Monday, December 16, 2013

The official Christmas message

Dear friends and family

On the whole 2013 has been better for us than 2012, as we get used to a new way of life and Sam continues to improve slowly after his stroke in May last year.

At the end of last year Sam was walking a few steps, attending rehab at Icanho several times a week, and still needed a carer visit every day. A year later he is walking rather more, although still very slowly, and can manage several steps up or down with a handrail. He never uses a wheelchair in the house, so we have removed all the ramps and re-hung the doors, which makes life feel much more normal. Sam's Icanho treatment ended in late June, and we were able to give up carers completely as Sam can now pretty much get up, showered and dressed on his own. He can also do bits and pieces around the house, including washing up, painting (at the right height), cleaning, cooking, and we're still exploring other possibilities.

Wonky walking does make you vulnerable to other pains and injuries, and Sam has suffered a strained Achilles tendon just in the past couple of weeks which has knocked him back a bit. He also gets spectacular bruising if he falls – although his balance and trunk strength are still noticeably improving and falls are rare. And he does get tired very quickly.

Those who see Sam only occasionally notice some improvements in his speech and considerable improvement in his understanding. When we see him every day it's hard to spot the changes. His speech always varies from day to day but even on his worst days we can now usually understand something, and he is better at getting a message across. And his favourite sentence – no surprise to those who know him well – is “I can do it myself”.

Nick, Sam and Tim after scattering the ashes of Sam's brother Adrian during our trip to Guernsey
We have kept up a variety of activities to ensure our continuing sanity. In February we went to visit Ben in Nottingham, Sam's first night away from home since he came out of hospital. That went well and gave us confidence to visit Guernsey in March – a lovely trip with bad weather at the start and end, with a delay of a couple of hours on the flight out and a delay of two days on the way back, thanks to Guernsey's heaviest snowfall for 30 years, or possibly ever. Sam's older sons Tim and Nick looked after us well and we stayed at the very helpful and friendly Cobo Bay Hotel, but by the time we finally managed to land at Gatwick (not only two days late... but also at the wrong airport) we were very glad to be back on the mainland.

The sunshine - and the blizzard: views from our room in the Cobo Bay Hotel just two days apart

The long and horrible winter, followed by the cold and wet spring, were a trial for all of us, not helped by the fact that our oil-fired boiler failed in February and we had a month without central heating – thank goodness for our new and efficient log burner.

Sam in Lisbon. Our previous visit was
on Kalessin in 2006

In April we went on a P&O cruise to Portugal and the Canaries, which was a fantastic break and a wonderful opportunity for Sam not just to see interesting places but also participate in many of the onboard activities. In a mad moment Camilla has booked another cruise, around the Mediterranean in March 2014, which has a great itinerary but will undoubtedly leave us with the same feeling of having nothing like enough time in each location.

June saw our biggest adventure of the year. All four of us drove out to Denmark – travelling by ferry to the Hoek van Holland, which was much cheaper than taking the ferry to Esbjerg (and proved a good choice because the Esbjerg ferry was out of action that week), and then driving up to Augustenborg. We were reunited with Kalessin of Orwell and spent a few days getting her ready to go in the water – antifouling in the comfort of a fully insulated storage shed definitely beats our UK experiences – and then moved on board.

Kalessin in the heated shed. There was no way Sam could climb the ladder, so until the boat was launched Sam and Camilla stayed in a hotel in Sønderborg
Guy could only stay for a week or so but Sam, Ben and Camilla spent several weeks sailing very gently in the sheltered waters on the Danish/German border. We were blessed with fantastic weather, smooth seas, delightful marinas and town moorings, and really things couldn't have gone better. We worked out a routine for getting Sam on and off the boat using a climbing harness and one or more halyards – getting him over the bow was a bit of a challenge and necessary in many of the Baltic box moorings, but we worked as a team and got help from many passers-by. Once on board he could get around with only a little help and it meant a huge amount to him to be able to sail again.You can read much more about our adventures right here on this blog - use the Archive links on the right to find the 2013 posts.

We owe special thanks to Rob Pudney whom we contacted through an online sailing forum, and who generously invited us to spend a night on his Westerly Storm in Chichester in May, and gave us the knowledge and confidence to get Sam on and off our yacht.

Glorious weather and sheltered waters in Flensburg

In September Guy, his friend Dan and our friends Richard & Cathy Brown brought Kalessin home from Augustenborg to Suffolk Yacht Harbour in only a week. Again you can read more on the blog, and we were incredibly grateful for their efforts. Kalessin is still afloat in SYH and we have been using her as a holiday cottage in nice weather, with one short sail to Ipswich in September. We're having a cockpit tent made to extend the time when Sam can sit in the cockpit, and hope to do some east coast sailing next summer. We'll be looking for crew, as Camilla and Sam can't manage on their own – please let us know if you would be up for a short or long trip.

In August, both boys cared for Sam while Camilla spent her first night away from home without him – two wonderful days of walking on the Norfolk Coast Path and a luxury night away in (wait for it) the Wells-next-the-Sea Youth Hostel.

Twenty-five years ago....
And in October we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary with a lovely party for family and friends in Hoxne. We converted the space under the tree house into a rather splendid marquee, thanks to an old sail and some creative work by Guy, but in fact we were blessed with very pleasant weather during the day and we thoroughly enjoyed the celebration.

Sam is now spending one day a week at Street Forge, a workshop for disabled people a few miles away where he can do woodwork or (re)develop computer skills. He was a bit resistant to start off with, as he hates being treated as “disabled”, but it's very good therapy for him and a nice break for Camilla, so we're persevering. We also try to go swimming once a week, and the Stroke Club in Eye and Stroke Association communications group continue to offer much-valued support.

Somehow in the course of the year Camilla was recruited to the committee of Icanho Friends and a little further down the line became chairman. Icanho is the rehab centre which has done a huge amount to help Sam's mobility, confidence and understanding; it also provided counselling for Camilla which really helped her to find her balance again, so we are keen to do what we can to support it. In December we put on a concert with Rough at the Edges, the singing group Camilla has belonged to for more than 20 years, at the rather wonderful John Peel Centre in Stowmarket. Despite lots of publicity, and Camilla even being a “sofa guest” on BBC Radio Suffolk, the audience wasn't quite as big as we hoped, but it was a lovely evening and we raised almost £500 for Icanho.
Part of Rough at the Edges at the concert in December
Camilla is managing some freelance work, updating websites for Suffolk Yacht Harbour and for Redeye, the photography network run by Camilla's brother Paul. She has pitched for some bigger projects which didn't happen, but is hoping for more work next year.

Guy is still living at home and has taken up photography very seriously, doing some wonderful portraits for Rough at the Edges, among many other great shots. He's selling images online, covering events for friends and other contacts, and is way ahead of Camilla on his knowledge of pixels and Photoshop. Ben is enjoying his second year studying civil engineering at Nottingham University, living in a house with two like-minded friends and enjoying Japanese even more than engineering.

Thanks to all of you who have continued to be so supportive throughout 2013 – it really is hugely appreciated. Merry Christmas and here's to 2014 being even better.

Much love

Camilla, Sam, Guy & Ben

Fruits of our labours - it's nice to have time for some home preserving

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A bumpy ride home

Kalessin reached Suffolk Yacht Harbour on the afternoon of Sunday 8 September, 28 months after leaving for the Baltic. Guy, Dan, Richard and Cathy brought her home incredibly quickly - 455 nautical miles in a week, including the restrictions of the Kiel Canal.

