Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Annual report from the Herrmann Browns

Merry Christmas, and welcome to the annual report from the Herrmann Browns.

We've had some interesting experiences this year. We sailed Kalessin to the Baltic, getting as far as Copenhagen. Guy has been working as a flotilla skipper and has spent most of the year in Greece. And Ben didn't get to university this autumn but is definitely planning to head off there in 2012.

The year started badly for Camilla with tooth problems culminating in a nasty abscess. Just as she was recovering from that, Aviva Group Centre broke the news that her contract would have to be terminated early, in February, because of a financial challenge.

Meanwhile Guy, armed with his RYA Yachtmaster and numerous other sailing qualifications, toured potential employers at the London Boat Show. His efforts paid off when he was asked shortly afterwards if he would be interested in a shorebased job with Sailing Holidays. They are a great company with whom we've been on a number of excellent flotillas. They have a laid-back approach which suited Guy very well, and he flew out to Corfu in March. There was a huge amount to do preparing nearly 200 yachts before the season started in May.
Guy's hair being cut in Greece
Just before the first customers arrived, Guy was given an ultimatum: he could either keep his job or his dreadlocks. The dreadlocks got the chop and Guy became a standby skipper, running flotillas when things were busy, delivering yachts all over the Ionian, and the rest of the time becoming a world expert in repairing rubber dinghies and many other useful marine tasks. He's downed a lot of beer, coped with some spectacular problems and difficult customers, become very bronzed with blonde sun streaks in his hair, and is planning to go back out for the next season in February. For some reason he finds the UK cold, grey and somewhat boring L. Sadly during the summer Guy and Beth agreed to part, although they are still friends.

Ben spent the first half of the year slogging away at A-levels. He was offered conditional places at Sheffield, Nottingham and Heriott-Watt universities to do engineering, and rather amazingly also a place to do classical civilisation at Royal Holloway, although in the end he decided to go for engineering.

Meanwhile we prepared Kalessin for her Baltic cruise and Camilla made the most of her unexpected freedom to fulfil a few long-held ambitions: qualifying as a Prince2 practitioner (it's a project management thing) and sailing on the tall ship Stavros S. Niarchos from Liverpool to Glasgow, via northern Ireland. Things got really busy when Sam was asked to do a few days' training in China, by a company which trains ship's supervisors – up to now his gigs have been on the Isle of Man, although there was one unsuccessful effort to get to Libya.
View of Amsterdam
In late May we managed to find a short weather window for a North Sea crossing and Sam and Camilla headed across to Ijmuiden in Kalessin. Unexpectedly we encountered fog, and the brand-new AIS system, which tells you the location, size, speed and course of passing ships, proved fantastically useful and a great investment. We got the boat as far as Enkhuizen on the Ijsselmeer and parked her there for three weeks while we headed home (via train and Harwich ferry) to support Ben through the worst of his A-level exams. Then back to Enkhuizen and a very enjoyable (and warm) few days in the canals of Friesland before venturing out into the nasty North Sea for an extremely bumpy passage from Delfzijl to Cuxhaven in Germany, around the outside of the German Friesian islands. This is Riddle of the Sands country, and we had a few days in Cuxhaven to re-read the book and be grateful that we hadn't ventured inside the islands, before collecting Ben from Bremen airport in early July.

With Ben on board we said farewell to the North Sea (hooray) and hello to the Kiel canal and the Baltic. For the first few days the Baltic welcomed us with glorious weather. We headed a few miles north to the Schlei (still in Germany) and then turned east to explore Germany's Baltic coast, with a long string of beautiful Hanseatic cities including Lübeck, Rostock and Stralsund, alternating with resorts many of which have large and well-equipped marinas.

The weather became less delightful, with quite a lot of rain. Over one memorable long weekend we abandoned Kalessin in the resort of Warnemünde and headed inland to the Herrmann holiday home at Wulkow, east of Berlin. Our plan was to avoid the strong winds blowing in the wrong direction, but we also managed to avoid the wettest-ever 24 hours in Warnemünde and surrounding areas. It was very delightful to be in a dry house under a solid roof enjoying comfortable beds and hot baths, while back in the marina many people were unable to leave their boats for three days because it rained so hard. We got back to the boat to find a few unexpected damp patches where the water had made its way in, but on the whole we were very lucky, and able to carry on to explore Rügen and the V2 museum at Peenemünde.
The cliffs of Møn
At the beginning of August we headed north to our first Danish port, Klintholm on the island of Møn. From there we had our fastest-ever sail to Copenhagen, where we spent over a week. Sam lived in Copenhagen for a year in the 1980s so was delighted to re-visit old haunts. Ben and Camilla were visiting for the first time and we loved it – it's a beautiful, civilised and very interesting city. Highlights included eating smørrebrød in the rain in Nyhavn, and a wonderful sunny visit to the modern art museum at Louisiana, to the north of the city. On 8 August Ben flew home to await his results, and Sam and Camilla continued slowly east, picking our way through some very shallow channels between the main Danish islands and exploring small towns and tiny islands, heading towards our winter berth in Augustenborg, just north of the German border.

Sadly Ben's A-level results, although good, were not enough to get him into his chosen universities. As you may know this is the last year before the £9000 fees kick in and every decent university course was wildly oversubscribed. The Clearing process was mayhem, and Ben decided he'd rather re-take the exams than end up doing a course he wasn't interested in at a university where he didn't want to go. Fortunately Kalessin was only a few miles from her final destination and Camilla was able to fly home for a whirlwind few weeks of finding and visiting tutorial colleges. Ben is currently at Greene's in Oxford, retaking Maths and Physics in January, and spending a little bit of time appreciating Oxford's unique atmosphere. Sam and Camilla visited him in November and managed to spend a few pleasant days staying on a narrowboat on the Oxford Canal (we just can't keep away from boats).

 

The Baltic at its best
 In October Sam and Camilla visited Guy in Corfu, just so we could remember what sun and blue sea looked like. We hired a car and explored the island a bit with Guy, and stayed in a lovely hotel owned by one of Guy's colleagues. The experience was slightly tarnished by Camilla's car being sideswiped by a truck on the M25 on the way home (no damage to Camilla), and getting home to find the ceiling in Ben's room had collapsed because of a problem with the water tanks above. The car was fixed in a couple of weeks but Ben's room is a bit more complex. Meanwhile Sam went on to Athens for a business meeting and was delayed by 5 hours by Greek air traffic controllers' strikes on the way home.

Camilla has just started a new contract, working with (whisper it) McDonald's Europe on development of a new intranet, which will mean a lot of time in London over the next few months. Sam is of course not really retired, and continues to chair and advise M&CM. He's still riding the BMW and in September toured the Normandy beaches with oldest son Tim. With the boat parked in a Danish shed he is turning his thoughts to the house, and in recent weeks we've sorted out some long-standing plumbing issues and acquired a new wood-burning stove (and a new car, a VW Passat estate).

Next year should see Guy heading back to the Ionian, Kalessin voyaging to Sweden with Sam and hopefully Camilla aboard (work permitting) and Ben making the most of his unexpected gap year before heading off to some form of education in the autumn. Fingers crossed all round.

Don't forget if you want to follow our sailing activities and see some pictures, it's all on this blog.

Much love to you all and wishing you the very best for 2012

Camilla, Sam, Guy & Ben

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Save the Coastguard

I've just sent a mass email to 72 friends and family members. It's something I almost never do, but this is a subject I feel strongly about.

Under the current round of cuts, a number of UK Coastguard stations are due to be closed. They include Thames (at Walton-on-the Naze) and Great Yarmouth. The whole East coast sailing area will be covered by Dover and Humber, with more than 300 miles of coast between them. After closures complete in 2014 there will no longer be any coastguard stations with local knowledge of the Thames estuary and East coast rivers. Many other coastguard stations will be affected; you can see the full list in the BBC news story.

The UK coastguard currently offers a fantastic emergency and support service to everyone in UK waters. Local knowledge undoubtedly saves lives. It is true that the coastguard service was due for some kind of restructure, but not the total devastation which these cuts will bring.

Please consider signing the petition at www.petitiononline.com/SHMCGS/petition.html if you haven't done so already, and doing anything else which you feel may make a difference.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Work in progress: Google map

Inspired by Jonty, I'm working on a Google map of our route this year. It's still work in progress - I have now added the Danish ports, but I keep thinking of further refinements. Go to the larger map for a better view. You can click on each of the symbols to see when we were there and a link to the relevant blog post. On our longer passages I have shown our route, but not for the shorter ones as it would make the map too cluttered.

