My son Oliver came to visit from Ystad, Sweden last Christmas with his 1 year old daughter, and, owing to the large number of presents to take back with him, left his boots behind. It would be far too expensive to post them, so why not sail there with them (money spent on sailing doesn't count) and spend summer in the Baltic and maybe leave the boat over there for a couple of seasons; anything to get away from the succession of Atlantic lows experienced last year.
After a delayed winter refit due to the extremes of the weather, Wight Wizard duly went into the water on May 10th, all ready for getting the boat all kitted out and prepared for the trip. However a persistent leak resulted in the boat having to be hauled out again and investigated. A corroded stern tube was found to be the culprit, so nothing for it but to dismantle the rear end of the boat, source a new stern tube and refit. Two and a half weeks later and a lot of angst and she was ready to go back into the water, departure now scheduled for the 22nd June.
I had assembled 2 crew willing to make the crossing with me, Ian Sturt from the Little Ship Club and Pablo Carrera from the Cruising Association. After a week of gales in sea area Thames, we duly left our drying mooring at Ipswich at the height of the tide and after an overnight stop at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, I decided to make the most of the SW F5 to get to Lowestoft, before the wind went round to the N-NW the following day. Sunday saw us making the crossing to Den Helder, but the winds died after about 6 hours and we had a very uncomfortable crossing under engine, which no-one really enjoyed. But we made it, lived to tell the tale and met a number of other UK boats on their way to the Baltic at Den Helder Yacht Club, with whom to swap tales. Pablo had to return to the UK for work, but his contribution was greatly appreciated.
Strong NW winds for the next few days, decided me against attempting the Frisian Islands, so Ian and myself had a lovely sail across the Western Waddensee to Harlingen and then into the Mast-up Route across Netherlands to Delfzijl. 49 opening bridges gave us a number of experiences of paying brug-geld via a clog on the end of a fishing rod at certain bridges. You need 3 days at least to make this passage and we scraped through a number of places with our 1.58m draught. Groningen is a delight with its 13 bridges, sailing right through the middle of the town.
Delfzijl duly made, Ian went home, no doubt relieved to be away from the hassles of shallow water, innumerable bridges and a some-what stressed skipper and my brother joined me for the final stretch to Kiel. Tuesday saw light winds, engine on and catching the ebb out of the Ems from Emden past Borkum. After eventually making up our minds which way to go round yet another confounded wind farm (not on this week's chart), we rode the flood to Norderney (our one and only Frisian Island), only to arrive on the one day of the week when the marina restaurant was closed. Dinner on board and a stroll into town the next morning to view the monument to the unification of Germany by Kaiser Wilhelm, consisting of 61 stones each from a different German state.
In the early afternoon, we took the flood tide to the end of the Traffic Separation zone off the Frisian Islands then headed out into the German Bight for Helgoland. Again motoring all the way, with a little occasional help from the sails and arrive in Helgoland early evening to rafts of boats everywhere, all in transit after stocking up on duty free goods and diesel.
A stroll round Helgoland in the morning mist and a second breakfast in a cafe, unfortunately rudely interupted by a phone call from the inside boat of our raft wanting to leave; such is the sailing life. We departured from Helgoland at 2pm to catch the tide into the Elbe and yet another day's motoring to Cuxhaven. Early start to Brunsbuttel and the Kiel Canal the next morning and by 10:30 we were through the lock and into the relative calm of motoring along the Kiel Canal, with the occasional very large ship coming one way or the other, and at one time three ships plus ourselves all trying to get past at the same time.
Suddenly a switch was turned with the weather and it changed from cold, dull and overcast to clear blue skies, searing sunshine and short sleaved shirts; begone foul weather gear. We arrived in Rendsburg on the canal and awarded ourselves a well earned day of rest, particularly after experiencing our first German box mooring in strong cross winds.
Rendsburg is a delightful town, with a guided "blue line" walk, some lovely restaurants and .. a fun fair ... just by the moorings. Did it stop me getting a good night sleep - it did not.
The next day was the final short stretch to Kiel and we decided that the civilised thing would be to stop for lunch in the Flemhuder See, a small inlet just off the canal. We dropped the anchor in 2 metres of water and watched the traffic going past just outside the entrance whilst we had a leisurely lunch. Just as well as when we arrive at the locks at Kiel there was some delay which meant rafting up for an hour or so, sharing tea and cake with the German boat next to use; well it was 4pm.
The transit of the Kiel Canal cost us the princely sum of 12 euros and we were shortly through into the Baltic, where there was wind!. After enjoying a half hour's sailing after weeks of motoring, we were finally moored up in the British Kiel Yacht Club. Although the locals say the the Baltic doesn't start till west of Denmark, it's good enough for me.
From Kiel I have now sailed (yes sailed!!) up to Vordingborg on the south of Sjaelland, where Catherine will join me and we will spend some time with my son and grand-daughter in Ystad, then have a few weeks going where the wind blows, without ridiculously early starts to 'catch the tide'.
Roger Graham, Wight Wizard, Contessa 32 CO612