Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome to the Baltic!

Our first Baltic lighthouse

The yacht and fishing harbor where we are is called Möltenort, but the town itself is Heikendorf. It’s a Baltic resort on the east side of the Kiel fiord across from the locks of the Kiel Canal. This is where we’ll be for a couple of nights or longer depending on the weather. It was a bit traumatic getting into the box mooring here, so we aren’t eager to leave right away.

Strong winds kept us in Büdelsdorf until Friday. Good thing we liked it there. We had been on the west side of the guest dock, but that meant that with westerly winds like we had, waves and wind kept us hard up against the dock. The harbormaster didn’t like that, and he (via his son who helps him) asked us to move Wednesday morning because even stronger winds were expected in the afternoon. That was a very difficult thing to do, even with lots of help, because the wind was blowing us off the dock on the other side, and we had some difficulty with the language barrier and convincing all the guys to cleat our mid-ship line so that John could use it to maneuver. They didn’t realize how heavy our boat is and that they couldn’t just manhandle us sideways. Eventually we got close enough that I could get off the boat, and only minor damage was done on an earlier, failed attempt. The bow hit the stand with the drinking water hose on it and broke the stand. They had it repaired and back in place before we left on Friday.

Last night we anchored in a little lake (Flemhuder See). That was restful, and we just took it easy. This morning we set off again and made the eastern lock of the canal at Holtenau just before noon. Again we were the last boat in, and they started closing the gates as soon as we cleared them. This time we had to tie off at the pontoon ourselves. It was lower than I felt comfortable getting down to, so I took the helm, and John handled the lines. The wind was on our nose, so it wasn’t a problem, and a German woman from the boat in front of us helped and gave John directions to go pay the canal fee. It was only €35, a relative bargain as canals go.

Looking back at the Holtenau locks

Getting into the box mooring early this afternoon was pretty much as difficult as we thought it would be—and we had help with the bow lines. Wind on our beam was part of the problem, and our lack of experience accounts for the rest. We didn’t break anything on our boat or on the dock or on anyone else’s boat, so in the end it’s all good. We did have the life ring pop off, which scared us because it sounded like something breaking. Climbing over the bow railing and anchor to get to the dock is too challenging to do very often, so John has rigged the passerelle, and now it’s pretty easy. John built the passerelle (basically a boarding ramp) in Florida because we’re told we need them in the Mediterranean to get off the back of the boat. In Amsterdam we loaned it to Sjoerd, but this is the first time we’ve used it ourselves.

Home Sweet Box: Passerelle poised for action

The guys next to us said that there’s a storm right now in Travemünde, where we’re planning to go next, and it’s heading this way. By Monday, though, it’s supposed to be calmed down. The Germans we’ve talked with seem pleased that we’re heading to Lübeck.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bicycle ride and shopping

We awoke this morning to a beautiful, summer-like day. It’s so pretty here at the Büdelsdorf Yacht Club. The club grounds are like a big backyard or small park, and there’s another park across the river. We can see Rendsburg in the distance at the end of the lake.

The harbormaster was around this morning, so we arranged for more Internet time for this afternoon, in case we didn’t see him again. Then we borrowed a couple of bikes and headed to Rendsburg to explore and get a bite to eat.

Since we were kind of hungry, we ate at pretty much the first place we found once we got to Rendsburg. My salad was good, but John’s hamburger was disappointing. Then when we reached the old market square, we saw a restaurant with outdoor seating and a reasonably priced menu and wished we had waited. Oh well. When we saw a German hotdog stand called Mr. Bratwurst by a fountain in a lake, we just had to try that too. The brats were pretty good, but we probably won’t do that again.

Rendsburg is a really old town that was alternately Danish and German until it finally became permanently German in the 19th century. They don’t seem to know when it was first founded, but it was first mentioned in 1199. We went into the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), which was started in 1286. It’s a Lutheran church now, but it has one of those beautifully carved altars that I always associate with old Catholic cathedrals.

