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...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Running away from sea

The weather forecast has continued to cause us considerable angst today. In the end I was so baffled that I emailed Simon Keeling to ask him why his forecast showed two or three forces less wind strength than the German one. He came back to me almost straight away, bless him, to say that he expected force 6 increasing 7 by Thursday night, and then two or three days of strong winds, and was there any chance we could set off today, Wednesday, otherwise we would be stuck.

So we dithered and bothered, and I went off and worried in the shower, but the bottom line is that even with today's NNE4 we would have been heading into wind and sea for 25 miles, which is no fun, and in any case we couldn't have reached Rügen in daylight, which we think is essential for negotiating the long, shallow, narrow entrance channel. If we left this evening or tomorrow the wind might free off a bit, but we'd still be very close-hauled on a lee shore, with a strengthening wind, building waves, and a north-facing long, shallow etc entrance channel. And on Friday the wind goes up to 6-7 for a few days and all bets are off.

So we are going to run away from sea tomorrow - leave the boat here, get the train to Berlin and then east to Hangelsberg, and spend a few days at the Herrmann holiday home in Wulkow, where we will indulge in hot baths, full-sized beds with no bicycles or kayaks in them, no rocking about or water slapping on the stern, and long walks in the forest 200km from the sea.

Oh yes, and in the meantime we spent today in Rostock, which is more pleasant than we expected (it hasn't really recovered from losing its position as the premium shipbuilding location for the Warsaw pact countries after reunification), but not hugely exciting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Warnemünde

We managed to be first on the fuel berth in Kühlungsborn when it opened at 9am. In fact it was quite a nifty bit of parking, though I says it as shouldn't. We didn't need much diesel as we've managed to do quite a lot of sailing between locations, but it's nice to be well stocked.

There really wasn't much wind for our epic 12-mile sail to Warnemünde but because we left quite early we were able to sail at speeds between 1.5 and 6 knots depending on the wind, with a short engine-powered burst when we lost steerage way in 2 knots of wind. We even got the fishing gear over the stern a couple of times, but the first time we had to start the engine, and the second time the wind increased and our speed hit 6 knots, which is far too fast for fishing.

We're in the new Hohe Düne marina, which is a bit like Kühlungsborn (new marina built around a new development) although its location is a lot like Travemünde (ferry ride across the river to a resort/port which is at the mouth of a river, with a Hanseatic port a few miles away by train. In this case the port is Rostock rather than Lübeck). The development here is very grand and upmarket, in fact if there was a golf course behind the hotel we might think we were in Vilamoura on the Algarve. However the superyachts have clearly not all arrived yet, as there are loads of empty berths.

We're still waiting to see what the weather does on Thursday and beyond. Simon Keeling says NW5, but the German forecast says NW6-7 gusting 9-10. We discussed the option of heading straight for Gedser in Denmark tomorrow, which would be manageable in a north-easterly and only 24 miles away. But the consensus is that having got this far, we should keep going to Rügen, which is most Baltic sailors' favourite part of Germany. So it looks as though we will have time to visit Rostock by train while we wait for fair winds.

Miles today: 12.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kühlungsborn

Sunday in Wismar proved quiet and rather wet. We popped out between showers to visit the Nikolaikirche, the only medieval church in the Alte Stadt which was neither bombed by the RAF nor demolished by the DDR. Like the Marienkirche in Lübeck it is an immensely high brick church, stuffed full of astonishing 15th century altarpieces and 14th century fonts. The route to the church took us through even more of historic Wismar, including Europe's first landscaped urban canal. It really is a memorably beautiful city.

In the evening we treated ourselves to dinner at the Alte Schwede (Old Swede), a rather smart restaurant housed in one of the oldest buildings in Wismar. The food was ok, perhaps a bit overpriced, but the setting was lovely and it was delightful to be in such civilised surroundings. Our waitress even spoke excellent English.

This morning we headed out at around 8.30 with a forecast of SSW force 4, increasing slightly. Despite the complex dogleg to get out of the Wismar Bucht, our course was almost all northerly or north-easterly, i.e. with the wind behind us. We sailed all but the half-mile at each end, using just the jib, at speeds between 5 and 7 knots. At one point we started to see winds over 20 knots but fortunately they abated a bit before we got to Kühlungsborn.

