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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Karlskrona - Ystad, Sweden (15 August 2017)

Our return trip to "Whileaway" took 23 hours. I had booked return flights from Stockholm earlier in the summer but our engine problem meant that we had ended up much further away from the capital than expected. However a late change to the airline tickets was prohibitively expensive so we flew there, had dinner then took the comfortable night sleeper train south. Unfortunately we had to change trains to a local service at 0550 but then arrived back in Karlskrona a little after 0800.
Back to Sweden, where either flag is flown by residents
We had received an email from the engine engineers saying that they had found and fixed the problem a few days before we left the UK. The first task was therefore to start and run the engine to see if I agreed! All seemed fine so I cycled off to the engineers office to pay the bill and learn that they had discovered a blocked exhaust pipe. This carries both gas and the sea water used for cooling the engine and it was the seawater element that had gradually blocked over the years. As a consequence of the problem two other rubber caps which had been put under intense pressure had also failed and had to be replaced.
So we were ready to go but the weather wasn't being accommodating! There was a strong wind blowing that morning with a forecast that showed a significant increase over the following couple of days. So we decided to stay put (and weren't the only ones!); and indeed by early Saturday morning the boat was rocking and rolling even in the harbour as winds reached F6 gusting F8 (over 30 knots). But we had plenty to enjoy in Karlskrona as it was the annual Archipelago Festival with various entertainments, games competitions, music, food and so on.

Circus training for young children at the Archipelago Festival
On Saturday afternoon we took the local bus to the nearby settlement of Nattraby. This was a very attractive extended village. It is on the coast so we saw the arrival of the historic ferry "Axel" which comes from Karlskrona three times a day.

Axel in the approach to Nattraby
By Sunday morning the wind had abated a little and we were keen to move on so we decided to head for one of the outlying islands, Hasslo. It is fair to say that this was a rather lumpy passage especially once we were in open sea. We had to head into a still strong E wind and once we were into open waters the sea was moderate at best. But Hasslo was only 11nm, approaching 3 hours, in these conditions. The final approach was a buoyed passage between numerous rocky shoals but was fine and then we were into calmer waters as we entered the small harbour at Garpahamen. I started visually checking for a place to moor, taking a circuit around the harbour and within a short time the depth under the keel dropped rapidly until we were aground on mud! Twenty minutes of engine running, lightweight anchor being deployed (to haul us into deeper water), then rocking up and down on the bow eventually freed us and we returned to deeper water and then to the top of the harbour alongside a pleasant and helpful Danish couple. A cycle around the island took us about 90 minutes but confirmed how keen the Swedes are on having their summer houses.
View of the approach to Hasslo from the harbour breakwater
Our next passage was 16nm E down the coast to Ronnebyhamn and by now the wind had abated to F4/5 (maximum about 20kn) and it had turned SW so we got in a little sailing and then motor sailing. Again the final approach over the last three miles involved close attention to buoys keeping us off the rocky outcrops and finally a very shallow area where at times we had less than 0.5m beneath the keel. But Ronnebyhamn was a very pleasant small coastal community and we tied up with a lovely view across the water.
View across to Karon from the marina
 We did cycle the 5km to Ronneby and decided that the town was rather ordinary, with some attractive older properties but quite a few relatively modern nondescript additions particularly amongst the shops. In addition the planners had clearly paid homage to the highwaymen and busy roads crisscrossed the town seemingly needlessly. The following day we took the ferry a short ride across to the island of Karon. Apparently most of the 30 or so homes here were built in the 18th century and the island is very unspoilt. No traffic, no facilities, no shops or cafes, so a very pleasant ramble along tracks and through woods around the island.
Summer House on Karon
After a couple of days time to move E again. A choice here. we could either return to the open sea, set a course due E and then near our destination head N; or we could weave our way between many rocks and islands within the Hallaryd archipelago. In fact, we learnt later, there are over 270 inlets and islands of various sizes with rocky or craggy shores, broad-leaf copses and meadow lands in the Archipelago. By now the wind had eased down to around 10 kn or so and we decided to test our navigational skills and follow the inside route. It certainly brought us up close to many islands and rocks and with opportunities to see the bird life at close quarters. But we did have to concentrate to keep finding the next channel marker and keep us on course.
Passing a rocky island in the archipelago
After 16nm we turned into a sailing club harbour, Hafen Svanevik, just outside Karlshamn. What a delightful place. Not very big, quiet and with lovely views across to some of the islands.
The sailing club Hafen Svanevik at Karshanmn
A walk around the coast took us into the town of Karlshamn where there were some characterful old buildings as well as a few less characterful new ones! Like other places in this part of Sweden it has been part of Denmark at times. passed over as a naval port in favour of Karlskrona, it turned to overseas trading and built very profitable businesses.  The town streets were still adorned with flags and bunting from their recent festival. Especially delightful was the discovery in the adjacent Fish Harbour of a fishmongers and smokery. A few purchases were made and they were very good indeed. The following morning we cycled N along the coast along roads through the woods to small villages before returning and buying more (not smoked) fresh fish for dinner.
Cycling along a road through the woods
Friday morning was sunny and still and we motored 9 miles S to the small island of Hano. The island is only about 2km x 1km and lies about 10nm off the nearest part of the Swedish coast.The island is a large rock of granite with a very unusual natural environment. Whilst the higher parts are large slabs and boulders of granit, lower levels are woods or scrub. Apparently these were formally part of the sea before water levels reduced. We walked on the footpaths around the island before and after lunch. Some of these are granite chippings, some covered in moss or grass requiring you to walk over granite rocks.
Granite rock, trees and scrub on Hano
We climbed to the summit to see the short lighthouse with (so they say) the strongest light in the Baltic. In addition we visited the English Cemetery. This is a piece of naval history dating from 1810-12 during the Napoleonic wars when Hano served as an English naval base. The cemetery contains an unknown number of graves of English sailors.
The Cemetery
Cemetery plaque
The ferry arrives half a dozen times a day, mainly bringing day trippers as there is little accommodation. The only facilities (around the harbour) are a restaurant and cafe, very small and limited shop, ice cream kiosk and a museum.. But it is all very friendly and welcoming.
We awoke on Saturday morning to find that it was foggy; or a soup as the German sailor tied up in front of us said as we peered over the harbour wall into the murk! But the poorer visibility wasn't stopping the swifts swooping over the harbour searching for breakfast. During a rest break quite a few took a few minutes resting on our guard rails seemingly oblivious to us.

