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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!