The marina here is new, part of a massive beach-side development, and said by some to be half-empty. Evidently that is no longer the case. Getting in at 1345 we were quite lucky to find a free berth, and a number of yachts are now rafted up along the outer wall.

We visited the pretty beach east of the marina for a paddle, and the very overcrowded supermarket for supplies. The older part of town is further west, with a promenade nearly 5km long, but we didn't get that far.

From here we have a problem. The next stop is Warnemünde, only 15 miles further east. Then there's a run of almost 60 miles without a break to Rügen, which is said to be lovely. But the wind is due to go easterly tomorrow afternoon (against us), stay that way on Wednesday, followed by two or even three days of strong north-westerlies - right direction, but the possibility of an unpleasant sea, a lee shore and no harbours of refuge. We could be in Warnemünde for a while.

Today's run: 29 miles, of which 28 were sailed.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wismar

From Travemünde to Wismar is 27M, but almost half of that is the channel from the outer shoals of Wismar to the port. When we left Travemünde at 8am we had a light southerly wind, and as we cruised along the coast we alternated between sailing slowly, sometimes with the cruising chute up, and motoring when our speed dropped below 3 knots to make up a bit of time. Once we turned south into the channel we were hard on the wind, which inevitably then strengthened, and it felt like a long slog to get here.

It was great when we reached the Westhafen yacht harbour to be greeted by a harbourmaster who directed us to a berth - the first time we've had that since Oostende last year. We were so pleased we immediately booked for two nights, and then wondered if we were mad.

But Wismar is worth it. It's the first place we've been which feels Baltic rather than German. It even reminded me a bit of Vilnius in Lithuania. The Alte Stadt is five minutes' walk from the yacht harbour and is beautifully restored, with interesting buildings around every corner. Like Lübeck this was blown to bits by the RAF but because it was in the East it has retained much more of its historical character, with fewer modern buildings, and a few still unrestored.

As we walked in along the cobbled main street we heard the sound of jazz. In an unlabelled cafe - or maybe it was just someone's interesting historic house, with the door open - a trio was belting out "Sunny side of the street". This is a pretty cool place, although it can also look creepy. Much of the original 1922 film Nosferatu was filmed here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's a gas

I woke at 6am to the sound of pouring rain and a German forecast of southerlies up to force 6. Simon Keeling's forecast shows tomorrow considerably better, so it was an easy decision to stay here. It's been the first day since we arrived in the Baltic with rain on and off all day - up until now, most of the rain has tidily been at night.

Sam went off to find Camping Gaz in Travemünde, always an interesting adventure. Fortunately the people at the campsite next to the marina were able to give him accurate directions. The ferry people recognised him and said hello, which is worrying - it must be time to move on.

At lunch Ben sampled a strange cherry-flavoured soft drink which he bought a couple of days ago. He took a couple of sips and looked thoughtful. "It tastes like....silage," he said. We were disbelieving, but indeed it did. It was so horrible we poured it over the side.

In the afternoon we visited the tall ship Passat from which this marina gets its name (Passathafen). Launched in 1911, it was one of the last big sailing ships operating commercially. In 1957 its sister ship, Pamir, poorly maintained and crewed by cadets and a captain with inappropriate experience, sank in the Atlantic when its cargo of barley shifted in a hurricane. Passat, equally poorly maintained, was taken out of service and bought by the port of Lübeck, and here she still is.

When we reached Guernsey on Kalessin in 2006, Sam's oldest friend Robin Swift gave us a copy of Eric Newby's "The Last Great Grain Race", which is still on board. Newby was on a ship called Moshulu, and when they reached Australia to pick up their cargo, the first ship they saw was Passat. It's strange to read Newby's description of her, then look out of our portholes and see her across the harbour.

As we left Passat we were surprised to see visitors arriving in very smart suits, posh frocks and high heels. Even more surprising was the arrival of a basket of live doves. It turns out you can get married on Passat and the wedding party was just assembling.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lovely Lübeck

None of us slept very well last night. With the swell coming into the harbour, the forepeak berth was really uncomfortable - possibly the first time we've ever found that in a marina. I retreated to the main cabin fairly early on and Sam followed me about 1am, feeling very unwell - although he didn't think it was sea-sickness.

