Winter at Lake Balaton, Hungary

 It is hard to believe that I have had two summers sailing on Lake Balaton already. I suppose time passing so quickly is a sign of getting older. Maybe because I am older, I haven't missed sailing in UK waters. I am often asked by Hungarians if I miss the sea  and I can honestly say that I haven't missed the times that I was cold, wet and frightened. Call me an old softy, but I much prefer air temperatures in the 30s and water temperature in the mid-20s.


Not that the Balaton hasn't got its own dangers. It is hard to imagine how quickly a blissfully calm day can suddenly change. Squalls and gales can suddenly come hurtling down from the hills on the north side of the lake, and although a well-found boat won't capsize or sink one can be painfully aware of the one thing lacking here: sea-room. There is no heaving-to and sitting it out


There is a system of lights around the lake to warn of sudden storms: white meaning take care, it might blow up a bit, and red meaning get off the lake or, at least, start your engine and be prepared to drop a heavy anchor. 


All of that seems a long way off now, though. It is snowing in Budapest as I write this and the lake has been frozen for much of the winter, with temperatures dropping as low as minus 15. Boats here come out of the water at the end of October and go back in in April or May. The hardy Hungarians don't let the lake go to waste in the winter though. There is sking, ice-sailing, and even some swimming in holes cut through the ice if you are mad enough. It is a very strange feeling to walk across a lake where only a few months before you were sailing. 





Jeremy Francis ..., 17.02.2011 | More from Jeremy Francis Wheeler’s blog