Saturday, June 27, 2009

Continuing our story from Sweden

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted. Sorry about that. A lot has been going on. Below is an update in reverse chronological order.

Kivik, Sweden

For most of the past week we’ve been guests of our friends David and Gunilla McCune in a village (Södra Mellby) near Kivik, Sweden. (See our Web site for a little more about David and Gunilla.) They have a wonderful old house called the Love Nest that they offer friends as a guesthouse. David and Gunilla have been great hosts, and we’ve been lucky to see so much of southern Sweden that most people would miss or not even know existed.

The Love Nest

Yesterday we visited the studio of a local artist, Bo Hultén, who lives on an estate that includes an arboretum with 3,000 trees from all over the world. The trees were collected and planted by an Englishman in the early 1900s, and the property is now under the stewardship of Bo and one of the Swedish universities. It’s open to the public, but Bo gave us a tour. He has the only redwood in Sweden, and it looked quite healthy.

The original plan was to move Solstice from the harbor at Simrishamn, about 20 minutes from here by car, to Kivik harbor. However, significant northeasterly winds developed and Kivik is exposed from that direction. So in addition to being our tour guide and translator, David was also our chauffeur back and forth to the boat as we took care of repairs and checked the fenders and such. We really can’t thank him enough for all he’s done to help us.

Windmill near Gunilla's farm

Hornbæk, Denmark

From Hundige we took the train to Helsingør where Tom and Tutten Mittler (the parents of friends in Berkeley) met us and drove us to their summer place in Hornbæk. Along the way they showed us the castle at Helsingør that is known as Hamlet’s castle, the harbor in Hornbæk, and the beach. Then they treated us to a great Danish lunch at their place.

Tutten & Tom and the lunch feast

Tom and Tutten had kindly delivered a boat part for us from the States. We really appreciate the favor and their tremendous hospitality on one of the few summer days we had had in the Baltic to that point.

Hundige Havn

We chose this harbor near the town of Greve because from the aerial photos it looked like it had side-ties and it was a nice day-sail from Rødvig. It was also less expensive than other Danish marinas at only 90 kroners a night, and the write-up in the Danish sailing magazine said they had free loaner bikes.

Sailing from Rødvig to Hundige Havn started out great and ended pretty good, but in between we had a squall with winds at 30 knots or more. We had already decided to reef, but when we were jibing out of being hove to, the bail that the preventers and boom vang attach to broke. (Sorry, this is only meaningful to sailors.) Now we have to figure out how to get that fixed too. (David and Gunilla helped us take care of this in Kivik.)

When we arrived at Hundige we discovered a new floating dock that didn’t show on the aerial photo, harbor sketch, Google Earth, or our charts. It had slips with green signs (meaning they’re available), so we took one and set off to find the harbormaster. We found the office, but they close at 3 p.m. on Fridays, and it was already four o’clock. They have a nice self-serve check-in machine, though, that takes credit cards and provides a card for the electrical service. The card supposedly also opens the restrooms, but we never found them locked. The showers were nice—and free—and although we thought we had to pay for the electricity, it turned out that we didn’t. The card was needed to get it started, but the machine refunded our electricity money when we turned it in.

Since we left Hundige on Monday, we never did see the harbormaster. The office is closed on the weekends and Mondays. So we didn’t get to borrow bikes, which would have been nice because it’s a hike to the store. In fact, we spoke to only one person at the marina the whole long weekend, and that was a guy who was working on his boat in a slip near us.

For those who may follow behind us, there’s a Lidl up the road at Ishoj and a small market a little closer the other way on the road. A local bus runs along the main beach road from Køge to Friden. I’m not sure how you buy tickets for it. We walked to the train station at Hundige and bought a 24-hour all-zone pass for our trip to Hornbæk, so that took care of the bus too.


From Klintholm we sailed past the cliffs of Møn to Rødvig, which is on the same island as Copenhagen and Hornbæk. The island is called Sjælland, which sounds something like “zaylant.” Danish is impossible to pronounce by sounding out the words, or if it isn’t impossible, I haven’t found the key to help me do it.

Tower at Rødvig

Rødvig was good. It’s a cute fishing village, and it was cheaper than Klintholm and had Internet. Plus, we met some nice Dutch people (Sipke and Margriet) from Friesland and enjoyed visiting with them.