Still, we gathered ourselves to get the 10.30 train to Lübeck. En route we were entertained to meet some of the Royal Navy crew of three patrol boats we saw coming in yesterday, with a small supermarket trolley of food and a vast one full of beer.

Lübeck is an interesting city, for several hundred years a leading light in the Hanseatic League, and full of medieval buildings, but severely bombed by the RAF in 1942. It was only saved from total destruction by a canny move to make it the official port of entry for all parcels for British PoWs.

We visited the astonishing Marienkirche, built of brick and roofed in copper, with hardly an accurately vertical line in the whole thing. It is absolutely massive, hugely high inside with massive columns supporting a painted roof - the latter presumably all new, since the roof was one of the things blown off in the bombing. (The bells also crashed to the ground, and two are left there as a memorial).

There are a number of unattractive modern buildings in the shopping centre - even right next to the Rathaus - but there are entire streets of wonderful merchants' houses and tiny courtyards once you get into the quieter parts of the city, occupied by more interesting small or specialist shops. Ben found a splendid hi-fi shop full of valve amplifiers and millions of euros worth of other kit, so he was happy. Altogether, much more different from Bremen than we expected, but well worth the 20-minute train ride. (€2.70 each, one way. National Express take note).

We're not really sure what the weather will do tomorrow, so will take a decision on our next move in the morning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rocking and rolling

One further thought for anyone planning a visit to Travemünde: this marina is not very comfortable in north-easterlies, although on the whole the worst aspect is looking at other boats rocking around, or looking at the entire length of the (floating) pontoon, wriggling like a snake as the swell goes under it.

Kibbeling in Travemünde

As promised, we've had a quiet day today, although with the wind rising overnight we didn't sleep quite as well as we hoped. At 8.30 Sam went off to check with the harbourmaster that we could stay in this berth, and then went off for a walk, leaving me fretting that we might have to move. Eventually he returned with the good news that we were fine where we were, and we were able to relax, and take a load of washing down to the waschmaschine.

Around noon we finally persuaded Ben to get dressed and walked up to the ferry. Return journeys across the river for the three of us cost €5, which is modest but not as easy as the free ferries in the Netherlands.

Travemünde seems to consist of three quite separate bits stuck together. The beach is huge, somewhat bleak today, and seems to be lined with construction of new esplanades. The river front is where all the action is, lined with bars and restaurants and slightly tacky shops. And the old town is quiet, pretty and slightly Dutch in appearance, with a handy Rewe supermarket at the far end. There's also the port, with ferries heading for Sweden, Finland, Latvia and even St Petersburg in Russia (three times a week, taking 60 hours), but we haven't explored that.

We stopped at a fast food place immediately across the river from our marina and enjoyed kibbeling. In the Netherlands these are untidy scraps of deep-fried fish. In Germany they are much tidier and neatly shaped, but just as filling.

We did a supermarket shop and headed back to the boat, where the wind is gusting up to 20 knots or so but is still bizarrely warm (24° or so). How can a wind from Russia be so hot?

My current Kindle reading is an old favourite, "One Summer's Grace", Libby Purves' tale of her family cruise around Britain in 1988. It's quite humbling to realise how much things have changed. Not only did she and Paul Heiney have two children, aged five and three, as crew; they also had a 30ft boat with an unreliable Decca as their only electronic position finder. No GPS or chart plotter, no radar or AIS. They had a mobile phone, but most of the time no signal. There was no Internet then, so forecasts were only by radio shipping forecast, VHF or phone, with nothing like the luxury of getting the latest forecasts straight to your iPhone via 3G. Forecasts are also now more accurate and more tailored to sailors. And just to cap it all, tide-free, sheltered Baltic sailing seems so much easier than the exposed coast of Britain. How lucky we are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eastward ho

We are in Travemünde, which is the port and beach resort for Lübeck, just up the river Trave. In fact we are in a marina in Prilwall, which is just across the river, and somewhat to our surprise it turns out that we have crossed into the old East Germany - the river was the border. That explains the vast, gloomy buildings which line the waterfront here. Beyond them, however, there is a nice beach and lots of tall trees. On the river, vast ferries depart for Scandinavia, towering over the yachts.

