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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Burgstakken, Germany - Karlskrona, Sweden (8 May 2018)

Hoping that at least we were beginning to see spring we headed back to Whileaway at her winter base at Burgstakken on Fehmarn Island, N Germany.

En-route we stopped for a couple of days with our Dutch sailing friends Pieter and Riet who live close to the North Sea coast about 50km S of Rotterdam. 
Arriving back on the boat we worked very hard for two days. The boat was fine after her winter lay up but I had a list of maintenance and renewal jobs such reconnecting and recharging batteries, greasing various items of equipment, preparing the mast prior to restepping, etc. I discovered that the Chart Plotter (attempted repair over winter) was still not displaying properly so am unable to use it. The weather was chilly and with heavy downpours on the second morning but as Whileaway was still in the shed it didn't effect us much. Thursday was a little (chilly) windy but with sun. We were  just ready for relaunch at 1100 and then began the post launch jobs the final tasks being getting both sails on, completed Friday evening.
Apart from the malfunctioning chart plotter we were good to go and had favourable weather and so on Saturday 28 April we set off NE for Gedser in Denmark, around 32nm away. Of course the forecast earlier in the week had been for S winds. By the day they had changed to ENE,  so were virtually on the nose. But as they were relatively light at F3 most of the time we gave the motor a work out. It was quite a sunny day albeit with a chilly wind but we arrived just before 1500LT. Gedser is a quiet Danish village, originally established when a ferry to Germany was created and nothing much changes over the years. Even on a sunny spring day there were few people around but it was noticeable that spring flowering plants and shrubs were a few weeks behind the (delayed) southern England residents!

A quiet Gedser harbour, typical off shore wind farm in the distance.
The next day we pushed on another 35nm in mist and hazy sun NE to Klintholm on the S of the island of Mon. There were some interesting conditions en route, at one stage we went from bright sunshine to cold fog and out again in 15 minutes. At ths stage the sea was flat with that oily surface you see in low winds.

A quiet day ....
Although the chilly wind was still in evidence it was a reasonably warm. Suddenly about half way through the journey the chart plotter sprang into life! We think that it has moisture inside and the warmth of the day dried it up! But we can't rely on it working. Indeed it only worked rarely for the rest of the trip. Klintholm is another small place, quiet outside the holiday season. Nevertheless fishing boats were busy landing their catches late in the afternoon.

Fishing boats landing catches
I had an interesting chat with the HM (Harbour Master) who says that this will shortly be a base for constructing and then servicing another major wind farm due to be built in Danish waters to the NE. He said that this will be a welcome and significant addition to the limited local economy.

Quiet in Klintholm too!
The forecast had warned us that a gale was approaching the Baltic from the UK and so we expected to be staying at Klintholm for at least a day. In the event there were two gales about 18 hours apart and so we spent two days in port.

Waves crashingoon to a lovely sandy beach in the gale
On day two we caught the bus to Mon’s main town Stege, apparently celebrating its 750th anniversary as a market town in 2018. Indeed it is one of the oldest market towns in Denmark. The town ramparts from the middle ages are still in evidence including “Molleporten” one of the best preserved town gates from the period.

Steve's surviving Town Gate
We have visited Stege before. This time on the recommendation of the Tourist Information Centre we went to the Thorsvang Museum which has an amazing collection of shops, workshops, buildings and a few vehicles from the last 100 years.

The tabacconist and off licence!
The recreated shops have plenty of historic stock much purchased as retailers in Stege and elsewhere have closed over many years. It is quite quirky. For example there is one man’s collection of 4,896 unopened bottles of beer!
Just a few beers in stock ....
The storm blew through that night. From Karlskrona to our next port, Ystad in Sweden, is around 60nm, about 11 hours for us, so a helpful weather forecast is essential. As it happened we had the calm after the storm with sunshine and light E winds gently pushing us along, of necessity assisted by the engine. 

Still very chilly!

On this passage we cross busy shipping lanes at the foot of the Oresund and have to skirt the site of a major wind farm under construction. Arriving at Ystad at about 1800 we discovered that we were just one of four visiting boats in a harbour that is very busy in season. This part of Sweden was Danish until later in the seventeenth century and that is reflected in the architecture. Plenty of spring flowers in bloom planted by the municipality in all the public spaces.

Yaad, just off the main shopping street.

Our first bike ride took us east mainly following the long sandy beach.

