To the Baltics: Thursday 16th May – Wednesday 29th May

Apologies for the long post – been getting a bit behind with the adventures of Alice and Dick. Here are the latest installments……

Thursday 16 May
Rest day from the bike, passage planning also performed with help of the HM, also discovered that not only were water and electricity included in the basic price but all the clothes washing you needed (including soap) provided you filled the machine! So now we have very clean sheets,towels as well as clothing.  Eating out in the village was pleasant enough. A had mussels which were served without shells in a very mild curried breadcrumb covering.
Friday 17 May
09.05 We set off after a very pleasant stay in Terschelling.   We had to retrace our journey for some 3 hours to get to the North Sea and then in quite light winds continued along the inshore traffic zone along the Terschelling coast.
Noting the buoys as we passed them,we were visited by a passing sparrow sized bird who flew into the main cabin and rested there for some 15 –  twenty minutes only to fly out of the front hatch when Dick opened it out for it.
Later on, we were confounded by a Dutch warship coming towards us at 10 knots (with AIS on unlike the RN) but showing as Constrained, not wanting to get in its way, Dick turned to port, so we were sailing out further into the North Sea rather than the convention of turning to starboard which would have put us too close to a conservation area.  When A went to check the AIS the ship had change names, was moored but travelling at 9.8 knots!  On rechecking its speed and position it became the warship again.  No doubt it was towing something underwater which had an AIS identity.
A sailing yacht Virtue was about 3/4ths mile behind us gradually getting closer to us as light and vis dropped at about 1900hrs.  Ate the second night of the chicken casserole A had done in her “Mr D” cooking system, a large pot which fits into a thermos type pot and continues the cooking for up to 5 hours so saving on gas.
As we closed the  Eems shipping lane to go into Borkum darkness fell.
Then we began to see the first sheet lighting ahead, and heard some thunder as well.
23.35 Then just as we spot the first channel marker buoys the heavens just opened up.
Dick gets not only instantly soaked but blinded as well, either by the rain or the sheet lightning . It needed very close co-operation between A & D  for buoy and ship spotting, checking course and yacht directions from theAIS/ plotter shouted to the sodden helm. Radar will not function in such weather conditions.  The radar screen was completely blacked out by the storm cell.
BTW this electrical storm was not predicted by any weather forecast broadcast!
At the last buoy of the shipping channel for us,radioed into Borkum Radar for permission to cross the channel and at first get answer that we cannot be seen on radar so cross with all due care and attention, at our own risk, followed by another voice from Eems Traffic Control,stating that we can be seen as a tiny dot in the Borkum Roads and we must cross at 90º now as there are no movements at this time.
Safely over the ship channel, A was momentarily confused by a white fixed light surrounded by  water with a green buoy nearby, then decided that the white light was the beginning of the submerged training wall and set a course.
The rain and lightning had stopped/moved away thankfully,  while in the pitch black night, we studied the unlit, narrow entrance of the recommended harbour, Port Henry,  according to the CA Pilot.
As we only had 2m under us out in the main channel and  it’s stated as very shallow, we go on to the  welcoming, well lit ex-naval base, Burkana.
02.45 we enter, recce carefully, find a vacant slot on a finger pontoons, tie up next to a S115 Mk1, ‘Mermaid’, put up courtesy flag+Q, noted up log book, pinched ourselves to see if we are still awake, hot chocolate and a dram, hang the sodden gear in the porch and collapse into bed.  It was 0345 Saturday.

Saturday 18 May
Rose at 1100hrs, Dick goes to register. The finger pontoons are the Yacht Clubs and it is open, but the Harbour Office is closed until Tuesday, Monday being a German Bank Holiday. So cannot register our arrival on German soil.
No Wifi here, at YC or pontoons-planned for future.
We unwind and find a recommended restaurant which is 250m away from YC and specialises in fish.  We ask what is recommended and have the special of the day, salad followed by dabs fresh and beautifully cooked in butter, we are joined by the stewards of the YC, Jackie (Scots)  and Heiko (Borkum German) for a drink.
And so to bed, tomorrow may may not sail, D. still very tired, and his gear still soaked.

Sunday 19 May,
Make and mend day, the No2 Yankee UV strip is shredding so needs much attention from needle thread and sticking tape.
Much useful local knowledge for next leg ‘inside’ to Norderney passed on by Heinrich and other club members. Yet another S115, a Mk3 ‘Freya4′, and an S100 are also on the pontoons, spoke to all their Skippers.
Need to go 2hrs before HW Borkum. Got our E50.00 deposit on facilities key back and a free beer and herring roll  from jackie and Heiko, the YC bar owners.