The intrepid crew. From left: Dan, Richard, Cathy, Guy
The crew set off from the UK on the afternoon of Saturday 31 August, on the DFDS ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg. Guy and Daniel were clutching a roasted chicken and pot of potato salad, as I had declined to pay for them to have dinner on board. Just as well, as Richard and Cathy reported that their (very nice) seafood buffet cost £100 for two.

Travelling via ferry, a walk to the station in Esbjerg, two trains and a taxi to Augustenborg, they reached Kalessin on the Sunday afternoon. Also in their hand luggage was a spare stanchion and stanchion base - one of the existing bases had been walloped and shattered by a passing German yacht in the last week of August.

Fortunately Anders had notified me in time to buy replacements from Trafalgar Yacht Services who specialise in Westerly spares - they were incredibly helpful, and got me the parts by the next day. Anders agreed to pay for the stanchion, in fact it almost exactly cancelled out the cost of a tank of diesel, and one of his lads fitted it very early on Monday. Richard had a hard look at the glassfibre but there was no sign of any serious damage, thanks once again to Westerly build quality.

On Monday the weather was pretty awful, with westerly winds gusting up to force 7 - a real shame as this was the only day the crew spent entirely in the Baltic. They made it as far as Maasholm, about 30M from Augustenborg, following our GPS track into yet another berth on the back wall. Tuesday saw lighter winds and entry into the Kiel canal, with an overnight at Rendsburg - a trip down memory lane for Guy, as he spent several German exchange trips there in his schooldays. The crew had provisioned the boat in Augustenborg but were able to top up supplies considerably more cheaply in Rendsburg. They also had to buy a new engine battery - the Optima, which did so well during the summer cruise, finally died and refused to be resuscitated. Rather than tour the industrial estates of Schleswig Holstein looking for a replacement Optima, Guy & Dan decided to buy a straightforward car battery which fitted the hole.

On Wednesday they managed the rest of the canal and a very late trip down the Elbe to Cuxhaven on the tide. They didn't get much chance to see Cuxhaven, however, as they had to get the tide at 3am on Thursday. They were incredibly lucky with wind - a light easterly was perfect for the notoriously difficult passage down the Elbe, where wind-over-tide is totally verboten and it's very common to wait a week or more for good conditions. The original plan was to head for Vlieland in the Dutch Frisian islands but at some point in the night the decision was taken to press on for Den Helder, a perfect jumping-off point for a North Sea Crossing, and they moored in Den Helder on Friday morning after 170 miles of motoring in calm conditions down the outside of all the Frisian islands.

Sadly the North Sea crossing was not quite so benign: the wind went south-westerly again, 4-5 gusting 6, with very nasty bumps out in the middle of the sea. Wind and tide meant they made a landfall somewhere off Lowestoft, after a crossing where all of them really weren't very happy, and Richard and Cathy must have really missed the relative stability of their 40-footer. Still, for the last 40 miles or so down the coast they carried the tide and were in the lee of Suffolk, so conditions were much more pleasant, and good humour was definitely evident when Sam and I met them at SYH. They also managed to beat the very strong northerlies which materialised, as promised, early last week.

Kalessin looked after everyone during the rough conditions, but suffered a bit from being thrown around in the North Sea. Lots of things got wet, everything got filthy, numerous items fell out of lockers and got shoved back in random places, a mug got broken :( and an inline fuse on the engine failed. Also an astonishing amount of rust was washed out from under every metal fitting, leaving ugly streaks on the topsides, and the wooden rubbing strakes split on both sides, springing the bronze protective strips. Of course we still have to sort out the gas pipework and a few other things we already know about. All in all, quite a bit of minor repair work and maintenance is needed.

Sam, Guy and I spent a few hours on board on Wednesday and brought a lot of bits and pieces home for washing and sorting. We hoped to go down again over the weekend, but on Friday were were getting Ben ready for his trip back to university on Saturday, on Saturday I was driving him to Nottingham, and the weather today is quite disgusting. Hopefully we'll manage a few hours tomorrow as I really want to get a dehumidifier on board.

We are now in the position of needing to balance the amount of time we spend on board with all the other things going on in our lives... and I also need to work out how to get Sam on and off the boat without help. A little bit of Indian summer would be nice for this. Whatever happens we will try to spend a day a week on board - even if we don't sail, the change of scene will be very good for both Sam and me.

Certainly next year we'll be looking for crew for day sails and maybe the odd overnight, as I don't think we will be able to sail with just Sam and me on board. Please do get in touch if you'd like to come along, and we'll start a calendar for next season!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kalessin is coming home

Our last North Sea crossing in 2011...
Next weekend Guy will be travelling to Denmark to sail Kalessin home to the UK, together with our good friends and experienced sailors Cathy and Richard, and Guy's friend Dan, who like Guy is a Yachtmaster++ and Sailing Holidays veteran. Cathy and Richard have to be home by September 14, so we're hoping that the winds will be favourable (that is, not SW6 or more - somewhere from the east about force 4-5 is probably about right, although not very likely). Guy volunteered to lead the crew long ago, Dan was really keen to go, Richard was happy to join the crew and Cathy had nothing much happening for a couple of weeks so said she would be happy to join in.

They will be travelling by ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg, then by train to Sønderborg. Booking the DFDS ferry was even more excruciating than last time (when I ended up booking Stena), partly because I really couldn't expect all the crew to share a four-person cabin, and each two-person cabin cost £320. DFDS operates a policy of the-later-you-book-the-more-it-costs, and I only booked a couple of weeks before departure. Two cabins plus four single fares, and no car, cost me over £800 - as much as it would have done to take a car and four people there and back in June/July when I first started looking. Still, the alternative was Ryanair to Billund, and since the crew will all have substantial bags that would have been quite expensive too (at least £400 altogether), very inconvenient (an 8am flight from Stansted, and a long bus transfer and then two trains in Denmark), and it would have meant giving the money to Michael O'Leary, which I prefer not to do if possible.

Anyway I've spent the last few days finalising delivery notes, which I began while we were on board. OK, they are a bit of an epic, but hopefully will be useful. Ben and I put together an inventory of everything on board, by location, and it occurred to me that it would be quite easy to turn the list into a table and then sort it so we have a spreadsheet listing every item on board and where it is. (Not every single item, obviously - there are a number of entries for things like "useful bits" and "Ben's stuff"). Even if none of the delivery crew ever refer to it, it has been very useful for me to recall, or learn, where everything is, and if or when we need to sell the boat it will be very handy.

There's a delivery pack coming together, including an update card for the GPS chart, various boat papers, a handheld GPS, the atlas for the Dutch standing mast route (although if they go that way it will add about a week to the passage time) and a few things we accidentally brought home which need to go back.

Guy is currently away, ironically doing a delivery trip to Germany, although this particular trip is delivering children by Ryanair, and he's at the wrong end of Germany, 800km from Augustenborg - which I think is further away from Augustenborg than we are in Suffolk. He'll have about two days to sort out everything, wash clothes and repack before heading off again.

We've spoken to Jonathan Dyke at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, who has very kindly said he will find us a temporary berth this autumn and a permanent, reasonably accessible one next year. I think Sam had signed us up for the waiting list in 2012, which probably helped.