The weather had now begun to settle with a High building over the central Baltic. Whilst this meant dry settled weather we also had little wind, so motoring, or at best motor sailing, was required. From Ystad we had two possible routes to our planned destination of Karlskrona. We opted for the slightly longer route as this would also enable us to visit two very small islands that we had not been able to get to before. But our next port was to be Allinge on the Danish island of Bornholm. About 40nm away it is a large island between Germany and Sweden. Allinge is a small attractive town on the NE tip that we had visited in 2017.

Distinctive yellow buildings in Allinge
Also, it has that traditional Bornholm institution of a Rogery (Smokery) where a buffet with a wide choice of smoked and unsmoked fish, shellfish, salads and other dishes were available. On the Friday night it was packed out, buzzing with conversation. Very enjoyable.

The following day we headed the short distance (just 12nm) E to Christianso and Frederikso. These two small islands are linked by a footbridge and together are about 700 metres long by about 600 metres wide.

In the harbour between Christianso and Frederikso

They are the inhabited parts of the Ertholmene archipelago, Denmark's most easterly land. It was originally created as a fortress in 1684 for the defence of the Kingdom's interests in the Baltic Sea. During the “English War” of 1807-14 the fortress was used as a base by Danish privateers who targetted British merchant ships bringing materials from the Baltic. So in 1808 British Naval ships undertook a violent bombardment of more than 300 bombs and 300 cannonballs in four hours! The Danish military use ceased in 1856 but the fortress walls, bastions, towers, stone huts and half timbered buildings remain and are now conserved. Today the islands are an internationally protected area for nature, culture and wildlife. We certainly enjoyed hearing and seeing that as we wandered around Christians and Frederikso. We were especially lucky that it was the breeding season. The two islands are home to over a thousand eider ducks and their nests are found everywhere even alongside paths. The birds do not feel threatened and stay on their nests just feet away as you pass by.

The foot of walls are favoured nesting spots!

A few ducklings had hatched and the constant calling of the male and female ducks was very entertaining. Imagine a close version of Frankie Howard saying “all no, all..ll”!

Early brood of Wider ducks

We also saw in ponds endangered species, the European Green Toad, making a terrific racket! Apparently there are other endangered amphibians on the island but we didn't spot them.
Toads sunbathing in the shallow edge of a pond
Christianso can be very busy in summer; we were fortunate to get there at a quiet time. The post boat brought about 30 or 40 walkers in the morning; after they left just after lunch there were just the 90 residents and about a dozen sailors. 

Grey seals on rocks just off shore
One of the boats was another Westerly “Blue Orchid”, and the two of us set off in company the following morning heading about 40nm N to the “island” of Utklippan. I put island in inverted commas as this is really just a rocky outcrop. It is about 15nm S of Karlskrona. Essentially it consists of two skerries within which a small harbour has been created.

Island plan
Originally a refuge for fishing boats nowadays it is only visited by leisure sailors and nature watchers. There is a lighthouse, a Harbour Master and visitors ringing birds and monitoring other wildlife such as the seal colony.

Lighthouse and the only buildings

At this time of the year the herring gulls are nesting and defend their territory vigorously so caution is advised!

The small harbour
Apart from “Blue Orchid” we also met a Norwegian couple who had been with us in Christianso; and Excel of Cumbrae, another CA member, who had sailed from Karlskrona that morning. We had last met Alan on Excel when we were at Burg railway station two weeks earlier!

After a quiet night the next day was to prove the warmest so far. We headed NW to the Karlskrona archipelago aiming for the small harbour of Lokanabben on the island of Aspo. We had been to the island last year and thought that it would make a nice overnight stop before Karlskrona. Just a few hundred metres from a Citadel that guards the entrance to Karlskrona it is a lovely spot.

The quiet harbour, viewed from the Citadel walls
 As the season has started the Citadel cafe was open so we had a Swedish dish called Sailors Beef! A very enjoyable stew. We walked around parts of the island and then enjoyed a lovely evening with the temperature still being an amazing (for May in Sweden) 17C  at 2000.
On Tuesday 8 May a short motor took us to Karlskrona where, as last year, we are leaving Whileaway to return home for a few weeks. The end of our first leg of the year, just over 230nm travelled and for the last week pleasant sunny weather. After the gales our sailing was somewhat happened by light winds but the scenery and new (and old) places  we visited was good compensation!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Sonderborg, Denmark - Burgstakken, Germany (15 September 2017)