Around 0900 we decided to cast off, feeling that we had a potentially longer passage and that this was an area with few big ships. Then right outside the harbour out of the fog appeared a small freighter seemingly waiting to come alongside. After about an hour the fog began to lift and the wind increased so that we were able to first motor sail then dispense with the engine. During the rest of the passage the wind swung between F2 (about 6kn) and F5 (maximum 25kn) making reefing in or letting sails out a regular occurrence. It took nearly 8 hours to cover the 38nm to Simrishamn near the foot of Sweden's E coast, but we found space in the quite spread out marina adjacent to the fishing harbour. For only the second time this summer (apart from our base at Fehmarn) we came across a British sailor, this being Andy on “Hoppetosse”. Over evening drinks on our boat later we learnt that he was on his way back from Helsinki to Fehmarn.
Simrishamn is a town of mainly smaller houses, with some very attractive cobbled streets. 

Typical Simrishamn
In a self-guided tour (courtesy of the Tourist Bureau) we discovered a few of these homes many with the traditional Simrishamn door.
The Simrishamn door!
There is a very big fishing harbour, with a fleet of around 20 boats, although these are probably much below the peak. We had fish and chipped potatoes on an old fishing boat converted to a cheap and cheerful restaurant for lunch. Not so cheap being Sweden of course. Fairly ordinary fish and fried potatoes, with a pint (well 500ml) and a half of local lager was about £28 for the two of us.
Monday produced another sunny morning and we set off for Ystad, just over 30nm away on the S coast. We had brisk winds and although the wind direction was unfavourable at times we were able to sail most of the way and motor sailed when we tired of beating into the wind.
Ystad has a ferry port from where services depart to Bornholm and freight to Poland. It is also an important passage port for leisure sailors being strategically placed in the middle of Sweden's S coast. It is a town of some size with a busy shopping centre and some fine historic buildings. Many buildings and courtyards are very reminiscent of those found in Denmark; hardly surprising as this part of Sweden was part of Denmark for many years.

Attractive courtyard with cafes in Ystad
Even the typical tourist "trains" that take sightseers around the town do not ply their trade here. Instead there are circuits of the town in an old fire engine or two! 
Tourist trip fire engine (behind the smaller fire engine dating from the 1930s)
Traditional street with hollyhocks in full bloom - just like Denmark!

We are leaving the boat here for 5 days to return to England for the wedding of one of Andrea's nephews. Ystad has a train station very near the marina and with one change we can get to Copenhagen Airport. Looking forward to crossing The (Oresund) Bridge on a train!  