What else have I forgotten? Aaargh....

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home from the sea

Well here we are back in the UK. Actually we got home about 8am yesterday, but what with one thing and another I didn't get around to posting until now.

From Maasholm we motored up to Sønderborg on Sunday in almost no wind - leaving fairly early so we didn't get too hot, and arriving at lunchtime. I was quite keen to carry on a bit and anchor in the Augustenborg Fjord, but Ben felt that Sam needed to get off the boat and get some exercise, so we went for an alongside mooring on the town quay. We nipped very neatly (though I says it as shouldn't) into the only available space which was exactly the right size for us. The afternoon was the hottest so far, so poor Sam was melting on board while I was able to go for a swim from the beach, but in the evening we all went out for a very good steak (at whopping Danish prices, but it was our last celebratory meal) and a stroll along the promenade.

Monday was another hot and almost windless day. With only 10 miles from Sønderborg to Augustenborg we took it pretty gently, and spent a while drifting down the fjord towards Augustenborg with the genoa out, sailing at roughly 0.65 knots while Ben and I took turns to swim behind to see if we could get the speed up.

We spent Tuesday sorting, tidying and packing. With only three of us travelling home, and some equipment left on the boat, we had a surprising amount of space in the car and were able to bring home the inflatable kayak, which should provide a bit more room for anyone using the aft cabin on the delivery trip home. It was galling that there was a really nice sailing breeze for most of the day, but at least it did make all the work a bit more bearable.

By 10am on Wednesday we were all ready to go. I must say I did shed a few tears as I walked down the jetty for the last time. It has been such a wonderful month, really it couldn't have gone better. If only we could have Ben with us all the time, Guy on call, perfect weather, a few more British sailors and suppliers around, and a really cheap ferry to Denmark, we could leave Kalessin there. But the reality is that none of that is very likely and the UK is probably a better place for her to be.

The drive to the Hoek van Holland was long (730km/450 miles) and relatively uneventful. We took it gently, stopping three times, so boat-to-boat time was about nine hours. We had time for chips and kibbeling from the fish shop by the station before boarding the Stena ferry. I have written to Stena to tell them what I think of the ridiculous automatically opening bathroom door in the disabled cabin - probably designed to reduce the number of disabled people in the world by knocking them over or trapping them in their wheelchairs. otherwise all went well and we got home yesterday morning.

So here we are with a distinct sense of anti-climax but quite a lot of pride in what we have achieved. I haven't done full statistics but we covered 156 miles altogether, maybe around half under sail. We visited eight harbours in two countries, several of them more than once. We lived on the boat for 28 days and got Sam on and off around 15 times. It's undoubtedly the gentlest sailing we've ever done but many, perhaps most people wouldn't have tried it at all.

The next challenge is to get the boat home. Guy can get a crew together but some may not be available until really too late in the season, so we are looking for volunteers. If you fancy a sail home from Denmark, please do get in touch. I'll continue to update the blog with progress.

More pictures

One of many memorial stones at Dybbøl

Dybbøl Mill is the site of the Danes' valiant last stand against the Prussians in 1864. In the end they got to keep Sønderborg but lost Flensburg and the rest of Schleswig

Marina Minde is in a wonderful location at a bend on the Flensburg Fjord

One of the lovely things about being on a boat is that the view keeps changing. This is Flensburg by night

Cheeky chappucino

I don't know why the Flensburgers decorate their streets with old shoes

Bridge at Lindaunis on the Schlei. The single carriageway over the bridge is used by both trains and cars (presumably the tracks are like tram tracks so you can drive over them), has alternating one-way control with traffic lights at each end, and lifts once an hour to let boats underneath. An interesting logistical challenge

Beach at Sønderborg

We had steaks here (Sonderbørg again). Expensive but good

View from the Hoek van Holland - barges crossing into Europoort

View from the Hoek van Holland - by moonlight

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On our way Maasholm

We are booked on a ferry home from the Hoek v Holland on Wednesday. So it's time to head back to Augustenborg, tidy up and pack. We definitely plan to bring Kalessin home, so she will only be in Denmark while we get a delivery crew together to take her back to the UK. 

Friday dawned quite calm, and I thought perhaps we should abandon our noisy berth in Schleswig and head seawards. If we had a crew of three or four capable people, we might have had a great sail - the wind finally arrived about 9am. The problem was that it was very gusty, going from 6 or 8 knots right up to 16 or 18 with little warning. It's really not ideal for us, so we decided to stay put, and since I'm the only crew member who actually cared about seeing the middle of Schleswig, I took the bike into the city. 

Schleswig is quite small, so it's an odd assemblage of huge Dom (cathedral), historic Altstadt, modern shopping centre and medieval fishing village (Holm), rather loosely held together by a mixture of new and beautifully restored houses. I climbed the Dom tower and got a great view of the Schlei, where almost no boats were moving, so we probably made the right decision. I also took a look at the Stadt hafen, which is very nice, being modernised further, away from the road, and when I popped by at noon on a Friday had plenty of spaces. However, it is 2km from the Schloss Gottorf, whereas the Wiking hafen is less than 10 mins walk, so I think for us we probably made the right decision. The cycle ride into town was very easy but it would have been a struggle to push the wheelchair. 

Anyway today has been a complete contrast - we woke at 7am to no wind at all and a stunningly beautiful morning. I managed to dig Ben out of bed and we motored off down the Schlei about 0830. The river and its lakes looked wondeful, and for the first couple of hours we had it almost all to ourselves. We timed it just right for the Lindenau bridge at 1045, but the Kappeln bridge also opens at quarter to the hour, and is 6.5 miles further on - so most yachts can't do it in one hour and instead dawdle and take two. We even sailed for a little while but the wind was so light and flukey we eventually lost steerage way - not ideal when it was rapidly becoming a very busy Saturday on the river. So it was back to motoring the rest of the way. 

And here we are in Maasholm again, on possibly the most beautiful evening of the year - now properly dark at 2330, but still very warm, with a wonderful full moon. The river is full of anchored yachts, which I don't think we've seen here before, and there seems to be someone on board almost every yacht in the marina. We are once more on the outer wall, and this afternoon with our canopy providing cool shade, a gentle breeze and a wonderful view of the Schlei, I felt we were probably in one of the best spots in northern Europe. 

Miles today: 22.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Schloss Gottorf pictures

Schloss Gottorf


Well, as promised we devoted yesterday to culture - we arrived at Schloss Gottorf around 1030 and didn't leave until after 1600. It's hard to say why it was so good - I think it's a mixture of wonderful building and location, beautifully laid out, several very different collections, and mostly wheelchair accessible. 

The first part of the display was up four steps, which fortunately Sam managed very easily. There are sumptuous medieval carvings and early paintings including a fine selection of Cranachs - I was introduced to Cranach the Elder as a small child by a poster of Eve inside my parents' broom-cupboard door, and I've had a soft spot for him ever since. 

The incredibly helpful attendant was very apologetic that Sam couldn't go further, and arranged for us to see a slide show of the rest of the collection. Ben and I popped upstairs to get a quick look for ourselves - my father would have loved it, full of Delft ware and with wonderful views out over the Schloss park.  