Sipke stopped by our boat to ask about the Internet (since we’re Americans, we would know). When I asked the next day if they connected OK, we visited some more and I discovered that he belongs to Rotary and also that he was at the U of O in 1967-69 at the Business School. (It’s a small world, but it’s a bit uncanny how connections with Oregon keep appearing.)

While in Rødvig, we also took the train to Store Heddinge to get a new CF card for John’s camera. That was a little adventure, and now we have photos again.

Landmark tower at Store Heddinge

Monday, June 15, 2009

Klintholm, Denmark

We arrived this morning about 10 o'clock at this little fishing village on the island of Møn after sailing almost all of the way from Neustadt, about 90 nautical miles. The wind was lighter than forecast when we set out and stronger than forecast when we reached Denmark. As the one who had the midnight to 3 a.m. watch, I can now confirm that the sun's glow never completely disappears from the sky here at this time of year.

On the passage we had a good chance to use our new AIS (automatic identification system) receiver and software, which gives us the name, course and speed of commercial traffic and anyone else transmitting AIS information. The software displays the information in a radar view on the computer at the nav station and includes the estimated time and distance for closest approach. Our radar does some of this, but when you're bouncing around on the waves, the images bounce and closest approach info from our radar is next to useless.

Sadly, the compact flash disk for the camera has failed. The only photos of Lübeck that we'll have are the ones I already posted. We looked at CF disks in Neustadt for the chartplotter (so that we could update its system), but we thought they were too expensive. At the time, we didn't know how much we needed one. Now we'll definitely have to find one in Copenhagen.

We're planning to stay here two nights, but we'll keep checking the weather. The wind has died down from this morning, and my old forecast showed light wind on Wednesday. There's no Internet in this town. The harbormaster says the closest Internet is 16 km away. Good thing we have the short-wave radio to keep in touch.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Leaving Germany today

We’ve spent more time in Germany than we originally thought we would, mostly because of bad weather, but we’ve enjoyed it here. We have especially liked the small yacht clubs at Büdelsdorf and Bad Schwartau (Stettiner Y-C) where everyone was very nice and helpful to us.

We made it back here to Ancora Marina in Neustadt just ahead of a downpour followed by strong westerly winds. This is a huge marina, but the harbormaster himself came to help us with our lines as we came into the box he’d assigned us. We were grateful for the help!

We’re in the area of the marina farthest from the office where the big boats are. It’s strange to be one of the smallest boats around. People are nice, but not particularly friendly except for Klaus. Klaus has a huge Swan (a 56, I think), and he had spotted John as being from the American boat. Klaus’s English is quite good as he does business all over the world, including in the States, so he gets lots of practice. He bought us drinks last night at the bar, and it was good to hear him say that Klintholm (our first destination in Denmark) was a good place.

In the first 24 hours we were here we had the privilege of observing a phenomenon of the Baltic: the strong wind affects the water level. We had strong westerlies of 30 knots and more, so that moved the water east and we lost two or three feet of water under us. The passerelle, which was pretty level when we docked, developed an ever-greater slope until we took it down altogether the second night because it was too steep to walk. When we got up the next morning, the winds had eased some, the water had come back, and we put the passerelle back out.

It looks like we should have a nice sail to Klintholm later today with 10-15 knots of wind out of the west. At our average 5 knots, we figure it will take 18 hours. We won’t be leaving until early afternoon in case we go faster. We don’t want to get too close to the Danish coast at night because of fishing nets with stakes that you can’t see in the dark. The marina at Klintholm doesn’t claim to have Internet, so we may be out of touch for a few days. We’ll try to get position reports out on the short-wave radio, but that doesn’t always work either.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stettiner Yacht-Club and Lübeck

We’re leaving in an hour or so after three nights at the Stettiner Yacht-Club (StYC) at Bad Schwartau near Lübeck. To anyone following in our wake, this is another small yacht club that we can highly recommend. They’re very welcoming to guests, the facilities are nice, and it’s close enough to shopping and the train station. The boxes have relatively new rubberized pilings, and they’re all the same size meant to accommodate boats up to 15 meters long and 4.5 meters wide. Best of all for us, they charge the same rate no matter your size, and electricity, showers, and wireless Internet is included. Drinking water is also supposed to be included, but the hose bibs on the dock all say that it isn’t drinking water, so I don’t know what’s up with that. It’s possibly a regulatory issue, but we didn’t need water and didn’t ask about it.