We had another early departure from Heiligenhafen, with light north-westerlies and blue skies. We passed under the huge bridge connecting the island of Fehmarn to the mainland, before turning south. Eventually the wind veered north-east and strengthened slightly and we had a delightful, gentle sail, the last hour with the cruising chute and the wind strengthening to a force 4 or so.

The good news is that the mesh food-cover from a posh department store in Bremen seems to be doing a good job of holding the anti-magnetism cover on to the cockpit speaker, and the autopilot now works, which makes long passages a bit easier.

We had several goes at finding a berth. Our first attempt was definitely marked green (available), but was along the main entrance pontoon and we had our stern to the wind, and to the swell which evidently comes in here when the wind is northerly, so was somewhat bouncy and splashy. The harbourmaster suggested an alternative, but although we told him our beam we very definitely didn't fit between the posts. Now we are in our third option, a tight fit, but head to wind and a lot more comfortable. The only problem is that we don't know how long we can stay; we're planning three nights here to get some rest, visit Lübeck, do some washing, shop for food and hopefully let a day or two of bad weather pass by. We may have to move again, but we hope not.

Miles covered today: 37.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another nice Baltic view (Heiligenhafen)

Holy harbour...

...or Heiligenhafen, as they call it around here, is our overnight pausing spot. With more than 1000 berths it is more than likely the biggest marina in Germany, and quite possibly the whole Baltic. The Baltic system is that you cruise around the marina looking for green boards which indicate a free spot. (Red means that the owner will be home tonight). This is all very well in a modest marina, but here you could be cruising around for hours. Fortunately the observation crew (Ben and Sam) found a green berth quite quickly, and it's a very good location with a view of the sand dunes and swallows swooping around.

It seems like a very long time since we left Kappeln after a good meal out and an incredibly quiet night. We could even hear the couple coughing in the boat next door.

We left about 0745 with quite a bit of mist around, although still enough visibility to see the buoyed channel. Out in the sea visibility was better although the sun didn't come out until after 11am. The north-westerly wind was almost dead astern, and we had a couple of goes at using the cruising chute, but with only 6 or 7 knots of wind, when we sailed we were making only just over 3 knots, which would have meant a very late arrival here. So most of the day we have motored over a sea with annoying bumps in it, in brilliant sunshine.

The forecast is for another day of gentle north-westerlies tomorrow, but strong easterlies on Wednesday. So we plan to press on tomorrow to Travemünde, where we can pause for a day or two and visit Lübeck, and see what the weather brings.

Miles covered today: 47.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kappeln

Today we thought we would explore briefly up the Schlei, not all the way to Schleswig, which is 20 miles, but just enough to get a feel for it. There are two opening bridges, the first opening at quarter to every hour, the second on demand (call on VHF or fly flag "N").

We did just as planned - left Maasholm in time to get the 1145 opening, pootled down for half an hour and turned just before the second bridge, came back through the first bridge on the 1245 opening and moored on the visitors' pontoon in Kappeln.

The Schlei, in the bits we saw, is rather like the Orwell: gentle green slopes on either side, attractive houses and open fields, and lots of little marinas and moorings.

We picked this mooring because even Brian Navin calls it magnificent, and he is not given to hyperbole. Kappeln is a nice little town which is obviously a top spot for booze cruises by Danish yachts - there is the most amazing drinks shop I have ever seen, right on the quay. The sun is shining, the views both over the river and into the town are delightful, we're sheltered from the wind, and the bridge opening every hour gives us something to watch, and in between it's pretty quiet.

Tomorrow we plan a longer passage east to Heiligenhafen, weather permitting. Thoughtfully, the wind is forecast to go northwest, although still very light.

Miles covered today: 6.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Schlei ride

Sam managed to fix the fuel cut-off lever this morning, but by the time we left the British Kiel Yacht Club it was 11.15am. Once again it was one of those days when sun alternated with clouds and occasional squally showers, with a south-easterly wind varying between 6 and 18 knots.

