Having duly arrived in the British Kiel Yacht Club and been deserted by my crew (why do they always have 'commitments'?), my next task was to get myself and the boat to Copenhagen to meet Catherine. But first I had to address a persistent transmission rumble which had been giving me some concern since the stern tube replacement (got to have something to worry about on long passages). I spent a morning re-aligning 100kg of engine to within +/- 5 thou relative to the propshaft. Eventual success and did a short sea trial up to the 1972 Olympic Village at Schilksee to purchase courtesy flags for Denmark & Sweden.
I had a route worked out: up the Langelandsbaelt, through the Smålandsfarvandet, through the Storstrømmen and across the Faxe & Køge Bugt to Copenhagen - simples (apart from the pronunciation). I had been persuaded by Baz at BKYC to head for Spodsberg on Langeland rather than Bagenkop, which, although closer was a little out of the way. I had a NW F5 wind which was great for our initial NE course, if a little lumpy. My kettle and tea pot usually reside on the stove, nicely held in place by the fiddle bars: the Log reads 1210 - sea state kettle on floor, 1230 - sea state kettle and teapot on floor.
However, from the bottom of Langeland the course was N, the wind had veered and I encountered the first problem of Baltic sailing. There are no tides in the Baltic, hence no wind against tide conditions, but the winds do create currents which inevitably go in the same direction as the wind. So I now had wind and current on the nose. My velocity made good had now dropped from 5kts to 1.2kts and my ETA changed from a pleasant beer o'clock of 1800 to a cocoa time of 2200. I tried inshore, sails up, sails down, engine on, but never seemed to better 1.2 kts and the wind was rising to a steady F6. A strategic destination change to Nakskov on the island of Lolland was made and, despite a long entrance channel into the Fjord I still made beer o'clock (local time).
A delightful peaceful and sheltered marina run by the local sailing club at Hestehovedets provided a haven for a day's rest and my first swim in the Baltic. It all seemed a world away from the hectic previous three weeks and I had long chats about suitable tactics for the next leg of my trip with Lars, the owner of an ex German Army yacht called Kuckuck (Cuckoo), which had been appropriated by the British Army after the war. He assured me that Vordingborg on the bottom of Zealand was a large marina with plenty of berths, an easy day's sail and I would be sure of finding somewhere to leave the boat while I went upto Copenhagen on the train.
The following day saw light NW winds, so after a haul back out of the fjord, I motor sailed though a glassy sea and the largest flock of cormorants I have seen. Progress was slow but steady and I fine tuned the art of motor sailing down wind: too much engine and the relative wind speed dropped too much, too little engine and the boat speed dropped. Eventually after passing under the Storstrømmen bridge and across a buoyed channel that was nerve wrackingly shallow, I started up the channel to Vordingborg, the ancient Danish residence of King Valdemar Atterdag who re-united Denmark in the 1300s.
I arrived to a party in full swing. It was the weekend of Vordingborg's annual music festival and every available mooring was full. After a while cruising round looking homeless, I was directed to slot in between 2 boats moored on opposite pontoons and had a interesting evening listening to the live bands from the town square. Still, it was a good place to leave the boat for a few days as it was in nobody's way.
After going up to Copenhagen by train, meeting Catherine and spending a few days with my son and grandaughter in Ystad, we return to the boat to implement our detailed cruising plan of 'going where the wind blows'. The wind was west and so east we went to Kalvehave on the South East corner of Zealand. This entailed a rather tortuous route between the quaint local buoys with bristle top marks, the green ones looking like miniature artificial Christmas trees and the red ones resembling coloured chimney sweep's brushes. The flat water and wooded shoreline gives one the feeling of sailing in a large lake and took me back to my early dinghy sailing at Bewl Valley Sailing Club near Tunbridge Wells.
The weather was now really heating up and the wind had changed to the east, so we decided to go back east to explore some of the harbours and islands that I had passed by. However sailing downwind in scorching weather removed any slight cooling effect of the small amount of wind there was and we were melting. A tactical reversal of course gave us a cooling breeze and the first time I have chosen to beat upwind when I had a choice.
We called into the Island of Nyord for lunch, a delightful spot, but with the temperature up in the 30s we decided to carry on in the afternoon to Praestø, a delightful port off the main Kiel to Copenhagen route and hence relatively quiet. This involved another tortuous threading of narrow channels between hidden sandbanks. Eventually we were in open water and I was able to relax and leave the boat to look after itself for more than 5 seconds at a time.