Monday 20 May,  Alice’s Birthday!
05.00, No lie in, alas, just ‘Happy Birthday’, prepped the boat and left at 05.45.
10.00, berthed in Norderney, just as a 3/4kt tide was removing  the sea behind the islands asap.
It had been a real ‘Riddle of the Sands’ trip. No wind, withies looming out of the slowly clearing dense mist along with a couple of Westbound yachts, an Eastbound Ferry, then a Westbound tug, as we chugged along behind Memmert, Juist, then Norderney loomed ahead in the grey morning and we were in.
A sharp shower of rain hit just as Alice returned from her shower, so a nap was decided on, once the passage plan had been done and discussed. The Weather will decide if we can go for Cuxhaven (69nm) tomorrow.
There is a WNW F3-4 window  until Tuesday pm, when it goes NWf5, fine as long as it’s flood not ebb in the Elbe. After that, F5/6, Gale 8 gusts until Thursday.
Walked round town, bought bread and used ATM. Returning from town we had a drink at the Café, enjoyed the half sun and scene, then looked at the  restaurant menu: you could have a variety of choices provided you had ‘hollandaise soß’ with it. We decided that the menu of the beach cabin was more exciting. We had mussels and fried fish with sauté potatoes german style.  White wine and “happy Birthday” sung by Marilyn Munro accompanied the meal!

Tuesday 21 May
Early morning again today, 0500 alarm, groggy, have 30 min lie in, up, engine checks, muesli and real coffee and off.  Listen to the BBC Radio4 Shipping forecast, read rather fast but at least the F8 is ‘later’ so of we go with wind F1-2 right behind us (we were sailing NE at the time), visibility fair to good.  As we pass the end of Speikeroog the wind starts to die away and mist starts to set in.
We cross the deserted(Germans still on holiday!) Weser/Jade shipping lanes at the required 90º at the approved buoys. Arrived at the top of the Elbe two hours before the -0500HW Helgoland target time for two reasons;
we were sailing faster, and the tide table for LW was mis-read.
However we felt our way down the river trying to keep out of everybody’s way but not grounding ourselves in the shallow water of low tide. Wind now F3-4 behind us.
Mist becomes Fog, really thickens and the  port authorities have installed huge concrete posts with lights/racons to aid navigation as well as very good clean green and red lateral buoys, and the training wall is very well signed but the traffic is huge (one container ship was 1000feet long and 300 feet wide with 13metre draft sounding her fog horn and travelling at 14 knots past slower ships).
We were glad that w e could sail in 3m until  a small, fast, tanker with draft of only  3.4m came up our side of the channel heading outwards!
However the turn off for Segler Vereinigung YC harbour was spotted in the seriously thick fog, we turn in room to put sails away, lines and fenders in place then decide which place?? so many vacant good slots!
Help is given twice – the fingers are longer over the other side we were told, so not only we but the helpful German yottie, go over and as the wind is rising, he helps us to put lines, and springs on the ring style end cleats, and is generally cheerful.
Supper in the YC restaurant and money in the Tally-key machine then you can get into the WC and have electricity, hot showers, washing machine and drier and even better still money back option for the unused part of your cash and card deposit (E10.00).
Supper was excellent and electricity welcome. And so to dream in fog and rising wind!

Wednesday 22 May
F8 with gusts in harbour of 34knots and above. Staying put.
Dick checks in with HM. Breakfast for A is the half schnitzell from supper and toast for Dick.  We generally relax with 16.00hrs coffee and excellent cakes, but we left the Black Forest Gateau for the Poles who came in at about 1700 under sail, the engine dead and jib halliard jammed. They sensibly went up to the hammer head, crew tied boat to cleat and then they were able to sort themselves out.   The two hammer head pontoons are very clearly labeled,  ’Emergency, Sea Damage only’ for obviously just such occasions.
The Polish sailing yacht had come from Brunsbüttle  and fighting their way down stream and against the wind (a mere F8, gusting 9) for some 61/2 hours when the German CG cutter stationed off Cuxhaven by now, told them to go into Cuxhaven, when their engine promptly died!
Having dealt with their halliard, engine started, they’d gone into a finger slot and seen HM, then they came to thank Dick who had helped them tie up, the elderly crew who “came to cook and for the ride” looked so,so,so, cold that Dick gave him one of his thick sweaters. It was accepted gracefully.

