Germany to Holland

Friday 28 – Sunday 30 September

Having made a better job of passage planning and tidal calculations, we got cracking at first light, North into a Northerly, which gradually backed through NNW to NW, ranging from F4 to F7, with an unpleasant sea and poor visibility – the latter a repetition of this stretch back in the Spring.  Sadly it all proved too much for Mate, who succumbed to a very bad day’s seasickness and abject misery, leaving Skipper to manage pretty much the whole passage single-handed.

Just after midnight my weary crew gratefully tied up to the quay in Borkum, having completed a passage of 90 Miles and 15 hours of illness.  Although a friendly couple came to say hello the following morning, nobody seemed to care, any more than on our previous visit, to take any money from us.  Probably just as well, as we departed less than twelve hours later, and were soon enjoying a totally different day, with Mate helming under full main and genoa, and the speed touching nine knots.

We continued down the estuary of the Ems river, that forms the border between Germany and the Netherlands, and followed the channel back to Delfzijl.  We had difficulty locking through the small lock, which seemed very narrow, into the Eems Kanaal, and found a comfortable and friendly berth at t’Dok, a club marina.  A very long hose was necessary to fill our tanks with fresh water…very slowly.

We joined the Sunday convoy through the bridges East of Groningen, and settled in the basin of the Zuiderhaven to await the next weather window.  Meanwhile we treated ourselves to supper out, and a very wet walk around this bustling university town.

Our last Danish days

Thursday 13 – Wednesday 19 September

On the Thursday we turned North for Kastrup’s fuel berth, navigating the final metres of the flight path into Copenhagen airport on the way.  Doubtless the jet pilots are used to yachts crossing their approach route; we weren’t so sure…

In a pleasant Southwesterly, my crew set the staysail and first reef in the main, and we set off towards Klintholm, on the island of Møn – to the Southwest.  We soon swapped up the staysail for the genoa, and an hour later shook out the reef and continued under full main.  This worked well for the majority of the 49 Mile passage, but for the last hour we gave up pushing the headwind, and dropped all sails to close another circle as we motored back into our first Danish port.

Thankful not to be delayed by another electrical failure, we left the following morning, motoring again into a stubborn headwind across the bay towards Stubbekjøbing.  Contrarily, we managed to float the genoa to motorsail down the channel into the fishing and commercial harbour, having correctly assessed the leisure harbour (from seaward) as too small for us.  The town seemed peculiarly quiet, but our wanders uncovered some interesting architecture.

After sitting out a windy Saturday in harbour, we headed West under the first bridge, on Lolland.  Once clear we set full main and genoa in a light South-southwesterly, clearing a second bridge between Falster and Faro, and a third at Storstrømsbroen.  After lunch the wind picked up and the sails were reduced, first staysail and then first reef in the main.  By 1600 the wind was F5, gusting 24 knots, so Skipper set the second reef.  A good day’s sailing saw us tied up to a new pine quay on the edge of a camping site at Kragenaes, with some pleasant facilities all to ourselves.

Monday 17th saw an early departure for a 45 Mile passage to Bagenkop, our final port in Southwest Denmark.  A good day’s sailing in a steady Southwesterly F4 with easy motion on the sea, we started close hauled under full main and genoa, and by 1100 had tacked onto starboard, finding ourselves in the lee of Langeland and safely West of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) lanes.  In the afternoon we noted Encore motoring a mile ahead of us, and we enjoyed the coastal scenery and majestic lighthouse as we rounded the tip of the island to be safely tied up by 1700, ready for a lovely long chat with Second Mate, who was celebrating being settled in her new flat in Balham by cooking a Mystery Dinner for friends.

The only fly in the ointment of our final days of Baltic cruising was Skipper finding the holding tank to be blocked and full.  Now we needed to find a pump out station that we could get close enough beside to enable the problem to be rectified – soon.

Overnight the wind swung back to Eastsoutheast, giving us a light and bright day that began under full main and genoa.  Not surprisingly, the wind was once again ‘on the nose’, and we reduced to staysail and then reefed the main, before changing the courtesy flag from Danish back to German when we crossed the border mid-afternoon.  Shaking out the reef as the wind kindly backed to Southsouthwest  as it increased to F5, we revelled in the warm sunshine and lovely scenery of the Kieler Bucht, the mouth of the Kiel Fjord.  We decided to anchor just North of Holtenau, the entrance to the Kiel canal, after a last hour of unpleasant winds and very choppy water.  We tucked in close to shore, and with only occasional rocking from passing ships, enjoyed a private performance by a fire juggler, and then bagpipe practice wafting across the water from a nearby workboat.

On Wednesday morning we crossed the busy shipping lanes in and out of Kiel, heading for Laboe on the Eastern bank, as the pilot book implied a pump out station would be available.  Unfortunately we were unable to access (or even identify) such a facility, and after a certain amount of tight space manoeuvring by my unflappable Skipper, we set off back to the other side of the fjord, berthing once more in Dürstenbruck.  This time the harbourmaster invited us to take the alongside berth on the pontoon, thus relieving us of the necessity to lasso a post at the stern while not ramming the quay on our bow.  Oddly, we had a second experience here of the non-tidal Baltic producing a tidal surge, when the step onto the pontoon from the side deck varied between almost level and about a metre up!