We had a very good lunch in the Schlosskeller (down one step) and then on to modern art in the afternoon - a delightful exhibition of paintings by contemporary north German artists, some of which I would happily have taken home, and a rather dreary permanent collection of 20th century work. There's sculpture in the park, and a Baroque garden up the hill behind - a bit disappointing following the recent heat and drought, although we found a lovely cool bower to rest for a while before the 10-minute walk back to the boat. 

We may have another night here. As I write it's 0730 and a force 6 promised for 3am sounds as though it has finally arrived. I'd really like to see the middle of Schleswig, so maybe this is my chance. 

This is a very odd marina. It seems to have been very solidly built many years ago but never really updated. Many of the stern posts are 3m apart which makes the berths too narrow for anything over 30ft or so - Kalessin is 3.5m wide. Some berths may also be very shallow, it's hard to tell. Possibly because of this, many of the berths are empty - I'd estimate only about a third are occupied. There's a boatyard here, a sailing club, a sailing school, a chandlery, a closed Chinese restaurant - everything you might expect except for yachts, and actually we haven't found the showers yet either. If it wasn't for the traffic noise it would be very quiet. Still, it's the cheapest place we've stayed in a while - €12 a night. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The good, the bad....

In an earlier blog post I noted all the stuff we packed into the car, and I thought it would be interesting to comment on how useful it has been. 

  • 4 snap shackles for releasing the guard rails quickly - perfect, the right size and easy to use
  • extra spare impeller for the engine water pump - we already had three on board! But we have used one
  • Lavac Zenith toilet service kit - in reserve in case of emergencies, some spares already on boat
  • extra Garmin electronic chart covering Denmark & N Germany - crucial as the other one was on board but had totally corrupted
  • up-to-date pilot book for Denmark and Germany - useful but Brian Navin's style annoys me. He never tells you why you might want to go to a place
  • up-to-date copy of the Nigel Calder Boatowner's manual - useful but limited, and the index is pants
  • climbing harness for Sam - used every time he gets on and off
  • lightweight wheelchair with large, removable wheels - possibly our best buy, we could never have managed with the old one
  • two cans of Cruiser Uno (one-coat) antifouling - one can used
  • a new foldable Compass bicycle - left behind in the UK, no room in car
  • an extending boarding ladder - can't find a useful way to deploy it
  • a long line on a reel for Swedish rocks - left in car, no use in Denmark or Germany
  • two new high-class mooring warps - used every day, but the plait snags very easily and I don't know how long they will last
  • assorted engine spares, electrical spares and other bits and pieces - good selection, filters changed 
  • polish, cleaners, cloths - not needed as Anders had done such a good job with the polishing
  • Remoska cooker - astonishingly useful, draws only about 450 watts, works likes a mini-oven and saves lots of gas
  • and much more - ratchet spanners especially valued; thermal vests unused so far; stick-on grab rail totally useless

Up the Schlei

From Maasholm we made a massive journey of 2.8 miles upriver to Kappeln, another place we last visited two years ago. This time the price has gone up, from €15 to €17. The town moorings are in a good spot, opposite an almost traffic-free quay leading up to the town, with a wonderful view across the river to the rural south bank. The only problem is that the moorings are between the fish quay and the ferry quay, and close to the opening bridge, so there's a certain amount of wash from passing boat traffic. 

We took Sam ashore for a lunchtime pizza. We wanted to take him to the magnificent facilities, which include a disabled loo and accessible shower, but unfortunately they are down 11 steps with no handrail - am interesting bit of German inefficiency. Other than that Kappeln is obviously efficient at attracting tourists, with the picturesque  town centre filled with gift shops and cheap clothes - ideal for passing Danes. 

This morning we arose relatively early to get the 0845 bridge opening, and headed upriver on a really glorious morning. The Schlei is a river not a fjord - on average about 9-10m shallower than the Flensburg fjord - with a mix of narrow sections and wider lakes. It's very reminiscent of the Netherlands south of Amsterdam, where we stopped in the Brassermeeer four years ago, and also very pretty. 

We are now in Schleswig at the head of navigation. I agonised over the best stopping place - the Stadt hafen is very full, the next one round, the Schleswig hafen slightly too shallow for us, and the easy (biggest) option, the Wiking hafen, too far out of town but very convenient for the museum in the Scloss Gottorf, which the Rough Guide describes as well worth a full- day visit.

We're in the Wiking hafen which is in a lovely spot, somewhat blighted by an enormously high apartment block which I knew about, and more blighted by traffic noise from the main road which I didn't know about.  When we arrived we were all hot and cross, and I was feeling rather ill, and it felt like a total disaster. I had a rest, then a walk to find the Schloss and a supermarket, an then came back for a swim in the water which is almost fresh, peaty brown, and 24°C. I felt a lot better about everything. 

We gave Sam a solar shower to make up for the disappointment of Kappeln, so he feels better too. And we plan to devote tomorrow to Culchure. Better get an early night! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Into the Schlei

Saturday dawned rather grey and cool, with poor visibility and a force 3 from the north-west. Conditions were perfect for a run down to the Schlei but the greyness induced a small attack of nerves on my part, with Sam saying "come on, come on, let's go". We left exactly as planned at 9am with me cruelly not allowing Sam into the cockpit until we were out in the Sønderborg bay and I was sure it was safe, and then insisting that he wore a lifejacket, which he was less than impressed by. I wore one too, just to be equally safe. If I drown we are in big trouble (well, Ben is).

Anyway the day gradually brightened and warmed up, and with the wind almost dead aft we sailed with just the genoa up most of the way - not very fast (around 4.5 knots or so), but very controllable and safe. We eventually came out into the sea proper, but although we had the full fetch of the Flensburg fjord behind us, we were in the lee of most of Denmark, so the waves reached a whopping 50cm or so. We got the main up for the last hour or so before turning into the Schlei and Maasholm marina.

This is the one place we've visited so far (apart from Augustenborg itself) where we have been before - we were here almost exactly two years ago, on 9 July 2011, and also on a Saturday. I note that last time I wrote in the blog: "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)." Nothing has changed, including the price, except that it was me doing the paying. We had several goes at getting into a berth: I got blown off the first one, the second one - which we moored in briefly - had no marker either red or green which made us uneasy, the one next to it was due to be occupied from lunchtime today (Sunday) and eventually we ended up in a berth which should be clear until Wednesday.

I'd forgotten how huge this marina is, although I knew it was a long walk from these berths to the harbourmaster's office. However, it's quite good to be out on the edge of the marina, as Maasholm has a harbour weekend with some event involving a shouty German, massively amplified, as we came in (about 2pm), a disco last night, and something else today. Our berth is a nice safe one given the force 6 howling overhead, with no slappy water on the stern which pleases Ben. Last night I felt I should get an additional line onto the upwind stern post, tied a bowline in the end of the mooring line, and got it over the post first time. This makes me feel not entirely incompetent. Fortunately I didn't understand the comments from the crew of the German yacht who watched us drift off the first berth, otherwise I might lose confidence entirely.

I'd also forgotten how very German things are here. The Danes are used to lots of German sailors and indeed other visitors, and therefore many signs are in at least two languages and (with luck) English as well. Flensburg being right on the border is also fairly flexible. But here we are down into oompah-oompah country (sorry to invoke crude stereotypes, but the Germans really do listen to this stuff) and it's Deutsch or possibly the local dialect, Schleswiger Plattdeutsch (hello is "moin-moin"), or nothing.