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Stralsund - Bornholm, Denmark - Karlskrona, Sweden (21 June 2017)

We returned to Stralsund on Saturday 3 June. The only direct flight to Hamburg from Bristol is early evening but instead of getting a direct flight from Heathrow we opted to try KLM from Bristol via Amsterdam. Interestingly the scheduled journey time was nearly identical and the price only marginally more once trains had been taken into account. However it did look as if this was the wrong decision when the KLM plane arrived only 10 minutes before our scheduled departure from Bristol resulting in late boarding and loosing the slot. Result nearly an hour late taking off although thankfully the flight time was quicker but still only 30 minutes for the connection at Amsterdam. Luckily we were able to avoid the long queues for passport control at Schipol as we had an EU passport (another benefit that we are all likely to loose soon!). So we made the connection with a few minutes to spare. We also made our train connection in Hamburg so arrived on the boat just over 11 hours after leaving home.
As readers of the last blog will recall we had left the boat with an engine problem. during our absence in the UK I had been in touch with the mechanics. Because of pressure of other jobs they had only looked at Whileaway in the week before we returned. They had firstly diagnosed a failed thermostat, then when that didn't resolve the issue, the cylinder head came off and a blown gasket was identified. This also necessitated skimming the cylinder head which had happened the day before we arrived. On boarding it was clear that the engine was still work in progress. so we expected the mechanic to arrive on Monday morning, then discovered that it was a public holiday! However we were able to enjoy the Harbour Festival which took place over the long weekend.
The mechanic returned on Tuesday morning. The original water/coolant problem had been solved solved but engine running then a compression test showed one valve with a problem. The cylinder head was again examined in the workshop and minor corrosion in a valve sorted out with a view to all being put back together on Wednesday.
We did see more of the area around Stralsund but as I said to the Harbour Master, "you have a beautiful town but we have enjoyed it enough now", a sentiment he readily understood!

Main town square, Stralsund.
It wasn't until lunchtime on Wednesday that the mechanics returned and over the next two and a half hours reassembled the engine and ran it up at the pontoon. All looked good so off I went to pay, resulting in a nasty pain in the wallet.
Our plan for Thursday was to go E then N to Sassnitz on the island of Rugen. We needed to get under a low road and rail bridge from Stralsund to the island and there was an opening at 0820. Once through we were soon sailing in a brisk breeze largely behind us. There was quite a period of sticking to buoyed channels in the sea between the island and the mainland before we turned N up the east coast of Rugen. About 3 or 4 nm from Sassnitz we dropped the sails and restarted the engine only to discover within minutes that once again the coolant was being pumped out into the bilge! We couldn't believe it. I phoned the owner of the maintenance firm who also couldn't believe it! Sassnitz is 45nm from Stralsund, about 35m by road. He said that he would send the mechanic immediately. So not long after we tied up he was there. An hour of checking this and that ,scratching of head, ringing the boss, followed. Eventually he thought that he had found the problem and we ran the engine at high revs on the pontoon successfully. I said that the next day we'd circle the bay for a few hours to check. "Go now" was the response! So with the mechanic on board we sped around the bay for 45 minutes without incident. Fingers crossed all round.
Then a big decision. Our next passage was 55nm to Bornholm, a Danish island between Germany and Sweden, across open sea. The weather forecast was good for Friday, less so Saturday.
So off just after 0700, motoring for 3.5 hours to start with and checking the engine every 15 minutes. No incidents! Just as we passed a huge offshore wind farm under construction we were able to sail and just after 1600 we were entering the yacht harbour at Ronne, the main town on Bornholm. Phew!
Ronne is typical of a ferry port and main town but with some attractive buildings.
Cottages in the historic cobbled streets of Ronne
Some of the older buildings were lost at the end of WW2 when the Germans, who had occupied Denmark at the start of the war, refused to surrender as the Russians advanced. Bombing ensued. Interestingly the Russians wouldn't leave Bornholm until 1946, so the locals still debate whether they were liberators or occupiers.
On Saturday we cycled on a purpose made path through woods N to the village of Hasle. Traditionally a fishing village at one time it had a huge number of smokeries, now just one active one remains. As it happened there was some sort of sea festival on that day with lifeboats, kayaks, fishing, jet boards etc. We opted for the smoked fish buffet at the smokery, not cheap (not much is in Denmark) but with a big choice and excellent quality.
Traditional smokery, Hasle
On Sunday morning we motor sailed 15nm around the N tip of the island to the W coast and the village of Allinge. We arrived to discover hundreds of big and small tents being erected as there was a political festival taking place later in the week. More disappointingly a notice in the HM office announced that the harbour would be closed from Monday. We had planned to stay 3 nights. The weather forecast for Tuesday was terrible with gusts to F8 so we were not wishing to go anywhere that day! A discussion with the HM suggested that he could find a place in the outer harbour for us for Monday night.
In the inner harbour at Allinge, "Whileaway" on left
In the meantime we looked around the pretty village which apparently attracts many tourists in high season. That Sunday evening preparations continued apace erecting tents and other temporary buildings for the coming political gathering. We learnt that Bornholm (population 38,000) were expecting 100,000 to attend the convention which started on Thursday! No wonder there was some much preparation activity.
The next morning we opted to move 2nm down the coast to the harbour at Tejn. Not as attractive as Allinge but a good deal quieter! We had to move at that stage as the strong winds forecast for Monday afternoon and through Tuesday had already started to build. Tejn was busy but we rafted up to a German boat with a very pleasant couple. Bikes out in the afternoon for a cycle across the island, visiting an unusual round church, the tallest on the island.