If you zoom in, you can see that Google maps is so accurate I have even been able to place us on the correct pontoon, except when I can't remember which one we were on, or the marina has been rebuilt since the aerial picture was taken. Most of the harbours look much emptier than when we were there!

Let me know what you think.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sam is home

Sam is safely back into the bosom of the family after an interesting final week with the boat in Augustenborg, during which he was spoiled rotten by the increasing numbers of Brits coming in to lay up for the season. Fully expecting to be living the lonely bachelor life and existing on fridge stock run-down and pilchard sandwiches, he was royally entertained on a number of occasions.

Our old friends Jonty and Wyn aboard Lady Cressida appeared shortly before the weekend, joined by Liz and Duncan on their Island Packet String Theory and later by Paul and Jean on their Hallberg Rassy. Also contributing to Sam’s social round were a Dutch couple, Tom Boot (you pronounce it “Boat”) and his wife on their New Zealand-flagged boat (it’s a long story!).

Liz and Duncan had a car at Augustenborg and very kindly invited Sam along for a “cross-border raid” to Flensburg to splash the Euros in a vast supermarket and, of course, the chandlery. Besides giving Sam supper twice, Duncan also ran him to Sonderborg Airport for the Cimber feeder flight to Copenhagen on the first stage of the trip home. For which much thanks. 

Kalessin is now nicely tucked up in Anders’ shed. All winterised and some maintenance done, including varnishing the cabin sole – which required some gymnastics to get from forepeak to galley and the head. Talking of heads, Sam did manage to add yet another scar to his battered bonce when he ducked under the low roof of the marina bike shed to escape one of the many torrential downpours and forgot to duck again when he came out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our route

Here's our route in the Baltic from July 6 to August 21. Click on the map to see a larger version.


You can also see:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Camilla is home

Camilla travelled home via train from Sonderborg to Copenhagen, easyJet to Stansted, collection by Camilla's mother from the airport, an overnight stay in Essex, and home by train to Diss on Tuesday. Generally speaking it was very painless, and Denmark was sunny and fairly clear as we flew over, with Augustenborg clearly visible between the fluffy white clouds.

Kalessin is here. The island of Als seen from the easyJet flight

National Express East Anglia welcomed Camilla to the UK with a broken-down train between Ipswich and Stowmarket, and a 30-minute delay while it was cleared. Sigh. Still, it's good to be home, and between calls and website visits to colleges there's time to do the washing, start on the garden, and find out how to fix Camilla's iPhone - it has thoughtfully chosen this moment to fail to hold charge.

Meanwhile Sam has stripped everything except the boom off Kalessin - she's coming out of the water next Monday - and is starting on all the other maintenance tasks. He's also found more English people to talk to, as there are now at least four British boats awaiting lay-up. One of them already knew about us, having met Lady Cressida at Sonderborg. I think we are becoming part of the Baltic community.

Looking through the photographs, most of which were of course taken on sunny days, it all looks so wonderful we can't wait to get out there and sailing next year.

A typical day in the Baltic...



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Voyage end at Augustenborg

Saturday was a pleasant but breezy day, and with the wind from the west we thought it wise to stay another day in Fåborg. Camilla attempted to pack, which is always difficult. It's tempting to leave the heaviest stuff on board, but in fact it's the winter fleeces and woollies which will be needed in the UK, and the summer T-shirts which can stay behind.

We strolled east of Fåborg to a little beach, where Camilla braved the breeze, wavelets and sub-20° water temperature to have what she thought was a last swim in the Baltic. The water isn't fresh, but it's a lot less salty than the Med, for example, which means you feel more refreshed and less sticky afterwards.

At 6pm we gathered with Jonty and Wyn for the South Fyn Boules Championships, although Wyn didn't play because of her back. We are proud to announce that after two sets Sam was declared champion. He claims it's the result of many misspent hours in the Vendée. Jonty was runner-up and Camilla third. Then it was back to Lady Cressida for a delightful farewell dinner. They will be seeing Sam before he leaves Augustenborg, but not Camilla because of her early departure.

The forecast for Sunday was gentle southerlies, a reasonable direction for the passage to Augustenborg. In the event Denmark decided to treat us to a delightful farewell sail. After a misty start the sun came out and shone warmly, and the wind was ESE force 3-ish, which meant a comfortable broad reach or run for most of the distance. It was so warm Camilla was even able to sail with no clothes on for a while, a rare luxury at 55°N. We had a guaranteed berth in Augustenborg so no real need to hurry, and we were able to beat most of the way down the Als Fjord before giving up and motoring for the last hour or so. We couldn't have asked for a better final sail of the season.

Augustenborg is right at the end of the fjord and very sheltered - when we arrived, the anchorage just before the marina was absolutely stuffed with weekend boaters. The harbour manager Anders Dahl was there to greet us and take our lines. We are next to Kissen, whose website advice (www.kissen.com) we have been following all season. Sadly the crew are not on board - they may overlap with Sam for a few hours next week.

We made the most of the light winds and good shelter to take off and pack both the mainsail and the genoa, together with most of the running rigging. By the time we'd done all that and enjoyed a cup of tea, we were so hot that Camilla was forced to have another final farewell Baltic swim off the back of the boat - the water is a couple of degrees warmer here than at Fåborg.

This evening we went out for a meal in the little hotel by the marina. The food was very good, but at 7pm we were their last customers of the day and possibly for the entire season. The marina is livelier, probably because this is a top spot for laying up. As well as lots of Germans, there are also a number of Dutch boats here and a few Brits - it's highly recommended by the Cruising Association. We were glad we'd taken the sails off when we were lashed by a brief thunderstorm - at least they are properly dry.

Miles today: 38. Miles since leaving Suffolk Yacht Harbour on 29 May: 1,107.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Changing plans

What with one thing and another, we felt it was best for Camilla to fly home to support Ben. How clever of us to be in a marina with a very fast, free wifi connection. The flights are changed and she flies home on Monday, while Sam sticks to plan A and flies back on the 31st. This means we have to be in Augustenborg by Sunday, but as mentioned before it's only 38 miles away and the forecast is for Sunday to have gentle southerlies. It's a shame to miss out on the Lille Baelt, but after all the boat will be here next spring so we can start with harbours we didn't see this year.

The wind has increased gradually throughout the day, peaking at around 20 knots from the north-west this afternoon - not really a gale (although it is very sheltered in here) but definitely too strong to sail into. Camilla was baffled that Simon Keeling's normally helpful forecast is still talking about southerly force 8. We have contacted Simon to ask if there could be an error with his model.

Other than that it's been a quiet day. In the rainiest and windiest bits we have hidden below, making good use of the internet to catch up with Stuff. In the quieter and sunnier moments we have explored Fåborg and its excellent chandlery, pleasant little shops and very good supermarket. And of course at 6pm we had the now statutory drinks with Jonty and Wyn from Lady Cressida, this time on board Kalessin. It will be a real blow having to split up and go our own ways, it has been so nice sailing in company for a while.

We had a strange moment when Wyn came on board a few minutes late, saying she'd mislaid her harbour smart card, and could she borrow ours to look in the ladies and see if it was there. Camilla, who was last to the shower, reached into her pocket to get our card, and found two. It seems Wyn must have put hers on top of the card reader and forgotten it, and a few minutes later when Camilla had a shower she put our card in exactly the same spot, then picked up both without realising. Fortunately our card is more faded, so we can tell the difference.

Tomorrow looks like a day for exploring a bit further by foot or bike: still too windy to sail into, but overall nicer weather.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pictures: Kalvehave to Fåborg

Square-dancing in the rain, Kalvehave
Kalvehave bridge
Fish shop, Omø
Carefully groomed field, Omø
Omø lighthouse
Stevns ships laid up in Svendborg
Civic pride: manhole cover in Svendborg
How we feel about being in a safe location. Sale in Fåborg

Fåborg and results

What a strange day it has been. We left Svendborg just after 9am, as on our last passage, motoring straight into a light wind. The current in the Svendborg Sund is generally eastbound and this morning slowed us by almost 2 knots, gradually decreasing as the sound widened. So our speed gradually increased from 3.5 knots up to around 5, but wherever we headed the wind was still on the nose. Still, it was only a 17-mile passage and we reached Fåborg (or Faaborg if you prefer that spelling) by 1pm.

We have a number of different forecasts from our different weather sources, but it seems that some time early tomorrow morning a low will pass right over us, with (probably) strong-ish easterlies, then a calm in the eye of the storm, and then stronger north-westerlies. The German forecast (un)helpfully summarises this as follows:
Belts and Sound:
first southwest to south 3 to 4, increasing 6, shifting southeast, later var directions 4 to 7, isolated thunderstorms, at times misty, sea 0,5 to 1 metre.