Thursday 23 May
Wow, how the wind had gone!  It was blowing about 10 knots, we filled up at the ‘automat’ – put your card in the slot  and feel your money being sucked out of your bank account.  ’Hen en Weer’, a Centurion yacht with owner from Helgoland, accompanied us down to Bunsbüttel, through the lock and as far as  the Rendsburg turn off.
NOK or Nord Odensee Kanal is a fascinating place.  The old lock accepts the smaller boats and packs in as many yachts as the skippers will put up with alongside.  The pontoons were narrow, very, very slippery if you did not stay firmly on the metal gridding. The fall was about a meter because of yesterdays gale.  The yachts went out first.  The canal is wide, ships up to 534feet long go along it, the cruise ship Minerva, passed us only to stop about a kilometre further  on, thus causing an interesting traffic jam.
Coming into Rendsburg we chose the furthest yacht haven, and discovered that they use the ‘Baltic Box’ system of mooring.  As there was very little wind we were able to moor up without too much panic and lady HM was there to greet us a few moments later.
It was still very cold, threatening rain, but very cheap berth at E18  a night with electricity, E1 for very long, very hot power shower, E4 washing machine and E1 for drying. Wifi a bit iffy-PAYGO, like SPECTRUM, no rates shown, so gave it a miss.Very nice meal in the cafe.

Friday 24 May
Rest day,  two machine loads of laundry, clean and very dry, shopped at very big supermarket, 7min away, part of a big retail park with Rendsburg DB station just by it. You would not believe it from the peaceful atmosphere of the haven itself-even the 37+ long wagon goods trains don’t intrude on the quiet-we slept late, with still water and no winds shaking us awake. qq
Trains from Hamburg to Copenhagen from the DB station, so v. handy spot for crew changes, etc.
Another nice meal in the cafe, very busy tonight, thought might be, so booked for 20.00hrs. Sunny and warm all day-cannot believe it!
Still, back to the Kanal tomorrow.

Saturday 25 May
0900 sees us up, bread rolls purchased, breakfasted and then to get ourselves out of the box.  Well, we succeeded in the end.
A grey, rainy day. It was all 3 flashing reds at the junction with NOK so we, three yachts and a mobo, killed around for many minutes until a large empty tanker had passed then we could all get going.  Only one German yacht going our way.
We tootle along until 1200 then all 3 flashing red again, this time German yacht hangs off one of the dolphins, we do the same, A gets the bow line into knots and  then manages to sort things out onceT2 has accepted that Dick wants the engine in neutral.  We wait and wait: then a paddle steamer comes along all steam and whistles, we wait some more, then finally a huge Asian-lines car transporter comes along with a insurance requirement tug attached going backwards as the extra rudder.
Finally we follow the German yacht into the small lock at Holtenau, just the two of us, and with his crew’s help, pay our Kanal dues. There is an English option on the auto till, but it doesn’t lead you into the rates/length of boat & Kanal trip menus like the German version. Probably the rain has got into it.
As we leave the locks and turn towards the British Kiel YC, a quick anxious moment as a small cross Kiel Bucht ferry starts to turn towards his berth at the end of the quay, from off our stbd bow, pinning us between the quay & headland and him, unable to go to port or stbd as the ‘give way’- speed up and clear thru the gap our only option.
14.00 berthed in our second box, no problems until the stern lines were a half metre too short, but a couple of lengths of cordage did the job and we were in.
Met the local CA rep, Janet  (NZ & ex RN)& Horst(hubby and Chartered Engineer) and had a pleasant evening on their yacht ‘ Tutunui’ as club closed.
Apparently we ‘crept in’, as usually much more “shouting and great action”(Tom Browne’s Schooldays). So feel chuffed.
First news of the terrible incidents and riots in Britain from the Sky-news TV in the clubhouse. Very bland tasting German veggie ‘ meatballs’ and pasta in tomato sauce for supper. Alice’s ‘tweaked’ Tomato sauce saved the day.
Rain finally stopped for a while as the moon rose, and so to sleep.

Sunday 26 May
Rest day as awoke late to yet more rain, which it did all day on and off.Did  Passage Planning and sorted charts and plotter WPs for trip through Danish islands and on to Swedish coast. Took on more water in the rain!
Both had a nap in pm and plan an early night to be off tomorrow. Bet it rains.