Interior of the Marienkirche

The town also has lots of parks and public art. We followed one bicycle path through a park until we became concerned that we could actually get lost. I was a little turned around in my directions, but I figured we were generally heading to the lake or the canal. John led us to the lake, so the way I would have gone would have taken us to the canal, I guess. It was a very pleasant bike ride.

One of many monuments in Rendsburg

On the way back to the boat, we stopped to do some provisioning. I’d spotted a Getränke (drinks) store, so we stopped to explore the German beers. John picked about eight different ones to try, and I found diet orange and diet grapefruit soda, so I grabbed that. John did a little shopping at the nearby Aldi (a German chain of value supermarkets) while I went back to the boat with our stash.

When we got up this morning, we thought that we would continue on our way today. But it’s just too pretty here and too nice a day to have to run the engine, so we’re staying for one more night. Tomorrow we’ll go a couple of hours further up the canal to an anchorage that’s supposed to be nice.

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.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Büdelsdorf Yacht Club

We entered the Kiel canal lock at the Elbe river at 13:00 today. We were the last to enter the crowded lock and rafted to an Oceanis from Denmark. From the lock we motor-sailed for seven hours and 20 minutes covering 71 kilometers to the town of Rendsburg. We are tied up at the Budelsdorf Yacht Club. They charge one euro per meter plus one eruo for electricity and water is included. That is a very good moorage deal.

We walked up to the club house and introduced ourselves to a gentleman walking up a dock towards us. Shirlee bravely started a conversation in German. We found out that he is not the harbor master, they don't have a bar, and that we were invited for beer in the picnic area with his fellow club members. Shirlee did great a great job of conversing in German with the assembled club members. It was a wonderful introduction to life on the Kiel Canal.


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's so wrong on many levels

We arrived in Helgoland, Germany, yesterday. It's an offshore island in the North Sea NW of the Elbe river. We docked, rafting up with a Sun Odyssey. On our way to the Harbor Master's office we found the harbor toilets. Shirlee availed herself of the opportunity of the shore head. Entering the head she found out that it costs 50 euro cents to pee. To wash your hand it's an additional one euro.

I know I'm cheap, but that's just so wrong on many levels.


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Holiday Weekend In Helgoland

Helgoland is a holiday island. It has some beaches, clean water and air, hotels, restaurants, and VAT/duty free shopping.

Last night in the inner harbor we were the second boat in a five boat raft up. Today we are anchored in the outer harbor because we are leaving for the mainland at 5:00 AM to ride the tide into the Elbe river. This afternoon and evening we have seen a steady stream of sailboats entering the inner harbor.

If you look at Helgoland on Google Earth you'll see boats rafted 10 deep. We are sure that they are rafted that deep tonight. It's 21:00 and boats are still arriving, sailing hard to wind into the outer harbor. I'm sure they are cold after seven hours of sailing in the North Sea. I can see these sailors rafting up as quickly as possible, going to shore and the closest Duty Free store and getting a liter of Vat 69 for nine euro, and partying like it's Ascension Day.


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Good laundry, no free Wi-Fi

I bought a card to get 30 minutes of Internet access, and I have to go to the office to use it. We can see the Wi-Fi signal on the boat, and it looks strong, but the connection doesn’t complete correctly (it won’t give us an IP address). Last night we weren’t able to connect to SailMail either, so we couldn’t post a position report. I’ve taken care of that now, but it should be a lesson not to worry if you don’t hear from us. Sometimes communication is a challenge.

Right now the weather forecast is calling for near gale conditions tomorrow. If that’s the case, we’ll spend another night here. We haven’t had time yet to explore the island. I was doing laundry this morning, and I’m back for a second round now.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Arrived at Terschelling

It’s about 26 nautical miles, four bridges, and a lock from Franeker to Terschelling. We left at a little before 1 p.m., which gave me time to go to the store and to watch the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy while we still had Internet access. Good show, and good move because there’s no free Internet here, and the paid access isn’t reliable.