The round church at 
We moved on to the little harbour at Vang and then the castle ruin at Hammershus. The castle was built in the seventeenth century and we had seen how imposing it was from the sea a few days before. It is justifiably a World Heritage site.
The imposing castle from the sea

Having covered about 25km that day the following day we took the bus an hour south down the coast to Nexo. This turned out to be a mistake as the town was very ordinary and rather commercial. Unfortunately the town was one of those that had been heavily bombed in 1945 when the German occupiers refused to surrender to the Russians. Fortunately only one resident lost their life but quite a few German soldiers did before common sense prevailed. We retraced our route and alighted at the beautiful old fishing harbour of Gudhjem where we had an excellent fish lunch and then looked around the town.

Looking down on Gudhjem
Interestingly this coast had about a dozen navy ships of various countries anchored off it. We assumed that it was some sort of Nato exercise (the Russian threat being a real worry in the Baltic) and that the strong winds had led to operations being suspended for the day.

Even the warships were sheltering from the wind!
By Wednesday morning the wind had dropped and so just after 0630 we cast off and headed NNE towards the Swedish coast. We motor sailed for the first five hours as we had relatively light winds but then as they picked up the engine went off and we had a splendid sail through the afternoon. Our planned destination was Karlskrona on the SE coast of Sweden. We saw only a few ships although we did have to cross the route taken by big ships to and from the northern Baltic. At one stage we were closely watching three ships heading across our course at an angle of about 120 degrees to 60 degrees. The first passed comfortably ahead of us; according to our AIS the second was going to pass within about 2 cables (about two tenths of a nautical mile) which is close given our relative speeds and their difficulty in changing course. The second ship, a tanker, was a bit over a mile from us when Andrea wondered what we should do and what they were thinking on their bridge. I responded by saying that they were probably snoozing on autopilot when the VHF crackled into life with “Alpine Confidence calling Whileaway”! When we answered the Officer asked if we would like to pass across his bow. Such courtesy! We responded in the affirmative and cracked on knowing that he was alert to the situation. Later as we closed the islands off the coast to the S of Karlskrona we ended up having to try to work out the intentions of both a Swedish submarine and a frigate that were exercising in some way right on our course! They didn't call us!

The submarine kept turning, difficult to ascertain which was the bow at times!
We then started following buoyed channels between islands into Karlskrona and about a mile from the marina started the engine and headed into the marina just under 12 hours and 65nm since we'd left Bornholm.
Having tied up I was shocked and completely fed up to discover that copious quantities of coolant and seawater had again been discharged into the bilge just from the last half hour of running the engine. Clearly the fault had not been fixed. So the next day was spent visiting marine engineers all of whom reported being very busy in the run up to the mid summer holiday (a big event in Sweden) and so unable to tackle anything new for at least a fortnight – beyond when we had to return home. I did find a seemingly competent guy who was willing to tackle the problem whilst we are back in the UK and fortunately the HM could find me a berth for seven weeks. At least there is plenty to see in Karlskrona. But as we also had return flights booked from Stockholm (we were planning to end up about 35m S of the city) we decided that we would get the long distance bus to Stockholm for the weekend before our return.

Karlskrona historic town
So in the meantime we explored Karlskrona. The town was founded in the seventeenth century primarily as a base for the Swedish navy. Their main base was Stockholm but Karlskrona is further S and so the waters do not usually freeze. In addition because there are numerous islands and rocks off the coast it has excellent defensive qualities. Reflecting its creation and history Karlskrona is a World Heritage site. The first day was rainy so we visited the excellent maritime museum based on the small fortified island which was originally the core of the Navy base, although it expanded much beyond it.

The Maritime Museum
When the rain cleared we wandered into town to find loud music and students dancing in the back of grain lorries parading around the town – it was graduation day!

Celebrating graduation, Karlskrona style
The town has a mixture of superb buildings from the 17th to 19th centuries plus some very plain 20th and 21st century flats! There are also areas of old fishermen's cottages, shipyard workers homes and typical red wooden early 20th century homes on island waterfronts.

Houses at 
One natural delight was seeing not one but two red squirrels on one of the islands just across a bridge from the town.
Apart from walking around the town we visited a number of islands including Aspo, at the entrance to the archipeligo and accessed by a free vehicle ferry! Quite an away from it all island with scattered homes, virtually no traffic and scenic unspoilt views. There is another part of the World Heritage site here in the shape of a 17th century castle built to guard the channel to Karlskrona.

The castle on Aspo
We now looked out on the channel through which we had safely passed.

Another yacht passes between the buoys  marking underwater obstructions
With another 5 days before our booked flight we took the long distance bus to Stockholm. We will have a few days in that city before returning home. By the time we return in early August we hope to have a fully functioning and reliable engine!