Our passage made the most of the wind, heading north out of the Kieler Förde, crossing the Eckernförde where U-boats manoeuvre, dodging the restricted area where you may not be allowed to go (and we didn't want to try) and finally turning in through the narrow entrance to the Schlei, the 20-mile fjord which leads eventually to Schleswig. We sailed almost all the way, except for the last couple of miles down the Schlei where the channel was very narrow. Then finally the bit I'd been worrying most about, into the vast marina at Maasholm, where we managed to find a green (available) berth after only a few minutes, even though it was 4.30pm on a Saturday. Phew.

Sam said the marina check-in was very casual - you just fill in a log entry with the name and length of your boat, and its berth number, and pay (€13). We were pleased to see Penguin again, the yacht we met in Rendsburg, and shared beers with them during a brief but exciting thunderstorm, before dining on chips from the Imbiß and salad - very nutritious.

Tomorrow we hope to explore a bit up the Schlei before turning east towards Heiligenhafen and Rügen.

Miles covered today: 23, of which about 20 were under sail.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Here's our view of the Baltic...

Into the Baltic

Well, we are in the Baltic. Even better, we are at the British Kiel Yacht Club, traditional first port of call for all British yachts after leaving the Ost-Zee-Kanal.

We started the day with lots of rain, and didn't leave Rendsburg until it eased a bit, around 10.30am. The canal was quiet, with modest levels of both shipping and yachts, and eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Even better, when we reached Holtenau we were able to go straight into the lock, and pay our canal dues, a whopping €12. The water in the lock was suddenly quite clear, the sky and the Baltic were both blue, and we popped out into the Kieler Förde for the one-mile voyage here.

Our first attempt at mooring was in a vast box where it took all our lines tied together to reach the posts. The second was better, although the posts were said to be exactly 3.5 metres apart (our beam) we fitted quite easily. Then the engine refused to stop because the cut-off mechanism failed. While Sam and Ben worked on this, and also hauled Ben up the mast to fix the courtesy flag halyard, Camilla jogged (almost) into Friedrichsort 20 minutes' walk away to find the Lidl, jogged back, and rewarded herself with our first Baltic swim.

From here we plan a short venture north to the Schlei, said to be a lovely, sheltered inlet, before heading east towards Rügen in eastern Germany.

Miles covered today: 20.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

German exchange

The Polish yacht moored next to us in Brunsbüttel planned to leave on Tuesday evening, heading out into the North Sea, but had engine problems. They were all up at 6am, looking ready and trooping over our decks, so we got up too in spite of the fact that with a dodgy engine they were unlikely to push the tide, which didn't turn their way until after 8am. And indeed at 8 they finally got going, so we did too.

It turned out this was a bad move, as a mile along the canal we encountered three red lights, which means no navigation for yachts. We thought this must relate to a vast ship coming our way, but in fact the problem seemed to be fog, or at least mist. By 9am it had lifted, the lights went green, and we finally got going.

The Ostzee-Kanal took 9000 people eight years to build. It was completed in 1895 and widened in 1914 to permit Germany's warships to use it. It is wide, deep and all the bridges are at least 40 metres high. The ships which use it are quite small by modern standards, up to around 200m long and many only partly loaded, but they dwarfed the flotilla of yachts of which we were part, and created some interesting wash.

It has been a perfect day though, sunny and warm with occasional clouds and almost no wind. No locks, no opening bridges, just motoring between the wooded banks.

We are moored in Rendsburg, two- thirds of the way along the canal, where Guy came on a couple of German exchange trips many years ago. Fortunately we found a berth in the marina quite easily - our first Baltic long box mooring, with posts six or seven metres behind the stern of the boat, and the bow tied to the jetty. We came in pretty well, thanks to the help of Ben and a handy Englishman ashore to take our warps. It's a pleasant spot, at the head of a lake, with trees around the edge. We even managed to find a Bijou Brigitte, my favourite jewellery shop, in Rendsburg. So all in all a good day, and tomorrow we should actually reach the Baltic...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Goodbye North Sea

After numerous anxious recalculations of the Elbe tides, we left Cuxhaven around 1pm, having filled up with diesel. The calculations paid off, and the south-easterly wind backed south, and then west, allowing us to sail most of the way to Brunsbüttel at eight knots over the ground or more. We rapidly decided that it was easier to follow the north side of the channel, as the red buoys are continuous but there are fewer green ones.