We’re pretty used to bridges by now and take them in stride. Andrew taught us a technique for dealing with locks. We tried it out, and it worked great. Then we were back in saltwater. That was pretty exciting for us after almost nine months. We had good wind, and we’d timed the tide so that the current was with us most of the way. The channel from the mainland to the island of Terschelling twists and turns. That means the point of sail changes. We sailed under jib alone for quite a way making more than 6 knots for most of that time.

That was when Dutch customs officers showed up in an RIB (rigid inflatable boat, inflatable sides and rigid bottom) asking to board us. The only possible answer is yes. It was our first boarding at sea, a fact which is probably amazing to our friends from Hiatus who were boarded numerous times in Mexico alone. Everything was going great until they asked if we had any guns aboard. First we said no, which to our minds was true, but then John mentioned the air/pellet gun, and they wanted to see it. It’s really just a toy that we’ve used to try to scare hitchhiking birds off the top of our mast, without success I must add. But in the Netherlands, it isn’t legal, and they had to confiscate it. (The French customs agents laughed and said never mind when we showed it to them. There are different laws in different countries within the E.U., just as there are differences between states in the U.S.) The customs agents dropped by the boat after we docked to give us the paperwork for the pellet gun confiscation, and they were really nice and didn’t fine us for having it in the first place. (We don’t remember what the customs agents asked us when we entered the country, but whatever the question was, John didn't feel compelled to mention the pellet gun. They probably said firearms.)

We walked into town this evening to get change for electricity (50 euro cents for 2 kilowatt hours) since the harbor office was closed when we arrived. Town looks cute, but I don’t know how much of it we’ll actually experience since tomorrow is Sunday and all of the stores will be closed. I have many loads of laundry to do anyway. I’ve been saving up because it’s free here and the savings will balance against the higher moorage fees. I figure I have at least four loads. Depending how many machines there are and how many competitors for those machines, it could take awhile. I know Dandelion has laundry to do since they have a little one aboard.

If I have time, maybe we’ll rent another bike and go explore the island. If I don’t have time, maybe we’ll stay and extra day. We’ll see.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Repairs made; waiting for weather

Monday the repaired generator was delivered to the boat, and John got it reinstalled. It was a challenge because the location of the genset is very awkward. Then when we tried to start it, John discovered a short in the system in a totally different location. But he fixed that too. I’m so impressed with all of the abilities John has developed since we started sailing.

Meanwhile, Dandelion (Andrew, Kerry, and toddler Zelma Smith) caught up with us and is now moored behind us. We’re all waiting on weather. It’s been really windy with winds from the east, which is the way we want to go. This morning is looks like we could have made it out to the Frisian islands today, but yesterday the forecast called for more wind than we have now, so no one got up in time to get all the way out there (26 nautical miles with three bridges and a lock in the first 10 miles). Gale-force winds are forecast for tomorrow, so we’re thinking that Saturday will be the day. I hope.

The Dandelion Smith family in Amsterdam

We’re still enjoying Franeker and discovering new things. Yesterday Andrew told about another supermarket that we hadn’t found. And on our way to check it out, John noticed an open gate with a path. It turns out to be a municipal garden that also forms a nice shortcut to the main shopping square. I’d seen the gate before, but it was always closed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Generator problems

In preparation for going off shore again, we’ve been working on some things on the boat. John fixed a problem with the engine panel instruments and set about trying to figure out why the generator wouldn’t start. It’s getting fuel, the starter motor works, it’s getting air, and there’s oil pressure, but the thing still won’t start. He suspected that the water pump to cool the engine wasn’t shut off properly when we ran the generator to test it in Amsterdam. That would mean that the engine was flooded with Amsterdam canal water for at least a month. Not good.

So this morning John disconnected everything from the generator engine while I was researching places in the area to get it fixed and where to rent a car to get it there. The Internet wasn’t being very helpful, even in Dutch, so I went back to Wateralmanak 2, which gives all the particulars of the waterways and services in The Netherlands. I should have started there. It turns out that there are several places between here and Harlingen that were possibilities, including a motor yacht builder right here in Franeker, so I rode the bike over to talk with them.