Fåborg is very sheltered from pretty much every direction and we are firmly tied into a box, facing SW. We think this is a good place to be, and judging by the fact that this pontoon, almost empty when we arrived, is now packed all the way along, others agree.

Much more importantly today is A-level results day, and Ben was due to get his results just before noon our time. He called us, thoughtfully, just after we'd tied up here to tell us that he hadn't made the requirements for either Sheffield or Nottingham, although we thought his grades were pretty impressive. Phonecalls, emails and even Facebook discussions have been flying back and forth all day - we have a pretty good internet connection here. But the bottom line is that this is the most over-subscribed year ever for getting university places, and it doesn't look as though Ben will get in. Fortunately we are able to tell him not to worry, he can take a gap year, do retakes if required, get a train to Japan or whatever, and try next year when applications are likely to drop by 25% or more because of the fees.

In the middle of all this Guy's Facebook account suddenly popped up with a post which said "so excited I'm going to be a dad". Sam was all set to hide in the forepeak for the rest of the year, but fortunately it turned out to be a little joke from the people Guy lives with. It was nice to be able to chat on Facebook to both sons at the same time, albeit under somewhat bizarre circumstances.

(Lord) John Prescott said he would retweet any Tweets mentioning A-level results. I posted: " my wonderful son got BB&C - didn't get his uni place :-( - but we still love him & are proud of him". And the wonderful Lord Prescott did indeed re-tweet it and we got some really nice comments from the Twittersphere. I'm sure nothing much makes Ben feel better today but I hope that helps a bit.



We are less than 16 miles from Augustenborg in a straight line, although unfortunately we have to go around the island of Als to get there which makes the actual distance around 36 miles. Still, we are basically home free even if the wind blows for a week. Fåborg is a small, pretty town with good yachting facilities and an interesting art gallery, so I'm sure we can occupy ourselves for a day or two.

Miles today: 17.
  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Svendborg again

After extensive indecision this morning we decided not to head down to Ærøskøbing today, as it meant heading straight into a forecast south- westerly force 4. We are very sheltered in here, but we have never seen more than 11 knots all day and most of the time it was 4 knots or less, so probably we could have gone. Never mind, we had a lovely day here.

We managed to get a new 3kg gas bottle at the chandlery, and also to top up with diesel from our 20-litre can and refill it (at non-marine prices) at the filling station just across the road. Sam was shown a new way to reinforce our special patent siphoning tube by a man in Barhöft, and here in Svendborg he managed to get the necessary piece of plastic extension tube - plus an extra one and a half metres we don't really need - so the system now works well.

Jonty from Lady Cressida has discovered that this harbour was completely rebuilt three years ago after endless complaints from visitors. The loo/harbourmaster block is floating, apparently the only one in Denmark, although we've seen several in the Netherlands. Last night it was full in here, but tonight many of the boxes are empty, so people are definitely going home.

We walked eastward along Svendborg Sund for a couple of miles and across a bridge to the little island of Thurøby. It was all very pretty, with views across to various other islands, a nice sandy beach and a kiosk selling good coffee in polystyrene cups. The weather has alternated between bright, warm sunshine and showers all day, so we were able to paddle on the beach and 10 minutes later were hiding under a tree to escape the rain.

This evening we went out for a meal and decided to go Italian after being slightly shocked by main-course prices of 250kr or more (about £28) in the posher places. Afterwards we wandered around the docks, which surround an island within the harbour. For some reason we don't understand this seems to be a top spot for laying up, or even effectively abandoning, old ships. There are six coasters all called something Stevns, two more in front of the maltings, half a dozen small, grey, military-looking vessels, and three or four work boats of some kind in a very poor state. There's no sign that most of them are being worked on, although the docks also houses Denmark's top yard for building and repairing wooden boats, Ring Anderson.

The forecast now shows quite a deep low tracking over Denmark in the middle of Friday. We want to be somewhere secure for a couple of days, so once more will be following Lady Cressida, this time to Fåborg 16 miles away. Fortunately Jonty and Wyn don't seem to mind, and it is very nice to be able to compare notes and share drinks with another British yacht.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Svendborg

Omø exacted payment for our peaceful and delightful day on the island. The first night had wind, rain and massive windshifts. The second was the Night of the Squeak. The wind was blowing us hard onto the jetty, and also kicking up just enough of a swell to rock us gently, and also to rock our Halberg friends on a slightly different rhythm. The result was that every fender on both sides of the boat creaked loudly all night, and so did most of the seven lines tying us to the jetty and three or four tying the Halberg to us. Not a good night for sleeping.

Today's passage was initially west, then south-west. Naturally, the wind was also west and then south-west (fortunately very light) so what would have seemed like a lovely day with the wind behind us felt like a chilly slog as we headed straight into it. We motored across the shipping lanes of the Store Bælt, then hoped to be able to sail between Langeland and Fyn. We beat into the wind for an hour and a half, then gave up and motored. When we turned into the winding Svedborg Sund we had a really great sail for another 30 minutes or so, but it's a bit traumatic hurtling along a twisting channel that you don't know, leaning right over at speeds up to 7 knots and unable to see anything behind the foresail, so eventually we put away both sails.

The Svendborg Sound is lovely and Svendborg itself is a pretty town. The town harbour seems to be entirely devoted to visiting yachts, with a very grand toilet block, all smart-card operated, which eats all your money while you shower. There is a very convenient supermarket, perfect as our supplies were running a bit low after Omø, where Sam found Newcastle Brown and pork scratchings. And there's a museum-harbour, only open to wooden boats (although they seemed to have made an exception for a steel Dutch botter).

We're not currently sure what we'll do tomorrow. We'd like to go to Ærokobing, but if the wind is SW it would be straight into the wind. We might stay here and sleep.

Miles covered today: 29.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Omø in sunshine

As expected, we had an overnight crisis, although we didn't have to wait until 3am. The wind was due to go from east to west as a depression passed over. Unfairly, it did this by going northerly at 10pm, and at the same time dumping even larger quantities of water out of the sky. In this harbour, a northerly blows straight into the entrance. The Halberg alongside us was tied to us with two bits of washing line and had no lines ashore, so promptly drifted forward and hit Lady Cressida. Jonty was in his element waking sleeping sailors, advising them on rigging shorelines, springs, and extra fenders. We are currently tied to the mole with 6 or 7 lines, and we all got very wet indeed. The wind never got much above a 5, although it felt like a full gale in the dark and soaking rain, and the swell coming in was quite manageable. We all went back to our rather uncomfortable beds, and by 2am the wind went westerly anyway. By 7.30am there were clear signs of blue sky and sunshine.

This is a pretty civilised island, with among other benefits a free wifi hotspot for the harbour. With its aid we were able to determine that Monday looked like being a nice day to stay on Omø: westerly up to force 5 (ie on the nose for the next passage, so not very attractive for sailing), but with sunshine and improving visibility. Also, Tuesday looks quieter, although we haven't seen many properly quiet days recently.

So we stayed, and have been rewarded with a lovely day on this beautiful island. There's so much to do here:-) The ferry runs every two hours (as I type, the 8pm ferry has just whizzed out and I'm back in the sun again), and is often greeted by a small dog who trots on board to say hello, and narrowly misses being run over by the cars coming off. The restaurant also has a little shop selling basic foods. We bought two seriously fresh plaice straight from the fisherman when he came in.

And best of all, as you can see from the picture in the previous post, Camilla bought a scarf from the tiny handicrafts shop at the end of the toilet block. It's knitted by a lady called Lili, who normally makes socks, so it's double thickness. How wonderful it will be to wear a warm scarf this winter and know it came from a lady who spends her winters knitting on a tiny island in the Store Bælt.

This afternoon we dug out the folding bike, and separately went for rides around the island. As the visibility improved the views got better and better. You can see Sjaelland, the other little island of Agersø and the fabulous Store Bælt bridge to the north, Langeland and Fyn to the west, and from the other side of the island back east along the Smålands Farvandet. (South is mainly Germany, which is too far to see). But the island itself is pretty too, with thatched houses and tiny farms. Almost 200 people live here all year round and it's been a real delight to get a glimpse of their lives. This is what we hoped the Baltic would be like.

Tomorrow, if we can cope with plugging into the wind and if we can find a berth, we plan to go to Svendborg.

Shopping on the island of Omø

One gorgeous hand-knitted scarf and two plaice straight from the fishing boat

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Omø

As planned, today we headed west from Kalvehave with what was supposed to be a gentle easterly behind us. To start with (at 7am when we left) we even had sun, and we could see why people enthuse about Smålands Farvandet - it really is pretty. We had to wiggle along the channel and under a couple of bridges, then head out of the channel across a bank to bypass an opening bridge and go under a higher bridge instead. At this point we had a helpful current giving us up to 2 knots extra speed.

