Glad of a lift

Monday 30 April

Skipper rose early to rig his bike with the gas bottle-carrying box, and strap in both gearboxes as well as the autopilot unit – a total load of around 40kg. He teetered alarmingly across the car park until he managed to build up enough speed to remain upright for the nine kilometre ride to Jefa’s factory, where he was allowed to observe the servicing process. They were efficient and friendly, and the job was done promptly. By now the wind was a full gale, and one of the guys took pity on Skipper, and gave him a ride home in the works van – just in time for lunch.

Meanwhile, Mate completed the needlework to her satisfaction: a cheerful new tablecloth is ready for our next guests. In between checking and repositioning my fenders for better protection against our large steel host, she also read a little about our next intended destinations – Southern Sweden and Bornholm.

More maintenance

Sunday 29 April

It’s true what they say about cruising: maintenance in nice places. Compared to their research closer to the centre of Copenhagen, my berth here is relatively cheap, and it’s looking like it’s just as well, as we’re likely to be here several days yet.

The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is not pretty, and the list of urgent jobs is growing: trace the source of water ingress into the autopilot and gearboxes before they’re reinstalled, fix the Webasto heating that keeps faulting and refusing to keep us warm, hoist Skipper up the mast to remove/repair/replace the lightning-damaged wind indicator: need a calm day for this one!

Mate quietly took advantage of shore power to work on her current sewing project – the list of those is quite extensive, too.

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Saturday 28 April

A warm dry day with a gentle, if cool breeze – could it really be Spring at last? My crew left me quiet in harbour to take in a little sightseeing, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Copenhagen is a smaller, more grown-up Amsterdam: canals, interesting architecture, history, a royal family and an endless choice of eating and drinking. For once they were in the right place at the right time, for at least two festivals and a selection of live music if they had only had enough energy.

They even found a good supermarket to stock up on some essential provisions. Mate caught a little sunshine before the day clouded over a little, and the only hitch was missing the bus connection on the way home, and having to sit in a relatively quiet café to while away the hour until the next one.

A Danish national holiday

Friday 27 April

Skipper had been liaising with Jefa about when we expected to arrive, and when he hopes to deliver the three items needing the ministrations of their service engineers. We have just discovered they are closed today, for a national holiday known as ‘Pray Day’. The primary religion of Denmark is Lutheran, and their custom is for all young teenagers to make their first holy communion on this day. From the busyness of the nearby café all afternoon, the formalities seem to be celebrated by long open-air parties.

Skipper spent the day removing the two steering reduction gearboxes and the autopilot. This was not as easy as it may sound, as it involved contorting his two-metre (six foot) frame into a small cramped space of awkward angles at the rear of the guest cabin, right in my stern, among the sharp edges of aluminium ribs and all manner of fittings, with almost no light.

He’d done his homework, and decided the first gearbox would be tricky, as it was his first time on this job, and the second should come out much quicker and more smoothly.

Unfortunately, this proved optimistic: the first extraction was straightforward, but on the second the last bolt refused to come free, despite ruthless use of mallet, hacksaw and drill, all to no avail. It took the whole day to yield, causing minor damage to its mount when it finally gave up the fight. Out of the hole crawled one sore, stiff, very disgruntled Skipper.

Wisely, Mate kept her head down, kept busy with several loads of laundry, and provided regular sustenance and refreshment from the galley.

Recovery day

Thursday 26 April

A necessarily quiet day of much rest, reading and recuperation. The crew did manage to stir themselves sufficiently to wander around the marina and introduce us to the nice lady in the harbour office – Havnekontor.

Ishøj Havn has the feel of a campsite about it: it sprawls around a basin of moorings, with a variety of as yet unidentified buildings dotted here and there at random. Car parks disguised as hard standing for boats in varying stages of readiness for the season materialise around every corner.

The atmosphere is pleasant and friendly, laundry is a bargain once one understands the system, and nobody seems to mind us rafting alongside this sturdy steel trip boat.

A poor day’s average

Wednesday 25 April

The day started early, as Mate felt we should give ourselves a full day’s light to complete our journey to Copenhagen, or at least a marina on the outskirts of the city, that is near to where we need to deliver the items requiring repair. By 0730, with no further signs of malfunctioning equipment, we were bouncing out of the relative shelter of the harbour into a sea still bumpy from yesterday’s wind. It was raining.

Mate stowed all my fenders neatly in the sail locker, and mooring ropes into the lazarette locker in my cockpit, before taking over on the helm while Skipper hoisted the mainsail. Soon we were following the coast of the island of Møn, that has impressive chalk cliffs on its Eastern shore, and working our way North towards our next harbour, some 45M through the murk.

Years of dinghy sailing taught my crew something about assessing wind strength and direction, but today proved how easy it is to become reliant on the electronic gadgets that do the hard work for them. It was a day of challenging wind conditions, with the variable breeze blowing primarily from the direction of our destination. Ironically for today’s passage, this is known as the ‘No Go Zone’, and means a boat has to tack – make a zigzag course, which can add a lot of miles and is a relatively slow and less comfortable point of sail.

All in all, then, it was a difficult day’s sailing: an average speed of only four knots – a brisk walking pace (if you can walk on water), wet, cold and heeled over, making it difficult to move around the boat, or do anything below decks. To be fair, it did stop raining some time during the afternoon, but this improvement was mitigated by the wind gradually backing until my crew gave up all hope of trying to sail me into harbour, hauled in the sails and motored the last hour, hoping to avoid yet another looming raincloud.