Pilot station

Wednesday 12 September

Back in our own company, we turned to organising the boat for our next passages, provisioning and stowing.  We also enjoyed exploring the Pilot Museum, once the site of the oldest Pilot station in Denmark, perfectly positioned to meet and escort the convoys of large ships that ply the tricky waters of the Øresund between the North and Baltic Seas.

When the system for allocating pilots to commercial vessels became automated and centralised, the station in Dragør was closed down, but enterprising local people took the opportunity to turn it into a museum, and it remains exactly as it was when the last pilot closed the door behind him for the final time.  Now antiquated radio communications equipment remains on the desks alongside large scale paper charts and record books, while there is clear evidence of how the men relaxed, slept and catered for themselves during shifts.  The buildings offer a fascinating insight into another way of life, and remain a testament to the brave local men who made this often difficult work their life’s calling.

Before leaving Dragør, we were delighted to finally make the acquaintance of Encore, a red (trimmed) Ovni that we first encountered in a pretty anchorage in the Swedish archipelago.  Here she was crewed by the Skipper and his wife, born South African but adopted Kiwis, and their guests, her sister and partner.  Another very pleasant exchange of hospitality and sharing of sailing yarns was enjoyed by all, and in the way of these things, contact details exchanged.

More company

Thursday 6 – Tuesday 11 September

After a speedy turnaround on Wednesday and Thursday, Second Mate’s brother arrived, somewhat earlier in the day than his grandmother had, into Copenhagen airport.  Again, a very pleasant few days was spent in his company, much of it relaxing and chatting in between brief dips into the most interesting sights of the city.  He accompanied Skipper, borrowing Mate’s wheels, on a bike ride to Kastrup for a chandlery hunt.  The Sunday evening found us at a hugely entertaining jam session at La Fontaine, a cool jazz club downtown.

Copenhagen in company

Thursday 30 August – Wednesday 5 September

Bridging the end of August to the beginning of September, we enjoyed the company of Mate’s mother, who flew into Copenhagen airport late on Thursday evening.  After a gentle morning on Friday, we introduced her to our lovely friends from Saltimbanque, meeting them for farewell coffee in the sunshine in Nørreport, before they began their final journey home to Oslo.  We hope to visit them (if not by sea) during the coming Winter.  Later we drooled over the fabulous food stalls of the Torvehallerne – the first time in five months Mate had seen a ‘proper’ fishmongers ie one offering more than just salmon or smoked anything.

We had a pleasant stroll through the grounds of the fort to Langelinie Park, in order to say hello to the Little Mermaid.  Just South of the Park is the impressive Gefion Fountain, which depicts the Norse goddess, Gefion, ploughing the sea with four oxen, and tucked behind this is the attractive flint-walled St Albans Anglican Church, with a very familiar atmosphere within.  We wandered past various important buildings on Amaliegade, to gaze at Frederik’s Church, a rococo marble church, before crossing the Amalienborg Slotsplads, the Queen’s winter palace that is guarded by busbied soldiers.  Beyond lies an attractive route along the shore to wander through the pavement cafés of colourful Nyhavn.

Indulging Mum’s love of Shakespeare, a visit to Elsinore Castle, the setting of Hamlet – Prince of Denmark, seemed an appropriate item on the itinerary.  Known in Danish as Helsingør, it lies less than an hour’s train ride North of Copenhagen, and was built to pair with Helsingborg, on the opposite side of the Øresund in Sweden, to defend the straits and collect tolls from passing trading ships.  It remains an impressive fortification, and even from the outside has an imposing presence on the edge of the town.  Helsingør is a popular day trip for visitors to Copenhagen with good reason: it boasts attractive architecture, interesting buildings, a pleasant harbour and a wide selection of cafés and restaurants.  We enjoyed a delicious traditional Danish style lunch courtesy of Madam Sprunk.

Keen to take in her third Scandinavian country in her 80th year, having experienced Western Norway aboard a Hurtigruten cruise at Easter, we took a comfortable train ride across the Øresund Bridge to visit Malmø in Western Sweden.  Grateful for a clear day, the views were spectacular.  The Internet offered mixed reviews about this city, with which we would tend to agree.  There is no traditional tourist information office (Mate had withdrawal symptoms), and when we finally tracked down a guide and map, we were asked to pay for it.  It feels like a ‘normal’ working city rather than merely a tourist destination, and has an eclectic mix of old and starkly modern architecture, not always in harmony.  The ubiquitous canal boat rides are on offer, and we did find a pleasant lunch which fuelled a long, cosy gossip.

On the Sunday afternoon, a pleasant hour was whiled away in Dragør Church, listening to a jazz concert given by a talented combination of piano, drums, double bass and saxophone.  We’ve heard elsewhere that there is a vibrant jazz scene in Denmark, although to be honest, this audience was mainly of the silver variety, and probably the church’s usual congregation.