Tomorrow also looks a bit windy, though not as bad as today - fine for sailing, but getting in and out of berths short-handed when it's gusting force 5 can be a bit tricky. We might spend the next few days exploring the Schlei rather than heading over to the Danish islands. Watch this space.

Distance covered yesterday: 20.1 miles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sønderborg again

We spent three days in Flensburg in the end, as Wednesday was a bit gusty. I took the opportunity to go and get a Campingaz cyclinder from Flensburger Yacht Servie, the same chandlery we visited last time we came to Flensburg. It felt more interesting travelling by yacht and bicycle. We were right at the head of the fjord in Flensburg, only three berths down from the very end one, which meant we were relatively close to the main road on the west bank. It wasn't incredibly noisy but there was always background noise, and of course emergency vehicles with two-tone sirens, which are probably meant to be audible if you are inside a well-insulated Mercedes, and are ear-shatteringly loud if you are foolish enough to be a pedestrian or on a boat.

Yesterday we sailed all the way back along the fjord, just over 20 miles back to Sønderborg again, although this time to the marina rather than the town quay. There's a lot less traffic noise than the quay, but loads and loads of families. Unusually this marina has a couple of guest pontoons rather than just getting people to find a green-marked space, which means there are lots of families and children running up and down because all visitors are concentrated in one area. As I type there's a firework display going off which is VERY LOUD. It has to be this late (11.30pm) because it really doesn't gte dark enough for fireworks until after 11pm.

Our sail yesterday was excellent, with beautiful sunshine and little fluffy white clouds, although the wind varied quite a lot in strength and occasionally in direction, and the fjord wiggles about a bit so as the pilot book says, "most points of sail may be experienced". I'm trying to persuade Ben to spend more time helming, which is difficult, as he still tends to revert to dark-dwelling teenager given half a chance. At one point I got him to take the tiller so I could have a break, and then realised I hadn't actually had a break, I just made lunch. So I got him to take it again while I sat below and read for 10 minutes. I am quite impressed at how well Ben and I can handle this boat, admittedly in very easy conditions, but still we are actually going from place to place, sailing with both sails up and no engine some of the time, and mooring successfully.

We've been dithering a bit about where to go next. I want to go to Ærøskøbing, which is said to be very pretty, and which we missed out on last time we were here. It's on an island to the east of here and is a longish passage (around 31 miles), mainly because it's 20 miles just to get to the open sea. Not so long ago we'd have laughed at 30 miles, but although Sam is coping better with sailing he still finds it hard work. I also want to be able to sail (without engine) as much as possible and arrive early enough to get a good berth - before 3pm, or even earlier if possible. It struck me that Saturday in the high season probably wasn't an ideal time to head to a pretty island port and expect to find a space easily. So tomorrow we will nip down south to the Schlei, to Maasholm or Kappeln, stay a couple of nights in the Schlei as Sunday is forecast to be a bit windy, and try for Ærøskøbing on Monday instead.

In the meantime I made the most of being here by cycling on the bridge across the Alssund and up to Dybbøl bank this afternoon. It was the scene of the last stand of the Danes against the Prussians in April 1864. The Prussians won, apparently because they had fluted cannon, and the Danes lost Schleswig Holstein. By Danish standards Dybbøl is a high point, and there were wonderful views across poppy-laden fields to the Flensburg fjord, Germany to the south, Sønderborg below and dimly in the distance the islands of the Lille Baelt. I cycled (very slowly, as our folding bike has no gears) up the old quiet coast road, and it is scattered with rough stones engraved with messages commemorating the soldiers who fell at each spot. Very atmospheric and very beautiful.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Still in Flensburg

Having gone to the trouble of getting here we thought we should give ourselves time to enjoy Flensburg, which is a sizeable, attractive city at the head of its fjord. 

Yesterday only I really went any distance ashore, exploring the shopping area and supermarket. In the evening Ben and I went in search of takeaway food, and rather creatively I think managed to get an interesting fish dinner served in polystyrene boxes from Jessen's Fischperle, a restaurant about quarter of a mile down the quay. It was the most expensive takeaway we've ever had (€45), although if it had been a meal out for three it would have been quite reasonable. We spoke to (we think) Herr Jessen himself, and he gave Ben and me a free Coke each while we were waiting. It was a lot easier than getting Sam off the boat, and we had pretty much the same view as the restaurant has, from our own cockpit! 

The challenges of disembarkation were made clear today when we got Sam over the bow. The method we've been using has Sam suspended from the spinnaker halyard, which runs from the top of the mast, and an extra line attached to the halyard above his head to pull him away from the boat. However this depends on having a cleat opposite the bow of the boat and far enough away to take the strain off Ben, who pulls Sam to the shore while I control the winch. On this mooring the only cleats are on our side of the quay, and either side of the boat, so the mechanics were all wrong. Fortunately the passers-by were intelligent and helpful this time and we got him on and off ok. Once again the weather is gorgeous and we were all very hot by the time Sam was safely ashore. 

We spent the morning exploring the historic quay, which has a good collection of boats and a restoration workshop, with a handy cafe so you can drink a cappucino while watching someone shape ribs, caulk seams or, more prosaically, build a pram dinghy out of marine ply.  

After a further visit to the shopping area and the old part of town, we were all shattered when we got back to the boat. The forecast is for gusty winds overnight, so we spent a bit of time dropping Kalessin back from the quay and crossing our stern warps (mechanics again - it makes the box mooring more stable in wind). As I write we should be getting gusts up to 17 knots, according to WindGuru, and there is actually no wind at all. Still, we are pretty sheltered here, and who knows what the night might bring?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Flensburg - by sea

We left Marina Minde just after 1000 and had a wonderful sail for a couple of hours, close-hauled in a NW3, up the sparkling Flensburg Fjord on a fabulous morning. In a moment of indulgence I even put my favourite sailing music, from Pirates of the Caribbean, on the cockpit speakers.

When we got to the harbour at the head of the fjord, which is always very full, we saw a yacht coming out of a green- marked berth and managed to get into it, although it took several goes to lasso the starboard (fortunately downwind) sternpost, and the berth is very shallow so if the water level drops we may have problems leaving again. But still, it's a superb location with a wonderful view of the old city astern, and a quay backed by restaurants and a park on the bow.

Alas, despite all this, we were not all happy bunnies. Just after I finally captured the sternpost, I was trying to control the two stern lines, tiller, throttle and boat hook, and all of that plus the mainsheet and genoa furling line were tangled at Sam's feet. Somehow as we moved forward and the stern lines paid out, Sam got hit quite hard by the boat hook, and thought I'd hit him on purpose. He was very, very angry, I was very, very upset, and the wonderful achievements of the morning were overshadowed for a while by temper and tears.

I did threaten to go home, and I think Sam would have done too if he could. Still, on reflection, the point of doing this is just to be here and give it a try, whatever our states of mind. We've always had sailing rows and perhaps they have always been just as unjustified as this one. Hopefully however grumpy we are, it's still better than being at home and wishing we were sailing.

It's also definitely more rewarding to arrive by sea than by VW Passat - we were here six days ago to drop Guy off at the station.

Anyway, must sally forth and explore, and find some food. Must also dig out euros as we are back in Germany.

Miles today: 9.5, of which about 8 were under sail.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Minde over matter

We're still in Marina Minde, where Baltic summer has definitely arrived - not quite into the high 20s but up to 23 or so this afternoon - and today has seen almost no wind until the evening.