Fish Harbour sculpture

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Burgstaaken - Stralsund, Germany (13 May 2017)

Another winter passes and we return to "Whileaway" at Fehmarn Island - except that after the warm early spring in southern England we are now back to cooler sub 10C temperatures! We are told that earlier in the afternoon on the day we arrived there had even been a flurry of snow.
We prepare the boat and mast the day after arrival and then the next the boat is lifted back into the water and the mast stepped.
Whileaway is in the water - now step the mast!
Relaunch day and the following day are very busy as we refit all the equipment and load our initial provisions. Fortunately the weather was mainly dry for the three days, although it was chilly at times. After being lifted into the main commercial harbour and having the rigging and engine adjusted and checked, on Friday morning we moved a few hundred metres to the marina at Burgstakken and continued preparations.
This included driving to the far side of the adjacent town of Berg to do some shopping and fill our 5 litre petrol can (for the outboard) and two spare diesel cans. I carefully filled them and then discovered that I had left all our money on the boat! The very young cashier in the petrol station was not amused, including at my lack of an adequate command of the German language. Eventually it was established, with the help of a bi-lingual local, that Andrea had to stay at the filling station whilst I retrieved the cash. Thirty minutes later I secured the release of the hostage! Andrea has asked that next time I forget the money it is in a cake shop!
Our plan for this first leg of our cruise was to explore Rugen island on the NE Baltic coast of Germany close to the border with Poland. That was some 100nm due E of Fehmarn and for that first passage of our journey we could either go NE with an overnight stop at Gedser in Denmark or SE via Warnemunde in Germany. The journey via Gedser was about 10nm shorter. However on the first day (Saturday 29 April) we would have mainly light W winds the forecast was then for heavier E winds for a few days so we were likely to be held up. We had been to Gedser in September and whilst a pleasant town it had very few facilities of interest. On the other hand Warnemunde would be new and 7 miles down river from Warnemunde was the busy town of Rostock that we had also visited in September.
So Warnemunde it was and after a pleasant six and a half hours mainly motor sailing in light winds we arrived at the modern (and only 25% occupied) marina in Warnemunde. We had a walk around the E bank of the town and discovered that it was mainly residential.
The forecast for the next day was for winds of F3-4 in the morning, increasing to F5 in the afternoon and then F6 in the early evening. All E, so we would be directly going into them. Of course the forecast could be wrong but if not we would need an early start for the c11 hour passage so I decided to wake at 0500 and get an updated forecast before deciding. That forecast was little changed. I must be getting old because I cogitated at length and then decided that if the actuality turned out worse we would be facing heavy weather just as we were tackling the narrow channels around Rugen island so better not to go. The down side was that the strong E winds were forecast for another 4 to 5 days. But still I went back to bed!
Having decided to remain we agreed that the marina at Warnemunde would be quite exposed; and having walked around there was little to hold our interest on our side of the river. The small town is concentrated on the west bank accessible by a ferry. We decided that we would head the 7nm down the river to the centre of Rostock where we had stayed in September. Going down the river at 1000 it was already blowing a steady F5 with gusts to F6 so I felt vindicated! We moored at the City harbour as we had in September and on a sunny (but windy) Sunday and Monday strolled round the city enjoying revisiting it.
Rostock - even McDonalds is in sympathy!
On the Tuesday we took the short suburban rail train to Warnemunde, returning on a circuitous route on bus and tram (day ticket on train bus and tram in the Rostock area E5.40, excellent value!). Warnemunde is also a cruise ship port and one dominated the skyline. The town has very attractive avenues, some alongside the river and a big sandy beach. Another windy day so no sunbathers!
Warnemunde quayside
Former fishermen's houses, Warnemunde
On Wednesday we took the train from Rostock for an hour to Stralsund, S of Rugen island. This was where we aimed to leave Whileaway at the end of the leg. So we looked around the town which has some fine buildings and is again a Hanseatic League city; visited the marina; and, with the help of the Tourist Information Centre, identified a place where we could if we wished park our car. The strong E winds were now forecast to last until Friday evening. The original plan was to leave the boat the following Friday and take the train from Stralsund (two changes) to Fehmarn to collect the car; stay somewhere in Germany on Friday night then get the ferry on Saturday night. But we now had time available so we decided to retrieve the car. With two changes on the train, just under 4 hours later we were at Fehmarn. We then drove to Stralsund and parked the car. Then train back to Rostock. Total train cost on a special regional “rover” ticket E31 for the two of us! But now we did have to get to Stralsund!