On a wet and gloomy Wednesday morning we slipped our lines at around 0830 and in company with two German boats started heading SW towards Schleimunde, the entrance to the Schlei fjord. We were able to sail with a moderate S wind and completed the 20nm to the narrow entrance to the fjord in good time. Passing through the entrance into a tight buoyed channel, we were immediately dodging tripper and fishing boats and then we motored some 4nm to the town of Kappeln, mooring at a sailing club about half a kilometre from the town centre.
Kappeln itself is fairly ordinary but there is a busy road crossing in the town, with a bridge refurbished about seven years ago.
The bridge at Kappeln
In the afternoon we looked around what was a mainly modern centre. 
Perhaps not the best name for a driving school?
But there was an impressive Police HQ and a traditional windmill on the fringes.
Smart windmill
The following day we drifted down to the bridge which opens at 15 minutes to the hour and then continued down river.
For the next 20 nm depths outside the channel were typically 3 metres, with perhaps a little more in the channel itself. After waiting for the opening of the bascule bridge at Lindaunis, shared by rail and vehicular traffic, we continued down river through pretty countryside with sometimes wide lakes and then narrow channels between land.
Waterfront location on the Schlei    
Eventually we reached Schleswig, the navigable head of the Schlei. This was an interesting mixture of old and new. On the way into the town centre we visited the Cathedral of St Nikolai, an impressive building with some highly skilled carvings.
Impressive work
We also had the opportunity to climb the high tower which gave good views once breathing had returned to normal!
Looking across one part of the town towards the Yachthafn
Best of all was the traditional fishing village of Holm, well preserved small houses in a very attractive setting.
One side of the square in Holm
The next day we returned up river to Kappeln in continuous driving rain although with some wind behind us we were able to sail. Frustratingly there was some sort of problem with the very rusty bridge at Lindaunis which meant that one opening failed to materialise. As a result two German boats and ourselves had to wait for about an hour and three quarters for the bridge to open, with no explanation as to why! Once through, after about another 6nm, we had to wait for the newer town bridge but this did open punctually. We again moored just N of Kappeln. The town has many restaurants so good quality food is very reasonably priced, especially those with fish!
We were now anxiously watching the weather for a week ahead. Such medium term forecasts can be unreliable, but we had noted that a deepening low with attendant high winds seemed to be a permanent part of the forecast for our last seven days. We had various options on where to go next and if that element of concern hadn't been part of the forecast we would probably have stayed longer in the Schei. But as it did, on Saturday we opted for a 46nm passage to Heiligenhafen. With S and SW winds forecast we were looking forward to our trip SE. After two hours sailing the wind was quickly heading us and became E for the following hours accompanied by heavy rain!
Not the most enjoyable weather .......
We choose to stop at the small sailing club at Heiligenhafen rather than the large marina and found a very welcoming and chatty group of people. We have been to this very busy town before and know that it attracts many visitors. 
The Sailing Club at Heiligenhafen
On Sunday, after some quick shopping we had an enjoyable lunch at a restaurant overlooking the marina. After that we slipped our mooring, picked up fuel and then headed NE, under the bridge linking Fehmarn and the mainland and on to Burgstaaken where we leave the boat for the winter. A pleasant cruise drying out the sails from the previous days rain!
It was the right decision. The winds picked up on Tuesday and by Wednesday evening were a minimum 35kn gusting to over 50kn. Whilst tied to the pontoon it was very uncomfortable. In addition there was a very rare occurrence of a sharp drop in water levels caused by the low pressure and strong winds. The fall from normal levels was nearly a metre, apparently unheard of in Burgstakken. The consequence for us (and others) was that for a while we sunk into the (thankfully) soft mud! We were aground for over 12 hours but no damage was done. Two days later the mast was stepped and Whileaway was lifted out ready for moving into the shed for the winter. 

Part of the quay at Burgstaaken
By Sunday warm and sunny weather had returned and we were able to have our last lunch in Germany in a restaurant on the quay.
So a summer that was constrained by our engine problems but nevertheless we covered some 850nm, visiting 31 ports during the 10 weeks that we were on board. For the most part we had reasonable weather. Now we need to start thinking about next year ..........................