Bridges done, there was a bit more wind from right behind us and we managed to get the cruising chute up for a couple of hours. But as we sped out into the wider end of the channel the waves started to build behind us, the wind strengthened, and we had to drop the chute, which was an interesting challenge. We experimented with combinations of sails and ended up running with just the mainsail. We can do this thanks to our expensive new toy, the GybeEasy, which acts as a preventer and stops the boom smashing violently over. It's expensive for what it is (a metal pretzel and a bit of high-class rope) but good value for what it supplies (peace of mind when running, and less banging of the boom when motorsailing).

We arrived at the island harbour on Omø at around 2pm, just as it started raining, and it hasn't stopped since. We are alongside an inner wall, as the boxes here are very wide (posts miles apart) but with very little turning space between the rows. When we came in it was pretty empty, but there is now an entire German sailing club in here, including a Halberg Rassy rafted to us :-( And the weather is unspeakably horrible: bucketing rain, wind still up to 16 knots or more, an uneasy motion made worse by having a heavy Halberg hanging on to us, endless banging from bits of rigging, yuck yuck. It's the sort of night when you leave clothes handy in case of a 3am crisis.

The annoying thing is that in nice weather this must be a lovely island. Camilla explored a bit, and there are little beaches, small cliffs, a lighthouse, and nice Danish houses with pretty gardens. We found a fish smokery where Sam, at 5.30pm, was the first customer they had had all day. The season is definitely ending. There's a little restaurant where we had several beers with Jonty from Lady Cressida (yes, they are here too) and then a meal for two of us, all for 390 kronor, about £43. Not haute cuisine, but hot, tasty and served in a nice warm room which is not rocking around at all.

From here it's only about 75 miles through the channels to Augustenborg, and we have around two weeks to get there. There are numerous options to explore en route or the whole of the Lille Bælt. But if it keeps on raining, it will be hard to work up enthusiasm.

Miles today: 42.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kalvehave

We have made it through the dreaded Bøgestrøm and never saw much less than a metre under our keel, hooray!

Jonty popped over from Lady Cressida at 8.30am to say he had chatted to the harbourmaster who said the passage should be safe this morning for anything up to 2.1 metres draft. Wind and waves had both eased at Rødvig, so we set off, having deployed a nice bit of springing off to get us out of the berth.

The bay, the Fakse Bugt, proved to be not as smooth as we hoped, in fact for an hour or so it was unpleasant. We approached the outer, dredged channel with some trepidation, expecting to see breaking waves, but it was ok - a bit hairy with the waves behind us, but Sam did an excellent job of helming with engine on and a bit of jib.

Most of the channel is well marked, although it could do with a few of the fluorescent German port-hand marks, which are brilliantly visible - these reds were hard to see and the greens even worse. Also from time to time there were cardinals or isolated danger marks, in one place (according to the chart) a depth of less than 1m inside the channel, and further on suddenly no buoys at all for half a mile. At this point we were suddenly engulfed in rain, which didn't help with buoy-spotting, and also meant we couldn't see the prettiest bit of the passage.

Like other places including Rødvig, Kalvehave has a two-part harbour. We initially went into a berth on the marina side, but we had only 0.1m under the keel and we suspect water level is high today - if it drops, we could have been stranded. So we ducked around to the "fishing" harbour and rafted up to Lady Cressida.

Kalvehave is a pleasant, sheltered spot on the south side of Sjaelland, in the shadow of the bridge to Møn, and surrounded by other little islands, with stunning sea views - this is what you imagine the Baltic to be like. Today they are holding a harbour festival, mostly musical. We've seen square-dancing, heard a Leonard Cohen soundalike, and are currently enjoying yet another set from the main band, who seem to be able to play anything.

The wind is due to go south-east 3-4 tomorrow and then go round to the west on Monday. We want to make the most of the easterlies to get as far west as we can, especially as these waters are pretty sheltered so waves should be modest. If we feel up to it we may get as far as the island of Omø tomorrow.

Miles today: 20, of which around 12 were very shallow ones.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More rain, more Rødvig

The rain eased a bit in the night but returned at full pelt by getting-up time. In addition Camilla woke up with a headache which has continued to trouble her all day. And the waves are still big enough to make the prospect of entering the Bøgestrøm decidedly unattractive. Just in case we needed any more incentives to stay, the German boat rafted up to us wasn't moving, and Sam found a British boat, Lady Cressida, who invited us for drinks tonight. So we didn't move.

In the late morning we went out to discover all that Rødvig has to offer. We visited the Ships' Engines museum, which has a wonderful collection, mostly of diesel engines from around 1918 to the 1960s, but plenty of other oddities including a couple of British Seagull outboards. We got in for somewhat less than the going rate because they were desperate for change, so just took all Sam's small money and let us in. It's run by volunteers, who all apparently troop in on a Wednesday evening to work on the engines. The chap on the desk spoke excellent English (of course) and started up a couple of Junkers engines for our entertainment. One had been recovered from an E-boat at the end of the war, spent 20 years as a working engine out in Greenland, and is now 79 years old, still all original and starting on a swing of the handle. It seemed to have two vertically opposed pistons, not sure if we got that right. When we left he was explaining the engine to our German harbour neighbours, in fluent German.

Other than that Rødvig offers a small private railway with no sign of trains today, a baker/grocer/minimarket/video rental store, one posh restaurant, two cafés, and a boatbuilder - who was running a noisy extractor right by our boat this morning, but fortunately turned it off at lunchtime.

We also discovered that the green ticket which Sam obtained from the harbour ticket machine actually says "sorry, your credit card transaction has failed", in Danish. It takes you through the transaction in English but if it doesn't like your card it reverts to Danish, which is slightly unhelpful. Fortunately this happens quite often and we were able to pay the harbourmaster in cash.

We spent a pleasant couple of hours on board Lady Cressida, an Island Packet 42 from the Solent. Jonty and Mrs Jonty (memory failure, sorry) have kept her in the Baltic for four years and are overwintering at Augustenborg, so we may well see them again over the next couple of weeks. We also discussed the dreaded Bøgestrøm - it seems two Dutch yachts set off this morning but came back after seeing breaking waves at the entrance. The word is that it should probably be better tomorrow afternoon, when the wind is due to go slightly more southerly, or failing that on Sunday when the wind goes properly SE and moderates. Camilla has used almost all her 25MB daily data allowance on the iPhone looking at weather charts. Hopefully the upload of this blog post won't bust the limit....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rødvig in the rain

Sailing is a curious activity. There are times when you promise yourself that you will never never go sailing again. We had several of those moments today. And yet when you arrive at your destination, and you're tied up safe and sound, you have a sense of achievement which means you go out and do it all again the next day.

We left Svanemølle at 7am in the pouring rain, with a forecast of not much wind. The rain has been consistent all day, but the forecast has varied considerably, at one point suggesting we were going to see a force 6. In fact we never saw more than a 5, but as it was from the east, we started to see quite big waves building.

When you read shipping forecasts as a sailor, you tend to focus on wind and possibly waves rather than rain. But really non-stop, drenching rain gets you down quite quickly. It's cold, the sky is grey, the visibility is poor, and you have to wear full oilies which are always uncomfortable, the water drips off your hood, and (today's special) every quarter hour the wind gets a knot stronger.

Camilla, not having expected waves, didn't take a Stugeron and felt more ill than on any previous passage this year. No actual vomiting was undertaken, however.

We reached the approach to Rødvig around 1.30pm and remembered that one reason we didn't come here on the way up to Copenhagen is that the approach was said to be unpleasant in easterlies. Indeed it is, but not as bad as our approach to Oostende last year when Camilla had to hide below while Sam surfed the boat between the pierheads.

Once in we had to make a high-speed choice between the marina, described as "congested", and the fishing harbour. The fishing harbour was the only option with enough room for us to rig ropes and fenders before tying up, so in we went, to be greeted by a cheerful harbourmaster who told us to go anywhere there was space. So for the first time this trip we are tied up to a wall alongside old car tyres. We tucked into a small space rather neatly, and had it to ourselves for a few hours, but we've just acquired German neighbours.

All this time the rain has varied between steady downpour and bucketing down. We strolled into Rødvig briefly, chatted to some nice Danes who told us it would still be raining tomorrow :-( and we could get through the Bøgestrom ok with 1.7m draft, we got a bit wetter, paid at the ticket machine and came back to the boat. At least the wind and waves have eased a bit.