Stralsund - DDR era flats with workers painting
Trabant, still a few around!
The wind blew hard on Thursday night and Friday morning but then began to abate so at 1630 we slipped our mooring and returned to Warnemunde ready to leave early the following morning. I was awake at 0500 to check the forecast. Good news, little wind; surprise news, thick fog! Great! We got ready and by 0545 it was very slowly improving so we decided to go and hope the improvement continued which it did. The annoying aspect was that we mainly had a light NE wind for the 50+ miles along the coast and then across a bight which meant that we were limited to motor sailing for a couple of hours at best.
Near the end of our passage we had to enter a channel that took us between the islands of Hiddensee and Rugen. This channel was typically around 10-15m in width and was marked by port and starboard buoys spaced about 50-100m in length apart. Consequently buoy spotting, aided by the Chart Plotter showing our approxima position, was very important. In the channel the depth was anything from 2.2-4.5m (we need 1.4m to stay afloat); outside the channel depths varied down to a minimum of 0.5m in many places. In some areas you could also see the exposed sand.
After about 5nm in the channels (and to my relief not having met one of the ferries), we approached the harbour of Kloster on the N of the island of Hiddensee. I was congratulating myself on having safely achieved this just as the depth beneath the keel dropped sharply from 0.9 to 0.4 and then 0.0m in the space of seconds. Fortunately we were on low speed and I quickly engaged astern and began trying to work back towards between the last port and starboard buoys. That got us back into the centre of the channel and I was then able to cautiously get into the harbour.
Looking south across the inland sea between Rugen and Hiddensee
This whole “inland sea” and much of the islands are designated National Park and we soon saw considerable and varied bird life. The harbour setting was delightful, on the edge of the reed beds and the inland sea.
There are four settlements on Hiddensee island, Vitte and Neuendorf to the S and Grieben a short distance to the E of Kloster. Vitte is the main village and most of the ferries go there. There area  only a few motorised vehicles on the islands, mainly tractors and a couple of trucks. Even the buses and taxis are horse drawn. So very unspoilt with a long sandy beach on the W coast. We enjoyed a sunny but breezy Sunday cycling S to Vitte and Nuendorf. Later we walked around the N of the island, past the light house. Apart from the bird life we spotted a fox as well as the horses, cattle, goats, sheep and other livestock.
Kloster bus station
On the Monday morning we planned to head S towards Stralsund but before doing so took the opportunity to use the harbour's washing machine and tumble drier. However there was consternation as at the end of the wash, the door remained stubbornly stuck shut! Even half a dozen German ladies failed to open the machine. I was in the process of trying to contact the Hafenmiester when a lady (who had a similar machine|) cracked it and got it open!
After all the excitement of retrieving the washing from the machine we were a little late leaving and by then we had a strong NE F5 to contend with. As we had to retrace our steps through one channel and then start following new channels the wind, which was giving us plenty of sideways movement, was unhelpful. It was about 15nm to Stralsund the first 12nm of which was buoy hopping down channels. Luck was with us again as we didn't have to pass a couple of ferries until a wider part of the channel so it wasn't a problem. Stralsund is on the mainland, effectively the gateway to Rugen, with a relatively new high level bridge spanning the short distance across the sea. However there was also an older pair of road and rail bridges with only 6m clearance so we had to be there on one of the six times a day that they opened. For us it was the 1720-1740 opening which, with a couple of other yachts, we comfortably made
Stralsund High level bridge (foreground) and old rail/road bridge lifting
Onward for another 6nm to the small marina at Gustow, near the village of Drigge on Rugen, arriving in evening sunshine. Another lovely location, close to reed beds and with much bird life.
However on glancing in the engine compartment I discovered a considerable quantity of coolant discharged into the bilge below the engine. Obviously an issue that I had to investigate before we left in the morning.
My investigations left me mystified. There appeared to be about 7 litres of fluid in the bilge – the cooling system only takes about 5; in addition when I tried to top up the coolant in the engine it seemed to be nearly full. So there must have been more than just coolant in the bilge perhaps? Also strange as that during our journey the engine temperature seemed to be around normal. Perhaps sea or fresh water had somehow contrived to get into the cooling system?
I asked at the marina office as to whether an engineer was available locally but was not surprised to get a negative response. So the decision was to return to Stralsund (where we were due to leave the boat at the end of this leg anyway) and where there were likely to be more resources.
Once there I was able to contact an engineer who, although pointing out they were very busy, offered to come on Thursday morning to look at the problem. I had explained that as we were going back to the UK for a few weeks they may be able to fit work in then. Olaf duly turned up to be briefed on the problem, as promised, on Thursday morning. He identified three possible causes of the problem and said that he would get "the boys" to investigate further whilst we are away.
On the Wednesday we visited Greifwald and Weick, the towns that we were planning to head for on Whileaway. Greifwald was a 25 minute train ride away. This is another Hanseatic League city and one that was part of Sweden for about 170 years until the treaty of 1815. More fine buildings and impressive squares and churches. A University (founded by the Swedes) and much character.
Greifswald
Weick was a 20 minute bus ride down the river at its mouth with the Baltic sea. Originally a small fishing village it still has all its charm and a small fleet. But the beach also means that in the summer there were plenty of visitors. Not on the day of our visit though, as the temperature barely reached 10C and it rained most of the day. A feature of Weick is its bascule bridge which is operated by hand. Engineered to perfection with weights, the Bridgemaster and his assistant wind the two halves up to open; then to close release the lock, give a gentle push and the bridge slowly falls back down.