I was quite worried about Sam yesterday. He seemed very out of things - having difficulty understanding simple commands or following conversations, unable to say anything clearly, not able to help much around the boat, and finding even simple routine things quite a struggle. It's difficult to tell what causes this. On the one hand there's a nautical sensory overload, with lots and lots for him to take in, remember, re-process and generally deal with, all of which is exhausting. On the other hand when Sam is on board the boat, although he has some interesting challenges getting about, his freedom is quite constrained and he can't walk more than two or three steps. So he has a mixture of tiredness and inability to exercise.

Anyway given that it was a busy Sunday and if we'd gone out into the fjord we'd have been motoring in the absence of any wind, and also to give Sam a bit more of a rest, we decided to stay a third night. We got out the folding bike and I found a drive-in (cycle in?) bakery, where I was able to stock up on artisan bread and organic milk at vast expense...not helped by the fact that I thought I was buying two buns when I was actually buying a huge Danish-pastry-loaf.  Ben and I had already had a swim from the little beach.

This evening we gave Sam a solar shower*, which he really enjoyed, and then made the effort to get him off the boat, which is a bit of a spectator sport with people rushing to help. Ben hates that, as they tend to state the obvious (someone told us a couple of days ago "He isn't using one of his hands"!!) and then pull the wrong rope. But they all mean well and sometimes an extra pair of hands is useful. Anyway we took the Cobb up to the very pretty barbecue area and enjoyed the late sun - it sets about 10pm at the moment and you do get used to having long, long evenings. It was hard work but good for all of us - Sam walked up and down the pontoon, Ben rushed around organising things, and I focused on sorting out food and the barbecue instead of all the other things I worry about.

It's now Sunday evening and suddenly much quieter. There are still some holiday-makers around but most of the families have trotted off home. Both Danish and northern German schools are on holiday, but presumably mummies and daddies have to go to work tomorrow.

* A solar shower is a large sealed plastic bag with a tap, black on one side and clear on the other. You fill it full of water and leave it in the sun for a few hours, black side up, then hang it from the boom, and you get a free hot shower. The alternative here is to pay 4DKK (about 46p) a minute for a proper shower in the shower block, which Ben reports is almost as feeble as the solar shower. The logic of this escapes me, as showers on Sonderbørg town quay, where the mooring rate per night was less anyway, were better, hotter, and free.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A few pictures - Flensburg fjord

I love little Baltic jetties

The perfect garden ornament - a lighthouse

Looking up into the Eggern Sund

View down the lane to Marina Minde... spookily similar to the view down the lane to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, where Kalessin normally lives in the UK

Friday, July 05, 2013

Keeping it flat

We're now in Marina Minde, halfway up the Flensburg Fjord, and for the first time for a week we have decent internet access, so I can type properly on my laptop instead of picking out words on my phone.

It's a perfect sailing day - blue sky, sun, little fluffy white clouds, and just a tad too much wind - currently (at 4pm) a fairly steady 15-18 knots from the north-west. We left Sønderborg just before 11am with around 6-8 knots of wind. Our route has taken us in a big loop to the south of Sønderborg and initially we were ghosting along with just the jib at around 4 knots, which was very delightful, and Sam was able to helm for a bit.

Once we turned up into the Flensburg Fjord, however, our planned route took us straight into the wind which was initially too light to tack into, and then it started to strengthen. With a full crew we could have had a nice beat, heeling well over and splashing through the waves (about 30cm high to be honest). But I don't know at this stage how much heeling Sam can cope with before he slides gracefully out of the cockpit and into the sea. Also I wanted to ensure that we kept our journey time fairly short. So we motorsailed for about 40 minutes. I don't know why this makes me feel guilty, it was clearly the right thing to do under the circumstances. I suppose I would rather have been sailing. Anyway as our course continued to loop round to the north-east we were able to sail the last mile up to the marina, by which time (about 2pm) I was realising that the marina wasn't going to be quite as sheltered as I hoped.

The berth we found had the wind dead aft, which is not ideal. In fact in a box mooring it's much less of a problem than with finger pontoons, as once you have lassoed the posts you can control your speed, although not necessarily your direction. Actually we came in with not much difficulty, but a lot of shouting and rather a lot of going sideways, as there was no-one in the berths on either side. I think Ben has now forgiven me.

The marina is nice, family-friendly with a little beach on either side, combined with holiday cottages as is common around here, and with pleasant picnic and barbecue areas. We will snooze, go for a walk (well I will), do some washing, chat on Facebook etc., and maybe sail down to Flensburg itself on Sunday.

Thursday, July 04, 2013


Today we sailed all the way to Sønderborg - about 5 miles by road from Augustenborg, or 10.6 nautical miles by sea. Although we have been around the edge of the town numerous times, this is the first time we've been into the middle, and jolly nice it is too - a mixture of pretty older buildings and modern local facilities. We're on the town quay which is busy, with some traffic noise, but there's lots to watch, and because we got here early enough to get an alongside berth, getting Sam on and off is a doddle.

The quay at Sønderburg. Kalessin is behind the boat with the blue hull.

We sailed here very gently in light westerlies - the whole passage is extremely sheltered which couldn't have been better. Nevertheless Sam was very tired, which he won't admit to of course. We went out for a meal at a nice restaurant on the quayside, then a stroll along to the Slot (=schloss) where there was a gathering of classic cars, and the sun came out for the last hour of the evening. Despite all this, he was very tetchy and we made him walk the last 50m or so back to the boat, which helped - he does need to walk as much as he can.

Tonight he and I are sharing the forepeak bunk, which is more comfortable for Sam than the very narrow bunk he's been in up to now, but has the disadvantage that I have to get up whenever he needs a wee.

I'm finding the responsibility of managing everything a bit stressful, but the meal out and an hour of sunshine helped. Tomorrow we plan to go to a big marina in the Flensburg fjord and maybe stay a couple of nights. Sailing every day will definitely be too much of a strain for Sam. And me too, probably.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We are sailing

A bit of a red-letter day today, or at least pink - we went sailing on our own boat, for the first time since August 2011.

The forecast was unpromising - force 5 easterlies in the morning and rain in the afternoon. In fact we had light drizzle in the morning with E3-4, then the rain died away and it got gradually warmer, and finally the wind went west.

Anyway at about 1145 we slipped our warps and motored gently out into the sound with the wind behind us. The channel is quite narrow but within 15 minutes we were sailing with just the jib. As we got into the open sound Sam helmed for a while, then the wind got a bit stronger so we turned into it, got the main up and tacked back towards Augustenborg. We were only out for about an hour and a half and the main problem was that both Ben and Sam wanted to stay out longer and go faster! I just wanted a sea trial though, and was wary that it's very difficult to judge wind strength when it's dead aft, which is why we headed back. I also didn't want to exhaust Sam, but he proved remarkably un-exhausted ;-)

We had no problems at all and even getting back into the berth was ok. This afternoon we stocked up with heavy stuff from the supermarket and tomorrow we plan to head off to Sønderborg, only 10M away by sea. If all goes well we'll spend some time in the sheltered Flensburg fjord and then possibly go east to explore the Danish island of Aerø and its neighbours. Watch this space.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Guy has gone

Monday was a quiet, rather dreary day when nothing much happened until late afternoon when we had our first go at getting Sam off the boat over the bow. We used the method suggested by Rob from the Storm we visited in Chichester, using the main halyard to get him to the mast and the spinnaker halyard with horizontal line attached to get him forward, and it worked ok with just Ben and me doing the work and Guy supervising, although I think we both need bigger muscles. Getting him on is easier as he naturally swings towards the mast.