Monday 27 May 2013
Hey folks,sun, lots of it!!  Woke up at about 0800 and it was misty and threatening rain, again.  We got out of the box without too much fuss and motored over to Laboe to fill up with diesel.  The bunkering was inside the inside harbour behind the SAR lifeboat, but we found it and safely filled up. I asked the gentleman serving when will summer come?  He just shrugged his shoulders and wished us a good trip.  We motor-sailed for about an hour under the clouds then without any fuss the clouds wondered off back to Germany and we had a cloudless sky with warm sun but a gentle yet v cold wind.  We continued to motor sail with much reduced revs until we reached Langland and then into Bagenkop Harbour.
Fish and chips and super  ice creams from the local ice-cream kiosk and so to bed with a wonderful warm sunset.

Tuesday 28/05/13
Woke up about 08.00, lots of yachts leaving and sailing NW. Grey cloud wall hurrying down the wind, which is N/NE at moment, on nose for us.
Danish f/cast 05.15UTC, Belts; am; around N f3/4, pm increasing f4/5, “this night” increasing up to Gale, 10-15m/s =f6/7. Vis; at first good, pm rain from SE, mod vis, perhaps thunder. Improving in evening. Swedish f/cast identical except did not use ‘Gale’ word. Actual speed of it’s arrival is the key, of course.
We did the ‘Flying Dutchman’ thing into Borkum, so did not fancy another electrical storm while threading the  channels between the islands. Getting totally soaking wet and cold  in 1998, on  a similar day, was enough too.
‘Stay put’ we decided.
Shopped at  small supermarket in village, had a ‘left overs’ lunch including the last rather chewy Boulogne crepes!
Alice decided to have a nap, and the light breeze died away completely by 14.45, as a big Dutch brig berthed in the outer hbr, and the rain started at 15.05

Wednesday 29 May
08.00; Woken by wind and rain on another grey morn. Wind NE steady top F5, heavy rain squalls hitting us sideways, grey skies, but two parties of rod fishermen going out into bay off hbr in small hired  mobos, three yachts with 4 or more crew leaving, heading downwind towards Germany.
Vis without rain about 2nm, current wind and rain will be hard on nose for next leg, forecast says will ease in pm
No married couple boats leaving yet!
1130h winds drop and we depart, sideways, but we don’t shout about it and we are soon free of the box and head out.  Wind was on the nose, and Baltic chop too, so we head over towards the next island Eastwards, Lolland, to reduce the fetch.
About 15.00the wind gusted suddenly to 22+knots on the nose, and we had too much sail up. By  the time we had reefed, that gust was over, but another 3/4hrs windward to our target harbour, Omo, did not appeal, so we looked for a nearer and attractive (in photo) harbour, Lango. We hope it is not full!

We continued down the very main narrow channel and overshot the Lango turn off , as cardinal buoys marked on charts were not there and we did not count the numerous spar buoys.
Raising the keel to less than 2m, we recovered, and followed  a crabpot boat in, then turning into the tricky ‘guesthafen’ entrance, turning in between a W cardinal  spar buoy and the harbour breakwater, then a narrow gap between port and stbd pole beacons, the port one’s head already snapped off,  so only a red 1.5m stick showing.
Alice, trying to sort fenders and ropes for a’Baltic box’, was saved by the obvious solution, a leeward vacant alongside ‘visitors’ space by the entrance. Much easier as the pontoon was deck height, with a wood “skirt” to water line so our ‘box’ horizontal fenders served us well.

Dick searched for HM but was told in the café that “he would be along later”.
The café served up fish and chips with ice cream for dessert washed down by a Danish beer. The HM was sitting in the berth holders lounge with a bottle of Tuborg, watching the sunset, and we settled up.

Highlight of the evening was as we were walking back to the boat, through the boat park, suddenly a large plank of wood descended onto the ground just where A was going to walk, suddenly a head appeared  out of the boat chocked up on the hard, full of apologies in Danish and German.
Then when A said “you missed” with a laugh, the apology was translated into English, we met up with the boat fettler, and again he apologised, but we said the same happens at home, and there was no damage,then we chatted for a while about the weather, and went our own ways. A wrote this watching a lovely sunset but in a cold E wind blowing about F4/5.  Too cold to carry on now.

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