Sunday, May 24, 2009

Catching up

We’ve been without Internet since Terschelling, except for Cuxhaven where I was too tired to write, so here’s an update to fill in the blanks between John’s posts.


We had a really fun day Thursday, our full day in Helgoland. When we moved to the anchorage after topping off our fuel tanks, we realized that we’d forgotten to fill our jerry cans. The price was good without taxes, so it was worth going back—in the dinghy. So after anchoring for the first time since Flores in the Azores last June, we put the dinghy in the water for the first time since August or September in Amsterdam. We’d forgotten a lot, so it was good to review these things in situations without extra pressures.

In Helgoland few people speak English, so I used a few words of German to show that I knew a little, and most people said they understood English, and we went from there. I did have one of the harbormasters there tell me that he knew no English at all, so I said what I could, and he guessed (wrongly) at what I wanted to say next, and I said no, and we worked it out.

Solstice in the raft-up

After we took the dinghy to fill the jerry cans, John suggested that we go into town for lunch. He was hungry, and we really hadn’t explored. We had thought that there was a row of buildings along the harbor, but no more than that, so we were surprised to find several streets full of shops and cafés. We finally settled on a tiny harbor front café where John had fish and chips, German style, and I had the local specialty crab claws. It was a good value and a good choice. Of course, it wasn’t Dungeness crab, but it was tasty, something like the Florida stone crabs. All in all, it was a lot of work to get things done, but lots of fun—like cruising again for real.

Inner harbor of Helgoland and first row of shops

Also, John didn’t mention it in his posts, but we had a really nice sail from Terschelling to Helgoland. We estimated 30 hours to make the trip, but we got a late start because I misunderstood the information that was posted in the harbor office about when to leave. Using the motor when there wasn’t enough wind or the wind was from the wrong direction, we managed the trip in 26 hours averaging 5.5 knots.

Helgoland from the sea


Nice resort town, but for us it was just a stopover on our way to the Kiel Canal. After a 5:00 a.m. start to catch the rising tide and ride the current into the mouth of the Elbe, we reached Cuxhaven (Segler-Vereinigung Cuxhaven) at about 11 o’clock. We didn’t know where to tie up, so we took a side tie, and someone helped us with our lines. Then we took Märzen with us and went up to the office to find out where we were supposed to be and pay our fees. There we discovered that the office hours were 8-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Oops. But there was a machine where we could pay to get electricity, so we took care of that and went back to the boat to take a nap.

About 3 p.m. the harbormaster knocked on the boat and told us that we had to move. Where we were was reserved for boats 15 meters and longer. He showed us a slip toward the end of the dock where we should go. It had a finger dock, so we were relieved that we could side-tie there too. With the wind blowing us off the dock, however, it wasn’t our best docking adventure, but we finally got tied off and plugged in again and headed for town to buy some groceries.

Harbormaster speaks English but doesn’t keep regular hours. When we got back from town, it was after 4 p.m., so we tried the office. It was locked. John took the groceries to the boat, and I waited. About a half an hour later, John came back and said that the harbormaster was working on a dock repair near us and wasn’t in any hurry to go to the office. He told us he would be there about 6:30 or 7:00. All in all, we weren’t too impressed with Cuxhaven, but it was convenient.

Up the Elbe to the Kiel Canal

We needed to go with the tide again to get up the river to the Kiel Canal, but we also wanted to sleep in and use a little more of the wireless Internet we had paid for the night before, so we didn’t leave until 10:45 a.m. With the current, our motor, and some wind, we made good time, reaching at locks around 1:00 p.m. You’re supposed to call for permission to transit when you get there, so I did that, all the while watching all the boats who had left ahead of us head into the lock. Whew! They told us to hurry up and get in there and they would wait.

It was a full lock, and we rafted up with a Danish boat after squeezing past a huge motor yacht that was rafting with another huge yacht. I’d been hoping to raft with the British boat Gulliver II who I’d talked with the night before, but we couldn’t manage that. One of the Dutch boats would have been good too. Mostly, I wanted to be able to communicate with the people a little. Of course, the Danes speak English, and they were very nice, so it was no problem.

The Kiel Canal is rather pretty. It is lined with trees with bicycle paths on both sides. There seem to be a lot of campgrounds along it too. All of the bridges are high with at least 40-meter clearance. It made us realize that we hadn’t simply gone under a bridge since the Panama Canal; they always had to open for us. Motoring along at 5 knots, we were passed by all of the other boats who locked through with us. When there was wind, we used the jib for an assist, but inland like that, the wind is variable.

Kiel Canal with commercial shipping, ferry, and train on bridge


We were headed for the marina at Rendsburg, but on the way there we passed a yacht club on the other side of the lake that said Gäste willkommen (guests welcome) and had a nice long, mostly empty guest dock. We went ahead and checked out the Rendsburg marina, but all that was left there were boxes. Boxes consist of two pilings set off from a dock. The idea is to head in or back in, tying off on the pilings as you go so that you stop yourself before you ram the dock, and then you jump off quickly to secure whichever end is toward the dock. If you’re lucky, you get regular cleats on the dock so that you can throw the lines instead of trying to jump off. Better yet, someone will give you a hand with the lines. We’ve only done it twice with lots of people helping, and we aren’t good at it. We didn’t see anyone standing around looking like they’d like to help us, so it was an easy decision to return to the yacht club.

Rendsburg and marina with boxes

As we approached BYC (which we later learned stands for Büdelsdorf Yacht-Club), a woman was standing on the dock to help with our lines. She also wanted us to know that we should hurry if we wanted to get to the supermarket before closing on a Saturday night. Very nice. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for stores being closed when we arrived and also on Sunday, so we didn’t have to do that. John had roasted a chicken and vegetables underway because it was obvious that we would be late getting in.

The people here are very nice, the rates are outstanding (€1/meter per night plus €1 for power), and we’ve decided to spend at least a second night. We want to see Rendsburg and do some shopping before we continue because we’re thinking of anchoring in a lake before we leave the canal for Kiel. The BYC has bikes we can use for free to go exploring, and they have wireless Internet at the clubhouse for €1/hour. We won’t be doing any surfing, but we might be able to get some photos and videos posted, as well as the blog.

BYC Guests Welcome

By the way, the guys here at the BYC told us that the raft-ups in Helgoland get as big as 20 boats. They don’t like it there very much.

Language lessons

A 36-year-old degree in German is of limited usefulness in communicating here now. Reading Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Mann, and Hesse then did not equip me to go shopping or do any other kind of business now. People here generally do not speak more than a few words of English, about as many as I speak of German. Most of them studied English at school, but never used it, so they understand a little if I speak English. Likewise, I understand more than a little German thanks to my education and the similarities between Dutch and German. Most useful to me in speaking German, I think, are the dialogues and drills from first year German in high school back in Medford more than 40 years ago. They made my pronunciation pretty good and embedded much of the word order that learners of German find so difficult. I bought a Berlitz phrase book in Cuxhaven, but if we’re going to spend very long in Germany, I’ll also buy a better dictionary.

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