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Rodvig - Sonderborg (5 September 2017)

Monday 28 August was sunny and with light S winds forecast. With favourable visibility this was a good day for our planned passage to Vordingborg which required sailing about 20nm between islands through narrow buoyed channels. But first of all we headed 10nm SSE to the Fairway buoy across the bay which marked the beginning of the channel. To follow the channel we had the paper chart (below) and an electronic chart plotter with a GPS showing our position. But as buoys are sometimes moved to reflect shifting sands (and charts take a little while to be updated), the GPS position has some margin of error and the channel is only about 12 metres wide in places, we also heavily use Mk 1 Eyeball to spot the red and green channel markers and the various cardinals! The chart shows the channels starting top right of centre and eventually leaving this sheet at bottom left. The channel markers and buoys look like small black pillars in the picture.
Part of the passage chart
The shallowest parts of the channel tend to be in the first part going NW to SE and at times we had just 0.5 metres under the keel. With crystal clear waters it was easy to see the seabed and at times the fish! There were very few other boats although we were followed by a German flagged yacht who had caught us up at the start of the buoyed channel and then slowed down to follow us at a careful distance! Spotting the buoys keeps you busy so time passed quickly and after about 7nm we were approaching the small island of Nyord (just below centre right on the chart). This has a very small harbour but looked like it would make a nice lunch time stop. It requires a careful approach from near a buoy that is an isolated danger mark but we never had less than 0.7 metres in the approach. Not much space in this small harbour (and quite a narrow entrance) but we tied up just inside.
The harbour at Nyord
There is a small settlement around the harbour with some very attractive buildings, including a couple of cafes and a small shop. Although an island there is a road bridge to the larger island of Mon but the settlement is very much at the end of a 10km road from the nearest town.
Attractive gardens at Nyord
After lunch we resumed our passage, now through wider and a little deeper channels, passing Kalvehave were we stopped last year and on to Vordingborg for the night. This has a poorly marked entrance from the channel and in places is very shallow. We attempted one approach from the main channel towards their marked channel and lost our nerve when the depth was showing as 0.3 metres under the keel. So we turned back and tried another approach from the main channel, this time reaching the long channel to the marina with the luxury of a minimum depth of 0.5 metres. Our passage from Rodvig had been 32nm.  It was another beautiful evening. We had also stayed at Vordingborg, with its castle remains, last year, so it was just an overnight stop this time.
The following morning we again had light S winds forecast as we headed E under the road/rail bridge (26 metres minimum clearance) and then NE through the Karrebaeksminde Bugt. This turned out to be a very warm day with winds of F2/3, maximum about 12 knots. We did sail for about half the time but each time as our speed dropped to 2-3 knots we had to give up for a while. Still a very leisurely 37nm to the small island of Omo arriving about 1700. A small guest harbour, about one third full, but all German boats apart from ourselves, one Dane and a Dutch barge!
Fishing harbour (with barge alongside) at Omo
Omo is served by a ferry which comes from the large island of Sjaelland about every two hours. It stays for about 10 minutes to unload and take on a few passengers and an occasional car or delivery lorry.
Ferry going astern into the harbour
Having enjoyed some warm and sunny weather it turned wet but warm overnight so the next day started with heavy rain. The island was very misty throughout the day and did not look at its best. Nevertheless we cycled to the main settlement in the centre of  the island and visited what was a well stocked shop for an island of 170 people.
Welcoming carving at the entrance to the main settlement
It is clear that the island must be much busier in the main holiday time as there are quite a few summer cabins and houses.
Holiday home
But agriculture is still a mainstay of the economy and on cycling round we came across some of the deer, hares, pheasants, herons and other birds - plus numerous horribly fat brown slugs!

Startled deer!
The following morning saw little improvement in the weather. It was gloomy under heavy skies and with the threat of rain. Nevertheless we set off about 0930 to head E sailing a few miles off the N coast of the island of Langeland which is surrounded by shallows. Initially we sailed with a N wind of F4 on the beam. Having tacked a couple of times as the wind came around to NW and strengthened to the top of F5 together with a current pushing us S I decided that we should motor the last 4 nm to the narrow gap in the shallows N of the island. Once we did that we turned SW and with the wind behind us it was much more pleasant. After a couple of hours sailing we turned W then N into the narrow sound leading to Svendborg. However our destination was just short of that town, being Troense on the island of Tasinge. We tied up about 1530 and briefly explored the area around the Sailing Club where we had berthed.
Many Danish Harbours now rely on automatic machines to collect your berthing fees but Troense still has a Harbour Master. As the gentleman resplendent in peaked cap with gold braid, smartly attired and with his cash bag around his shoulders approached, Andrea remarked “Now that's what I call a Harbour Master”!
Impressive HM!
A little later we could hear a loud rhythmic clanging of an engine. Svendborg has an excellent collection of historic craft and some enthusiasts were exercising a little work boat around the bay.
Steam driven work boat
On Thursday, after cycling to the supermarket a couple of miles away we went a mile in the opposite direction to visit Valdemars Slot (Slot being the Danish name for Castle). This grand house has a splendid position commanding the entrance to the channel to Svendborg so we had seen the outside of it. It was built in 1639-44 By King Christian IV for his son, Count Vlademar Christian. But he never lived there and was killed in battle in 1656 at the age of 34. During the war with Sweden (1657-60) the castle was occupied and badly damaged. When Danish and Swedish naval forces met in a sea battle in the Bay of Koge, the Danish Admiral Niels Juel defeated the Swedes and captured a large number of ships. The King, being short of gold at the time, gave him the castle and the estate in lieu of the prize money that he was entitled to. Juel initiated an extensive renovation and created a monumental baroque house from the rebuilding. Today it is owned by Alexander Fleming, the twelth generation of the Juel dynasty.
Valdemars Slot
There are 17 rooms in the house open to the public mostly with appropriate furniture, historical paintings and collectables. What we were taken aback by was a huge attic which has a “Trophy hunting and ethnography collection” mainly that of a famous (apparently) Danish hunter, Borge Hinsch. It is a little disquieting to be in a large area full of stuffed wild animals and birds with pictures of the hunters celebrating their kill. There were also information boards justifying trophy hunting but Andrea and I find it rather a strange activity!
We did enjoy the house and the history and also had an excellent traditional Danish lunch in the restaurant. 
Traditional lunch
We cycled a round about way back and found some pretty Danish houses and villages.

