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!