Weick bridge
On the day before our departure we crossed the bridge to Rugen island. Rolling hills, tree lined roads and some interesting seaside resorts sum up the island.
Typical Rugen road
At Putbus we came across the vintage train line known as "Rushing Rowland" which runs steam services mainly between Putbus and Gohren, about a 75 minute journey with half a dozen intermediate stations. It has the benefit of being linked to a branch of the DB railway at Putbus.

Rushing Roland!
We went on to visit a couple of SE holiday resorts which were not particularly attractive, suffering from the common DDR "improvement" programme of slab blocks of flats! But Sellin was excellent with streets of Victorian Villas and hotels although there was a common thread of major repair and refurbishment in the period from around 1993 to 2000.
Renovated Victorian houses, Sellin
Prior to the collapse of the DDR it appeared that the Government tourist organisation had been responsible for managing the properties. Finally we visited the main town of Bergen, where the Danes had established a church and a convent in the 13th century. The existing church incorporates some original features. Rugen is a very interesting place to visit and being at the far NE corner of Germany is relatively unspoilt.
So the end of our first 2017 cruise. In the 15 days since launch we only covered just under 140nm in Whileaway. But we were held up by strong E winds in Rostock for 6 days; and then we had to curtail our cruising by 3 days because of the engine problem. Coupled with the cold weather (temperature rarely above 10C), this cannot be described as the most successful of starts! But thats sailing. Lets hope the experience improves from here on!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Rostock - Burgstaaken (24 September 2016)

On another warm sunny morning we started our exploration of Rostock. A city of over 200,00 people with an interesting historic centre surrounded by a ring road heavy with traffic. Rostock had been heavily bombed in World War 2 and then suffered at the hands of concrete slab building during the the DDR (East Germany) era. It does have a large student population which gives it a lively feel although this is offset by empty shops and buildings and wide open (and empty) spaces. Nevertheless we were interested to see Marlenkirche, the only church to survive WW2, with its 12 metre high astrological clock built in 1472 showing the exact date on which Easter falls every year. The integral discs last for 130 years, the next one due in 2017. The clock is apparently the oldest one of its type in the world still with its original mechanisms.
Astrological clock completed 1472
There was little else of particular note apart from two remaining city gates and the impressive 13th century Rathaus.
With the temperature at 27C in late afternoon (incredible for the Baltic in mid-September) we dined out on excellent fish in a restaurant on the waterside.
A relatively early start the next morning, casting off at 0745, as we had a fair distance to cover to our next destination, Wismar. A still sunny morning as we motored up the river to the mouth at Warnemunde. Rostock industry gradually gave way to reed beds and tree lined banks and then back to industry with the ferry terminals (from Sweden, Denmark and Finland for certain), a naval base, cruise liner ports, ship repair yards and plenty of other marine activities. For the first 5+nm we didn't see another boat but then in the last mile we met three incoming ferries, the ship that services the marine cardinals and buoys, ferries crossing the river, a naval service boat and a small support ship.
Once clear of the mouth we turned W and for the coming hours we mainly motor sailed with the help of a light following wind until we turned into the bay at the foot of which is Wismar.
We had completed over 44nm by around 1545 when we docked at the sailing club at Westhafen. 
Wismar is a smaller and more compact town than Rostock. It is a short distance through a wide bay and still has some commercial shipping, mainly coasters from Sweden and Poland delivering timber and other goods so far as we could see. There is evidence in the shape of cranes, warehouses and other buildings of greater marine commerce including shipbuilding in the not too distant past. There are three major docks and half of one, the Westhafen is now occupied by the yacht club that we berthed at. Another, the Alter Haven, also has some space for fishing and larger vessels whilst the third, Uberseehafen, is largely derelict except for a small municipal marina in the corner. The Alter Haven is steadily being regenerated with warehouses and mills turned into flats, fishing boats selling their wares from the boats, new shops and quite a few restaurants. There is some way to go but it looks promising. 
View from the Tower towards the Westhafen
Wismar became a Hanseatic League town in the 13th century and its buildings clearly testify to a prosperous place for hundreds of years after that. The town and some surrounding areas then spent most of the 16th and 17th centuries as part of Sweden and there is evidence of that too, including two baroque Swedish heads which stand on mooring posts guarding the entrance to the harbour. (These are replicas, the originals having been damaged by a Finnish barge in 1902, one original being in the town museum). Then in 1945 the town was bombed by the RAF and finally Wismar was in the former East Germany until 1991 which is why not everything about the town is satisfactory. But it is a UNESCO heritage site with a superb central market square dominated by a magnificent Rathaus. It is said to be the largest remaining medieval town square in Northern Germany. 