Attractive thatched homes
One other feature we saw a number of times was the traditional ferry “Helge” as she took tourists and others around the bay stopping at, amongst other places, the Slot and the Sailing Club. Fine looking vessel.
Helge approaching landing stage
Saturday morning was sunny; we couldn't believe what a good spell of weather we had enjoyed since returning in August. The downside was that the wind was again very light so all we could do was motor the 19nm W past Svendborg on the island of Fyn and three small islands off the coast of Fyn until we reached Lyo. This is another small island about 4km long and 3 km wide with a population of around 200. The very pretty village is in the centre of the island about 15 minutes from the small harbour where the ferry calls about five times a day. 
The village pond in Lyo
The whitewashed Church has a circular graveyard, claimed to be the loveliest in Denmark! No information on whether the incumbents agree! It is certainly well maintained with miniature box hedges around every plot and many flowers and shrubs. 
The praised Chruchyard!
From there we walked to the NW of the island passing a Dolmen from the early stone age and then being able to view the reef and bird sanctuary. This is a flat triangular spit surrounded by a salt meadow. Many birds breed here earlier in the year, particularly arctic terns, little terns and avocet but regrettably we couldn't spot any of these.
Bird sanctuary
The following morning we decided to thread our way around the islands the short distance to the town of Faaborg which we had visited last year. We achieved three objectives. We fuelled the boat; did some shopping at Lidl; and had a smoked fish lunch at a popular little cafe on the edge of the harbour that we had visited last year. After lunch we returned the 5nm to Lyo but instead of mooring in the harbour we joined a couple of other boats anchored off the sand spit and had a peaceful evening and night in the bay.
Beautiful evening anchored off Lyo
On Monday we weighed anchor and headed NW towards the island of Als. Despite the wind gradually becoming WNW we were able to sail for a while as we headed to the N of the island. We rounded this and then turned S and with the wind having dropped slowly made our way through Als Fjord and then into Als Sund both of which separate the island from Jutland. Both the Fjord and the Sund are beautiful with rolling hills running down to the waters edge. 
Als Sund
After a 30 minute wait for a lifting road bridge on the edge of the town we tied up alongside the town quay in Sonderborg.
Whileaway on Sondorborg Town Quay
The busy town is a large shopping centre and has a mix of old and new buildings, some of the latter the usual concrete eyesores that you see in many places! It is a University town so that adds to the buzz.
New buildings dwarfing the old
Sonderborg is very near the border with Germany so has suffered from incursions! The Prussians took possession of Jutland in the 1864 in a war in which the Danes were forced to retreat to Als. After WW1 the population were offered a referendum on whether they wished to return to Denmark and they voted to do so, the change happening in 1920. Of course, during WW2 the Germans again occupied Denmark. Not surprisingly the second language here is apparently German rather than English.
In the afternoon we cycled 10km down the coast on an excellent foot/cycle path to Horuphav, a sleepy village with a small harbour. 
Basking seals sculpture on coast path
It was another warm and sunny day although with cloud building. Looking at the forecast it seems that we are now in for a period of rain and strong winds as a low that has been bringing poor weather to the UK, is set to push away the Baltic high that we have been benefiting from.