Unfortunately, my diesel tanks are down to less than a fifth of their capacity, which leaves the fuel sloshing around in a lively sea, causing Trevver to choke occasionally when he takes in air instead of liquid. Not a stress-free end to the day, then, but not, in fact, the end of the day either. We arrived at Ishøj Havn about an hour before sunset, but my crew were unable to determine the berth that had been allocated for us, and in a strong crosswind, Skipper was understandably reluctant to attempt a box berth that really didn’t look wide enough. Our track on the chart plotter looks like we were designing the pattern for a quilting project, and an hour after our entry, we finally tied up alongside a sturdy steel trip boat, apparently undergoing renovation. A friendly neighbour assured us, in perfect English, we’d be fine here, as her owner wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

A scratch supper was thrown together, and Mate was asleep before her head touched the pillow.

Still storm-bound

Tuesday 24 April

As predicted, the wind eased enough for a fairly peaceful night, and then gradually turned from being on my nose, which is the least uncomfortable way to lie, to blowing me off the pontoon, causing occasional lurches and snatching at the mooring ropes. One brave (foolish?) yacht left harbour fairly early in the morning, but everybody else stayed put, having tied down everything safely and ensured fenders were well positioned.

By mid-afternoon the gale was raging through, the wind not actually cold but strong enough to take your breath away. It pushed the cloud ahead of it, clearing the sky enough for occasional sunshine to break through.

Mate decided it was time to stretch legs and see the sights, so they wandered off for a look around the village. They were back within the hour, having checked all the menus on offer: three, one closed until May: any other sights: none; and picked up a few grocery essentials at the only supermarket in the village.

Happy St George’s Day

Monday 23 April

Like all competent sailors, my crew follow weather forecasts diligently. This was one reason we decided to come North now, as gales are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by another period of no wind at all – is there ever a happy medium in this part of the world? During Sunday, Mate had, as always, been watching the sky for changes, and noted a light dusting of high cirrus cloud when the mist lifted. This indicates a weather front is approaching, and is followed by much denser fluffy cumulus, heralding rain and wind. However, the cirrus also burned off as the afternoon wore on, leaving a clear sky in the evening.

Nonetheless, with one eye on the forecasts, and keen to complete this voyage before the weather deteriorated, we were ready to slip the lines at 0900 for the remaining 40 or so Miles. The electronics were switched on…and that’s when we discovered the effect of last night’s huge thunderstorm and deluge of rain. The wind indicator at the top of the mast had taken a lightning hit, and fried its circuitry. As this is part of my network, it is causing other instruments to spout rubbish.

Fortunately our multi-talented Skipper was able to identify the problem and isolate it pending full repairs (when it’s safe to go up the mast again), leaving the rest of the instrumentation to function normally to help us with a safe passage. However, by now it was late morning, the wind was already rising, and it was decided to retie all the ropes and undo all the sailing preparations in favour of staying snug in harbour until the storm has blown through – probably by Wednesday morning.

In the time-honoured tradition of stormbound sailors, Mate baked: two fresh loaves of bread and an apple cake. Supper was the old favourite, a warming Rendang curry, conjured from nearly all store cupboard ingredients.

Destination Denmark

Sunday 22 April

If you have a good memory, you may recall that my good friend, Jeanny the autopilot, became unwell in typical Autumn conditions at the beginning of a crossing of the English Channel in October 2015, and the passage was aborted in favour of a very pleasant few days in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. The problem was discovered to be water in his workings, and an expensive repair was carried out by the manufacturer.

When Mate suggested he should be tested earlier this year, he exhibited the same symptoms and is once again unable to perform. He came originally from Jefa, who built my steering wheels too, and are based just South of Copenhagen. As we were relatively close, and will need him for some of our planned longer passages in the Baltic this season, my crew decided to amend our original cruise itinerary, in favour of (hopefully) solving the problem permanently.

Thus, an all-too-brief night was eased by a beautiful sunrise, as another day began at 0530 for an 0600 departure to begin a 66M passage North for Klintholm, a passage harbour just over halfway to Copenhagen. Skipper calculated that for maximum economy of our dwindling diesel supply, Trevver’s optimum speed was 1800rpm, giving us a comfortable, if noisy cruising speed of six knots through yet another silky sea. The crew fell straight into a two-hourly watch rotation, which suits them both well when even our passage wind makes for a cold helm, and visibility is sometimes minimal.

By 1300 the wind had filled in enough to hoist the mainsail to give us a little lift, and soon both genoa and staysail joined her for an afternoon’s beating into a light Easterly. At times the wind backed a little to the North, so our course wasn’t entirely consistent, and when the wind strengthened late in the day, the genoa was furled to ease the heel, but we ended up a little underpowered.

My final approach was straight into the wind, which saved time while Skipper dropped the mainsail back into its lazybag, and lines and fenders were prepared as we closed the sea wall framing the harbour entrance. Skipper tucked me neatly into a space alongside a sturdy pontoon, for now being blown on but when the wind changes overnight I’ll be blown off. Once again willing hands took ropes and helped us in, and by 1945 we were snug and settled.

The harbourmaster soon came by to welcome us, and surprised Mate with his excellent English. Klintholm has long been a fishing port, and houses a rescue vessel and pilot launch. In the 1980s a marina village was created on the edge of the tiny village, and soon a support base will be established for an offshore wind farm. It is all spotlessly clean and tidy.