Guy wasn't taking part because sadly he has headed off home today, spending a night in Amsterdam en route. We'll really miss his strength, knowledge and confidence. We took him to Flensburg, just over the border into Germany, as it has better train connections, and then carried on to find a chandlery, a specialist gas fittings shop, and an absolutely vast out-of-town hypermarket and Getränkemarkt so we could stock up on booze at German prices. The gas fittings don't quite work, partly because all German gas fittings are threaded the other way (righty loosy lefty tighty), I'm sure there's some Teutonic logic in it which escapes me. The hypermarket was possibly the biggest I've seen and completely baffled me by having some drink priced in Danish kroner - I thought €71 was a bit steep for 24 cans of Carlsberg but in fact it was €9.99. We also bought yet another electric kettle (the camping kettle has no base and a short cable, so you have to unplug it to pour it).

After doing all this, and driving three times through the middle of Flensburg for reasons best known to the GPS, I was utterly shattered and very pleased to get back to the boat. It is nice to have a bit more space and to reclaim the forepeak, which was always Sam's and my cabin - although Sam is still sleeping in the main cabin at the moment.

The weather today has been the best yet - sunshine, blue skies, temperatures up to 20° and lightish westerlies. It was really lovely to eat out in the cockpit and enjoy being there. We ate late as Anders came to reconnect the radar cable - his specialist electrician can't make it. The radar now works, and he also reconnected the VHF which works much better :-) but sadly the AIS, which tracks every ship that carries a transponder, is still not working - not sure why.

The AIS is another one of a number of little niggly things which won't stop us sailing but could take ages to fix. The dinghy is still deflating despite two patches. The masthead lights don't work, although we don't plan much night sailing - for one thing there's currently only about 4.5 hours of darkness. The teak bridgedeck, which we really don't need as it's now lowered to deck level to make things easier for Sam, needs repair.

Anyway, we might try a day sail tomorrow although it might be a bit gusty. Beyond that the forecast looks perfect - very light westerlies, and warm & sunny.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Under way

We made our first voyage today - all of 100 metres from the quayside berth beside the mast crane to a proper box mooring. Not much, but it felt like a journey. We had to leave it until early evening because this morning was sunny but very erratically gusty, definitely not ideal for a first move.

I focused on sorting out and tidying the galley and the heads, which makes me feel better if no one else. Sam exercised his right hand by winding a winch and wiggling the tiller, both of which he did surprisingly well. And Guy and I found and patched one dinghy puncture, after I found the patch kit in a locker which Guy assured me he'd already searched, and even trying the little chandlery who didn't have a patch kit either. We'll try to find the hole in the other sponson tomorrow.

This afternoon the wind dropped and it started drizzling, so we got the mainsail up. Around 6pm the boys took Sam for a shower - there are no unisex disabled facilities here, so they had to take him to the men's, which gave me 30 mins on my own. And finally we started the engine and motored very slowly into our new berth. Hopefully before Guy leaves we can practice getting Sam off over the bow, and if the weather is ok at any point maybe sail for a couple of hours.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sat and sun

We all slept on the boat for the first time for about six years, sleeping quite well considering, and woke to pouring rain and no wind at all. Once we dragged ourselves out of bed Guy and I got the genoa up and furled, and Ben & I got Guy halfway up the mast so he could rig the lazyjacks (the light lines which hold the mainsail in place as it comes down). Normally this takes Sam quite a while and lots of swearing. Guy's technique is different, he does all the swearing first and then rigs the lines in about 10 minutes.

After that it stopped raining = good, and the wind got up < good, gusting up to about 20 knots even in our very sheltered mooring - the whole sound is pretty sheltered so goodness knows what it's been like in more exposed areas. Anyway, we decided to leave the mainsail until tomorrow. However as a bonus the sun came out = very good, and cheered everyone up.

Guy has been a fantastic asset on board and I would love him to stay with us for the first week of sailing, but as we feared, this may be at the risk of a mass family killing. So if we can book it he will set off homewards on Tuesday, taking a train to Amsterdam, staying overnight there, and heading down to the Hook to get the ferry the next day.

Our plan is to have a short day sail if we can on Monday, take Guy to Flensberg on Tuesday to catch a train, while we cross into Germany to stock up with booze etc, and then on Wednesday Sam, Ben and I head off.

Ben and I are still trying to replace the elderly gas hose, and headed down to the camping shop this afternoon to try and get different parts. Strangely it seems the shop is closed on Saturday but open again tomorrow, so we may try again. Or we might just give up.

This evening I ran away from everyone for a short walk around the sound to Augustenborg Slot (castle). I sat in the sun for a while, and felt better. All the worrying and planning, resolving family friction, looking after Sam and physical hard work takes its toll, but the walk helped, and I came back to cooking spaghetti bolognese with renewed vigour.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Well, I feel almost as tired as if we'd just crossed the North Sea, with less to show for it. Still, Kalessin is afloat with the mast up, the engine works, some of the lines are rigged, and the fuel filters changed (as a result of which everywhere smells slightly or strongly of diesel. Sam didn't remember where the fuel cut off was until Guy had been struggling for half an hour.It's been hard because Sam knows so much that he can't communicate, and some things he can't remember at all or it takes a long time. I think sometimes it sounds as though he's criticising when he just wants to contribute. But all of us find it rather hard to cope with.

We got Sam on board using the harness with very little problem, and as it has been raining all day (again) he was ok below.

More tomorrow - I'm just too tired to write tonight.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gas attack

Today hasn't been a very good day, not least because it has rained pretty much non-stop all day, with a high of about 14°. Exactly two years ago Sam and I were in Lauwersmeer in the north of the Netherlands, only 160 miles away from here and about 80 miles further south, and the temperature reached 31°. Ho hum. 

We've been trying to replace the flexible gas pipe, as required by the survey. I can't see how it can be so hard to find a pipe which goes from a standard Campingaz bottle and regulator to an ordinary marine gas stove, but apparently it is. The part we want isn't used in Denmark at all. I feel confident that a UK gas engineer would recognise it as obsolete and wangle together an acceptable though expensive update in half an hour, but unfortunately that's not an option at the moment. We may just have to use the existing pipe very carefully until we get home. 

Poor Sam has been very frustrated today as there has been not much he could help with, and not much more that he could talk about, and so of course he's been very bad-tempered and taking it out on me. I was millimetres away from tipping him into the sea, but managed to contain myself. 

In other news, Guy has replaced the seacock, Ben has rewired the fridge, I have cleaned and polished the mast and boom, and all the bits around the prop are checked and/or greased. Possibly tonight one or both boys has checked the Lavac for limescale, yippee. 

Tomorrow we have to rise early and check out of the hotel in time for The Launch. It will be lovely to be in the water but a bit of a shock to have everything wringing wet when it rains. Not sure yet if we can all live on board without killing each other...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Work so far

Well, the antifouling is done (mostly by me with help from Sam and Ben). Also:
• New guardrail connections with snap shackles at one end, taped split pins at the other, and new string. Dodgers removed for now. 
• Two new batteries fitted and electrics working. 
• New LED lightbulbs fitted to nav lights and below. 
 Attempt made to replace corroded handle on seacock... with the result that tomorrow will be spent fitting a new seacock. 
 Winches serviced. 
 Flexible gas pipe removed and possible replacement identified in chandlery catalogue. 
 Numerous items mislaid already. 