Lübeck skyline from the water

Famous Holstentor entering Lübeck

Lübeck is worth the train ride. It’s a very old city (12th century) and on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. We visited three of the five major churches: Jacobikirche, Marienkirche, and the Dom. The Dom (cathedral) is the oldest, Marienkirche the largest, and Jacobikirche has the most spectacular interior. The Rathaus and Markt are also impressive. Bruges is still at the top of our list of medieval cities, though. Lübeck suffered extensive bombing in 1942 and, although the churches have been restored, little attempt seems to have been made to preserve the character of the old city in the new construction.

Impressive market

Talented dog

Pretty view from boat tour

We’re heading back to Ancora Marina in Neustadt today. We’ll hang out there for a few days to prepare for our crossing to Denmark. Strong westerlies are forecast starting tomorrow, and they push the water east so that everything gets shallower (the water is already very shallow around Denmark). It looks like they’ll calm down around the first of the week, so that’s probably when we’ll head north again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New photo pages uploaded

Whew! Being at anchor is good for the chores. Having a good Internet connection is good for the results. Finally, new photo pages have been uploaded. There are a bunch. Look under Latest Additions on our Photos page to find them.

Tomorrow we go to Lüeck—by train.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hey, that bridge isn't on the chart!

It was bound to happen sooner or later. It's the reason we try to have both electronic and paper charts. At the moment, however, we have only electronic charts for where we are, and there, about a half a mile from our destination, was a bridge that didn't show up on our e-charts. The bridge looks sort of new, but the chart chip is new as of 2008, and the bridge looks older than that. It's some kind of opening bridge, but it seems to be one that you have to call. But there's no channel or phone number. We ask a sailboat with stepped mast, and they give us a number, but it doesn't work. It's one number less than the numbers that have worked in Germany, but what's the missing number?

Oh well. We returned to an area that has lots of yacht clubs that welcome visitors. None has that side-tie we were hoping for in Lübeck, though. We pick the one that has the nicest pilings and best cleats and go for it. It's the Stettiner Yacht Club, and it costs a few euros more than the others, but it looks better maintained and easier for us. We pick the box we want, and on our third time past, we turn in. The fenders we put out pop back onto the deck and we bump the piling, discovering that it's rubberized. Cool. A man is on the dock to get our bowline, and we make it in to the box with minimal trauma and no yelling. There was also no wind. We did break something. A piece of Star Board that was by our stern anchor, but it's no big deal. Just a little too bad. Our best box docking yet.

With the passerelle in place we went ashore to pay our fees and decide to stay for two nights. The harbormaster tells us it's about 10 minutes walking to town and the grocery store and also to the bus. We're thinking we'll take a bus into Lübeck in the morning.

On our walk to the grocery store (which really was only about 10 minutes), we discover the train station. Now we think we might take the train. If only this yacht club had loaner bicycles, we could ride. A sign outside the yacht club property says it's 6.8 km to Lübeck. That's close enough.

Oh, yes, they also have wireless Internet here except that we haven't been able to get it to work yet.

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Anchored in former East Germany

The last two nights we've spent at anchor in the Pötenitzer Wiek, a bay on the east side of the Trave River. That means that it used to be in East Germany since the Trave was the boundary here. As a great fan of thrillers and spy novels, I'm impressed by this. I look around and see all the open countryside that you'd have to cross to get to the river. And the river here is pretty wide. Is that abandoned building an old border watch tower, I wonder.

We first anchored in the Dassower See just south of here following the recommendation of the Cruising Guide to Germany and Denmark, which is the only guide we could find in English. We were relaxing and enjoying the scenery when a little fishing boat came up to us and told us that we couldn't anchor there. It's a nature reserve, which we knew, but our charts didn't say we couldn't anchor. He was very nice, loves Florida, and just wanted to tell us before the police did.

With nothing much to do at anchor, we've been taking it easy, looking at the charts for Denmark that we bought at Ancora, and working on photo pages. John got 11 new ones ready while we were at our last anchorage, and I just had to do my part. I'll upload them the next time we have good Internet, but that might not be until we're back at Ancora.