Waiting for the Kiel Canal lock was a less pleasant experience, as you have to hang about in the river, motoring into nearly three knots of tide, up to 15 knots of wind, and a delightful thunder shower which picked just that moment to arrive. It wasn't clear what we were supposed to do, but fortunately there were numerous other knots to follow.

Still, our experience was probably a delight compared to the yacht who called in on the VHF (in fractured English) to say that their engine had failed, and were told they would have to arrange their own tow. I hope they're ok.

We're now in the Jachthafen at Brunsbüttel rafted three deep* - a 28-footer on the inside, then us, then a vast wooden Polish yacht. We're in a great place for shipwatching as the big lock is about 50 metres away. I don't think it will be a quiet night here, but it will be an experience. I'm so shattered I may just sleep anyway.

* now four deep. And the entire Polish crew is walking over my head.

Now we are three

We spent yesterday morning in the Rewe supermarket, stocking up on bottles, tins and other heavy stuff while we had the car. Then it was off down the autobahn to Bremen, to give us a bit of time to explore the city before meeting Ben off his flight.

Bremen helpfully tells you all the numbers of spaces in its car parks, and directs you to them until you actually get to the point when you need to find the car park itself. Then there are no more signs. After a couple of traumatising laps of the city we found a car park, on a main road but backing on to a quiet residential street, so that when you return to the car park the pedestrian entrance just looks like another door in a row of houses.

Bremen is lovely, not as pretty as Stade but full of big impressive buildings, including a Ratskeller with the largest wine range in the world. We didn't try it, instead dining in a rather amazing biergarten in the courtyard of the old law courts and prison building. Most people were eating vast roasted pork shanks, while I had salad and Sam a plate of sausages. We are finding the richness and volume of German food a bit indigestible.

Meanwhile two important things had happened. The sun came out, for the first time since last Friday. And back in the UK, Ben set off on his journey towards Stansted in the little Ford Ka, only to have the brakes sieze on, half a mile down the road. He was planning to leave the car at his grandparents' house in Essex and have Grandma give him a lift to the airport. Fortunately our dear friend and neighbour Alex was at home when Ben ran back from the car, panicking, and even more unusually had her son Tom's car available. She was able to run him down to Ipswich, where Grandma met him - complete with passport and boarding cards which he had thoughtfully left at their house - and ran him to Stansted. Huge thanks to both of them for rescuing Ben in his hour of need.

So, Ben arrived early at the nasty Ryanair terminal at Bremen (actually a large shed) and is now, we hope, asleep in the aft cabin.

We have light easterlies and pale sunshine here this morning. At high water (around 6am) which is departure time for westbound people, the wind got up and woke us up. I then fell into a terrible dream where Sam was trying to sail Kalessin alone down a tidal river full of weirs, and when he ran out of water just abandoned the boat, now the size of a large model yacht. I was desperately trying to rescue all our possessions while Ben was screaming... and woke to the screaming of a gull.

Today we plan to head up the Elbe on the afternoon tide and lock into the Kiel canal at Brunsbüttel. Baltic, here we come (and goodbye tides...)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Taking it easy

It's been a quiet few days as we have sat tight in Cuxhaven waiting for Ben. Well, quiet is relative. The wind continued to whistle through the rigging and the boat continued to rock until late Sunday evening, when it finally calmed down. Still no sign of any sun though.

We really didn't do much on Sunday after a splendid buffet breakfast at the yacht club (€8.50 each) filled us up for the day. We made use of the washing machine and as it wasn't actually raining, managed to get most of the clothes mostly dry. And in the evening we entertained Peter and Sue from Safir, who were able to give us lots of useful info about where to go (and where to avoid) in the Baltic. They did induce a mild panic when they pointed out we didn't have one of the crucial harbour books from our Danish chart packs. Fortunately I found it in the middle of the UK pilot books, which I had put away because we won't need them for a while... oops.