Tomorrow: seacock, rope washing, cutless bearing, deep sea seals, and limescale removal from loo plumbing. Connecting fridge, checking electronics, making sure all skin fittings are sealed. 

Friday, 1015: launch, followed by lots of tidying and cleaning so we can get Sam on board

Sam has really enjoyed today. He sanded down the keel and touched up the rusty and scraped bits with antifouling. It doesn't sound like much but is probably the most DIY he's done since the stroke. He has also had to think very hard about boat bits and then try to explain what he means! Tonight he was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow and is now snoring like a bear. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Finally... we're in Denmark

Having dithered for ages about our choice of ferry, we've had a few days of feeling rather smug. Sirena Seaways, the DFDS ferry which normally does the Harwich-Esbjerg run, hit Parkeston Quay rather hard last Saturday and as a result is out of action for a whole week. So the Stena ferry to the Hook of Holland is not only cheaper, more comfortable and more flexible, but also the only game in town. 

The Stena downside is that you only really get six hours of sleep, and the drive to Augustenborg is nearly seven hours. In fact it took us nine because I felt it was necessary to make several stops, although there were no other problems at all, and we rolled into Augustenborg Yachthavn just after 5pm local time. 

Initially we couldn't see Kalessin because she wasn't outside and wasn't in either of the cold sheds. In fact it transpired that Anders, bless him, had transferred her to the heated shed so we could work on her in a dry and relatively warm environment (the radiators aren't on at the moment but it's pretty warm in there). She looks good, very dusty but otherwise fine, and I'd forgotten that her topsides were polished at the end of 2011 so the hull looked very shiny. 

Guy and Ben are both sleeping on board, and we were able to drive into the shed, transfer the huge amount of Stuff from car to boat, pop down to the supermarket to get them essentials such as bread, milk, an electric kettle and cold beer, before heading off to check into hotel. This is the Scandic Sønderborg and slightly to my surprise it has proved very pleasant - peaceful, surrounded by greenery, helpful staff and a nice disabled room. 

Sam has coped pretty well with the extremely long day but was asleep within about two minutes of his head hitting the pillow. I've stayed awake just long enough to write this blog post and polish off a bit more of Kalessin's gin. Tomorrow, the antifouling begins....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good news and... more good news

The survey arrived this morning from David Dabney. The boat is fine and nothing much is wrong, which is nice. There are a few things like gas pipes which we probably need to change, he wasn't very happy with the arrangement under the galley sink, and he apparently failed to find our Fortress anchor which is a little worrying. On the other hand he has checked lots of things which were on our checklist so should save us time.

I was so absorbed in the survey that when our carer arrived to give Sam a shower I totally forgot to provide any clothes until she came to remind me. Sam has one more care visit on Friday, and that will be the last one. He still needs a little bit of help in the bathroom but it seems silly to pay for half an hour of carer's time when he only needs five minutes of help.

Today also saw Sam's pre-discharge meeting from Icanho. I have been slightly dreading this as we know several stroke survivors who have been told by Icanho at this stage "don't expect to see any further improvement".  However, that wasn't the message today. Sesa, Sam's physio, wants to see him again after the sailing trip as she anticipates it may have a good impact on his mobility. She has just completed a batch of tests on Sam. On his balance he has improved from a score of 14 in September to 45 now, not far from the adult norm which is 56, and also above the threshold (43) where falls are considered a serious problem. On mobility he is at 14, which is halfway to the full score of 28, but when tested in September he was at 2, so it's a huge improvement. Neither his leg nor his arm are actually moving much better than when he started at Icanho, and Sesa said all his improvements are down to Sam's sheer determination and to my support, which was nice. 

Speech is harder to measure and obviously all language is still affected, but Sesa also said she had observed how much better Sam is at understanding and responding to commands and generally engaging with life. We discussed in the car on the way to the meeting that once we are on the boat Sam needs to take responsibility for some specific things, which will be good for him and also of course for me.

We finally have almost all the stuff we ordered from numerous chandleries and the heap in my office is starting to migrate to the living room. We'll probably spend the weekend doing trial loads of the car and then quite possibly going out to buy a rooftop luggage box....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Planning, panicking

I'm torn between days when I spend every spare moment thinking about the boat and days when I don't seem to be doing enough. I keep being surprised by Guy's level of knowledge though... which is very reassuring.

Our insurers GJW required that we had a full, out-of-water survey conducted in order to continue our cover. Of course I could have looked around for different insurance, but under the circumstances I felt it was no bad thing to get a survey done - at least it would alert us to any major issues. After various emails back and forth with a German surveyor we ended up getting the work done by David Dabney who is British and based in Svendborg. He charged us £550, which was reassuring after Anders Dahl at Augustenborg mentioned it might cost as much as €1,000! The survey was carried out yesterday and when I asked him if there was anything serious we should be aware of he said "nothing springs to mind" - which is reassuring. We await the full survey with slightly less nervousness.

However, of the four batteries on board three are completely dead. The survivor is a high-tech Optima engine start battery. The other supposedly whizzy battery, an Elecsol used to power the fridge, has not survived despite its claims to last 5 years. After worrying a lot about options I got in touch with the wonderful Phil Munslow, our electrician on Kalessin for many years, who suggested I get two reasonable quality batteries to replace the three dead ones. They weigh 27kg each (and cost £110 each) so it really isn't a good idea to take them out if we don't absolutely have to!

Other shopping so far:
  • 4 snap shackles for releasing the guard rails quickly - £38
  • extra spare impeller for the engine water pump. In the end I managed to order this through Sam's account at ASAP and was reassured to discover I could order exactly the same one he ordered in 2011 - £20
  • Lavac Zenith toilet service kit - £52
  • extra Garmin electronic chart covering Denmark & N Germany, in case either the Nordics chart isn't on board, or it proves impossible to update (highly likely as it needs a big fat internet connection to download the new chart!) - £109
  • up-to-date pilot book for Denmark and Germany - £32
  • up-to-date copy of the Nigel Calder Boatowner's manual - £29
  • climbing harness for Sam - £45
  • lightweight wheelchair with large, removable wheels - £200
Each item takes me hours of research... and I blithely thought it might be possible to order the whole lot (or at least the first four items plus the batteries) from one chandlery, how silly. In fact the only two items which might arrive together (and come to think of it almost the only two which haven't arrived yet) are the shackles and the toilet service kit.

On top of this we have all the kit which Sam had already bought to take out to Denmark last year, including:
  • two cans of Cruiser Uno (one-coat) antifouling
  • a new foldable Compass bicycle
  • an extending boarding ladder
  • a long line on a reel for Swedish rocks
  • two new high-class mooring warps
  • assorted engine spares, electrical spares and other bits and pieces
  • polish, cleaners, cloths
  • a Remoska cooker - still unused
  • and much more.
Somehow we have to fit all or most of this into the Passat estate, together with four of us and enough clothes to last us a month. Hmm, could I survive for a month with just what I can fit in a handbag? There are a few bits and pieces of clothing on board...not to mention two-year-old toiletries. Yum.