corner.

And we love having a garden. When we lived in Sweden we had a garden that we didn’t use a lot at all. But apparently we grew up now, and sitting just five minutes outside at night is so wonderful. I guess even more because I spend the whole day in front of a computer.

And yes, the flat is small. The kids share a room. And the bedroom, office and home gym is in the same room. All of our stuff has a place and we only buy new things after considering if we have enough space for it. But we still like it:

  • Money. It’s just cheaper. The money we save on rent now we are directing into funds for our possible future home and for traveling.
  • Money again. We don’t have anywhere to put stuff, so there’s no point in buying things we don’t need. This can, however, be a bit frustrating for grandparents who want to buy physically huge presents for the grandkids.
  • Less to clean. I guess this is partly true, our place may get a bit more dirty than a bigger place, i don’t know. But it’s really nice that we don’t have a lot to clean.
  • We are always together. We know what everybody is doing and we’re usually doing it together. And the kids learn that we need to solve problems rather than go into our own room and shut the door. Sharing of an iPad can be tough though.
  • Our kids learn that it’s fine to live in a small space. That maybe the definition of success is not a fancy house or car for that matter. This one important I think.

Renovating the rudder

We new from the beginning that our Great Dane had previously had issues with small blisters on the rudder. But it sucked a bit that the few small blisters that were there when she was lifted on land in the fall just seemed to increase as the winter went by. As our  Great Dane was built in 1970, and thus is currently 46 years old, with the original rudder still on, it’s really no surprise that rudder issues are starting to show up. But it’s a lot of work.

We obviously want to go sailing this summer, so we aimed to fix the rudder over easter. That would turn out to be a rather optimistic plan… As the number of blisters seemed to have increased over winter, we wanted to take the rudder off of the boat to make it easier to work on it. This was easier said than done, the rudder had clearly not been removed from the boat for a long time. It is kept in place by a plastic piece that is wedged in between the rudder and the hinge (See picture 3 below), which thus needed to come off. But the screw holding it was in so tight that the head of the screw broke before the screw came loose. No problem, the boatbuilder (my dad) cut it. And the rudder was free – once we had figured out how to remove the self steering device that had to come off first. So far so good.

While I continued with other projects on Chip-Chip, Esben started opening the blisters with a disc sander. As more paint, primer and epoxy was removed it became apparent that the coat of the rudder had little waterways inside of it, and that the places of the blisters were just a little part of the problem. So we (or rather Esben) ended up sanding it down completely. It took about a day. Then the easter holidays were over, and we left the rudder to dry out in my fathers workshop.


Sanding turned out to be the easy step.

When the rudder was sanded down, we could see that someone had previously drilled a hole into it. The area around the hole was wet, so we slowly came to realize that we probably had a water filled rudder. This is rather common in older boats, and very difficult to cure. But we still tried. The old holes were drilled out and a couple of extra ones were added. And when the rudder was left upright over night, water came out of the bottom. It’s of course good that it came out, but it still sucks because it probably means that the inner stainless steel skeleton has been subject to water over a period of time, and without opening up the rudder we will not know how serious the damage is. This is, however, a major operation that we will not take on right now – then we would have a summer working on the boat rather than sailing.

So when the rudder had dried out, we continued to apply an epoxy coating to make the rudder waterproof again. The epoxy is applied in a thin layer, which then needs to dry for at least 24 hours. Once it is dry it is sanded, and new epoxy is applied where needed. This process is then repeated until the result is satisfactorily. A bit of a challenge for us as we live 400 km from the boat. In the hope of preventing new water from entering the rudder, we also applied new fiberglass to the edge of the rudder along the rounding where the propeller is located and around the hinges. Only time will tell if this works out.

Once the epoxy coating was finished, we applied four coats of primer and finally two coats of anti-fowling. Due to the time intervals between the coats, this process lasted another weekend, but finally we were done and the rudder could go back where it belongs. One step closer to getting back in the water!


All done – on to painting the rest of the bottom.


Sea-ice in our model

To understand how the Arctic sea ice is changing and how it affects for example the underlying ocean currents, we work with a global sea ice ocean model (FESOM). For the last few years, a lot of effort has been put into improving the representation of the sea ice in the model. One focus has been on the large cracks – or leads, to use the correct name, that we know exist in reality. These are very difficult to capture in large scale models, but my colleague Qiang has now succeeded in modelling these leads and has put a video of the results on youtube. In this run, the horizontal resolution is 4.5 km in the Arctic Ocean. That’s quiet high.


Despite of my broken arm, we managed to get Chip-Chip back in the water this past weekend with the help of my father. The crane arrived before 8.00 and left an hour later when Chip-Chip was nicely tied to the dock in the marina.

As soon as she was in the water, the kids were on board (Don’t worry, life jackets were on right after the picture was taken).