Today we picked up the hire car which we have for a couple of days. We decided parking in Hamburg was too much of a challenge, and we'll see Bremen tomorrow when we collect Ben, so instead we visited an Elbe port called Stade. It's full of old houses very beautifully restored, a nice centre and lovely church, and surrounded by river and canals. We had an excellent meal right in the middle of the prettiest part, including a massive apple waffle, fortunately shared between us, for a total of €30. Germany seems to have forgotten to increase its restaurant prices to the dizzy heights now seen in the Netherlands and the UK.

It's now very calm, which is nice, but still only about 16 deg C. A bit of warmth would be welcome....

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Safe and warm

As I write on Saturday afternoon the wind is howling through the Cuxhaven marina at up to 25 knots. We are sitting in the cabin in the warm, with the lights on. Sam is reading Hornblower and I've been reading Riddle of the Sands, set in various locations around here. It's delightful to know that we are snug and safe and don't have to rush off anywhere.

We're suffering slight culture shock. We know bits of Germany (in the south near Nürnberg) quite well, but this is the first time we have ever sailed here. It's strange to go into the centre of Cuxhaven and find a Rewe supermarket, just like the one in Ebermannstadt where we usually go, and stock up on German delicacies like erdnussflips (peanut flavoured snacks), teewurst (a kind of pate), and Frankenwein, delicious white wine from Fraconia. On the other hand we forgot to stock up on Dutch favourites like genever gin and stroopwafels before we left Delfzijl. You win some, you lose some.

Friday, July 01, 2011

German bite

We have arrived safely in Cuxhaven after probably the bumpiest long passage we have ever undertaken.

In the end it was the wave heights which decided us. There have been steady north-westerlies since Wednesday, due to increase gradually over the weekend. In this part of the world a NW wind means that waves have the entire North Sea to build in size and crash on to the shore, which is probably why they have such great sandy beaches in the East Frisian islands. The waves were forecast to be around 1.5m on Thursday but almost 3m by Sunday, and although the winds are due to die away early next week, waves take much longer to diminish. Light winds and big seas make a truly loathsome combination for a yacht, so we gritted our teeth and left Delfzijl at high water on Thursday, around 11.30am.

The Dutch forecast was for NW3-4, the German forecast for NW5-6. We went with the in-between forecast from the ever-helpful Simon Keeling, whose new SWIS forecast gives a seven-day forecast for the area of your choice (he also provided the wave heights). Unfortunately any NW wind more than a 3 means that you can't safely get into most of the German Frisian islands, so we had to miss out on Nordeney and do the whole 125-mile trip in one go. It's hard to believe it can be so far, but that includes the long trip up the Ems and down the Elbe.

The Ems was by far the worst part of the trip, despite the negative reputation of the Elbe. We were heading almost into wind, with the tide under us, and the waves just got bigger and steeper as we approached the island of Borkum. Off the Borkum Riff - which is a sandbank as well as a brand of tobacco - we were running out of tide and making almost no progress into horrible grey mountains of North Sea.

Eventually we turned to cross the Riff, then turned again on to our route, and suddenly everything was lovely, the sun was shining (it had been before, but we hadn't noticed) and we were sailing fast on a lovely broad reach. Only two problems: the waves were still there, although a bit more manageable; and we had to keep our speed down to reach the Elbe buoy around high water at 7.30am. Still, we were able to cook and eat some lasagne, although two cups of tea which might have been very welcome jumped right out of their mugs on a big bump and sprayed themselves liberally across all Camilla's clothes, the chart table (thank goodness for waterproof Imray charts), the floor and the galley.

It's only dark between 11pm and 3am at the moment, so although we had to cross the Jade and Weser entrances in the dark, most other challenges were in the light. Despite reefing twice, we still reached the Elbe buoy too early and crept cautiously down the edge of the river, waiting for the tide to turn, watching out for the promised horrendous wind-over-tide conditions and admiring the huge ships - one Felixstowe-sized monster every 10 minutes or so.

We finally reached Cuxhaven just before 11, to be greeted by a couple from Maldon who took our lines (and later welcomed us for drinks and chat). We'll be here for a while as Ben flies out to Bremen on Tuesday. Time to wash our salt-stained, tea-stained clothes, relax and regroup, and plan the next stage.