We had thought to go on to Lübeck this afternoon. It's only about 11 miles from here. But the weather is gray and rainy, and pictures and video are so much better when the sun is out, so we might just spend another night here and hope for nicer weather tomorrow.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

New video posted, now heading to Lübeck

The really big news is that we’ve had good enough Internet here at Ancora Marina in Neustadt that John has been able to post his video of our Kiel Canal transit to YouTube. It’s his best yet.

We lingered in the Großenbrode Binnensee an extra night to let the weather settle down. While we were there the German federal police stopped by, asked us where we’d been and where we’re going, and checked our passports. They were very nice, and we're always relieved after we've been visited by officials because it really isn't all that clear what procedures we're supposed to be following.

Thursday we set sail for Ancora. The forecasts underestimated the wind. Instead of the predicted Beaufort 4 with gusts to 37 mph, we had steady 5 and 6 with gusts to 35 knots. We were glad that we had started out double-reefed. Sometimes, though, we got down to 5 knots, but that was just ahead of a squall, and we had several of those, including some with thunder and lightning. People on boats with tall masts hate lightning.

For the first half, it was a nice sail even with the stronger than predicted winds because we had the wind on our beam or just aft of beam. Then we were doing 7+ knots speed-over-ground and thinking that that Baltic was pretty great. When we had to turn into the wind, we didn’t think it was quite as much fun. The last part was straight into the wind, and the best we could do then was 3 knots, sometimes even less than two.

When we finally arrived at Ancora Marina, we found the guest dock with the nice side-ties that we had come here for—full. It only took two big sailboats to fill it since it really isn’t very long. In the aerial photo, it looks much longer, but more than half of what you see in that photo belongs to someone else and is fenced off so that there’s no access from it to Ancora. John got us turned around, and we went back out to the channel. There I used some very expensive minutes on my cell phone (Dutch Vodaphone in Germany) to call the marina for instructions. They said to come into the office, and they would tell us where we could dock, so we tied up at the waiting area for boats who want to refuel.

In the office we explained that we’re very bad at getting into boxes, especially in the wind, and that we would need help, a lot of help please. It was close to closing time, so they said we could stay where we were for the night and gave us directions to the grocery stores and ATM. (They do take Visa and MasterCard at the marina, but most places require cash.) We celebrated with dinner at the restaurant by the marina office where the prices are reasonable, the food is good, and the portions are enormous.

They said it was 10 minutes to the store. That must be by car. The stores are close as the crow flies, but there’s a railroad track between them and us and to cross the tracks requires a bit of a detour. The stores are good, though. We plan to provision here before we head to Denmark, but we’ll walk to the store and take a taxi back. (It’s a 20-25 minute walk.)

The marina staff has been very busy with a big boat show that’s going on here this weekend, so they let us stay both nights at the waiting area for the fuel dock. They’ve been very nice to us here, and we’re coming back to pick up our mail (and maybe another dinner out sharing one order). But later today we’re leaving for our trip to Lübeck. Even though it’s only about 22 nautical miles, it’s up a river, so we expect it to be slow and we plan to anchor out tonight.

A little visual aid thanks to Google Earth

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

At anchor again

This afternoon we anchored in the Großenbrode Binnensee and were surprised to find free Internet. Thank you, Großenbrode Yacht Club! (For you non-German people, the letter that looks like a capital B is called a sharp ess, and it's pronounced like ss.)

While we were at Heikendorf, we did a lot of walking. (The marina is supposed to have free bicycles to use, but the harbor master informed me that they all needed repair and weren't available.) First, we went in search of a grocery store—without a map, which allowed me to practice asking for directions. On the way home we found a much shorter and flatter route. There are signs to the harbor but not to the supermarket.

The next afternoon we followed the fjord-side walking path the other direction—toward the sea—and found the beach resort and a U-boat memorial. The beach chairs here are really beautiful. They're half-an-egg-shaped wicker about five feet tall. (Looking at the photo below, I see they aren't really egg-shaped, but that was my impression.) Inside the half shell is the chair, complete with foot-rests and colorful upholstery. They would be great in Oregon. I think the idea is to use the shell part to protect yourself from the wind.