I washed the mast and treated it with Hempel’s alu protect, but to reassemble the rigging Esben lent me his two working hands.

And finally, the mast was back on Chip-Chip.

Now she is moored in Årøsund for some weeks, ready to go sailing. But while we’re waiting for my arm to get a bit better, work is being done with the electricity and Esben is working on putting in new water hoses for our drinking water.

An accident in Denmark

Crushed. That’s the word the doctors used to describe the bones in my right arm after I slipped an fell 3m down on hard ground from our sailboat. I am not even sure what happened, I wanted to remove some tape, it was a bit slippery after the rain, and suddenly I felt myself falling. I screamed when I hit the ground, and then I stopped because I couldn’t breathe. When I regained control of my breath I screamed for help, and I could see a man come running towards me.

In a moment like this it feels so incredibly privileged to live in a country where medical help is available for everybody, no questions asked.

The ambulance arrived in about 20 minutes. By then my whole body was shaking badly, I guess from both the cold and the adrenaline from the pain in my arm. The ambulance staff gave me some pain reliever that didn’t seem to work at all, did a quick neural check and carefully got me onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. In the mean time Esben and Mattis had arrived, but Mattis, who usually loves ambulances, did not look the least bit convinced when I tried to smile at him before the doors were closed.

30 minutes later we arrived at the hospital. Because of the relative long distance I had fallen, a rather large group of doctors were ready to get me checked for spinal and head injuries. It all seemed rather chaotic, but one of the nurses stood and held my head, looked me in the eyes, told me to lie completely still and said that I could ask her if I had any questions.

I was lucky, there were no spinal or head injuries, “only” my hand, which laid in a strange angle by my side. I got a healthy dose of painkiller injected directly into the hand and was taken to x-rays. They showed that the bone in the arm called radius had splintered into several pieces above my wrist, and that one piece had come out through the skin. The other bone, ulna, had broken in a normal way. To try to but the bones into place, I was given a heavy dose of morphine and my arm was hung by the fingers with a weight tied to my elbow. After about half an hour two doctors tried to pull my arm enough apart to put the bones back where they belonged. This is where I seriously started to appreciate the morphine. After the effort to reset my arm I had more x-rays, a ct-scan and a talk with a surgeon who told me the arm needed to be operated on asap. So around 8 pm I was put into full narcosis. I woke up in a much quieter, more painless world than I had left. With a giant metal skeleton attached to my arm.

Because the bone had fractured my skin and the ensuing risk of infection, the final operation could only be performed once the wound had healed. I therefore spent the next five days in he hospital, getting an intravenous dose of penicillin every six hours, with the external metal pole holding my bones in place. Despite of high doses of pain relievers, it was 5 days of crazy pain before the final operation was performed. In it, the surgeon operated two metal bars into my arm to keep the bone pieces in the right position. I came out with a giant cast, happy that this stage of fixing my arm was over.

After having spent three days in Denmark with my parents, I drove back home with Esben and the kids. So now I just need to convince the German doctors to continue with the plan laid out for my arm.


Changes in Arctic sea ice

I knew that climate change was occurring when I started working at AWI, but I was not aware of how rapidly the temperature is changing in the Arctic or to what extent it has changed the area of the sea-ice.

The thing is, that while temperatures are increasing all over the planet, the increase happens faster in the Arctic than anywhere else; studies show that the mean Arctic temperature in 2010 was 4 degrees C warmer than the average for 1968 to 2010. And 2010 was not a particularly warm year.

The most obvious impact of the rising temperature is that the extent of the summer sea-ice becomes gradually smaller with time. The September sea-ice extend, has almost been reduced by 40% since 1979. The picture below shows had the ice extend has changed since 1950, based on measurements and models.

The decrease in sea-ice does not just change the habitat for the ever popular Polar Bears, the increased freshwater content also changes the  stratification of the water column, which can lead to changes in the ocean advection and mixing, in the nutrient supply, species composition etc. This can in turn further impact the climate in the Arctic but also globally. I guess I will get back to that in another post.

Arctic sea-ice

Mean extent of Arctic sea-ice as measured by satellites and predicted by models. (from NCAR:

Other, and more obvious impacts of the reduced ice cover is, that it opens up for shipping across the Arctic Ocean, shortening the path from Europe to the Asia significantly and introducing hazards such as oil leaks to the Arctic environment. Also, drilling for oil may begin as the ice recedes.

Sea-ice has been continuously measured from space by satellites since 1979. Below I have added a film from NASA showing the record minimum of 2012, comparing it to the average distribution from 1968 to 1995.

The summer sea-ice extend has reached the lowest values in 2007 and 2012. 2016 does, unfortunately, appear to become another year with high Arctic temperatures and low sea-ice extend.