Miles today: 36.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Windy day

The wind finally arrived this morning, giving us the perfect excuse to stay on board and pay for a day's internet access, this first time we've done this for... actually we can't remember the last time we paid for internet access. Still, it's been 60kr well invested. After endless dithering we have now booked flights home on 31 August: a short hop from Sonderborg to Copenhagen, several hours' wait, and then an easyJet flight to Stansted. The short hop is cheaper than a train ticket, and the whole thing is still less than going to Esbjerg and getting the DFDS ferry, unless we waited until early September when ferry prices start to drop.

Hooray for easyJet. In the slight stress of booking interconnecting flights while the boat rocked around in winds up to 29 knots, Camilla managed to spell her own name wrong. It turns out you can phone a Danish number and easyJet will correct the error at no cost.

We've invested in an extra gas bottle. The 3kg Camping Gaz bottles we use seem to be hard to come by here, so after more dithering, aka careful consideration, we have purchased an extra 2kg bottle as a reserve. At least you can buy the stuff here - in Sweden and points north we will probably have to adapt to local bottles. En route to the filling station which sells the gas, Sam discovered that what was the Tuborg brewery and dock is now a very upmarket residential and shopping development. There is a shopping centre with two supermarkets and an H&M, plus a few other random boutiques. We explored Irma, which is like a kind of Waitrose on steroids - think £2.20 for a tin of organic chopped tomatoes. Then we went to Netto and bought non-organic tins for 40p each.

This afternoon, for the first time since Maasholm, we were able to entertain a British couple on board. Sea Pilgrim is a Catalina 34 formerly based in Woolverstone, just up the Orwell river from us in Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Tony and Anne have spent much of the summer in Denmark, and we were able to exchange hints and tips. Apart from them we have seen a British motor boat, Samphire, in Barhöft and Stralsund, another motor boat very briefly in here last week, and one sailing yacht in the bay off Wismar. There really aren't a lot of Brits in the Baltic.

Camilla has been continuing to worry about the Bøgestrøm and Stege Bugt around the south of Sjaelland. This evening we met a helpful sailor, possibly a Swede, who assured us he does it twice a year in a yacht drawing 1.8m. So probably we should go for it. Hopefully tomorrow we may even get some light easterlies which will be helpful on the leg back down to Rødvig.

Pictures - Rügen to Copenhagen

Lauterbach. This cloud followed us all day and never rained
Goodbye to Germany
The stunning cliffs of Møn
New headphones - Ben is happy
The authentic little mermaid
Yum yum, smørrebrød
Sam and Henry Moore, Louisiana
Invisible art in Copenhagen

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Shop till you stop

Today was mad extravagant shopping day, a chance to cruise around Copenhagen's luxury stores and splash out on something really special. At the end of four hours' dedicated indulgence, Camilla had purchased a can opener and Sam had three pairs of socks. 

Our feeble excuse is that prices were very high, we don't really need anything (apart from a can opener and socks) and anything we buy has to be stored on the boat and/or transported home, which tends to rule out fabulous modern mirrored chandeliers at 9,000 krone a pop. 

It has rained on and off through the day, so Camilla spent much of the time in larger stores, which minimised the time in the rain, admiring Danish household design and occasionally venturing into ladies' wear.  There is a lot of wonderful Danish clothing design around, but colours tend to be cool greys, blues and beiges which get just a tiny bit dull after a while. 

It's nice to get back to Svanemølle station, which is starting to feel like home (Sam says that means it's time to move on). There's a lot about this place which is reminiscent of Badalona, north of Barcelona, where Kalessin overwintered in 2007-8: a big modern marina (but less concrete here), a short walk to the station (although this is shorter) with easy connections to the city, lots of roadworks (why?) and even a disused power station with three enormous chimneys. Train tickets here are around twice the price for half the distance compared with Spain, though.

The promised bad weather seems to be passing south of us, with strong winds for North Germany while all we've had so far are thundery squalls. The most helpful forecast is the Danish one, which is in English but with wind speeds in metres per second, which is just annoying - what would Admiral Beaufort say? It also only goes 24 hours ahead. No doubt there is a longer-term forecast in Danish but we haven't found it yet. Anyway, tomorrow still looks windy: the wording is "Wednesday transiently locally perhaps gale, 15 m/s".

Tomorrow we plan to get a day's proper wifi Internet access (blog posts just use a data connection from Camilla's iPhone) which will not only help us get better forecasts, but will also allow us to make some decisions and book some tickets for going home. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Just the two of us

It's been a quiet and (for Sam and Camilla) rather sad day. Ben's flight home took off around 5.15pm. He has spent exactly a month with us and generally was extremely pleased to be going. But the boat is very quiet and empty without him grumbling in the aft cabin.

For the first time on this trip we have dug out the folding bike. We need another Camping Gaz bottle, and the chandlery which might have sold us some is yet another victim of the flash floods from the weekend we spent in Wulkow. With the aid of the bike, Sam has identified a filling station a mile down the road which stocks the correct cylinders.

The other use for the bike has been a quick whizz around to the harbourmaster's office to top up The Card. Smart cards, on which you pay a deposit and/or a preloaded amount of cash, have been featured in many of the marinas we've visited from Cuxhaven onwards. Depending on the location and the technical complexity of the installation, cards may be used for access to the marina (rarely) and to the toilet block (almost always), to pay for showers (which can be measured by the microsecond), electricity, water and even parking your car. In here you can even check in to the marina and pay automatically, without seeing a harbourmaster. Of course there are a few snags: losing a card (which we haven't done yet) could be expensive, and you have to remember to return your card before you go. It would be interesting to find out how it works for a permanent berth-holder.

Currently it's drizzling quietly but the strong winds, due to arrive some time overnight, are not yet in evidence. Camilla is cheered by the prospect of wandering around some of Copenhagen's wonderful shops on her own tomorrow. Sam may sneak off and visit the Carlsberg brewery.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Burghers and burgers

This morning, as promised, it rained pretty hard, and we spent the morning washing our smalls and relaxing. But by noon the rain had gone, and we were able to set off for today's cultural destination, the Ny Glyptotek, also known as the Carlsberg sculpture museum.

We spent the afternoon admiring Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Danish (oh dear) and French sculpture, and some nice French Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings. Ben liked the Greek sculptures best, while Camilla was rather taken with the bronze casts of Degas' quick sketchy sculptures (originally just made in wax and cast by Degas' family after his death). There are also various Rodins including versions of the Kiss, the Thinker, and as a reminder of 2008 for us, the Burghers of Calais.

We had a couple of hours to kill before our meal, so strolled across to the canalside neighbourhood of Christianshavn, and then in a burst of bravery we popped into the anarchist hippie neighbourhood of Christiania to admire the graffiti and inhale the fumes (in fact much less than you smell on an average Amsterdam street).

As a farewell to Ben we had a meal at Peder Oxe, famous for its terrific burgers (for Sam and Ben) and help-yourself salad (for Camilla). For pudding we went for rødkål med fløde, a kind of fruit soup, which is a Danish pronunciation challenge equivalent to Scheveningen in Dutch.

Tomorrow we have to spend the morning getting Ben packed and ready to go on his afternoon flight. He can't wait to get away, but we will miss him terribly. The wind still looks strong for Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursday is now looking a little bit more promising for departure.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Louisiana and Helsingør

As Saturday looked like being dry for most of the day, we decided to head north out of Copenhagen to the Louisiana museum of modern art, which meant going one stop on the S-tog to Hellerup and then taking the regional train along the Øresund, also known as the Danish Riviera. After some dithering at the ticket machine, we decided the best value would be three 24-hour tickets at 130kr each (around £14).

Travel here is not as cheap as Germany, where a slightly shorter journey such as Peenemünde to Lübeck costs less than €4 return. But then, Denmark is generally more expensive for most things - eating out, eating in, travel and of course drinking.

Louisiana was originally a 19th-century seaside villa, with wonderful gardens going downhill to the beach, and now extended with stunning modern galleries. Much of the sculpture is outside, backed by fantastic views across the Øresund to Sweden. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and big fluffy clouds, and the ever-changing light was so gorgeous we spent the first couple of hours outside, exploring the grounds and enjoying delicious Danish coffee and rolls outside the cafe with views of three works by Alexander Calder.

The interior was also fascinating, although Camilla is less keen on Giacometti than Sam is, and the summer exhibitions included some striking architectural concept stuff and a wonderful collection of the works David Hockney has been creating on iPhone and iPad.