Baltic basket beach chairs

The U-boat memorial was also quite impressive. We've seen other memorials to the fallen Germans of both world wars, and I confess that we always feel ambivalent. While I understand intellectually that not all Germans were Nazis, and in my heart I feel for those who lost fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, and friends to the war, the memorials seem a little threatening to me. The U-boat memorial with its fierce German eagle was particularly so. I was impressed too with how carefully the memorial and its grounds and flowers are tended and with how huge the loss of life was—more than 30,000 German submariners lost their lives in WWII. I didn't know.

Memorial for German U boaters

Everyone was very nice to us at Möltenort/Heikendorf. Our neighbors on both sides visited with us. On one side they spoke only German, but on the other side the people spoke the best English we've encountered here. They were a couple a little younger than us who had done the great Atlantic circle back in the mid-90s. From here that's down to the Canary Islands and across to the Caribbean, and then up and back across.

Since the English of the one couple was so good, we asked them for tips in docking in boxes. They said they hate them too and avoid them whenever they can. The people on the other side said to practice in the summer. I assume they meant when it wasn't windy. I had a Skype-chat with Andrew from Dandelion later, and he shared what he'd read about it, which pretty much agrees with what we'd been observing. Put big loops in two long lines. These become your stern lines, and you put the loop over the upwind or up-current piling just as soon as you can so that you can use it to help control the direction of the boat as you continue forward. At the bow, you have a long line ready to toss to someone on shore (best case) or to put on the cleat yourself. People here have open bow pulpits so that they can easily step ashore if they need to. Once the bow line is on shore, you back up to do the other stern line, and then go forward again to finish with the second bow line. The good boxes have lines that run from the dock to the pilings to complete the box. Those are a big help; you use them to keep the boat straight going in and out. We'll never be great at it because we're always visiting. Regulars keep their lines set on the pilings. But we did a good job getting back out of that box, and I'm doing my homework to try to find side-ties or anchorages for the rest of our time in Germany.

Solstice in our box

Last night we went to the village of Orth on Fehmarn island. We hoped we would be able to sail the 35 miles to get there, but the winds were just too light. Mostly we had to motor-sail. I'd picked Orth because it was small and looked charming—and because it said you could side-tie along the village wall with the harbor master's permission. When we got there, the wall option didn't look appealing, but we saw people in the cockpit of a big steel cutter, Victory, that was side-tied at the end of a dock and asked if we could moor to them. They said no problem. Whew!

Village harbor at Orth

Orth was supposed to have some shopping in the village and electrical power on the dock and Internet. The shopping was wind-surfing stores, the power on the dock was only for regulars (visitors had to go all the way to shore), and the Internet cost €9 for two hours. We said no thanks to the Internet and power and bought a few things at the fruit and vegetable stand that opened this morning. Despite it being not quite as advertised, we enjoyed our stop at Orth. For future reference, John says the showers are some of the nicest he's seen.

I don't think I've mentioned day-signals before. They're almost mandatory here but rarely used in the States and other places we've been outside of Europe. When you're motor-sailing (motoring with sails up), you're supposed to fly a cone with the point down. Ours looks a lot like a witch's hat. At anchor you fly a sphere. These signals go somewhere toward the front of the boat. We've been using the staysail halyard and a down line for ours. It is really nice when people use these because you can tell at a distance what they're doing.

We had anchored here and found the single-malt for a celebratory sip after a nice sail when we heard a loud pop. Scramble, curse, scramble. The line attaching the anchor sphere to the staysail halyard chafed through and the staysail halyard was halfway up to the spreader. John tried to snag it with the boat hook, but it was just barely out of reach. He rigged a loop on the end of the boat hook thinking that he could snag it that way, but by then it had worked its way further up and was still out of reach. Quick! Get the bosun's chair and get me up there before it gets too much higher. Long story short, I got to go up the mast in 20 knots of wind at anchor, and John had to get me there. He had the worse end of that deal. There's no fetch here, so the waves weren't throwing us around, and I didn't even have to go up to the spreader.

So finally we're peacefully at anchor in seven feet of very clear water (amazing how clear the Baltic is), using free Internet, and listening to the wind howl. The anchorage is big, our anchor is good, and we have the anchor alarm set but aren't worried. Tomorrow we'll probably go to a marina in a town with a grocery store, but for now, all is good.