Part of the central market square
 We also visited four churches, St Nikolai Kirche, the largest and only remaining intact of the three red brick churches that dominated the roof-scape before 1945; Heiligen Geist Kirche, originally a hospice dating from the 13th century; St Marien Kirche, originally built in the 13th century but all that remained after the 1945 bombing was the steeple; and St Georgen Kirche, again bombed and then left in ruins in the time of the DDR, its shell has now been reconstructed and it is used for concerts and public events. So quite a change in church use in about 70 years.
Although a lovely sunny evening there had been a little cloud in the sky that day and it looked as though, after 11 days of sunshine, the very warm spell was coming to an end. The following day there was more cloud in the sky and the forecast was for strong breezes of F4 and F5 for our 30nm trip to Travemunde. We cast off just before 0900 and for the first few hours headed north out of the bay. As we began to lose the shelter of the land the wind and the waves increased until eventually we were coping with winds of F5 gusting to the top end of F6 and wave heights of around 1.5-2.0m. Naturally we were sailing fast at times but once we turned to head W, for the last final 90 minutes or so we had the E wind right behind us as we surfed with the waves.
Travemunde is a coastal resort at the mouth of the Trave river which leads to Lubeck. It is a thriving holiday resort and a very busy car and commercial vehicle ferry port with regular departures to Scandinavian and other Baltic ports. To our surprise the various marinas had few spaces but we did eventually find a place for a couple of nights. We were at the end of a pontoon adjacent to the main channel so the ferries passed very close to us.
Ferry manoeuvering in channel, going astern to dock.
On Sunday we took the bus to spend time in a founding city of the Hanseatic league which also has over 1,000 historic buildings, some dating back to the 12th century. Another World Heritage Site which also suffered bombing, in 1942, but also famous for its marzipan. We spent a day looking at the impress city centre with streets lined with medieval merchants' houses and spired churches. 
Street with Merchants' houses.
 The 13th to 15th century Rathaus is apparently widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany; the very substantial Gothic Marien Kirche has the world's highest brick vaulted roof and was the model for dozens of churches in Northern Germany; and there are two remaining city gates, the Holstentor which appears to have a sag and the Burgtor. 
Holstentor City Gate
We found Willy Brandt House, an exhibition about the life and work of the Lubeck born former Berlin Mayor and then West German Chancellor very interesting both for what it said about him (for example he was an exile in Norway and then Sweden from the early 1930's until the end of WW2) and the events he handled including the Nazi years, War Crimes Tribunals, the Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall, his European commitment and his philosophy of Ostpolitik. 

By Monday morning the strong winds of the two previous days had abated and so we left and headed around 12nm E to the smaller town of Neustadt. This time it was a pleasant sail in a NE 3/4 on our beam. We tied up in the old harbour and strolled around a busy but ordinary town! 
Quay close to town centre
The following day we cycled along the coast stopping for coffee at the small holiday resort of Pelzerhaken and then for lunch at the larger resort of Gromitz. The cycle route was very varied from well built promenades to mud tracks (thankfully dry) through woods.

Sculpture en-route
It was another sunny September day so there were plenty of other cyclists and walkers. We passed by a number of mobile home and caravan parks as well as apartment blocks and hotels in the main settlements. There were signs that these were originally small villages but clearly much holiday development had taken over. Not surprising as the sandy beach was virtually continuous.

On Wednesday morning we headed NE along the coast motoring against a NNE wind until we passed a headland where the coast changed to a NW axis and we were able to sail to the small resort of Grossenbrode where there is a large lake accessed through a narrow channel. We were now just 5nm from our final destination and so Thursday was spent beginning the process of laying up Whileaway. There was just a light breeze so we spent a couple of hours taking down the sails and putting them in their bags for the winter. Then we began cleaning and other chores.

Friday was already warm at 0900 as we headed the short distance to Burgstaaken. We were able to tie up to the company pontoon and continue our preparations for the removal of the mast and the lift out on Saturday morning.

The mast is lifted off
 In the succeeding couple of days we completed our list of maintenance and related work before, on Tuesday morning we drove the 450 miles to the Hook of Holland and the ferry to Harwich.

By the end of our 2016 cruise we had travelled 1,121nm sailing on 45 days and staying on board for 77 days. Our journey had taken us from Amsterdam, through the Netherlands, the East Frisian Islands, the Kiel Canal, the German Baltic coast, various islands in Denmark, part of the west coast of Sweden and back to Germany. The weather had been a little bit indifferent early in the year but September had been marvellous with almost three weeks of unbroken sunshine. Next year we are thinking of varying the times that we are away and heading up the east coast of Sweden towards Stockholm.