In the end there was so much to see that we all felt a bit overwhelmed, and in Camilla's case convinced that she'd missed out on Important Stuff. Ben managed to lose our locker key, possibly while rolling down a hill :-) but we resolved that quite easily despite his worries, and no-one stole our backpacks. And we participated fully in the retail experience by buying a collapsible Swedish designer fly swat for Camilla's office.

We thought we'd make the most of our 24-hour tickets with a quick trip to Helsingør, or Elsinore as Hamlet called it. It turned out Helsingør was being shut down for the round-Denmark cycle race, but we managed to get some ice-creams with home-made cornets, a view of the castle, a walk around the town and a shared plate of chips in a nice pizzeria before getting the train back.

Our berth is still marked as green and the promised evening rain hasn't developed beyond a few minutes of warm drizzle, so we are able to enjoy the distant sounds of live jazz from the harbour cafe, and relax. Tomorrow we plan a morning on board and more museums in the afternoon, with a farewell (for Ben) meal out in the evening.

What I see when I wake up (on a good day)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Exploring Copenhagen

We thought we'd spend our first day in Denmark's capital just wandering about and orienting ourselves. We followed a route in the handy tourist map which goes from the main station to the Little Mermaid and back. It's supposed to take three hours but what with stops for this and that it took us more than five, which may have been a bit too long.

The S-tog (urban train) from Svanemølle was efficient and very quick, once we had found the station which is only about 10 minutes' walk from the boat. It was a quiet, warm, rather grey morning with poor visibility, so we were glad to be exploring rather than sailing.

The route took us through the Latin Quarter and along some quieter shopping streets to an amazing music shop, where Ben bought a pair of long-desired Sennheiser headphones and Sam very nearly bought a travel guitar, and we discovered that the shop lost more than a million krone-worth of stock when their basement flooded in the rain which we escaped while were in Wulkow.

Then on to the delightful Kongens Have (Royal Gardens) where we enjoyed iced coffee at the Hercules Pavilion. Ben, as a classics student, is very taken by the classical statuary all over the city.

Sam lived in Copenhagen for a year more than 30 years ago and we went to look at his flat in Olfert Fischers Gade. As we photographed him next to the sign, a Dane appeared from nowhere to ask (in perfect English) if he could tell us anything about the building, or the neighbourhood. It was a great chance for Sam to blether a bit. In fact Copenhagen has changed of course since he was here, and memories fade, so he remembers some things in the wrong places or looking quite different.

On through the Kastellet, which although continuously in military use since 1660 manages to be very pretty. Ben, who was already delighted by the green grass in the parks and the headphone shop, was so impressed with the cleanliness of the public toilets he asked if we could all move to Copenhagen. This is a very different boy from the one who loathed cities five years ago on our Mediterranean voyage.

Of course we had to visit the Little Mermaid, who is actually very little indeed and slightly uncomfortably perched just a few feet offshore. By this time it was starting to drizzle slightly and was definitely well past lunchtime, so we hastened down through the royal palace to the picturesque Nyhavn canal, where we went totally touristy and ate smørrebrød under big umbrellas (you even get a blanket) while watching the world go by.

Finally in slightly heavier drizzle we came back along the "walking street", the top shopping area, and managed not to buy anything at all, perhaps because we were all a bit weary, although we did admire the Lego shop.

We got back to the boat to find that our green board had gone red. This means that the berth occupant is due back some time quite soon, but we had no indication of whether it would be tomorrow or later. Actually this is the first time this has happened to us. Possibly this marina is more efficient, or possibly it signifies the approaching end of the Danish (and north German) summer holidays. Anyway we walked about a bit and eventually found a suitable berth which says it's free until 14 August, and moved over. Interestingly Svanemølle charges and controls berths by width rather than length, and all the other free berths we saw were much too narrow for our 3.5 metre beam.

Distance today: about 200 metres.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Svanemølle, Copenhagen

So, this is unexpected. We left Klintholm at 7.30am expecting that the first few miles to Rødvig would be bumpy and unpleasant, but then we would have a more-or-less ok passage. For various reasons none of us had slept very well and although the easterly wind eased a bit overnight, it was still creating waves.

As expected, the first few miles around the corner of Møn, straight into the wind, were slow and bumpy - although the pain was eased by a great view of Møn's cliffs in the morning light. Once we headed north, however, our speed increased to more than 6.5 knots. It became clear that we would reach Rødvig so early that if they were feeling mean they could charge us for an extra day for arriving before 12 noon.

Was it worth making the most of this excellent wind? Copenhagen was still 50 miles away but at these speeds we would get there before 5pm. Conditions were bumpy, but manageable. A quick re-plan was undertaken and we decided to go for it.

And what a passage it was. The sun shone, the sea was blue, another yacht was on the same course as us a mile ahead (it's always helpful to have an aiming point in bumpy conditions, it's so easy to get knocked off course). And for mile after mile we made better than 7 knots. From about the halfway point, with Sweden on our right, the sea even got a bit flatter.

We covered 56 miles in 8 hours and 45 minutes, an average of 6.4 knots - and that includes the first hour where we were lucky to make 4 knots into the wind, and the last hour where Camilla got nervous about sailing goose-winged (one sail on each side, with the wind dead aft) up a narrow channel to a place we didn't know, so we dropped the mainsail and used just the genoa. Normally we might have expected that distance to take around 11 hours.

We were hoping to go to Hellerup, which is a little harbour north of the city. But we came in late enough to be uncertain of getting a berth, and we couldn't reach them by phone. So instead we are in Svanemølle, about a mile south, which is apparently Denmark's biggest marina. It feels quite manageable though, and it's full of traditional wooden boats, and numerous dayboats and dinghies sailing into the marina - which would never be allowed in the UK. Apparently they had to rebuild the whole marina in 2007 after a chronic infestation of, would you believe it, woodworm.

We have until Monday to recover (a long bumpy passage leaves you feeling as though someone has been kicking you for a few hours) and explore Copenhagen. Currently the forecast is for strong winds on Tuesday and Wednesday, so if these appear, Sam and Camilla may spend even longer here.

Miles covered today: 56, with almost 50 miles under sail. Top speed on the GPS: 9.4 knots.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Itchy feet

Germany is behind us, but really not very far away. When we arrived in Klintholm we were surprised that although this is a purpose-built marina, the facilities were in portaloos. It turns out that in May a charter party from Warnemünde set fire to the sauna and burned the whole lot down. The marina has a big notice explaining this, in German (and not in Danish). I'm not sure why they felt they had to mention Warnemünde, though.

The other German legacy is dozens of Barhöft mosquito bites decorating Camilla's arms, legs and feet. The itchiness was bad enough to require taking a Piriton in the middle of last night. Most of them were probably acquired while waving the iPhone around to get a good enough signal to post the blog entry on Monday. See what we suffer on your behalf.

Klintholm is a remarkably international spot, considering that it's a little harbour on a small island loosely attached (by a bridge) to another island which is attached to a small country. Cars and camper vans seen here come from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg, and boats from Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. No other Brits though.

Today has been one of those annoying days when it sounds scarily windy but is actually only a force 4, occasionally gusting 5. The forecast is much the same tomorrow, although the sea may be a bit lumpier after a day of easterlies.

And our plans have changed, slightly. We realised that we were just killing time ahead of Ben's flight, and after he goes Sam and I would have to rush back through an attractive part of Denmark, the narrow channel north of Møn. So thanks to Mr easyJet we have moved Ben's flight four days earlier, which gives us a couple of days to get to Copenhagen, three days to explore it, and a bit more time to sail back to our winter base in Augustenborg. Mr easyJet was quite modest in his demands really, we pay the extra on the fare (£32) plus a £35 admin charge, and they don't charge us again for Ben's luggage or using a debit card - I'm sure Mr Ryanair would.

Tomorrow we head for Rødvig, which is a convenient staging post en route to Copenhagen but can get very full. Hopefully if we leave here pretty early the wind will be a bit more modest (especially for the first five miles around the corner of Møn, which will be into the wind), and we'll be able to find a berth in Rødvig.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Klintholm, Denmark

When Sam rose at 5.30am for his early-morning ablutions I couldn't resist a peek outside. All the fog had vanished and it was a gorgeous morning.

Barhöft is a passage port, a convenient jumping-off point for yachts heading north and west from Rügen, and numerous people were already up and about and getting ready for sea. By the time we left at 7am we were in the middle of a flotilla of departing yachts, but the vast majority turned left out of the channel, heading westwards towards Warnemünde, Lübeck and the other ports we've just visited. Only one headed, like us, north towards Denmark.

It stayed warm and sunny, with very light easterlies, all day. We managed an hour's sailing while we had lunch, but otherwise it was all motoring. A north-going current gave us a bit of a lift, and we reached Klintholm on the island of Møn by 2.30pm and were able to go straight into a space in the little marina.