The man I spoke with, who turns out to be the owner Mr. Valk, said we should bring the boat over and his mechanic would look at it. The mechanic went through the checklist with John about all the things that were working properly before the engine was disconnected. Then he brought the forklift over, and he and John lifted the little (but heavy) engine onto it. The place that does engine repairs for them will pick it up this afternoon. Meanwhile, the mechanic did some poking around, and he confirmed that it doesn’t look good. Definitely, John was right and it wasn’t something that could have been fixed in place on the boat. We just hope that we won’t have to buy a new engine.

We probably could have stayed at the Mr. Valk’s landing, maybe even for free, but we didn’t have Internet there, and we would be locked in at night (and on weekends, I assume), so we came back to where we were on the wall in Franeker. Mr. Valk stopped by this afternoon, and we'll have an estimate of time and money required to repair the engine tomorrow. And Sjoerd’s going to come and see us on Saturday, so that part’s good.

Here's a photo of a monument to the guy, Eise Eisinga, who built the planetarium that we visited.

Monday, May 4, 2009


The major attraction of this little town between Leeuwarden and Harlingen is the oldest functioning planetarium in the world. We figured it was worth a stop. We arrived Saturday afternoon after six bridge openings—three to get back out of Leeuwarden and three that were new to us—and tied up to the wall at the entrance to a side canal just past the last bridge. The electrical hook-ups require 50-cent pieces, so we used that as an excuse to check out town and find a pub to get change. Sunday we visited the planetarium.

We had planned to leave for Harlingen this morning because I was concerned that the wakes from weekday barge traffic would be uncomfortable. (As it turns out, they’re much less obnoxious than the passing motor yachts, especially the ones who are racing to catch the bridge before it closes for lunch or dinner.) But I’ve been a little uncomfortable about where we would stay in Harlingen. There’s not a lot of information available on the Internet, and what there is shows significantly higher rates than the €10/night that we’re paying here with an open Wi-Fi hotspot nearby. So we took the train and went exploring in Harlingen this afternoon with the result that we’ve decided to stay here until we’re ready to leave for Terschelling later this week or this weekend, depending on wind.

It was great to smell the salt air again after months in fresh water. And it was good to see the lock and bridge that we’ll pass through to get to the Waddenzee. We also saw a line of boats in the distance clearly showing the marked channel to Terschelling. The Waddenzee (wadding sea) is very shallow, and we won’t be taking any shortcuts. Although we had planned to go to Texel instead of Terschelling, we changed our minds when I finally looked at the charts. There’s no simple way to get to Texel from Harlingen. You have to either go out to the North Sea or back into the IJsselmeer to do it, so Terschelling it is.

Oh, about Queen’s Day. I don’t remember it at all from when I lived here in 1970. It turns out that it’s a day when everyone tries to sell their surplus possessions—like a countrywide garage sale on the streets and sidewalks—because there’s to tax on private sales that day. Mostly people wander around looking and talking, and when everyone goes home, there’s a huge mess to clean up because things do get left behind. You can read more about it in this Wikipedia article.

Here's the video of our exciting trip from Sneek to Leeuwarden.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Another video on YouTube

This morning we succeeded in maintaining a Wi-Fi connection long enough to post another video to YouTube, and John has added both new videos to his"Sailing the Netherlands" playlist. Search YouTube for jforbe to see all of John's videos.

By the way, three years ago yesterday we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and turned right to begin our cruising adventure. This afternoon we're continuing on to Franeker. We're looking forward to a couple more years of exploring before we have to go back to work.

Here's the latest video.

Friday, May 1, 2009

One of four new videos posted

We went to the library today to post John's four new videos and even paid to access the Internet. Unfortunately, however, the library's computers weren't set up properly to upload to YouTube, and we couldn't find a system administrator there to install the needed software. So we came back to the boat and tried it here. I was able to upload one before I lost my connection. Here it is.