Finally, the Baltic!
Before we set off, I had my reservations about ‘getting there’, and in many ways they have proved to be true; although there have been some pleasant surprises.
The initial thoughts were of setting off from somewhere in East Anglia, and bowling along downwind all the way to Kiel. The reality has been that the winds have generally been easterly, so progress has been somewhat slower! Two or three days at sea on a broad reach can be really pleasant, but sailing to windward for 12 hours in a 10 metre boat, is as much as we can manage. We don’t have sophisticated auto-steering mechanisms, so it’s hands on the tiller the whole time; and everything is an effort – you spend the whole time bracing yourself – steering, sitting, preparing food/drinks, even (especially?) using the heads. The mind is still willing, but the flesh…………. Getting the tide right weaving in and out of the Frisian islands invariably meant a degree of motoring, and especially so for our journey up the Elbe, smack into a light headwind. This last stage became a bit of a race as the sky darkened with large thunderclouds rolling our way. The wind soared from 5 knots to 30 in the space of 15 seconds, and the skies became even more menacing, with white wispy fingers of cloud emerging from the pitch black background, almost appearing to be reaching out for us! Thankfully we just managed to retain our lead, and sneaked into Cuxhaven before the rain. The weather did have the final say, however, for when we got to Brunsbuttel, and the entrance to the canal, we were greeted by a north-easterly of between 10 and 20 knots which accompanied us for the entire 50 mile journey. We will need to work hard to reduce our carbon footprint from here on.
On the upside, however, the wind angle gave us the opportunity to visit some places we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. In addition to the Dutch Frisian harbours of Vlieland and Lauwersog, we stopped at the German islands of Borkum and Norderney; both real surprises, in the sense that they are both well developed, beautifully maintained seaside resorts – not just the shallow water sand dunes of a popular novel. The biggest shock of all, however, was Cuxhaven; we both had an image of a grey industrial town built up around the harbour. Well, the harbour is there ok, but there is nothing grey about the place; it’s busy and bustling, full of colour, endless cycle ways and has a really nice feel – and some interesting seaside furniture on show, to boot.
In fact, our experience of Germany so far, has been nothing but positive. Good food, cheap harbours and really friendly people. We broke our journey through the canal at Obereidersee, where we stayed at one of the local yacht clubs. This was a very tranquil setting, with a couple of pontoons nestling in the corner of the small lake. It was blowing 25 knots the following morning, again, from the NE; so we stayed in bed – it was blowing 40 the next day, so guess what? Has this been the longest journey up the Kiel canal since records began?
We now look forward to several months of sheltered sailing!?!