So, a new country, and although Sam once lived in Denmark for a year this is the first-ever visit for Ben and Camilla. For Camilla, it's the first country she has sailed to without ever having visited it beforehand by other means. It also means new currency - no Euros here, so we had to visit the bank to stock up on kronor. On the other hand, our pontoon here features a couple of Swedes, two or three Dutch boats, a dozen Germans and possibly one Dane, so the mix is pretty similar to Germany.

Klintholm is another passage port, but a pleasant location with a little fishing port, a nice beach, various holiday homes, a Spar supermarket, a delicatessen selling local delicacies and smoked fish, some cafes, and even a bank (only actually open on Tuesday and Friday mornings). What else could you need? For the first time on this trip we have managed to be in a place with a beach at the same time as experiencing beach weather - Ben and Camilla even went for a swim. So we have decided to stay here another night to help us acclimatise to Denmark.

We have a bit of a problem from here. We have to be in or near Copenhagen by the 12th for Ben's flight, and for a few days beforehand so we can explore the city. We don't have quite enough time to go the long way around Møn, and anyway Sam and I may go back that way. So we may explore a bit to the north of Copenhagen, or even cross to Sweden for a brief visit. We'll have to see what the weather does next.

Miles covered today: 39.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Back in Barhöft

Navigating in thick fog, a well-equipped boat has some advantages over a car. For a start, you don't have to stick to the road. Traffic is often very light indeed. And a combination of GPS and chart plotter, AIS and radar mean that you know where you are, where you're going and who else is out there.

Nevertheless, heading out between the pierheads of Lauterbach at 7am was pretty scary. Within two or three minutes of departure we could see nothing except our own boat and one cormorant, and grey murk. I would guess at its worst visibility was less than 100 metres. In some ways it's no worse than night navigation, with the advantage that if anything went wrong all we had to do was turn left out of the channel, anchor, and wait for the fog to lift. But good god, it's hard work.

We hoped that things would clear by the time we reached the main Strelasund channel around 9am. Indeed, it was possible to see one or two buoys ahead, and eventually even see the land. But the fog has never really cleared all day.

The object of today's early departure was to get through the Stralsund bridge at 1220 and avoid the terrifying 1720 rush hour. We made it, in fact we were early and had to trickle along for the last three or four miles at a couple of knots. When we finally got through, along with about 35 other yachts (where did they all come from?) we all took an interesting shortcut out of Stralsund harbour and roared the next 9 miles up to Barhöft, where we found a berth with no problem despite the rush hour.

Some time in the next 12 hours the wind is due to go easterly for a couple of days. If this has happened by tomorrow morning, and it is possible to see across the channel outside the harbour, we might go to Denmark (40 miles to Klintholm). If the fog is still there - and it's now 8.15pm and visibility is closing down again - we will be here another day. We can cope (just) with a quiet inland sea in zero visibility, but not the open Baltic.

This is a lovely spot, but I think we are all getting quite keen to leave Germany.

Miles covered today: 32.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lauterbach

This morning it was neither raining nor windy. It was, unfortunately, rather foggy - not ideal for buoy-hopping along narrow channels. So we hung about for a bit, dried some towels and jeans in the tumble drier, and by the time we set off visibility was adequate.

Having been within sight of Rügen for almost a week we thought it was time we actually visited it. So we headed for Lauterbach on the south of the island, about 17M from Kröslin. There was almost no wind so we motored the whole way, and the visibility gradually improved although a vast black cloud hung to the west of us all day and we saw a bit more drizzle, but then a bit of sunshine and some warmth.

Lauterbach has an old harbour and a marina side by side. We were very glad to have chosen the marina after we tied up and discovered there was a (loud) funfair in the harbour. We were followed by these all over the Netherlands last summer, and this is the first we've seen this year, so we mustn't grumble. Also it's now 9pm and all is quiet, which is even better.

This is a pleasant spot in a nice sheltered corner. It's home to a couple of charter fleets, but fortunately most of them are out on charter. It also has some rather cool holiday chalets on stilts over the water, with their own little moorings.

Lauterbach is the harbour for the 1840s show town of Putbus, which used to have a matching schloss until it was blown up by a DDR mayor trying to impress his bosses in the 1960s. Camilla walked up to Putbus to take a look, but was actually much more impressed by the Edeka supermarket en route, which was open on a Sunday - almost unheard-of in Germany. This is probably our last chance to shop before Denmark, so it was time to stock up on cheap spirits (ouzo and German-made 'London' gin) and basic supplies.

Tomorrow we plan to leave here fairly early and get the 12.20 bridge opening at Stralsund, pressing on to Barhöft. Then on Tuesday easterly winds are forecast and we hope to make the hop to Klintholm on the island of Møn in Denmark, about 40 miles.

Miles today: 18.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Still raining

Yes, it's still raining and we are still in Kröslin. When we got up this morning it was still quite windy, and although the wind has now eased considerably, and there are periods when it's hardly raining at all, the prospect of a 20-mile beat into the rain was very unappealing.

One good thing about this marina is the clothes-washing facilities. There are six washing machines, six tumble dryers, an iron, and a drying room. What a great idea that is - every marina should have one. So we have washed the towels and duvet covers.

We keep finding more bits of the boat which got wet last week and haven't had a chance to dry out. Our fleecy Ikea blanket, folded neatly on the bunk in the main cabin, was not only wet but mouldy underneath. All the bulkheads have condensation running down them so nothing is really dry.

We spent some time working out the statistics on the journey so far. We have covered 780 miles since leaving Suffolk Yacht Harbour in May. Excluding canals, which are slow because of the bridges and locks, we have averaged 4.6 knots and spent a fraction under 50% of the time under sail - much better than we managed on our trip to the Algarve in 2006. Our fastest passage was our North Sea crossing, where tides helped us to average 5.8 knots. Most impressive was the 29 miles from Wismar to Kühlungsborn, 94% under sail at an average of 5.4 knots - no tides in the Baltic of course. During three weeks in the Baltic we've covered almost 300 miles.

I haven't recorded how many days it rained. Stralsund was a gorgeous day and only three days ago, but already I have lost faith that we'll ever see blue sky again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rocket powered

Today's weather has probably been the worst we've experienced on the boat on this trip. Of course, we were in the fortunate position of being ashore in a nice warm house last weekend - we've discovered that many people who were on board their yachts then didn't get off the boat at all for three days, so by comparison, this is modest.

Still, it has rained pretty much without a break all day, with north-westerlies 5-6, and currently gusting up to 7. Yuck. We looked at the pictures we took in brilliant sunshine in Stralsund just a couple of days ago, and they seemed to be from another world.

Still, we never planned to sail today, and we enjoyed our visit to the Peenemünde museum, home of the V2 rocket. It is interesting to realise that the V2 would never have been developed without the passionate support of a small number of Nazis, including of course Wernher von Braun. What's more every rocket built subsequently, up to and including Saturn V, the Arianes, and the Soviet N-1, is a direct descendant of the V2. It's likely that more people died in developing and building the V2s than were ever killed in their raids, so from a military point of view it made no sense at all. But technically, it couldn't have been more influential.

The museum is housed in an old power station which is only a tiny part of the huge 1940s development site, which covered most of the northern tip of the island of Usedom. From our point of view, however, it was dry inside and relatively warm, with most exhibits labelled in English and German (and some in Polish - we're only 30 miles from the border) so was a great way to spend a few hours. It was very busy today - I should think if you are on a beach holiday in Usedom, or even worse a camping holiday, the museum must be even more welcome than it was to us.

The little ferry brought us back to Kröslin where we managed to stock up on a few basics in the bakery and tiny grocery, before heading back to the boat. We've only been out again for excellent hot showers, but got almost as wet walking back to the boat as we did in the shower.

If it's like this tomorrow morning I shall go on strike and refuse to sail anywhere. The German forecast just says NW5, locally 6, decreasing a little by noon, which is not encouraging. We are in a sheltered marina off a sheltered channel, leading from what is effectively a lake, so whatever the forecast says we ought to get a bit less than that, but we'll see.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kröslin

My very good friend Anne says that as she's stuck at work, she really only enjoys this blog when things go horribly wrong. So hopefully she'd approve of today, as it has rained most of the day since around 5am, the wind has been building gradually, and we're currently in a nice, solid, reasonably well-sheltered marina... in the middle of nowhere. What's more, I have been suffering from a headache since yesterday morning (although I think it has now finally gone).

We had to leave Stralsund at 8am to go through the bridge, in the pouring rain of course. The north-westerly was more or less behind us all the way, so as we picked our way along the narrow channels we sailed well with just the jib.

When we reached the wide open spaces of the Griefswalder Boden we were able to get the main up and hurtle due east for ten miles at speeds up to 7.5 knots. Getting the main down was less fun, as we had limited space to manoeuvre, building waves, and a need to turn sharply into a narrow channel and gybe the jib as soon as the main was down. I'm afraid angry words were spoken, but what can you do with a man who wants to tidy his mainsail stow when you're about to sail sideways on to the mud?

Now we're at Kröslin, which was highly recommended by Kissen, but at the moment feels rather depressing. On the other hand it has very solid pontoons with lots of space, and we are head to wind so the only real annoyance is yet more bucketing rain. We've spent the past couple of hours playing bits of interesting music from each other's iPods, starting with A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra for Ben's benefit, and progressing via the theme from Star Wars and computer game music to Pink.

Tomorrow we plan to get the little ferry to Peenemunde, where the Nazis developed the V1 and V2 bombs and there's a museum. The forecast is for NW5-6 so it's a good day not to be sailing.

Miles covered today: 30, almost all under sail.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stralsund

Just a short hop today, mainly under sail, from Barhöft to Stralsund. The weather has been very pleasant, with modest northerlies and sunshine and blue skies for most of the day.

Stralsund is the last of many German Hanseatic cities which we've seen on this trip - so far, Stade, Bremen, Lübeck, Wismar and Rostock. Each one has managed to be different from all its predecessors, and Stralsund is no exception. It's completely surrounded by water, partly by lakes, and partly by the narrow channel between Rügen and the mainland. Restoration is still well under way, with a few gaps and huge building sites, but there are many lovely buildings including a Rathaus and big churches.

The harbour is interesting. There are a number of massive brick warehouses, each seven to nine stories high. Each one has its own bar or restaurant on the ground floor, but we couldn't work out what the rest of the space is being used for, if anything.

We arrived before noon, with plenty of spaces in the marina which is right in the historic harbour, and time for a stroll around the town. We had lunch in a nice Italian restaurant which is not in a converted warehouse at all but has a shaded, sheltered terrace full of flowers, with a lovely view of the boats.

This afternoon's entertainment has been the bridge opening. The rail/road bridge to Rügen has limited opening times, and a key one is at 5.20pm. We were able to count more than 30 yachts jammed in a solid wedge, as they hurtled through the bridge and towards the marina on full throttle and roared into the last few spaces. We'll have to plan our route back to avoid that - either get here for an earlier opening when things are less traumatic, or go around the north of Rügen instead.

Miles today: 9.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Almost Rügen

We rose at dawn today (4.45am) ready for the long passage from Warnemünde to Rügen. Unfortunately the engine started but then stopped, and refused to re-start. We had to wait a while before we tried again, but fortunately it then started and ran fine - just as well, as it's been a day of solid motoring.

In fact, today is the first passage in a long time when we didn't even get a sail up. Initially we were heading north- east and the very light wind was from the south-west, resulting in an apparent wind of zero on the boat, and making us the perfect landing place for 84 million aphids, fruit flies, hoverflies and mosquitoes.

The only distraction was playing with the autopilot - we have now discovered it needs a special setting for northern latitudes, although as we're only at the same latitude as Scarborough that seems a bit extreme. Still, it seems to help.

We took up a recommendation from the Kissen website to stop at a little harbour called Barhöft rather than pressing on another 10 miles to Stralsund. We were a bit doubtful about finding space but in fact went straight into one of the gaps on the central pontoon. Unfortunately instead of having boxes with posts, these moorings have stern buoys, and we managed to totally mess up the pick-up, much to the amusement of the Germans on either side (who were also very helpful).

Anyway this is a pleasant spot, obviously very popular as people were still looking for spaces after 6pm (we arrived just before 3pm). The sun has been shining on and off, and there's a very summer-holiday feel. We're next to a National Park, although the bit we saw consisted mainly of one long path, and there are a couple of restaurants and a pleasant little beach. It's not actually Rügen, as we're still on the mainland , but in terms of sailing area we think it counts.

Miles today: 49, and one advantage of the flat calm is that we were able to take a couple of shortcuts, lopping about 5 miles off the expected total.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to a wet boat

Saturday evening's meal was at a family favourite, Gasthaus Paesch in Spreenhagen. Their top dish consists of four pieces of raw meat, plus salds and sauces, served with a stone heated to 350°C. You cook your own meat at the table. It's fun, it tastes great, and it costs €12 a head. I don't know why we've never seen it elsewhere.

Sunday saw the wind gradually diminishing, although we were so far below the treetops at Wulkow it was hard to judge. Camilla got restless, borrowed Heike's bike and went off for a ride, initially on roads (which are either very quiet, or have a cycle path, or even both) and returning along forest tracks which are mostly more cycle-able than they look. Toughest was a kilometre of pure sand, ok if you keep going, and about 200m of cobbled road - I had to get off and walk after a bit fell off the bike! The land around Wulkow is very flat and heavily forested, which makes cycling the ideal way to explore.

Today we left Hangelsberg around 9am for the journey back to the boat, which was pretty painless, although an hour at Berlin Hbf forced Camilla to buy a necklace from Bijou Brigitte and a nice polo shirt from the shop next door.

The boat was undamaged by winds, but very wet below. Duvets were damp, the cabin doormat soaked, the bilges full of water, and four little cushions which have never even got damp before were wringing wet. It turns out that Friday saw a record 24-hour rainfall here, of 160 litres per square metre, which we think is actually the same as millimetres. That's about the same as the heaviest rain which has ever fallen on Northern Ireland in 24 hours, or about three months' rainfall for Suffolk.

Still, we dined splendidly on a pot roast of the wild boar we rescued from the Wulkow freezer, and tomorrow at the crack of dawn we hope finally to set off for Rügen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Landlocked Wulkow

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past few days - not only are we in a location with a poor data signal, but also we have been so laid back that blogging somehow got forgotten.

On Thursday morning we packed a few clothes (mostly washing), arranged with the marina to leave the boat for a few days, and set off for Warnemünde station.

We weren't at all sure how much the train fare to Hangelsberg would cost. A quick investigation on the ticket machine had shocked us with a quote of over €300 return, for three of us. The Deutsche Bahn website indicated that the standard single fare was €41.50 each, ie a total of €250 or so. In the end we bought cheap tickets to Rostock and found a helpful lady in the Hauptbahnhof ticket office. She sold us two special family tickets, €56 each way for (I think) up to five people, to anywhere in Germany, a rather more manageable total of €112. Not bad for a journey of more than 200km.

Rostock to Berlin took just under three hours, and about halfway along it started raining, so the views of the German lake district were a bit limited. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is very huge and magnificent, on three levels with trains running on the bottom and top levels, and people and shops in the middle. It opened in 2006 and I had never been there before, so was suitably impressed. Our ticket required us to go to Fürstenwalde, then take a train back to Hangelsberg, rather than get the direct train which would have got us there three minutes later.

It was bucketing with rain the whole time, but fortunately we were met at Hangelsberg station and whisked off to Wulkow by Herr Pacholke, the father of Heike Pacholke who normally looks after the house. By a vast irony we arrived an hour before Heike set off to spend a few days in the UK with various members of Camilla's family, but we were able to see her briefly before she left.

Wulkow was built as a hunting lodge with an interesting tower at one end. The house had a hard time during the DDR period but was reclaimed by the family in the early nineties, and restored to modern standards. We use the tower and a little bit of the long house, and Heike lives in the rest. It's surrounded by trees, which are surrounded by forest, close to the river Spree. It's very peaceful and spacious, and for the first few hours in the house we had to keep checking on each others' whereabouts - we're not used to being so far apart.

It rained non-stop until Friday evening, with lots of wind, and we were extraordinarily grateful to be under a solid roof, on solid ground, and enjoying the sound of wind in the trees instead of wind howling through masts and rigging.

We have the use of a car here, a mature Skoda estate, and on our supermarket run on Friday morning we made the mistake of opening the offside rear electric window. There was a loud clunk and the glass refused to rise again, leaving us with a large opening not ideal for weatherproofing or security. Sam spent part of the afternoon at the Audi garage where they investigated, reported that it needed a new motor, but as a short-term fix they were able to wedge it shut with a hand-crafted block of wood. Vorsprung durch technik and all that.

Today the rain has stopped and the sun has even shone occasionally, although it's still quite windy. We've been to a nice little spa town called Buckow, which has nice lakes with walks around them, and a number of hills. We can't remember the last time we saw a hill, but it's been a while.

Must end here as I must have another bath before we go out for dinner...