Praesto was at the head of a large fjord (don't think Norway, Denmark doesn't have the hills). We arrived there late afternoon to find, joy of joys, finger pontoons; Baltic box moorings are not the easiest of things at the end of a long and tiring day. Beer and a meal at the harbour restaurant made for a fitting end to the first leg of our trip. We stayed here the next day and explored.
The morning brought news of Will & Kate's new baby, so Wight Wizard was dressed overall to celebrate, but seemed to bring little attention from the local population - I guess they thought that's what the mad British do on holiday. The local supermarket had an excellent bakery, where we were able to indulge in the freshest of Danish pastries (although they refer to them as Viennese pastries!) and some more shopping for proper summer wear (shorts, sandals, bucket & spade etc). A vist to the idylic Frederiksminde Hotel overlooking the Fjord for a welcome beer, made us appreciate the special nature of this tucked away heaven.
The next morning we explored the Fjord, more creeping down shallow channels and buoy hopping, but eventually opened out into a delightful bay with a wooded shoreline, where we anchored for lunch and I went for a swim off the boat despite the wall to wall jelly fish, that fortunately do not sting.
We now headed out of the narrow confines of the Praestø Fjord and into the Faxe Bugt, a wide open bay with more than enough water to enable me to relax, put the autopilot on and cover the 20 or so miles to the fishing port of Rødvig. The weather had now changed and we had rain, so the next day we carried onto round the coast to Køge. The headland of Stevns Clint is very impressive, passing Højerup Old Church hanging off the edge of the crumbling chalk cliffs. As we circled anticlockwise round the large headland, the northly wind headed us less and less and eventually freed off enough to motor sail (yet again).
Køge marina is a large new marina 2km north of the town, with all modern facilities including the excellent Cafesito restaurant serving lovely Columbian food. My younger son Al, who was visiting Karlskrona in Sweden had come out to join us for the weekend on his way back to UK. We explored Køge's guided town walk ending up at the beer cellar and sampling some of the local and not so local brews, even Catherine was tempted to try a beer.
From Køge we crossed the Køge Bugt to Dragør, a delightful and very picturesque fishing village very close to Copenhagen airport so Al could hop on his plane early the next day and then finally we headed round Amager island and into Copenhagen. We moored up right in the centre of Christianshaven at Wilders Plats, just a short walk to the centre of the city. 2 days were spent there exploring, doing the boat tour round the canals and The Little Mermaid (tick). A lovely meal in the Færge Cafeen restaurant in Wilders Plats, followed by the speciality of the house, a range of AquaVit flavoured with various berries and herbs. Needless to say we couldn't decide which we liked the best, but wasn't for want of trying.
After a couple of days, cities and shopping tire and we decided to press on towards Sweden and Ystad. Once out of the canal system, we had a good wind which enabled us to make to the fortified island of Flakfortet in the middle of the Oresund for lunch and a chance to clamber round the old fortifications. This artificial island was built in 1910-14 as part of Copenhagen's sea-fortifications. Its military function ended in 1968 and it now houses a restaurant and is used for concerts.
The wind picked up after lunch and we rapidly decided to head for Limhamn near Malmö as that was were the wind was taking us. Next day was strong Easterly winds (and guess where we were trying to get to). That's the trouble with marinas, you get all these yachts with little arrows at the top of their masts pointing towards your destination. So a day in Malmö was called for, once we had mastered the bizarre system of having to walk 1 mile into town to buy bus tickets to get on a bus that stopped just outside the marina. Malmö was delightful, a distinct change from Copenhagen, more eatihg, more shopping and a little sight-seeing.
The Øresund bridge had been taunting us for the past week and it was time that we got the better of it, so the next day we departed to go south under The Bridge and through the Fasterbokanal, before turning east to our final destination. Guess where the wind was blowing from. Once under The Bridge, we decided the civilised thing was to go into Klagshamn, just south of The Bridge for lunch and await the predicted veering to a more favourable direction. We were told that the bridge across the Fasterbokanal opened on the hour every hour..... except 8am & 5pm. We thought that Sunday might be the exception, but no, we sat jilling around for an hour and a half in very strong Westerly winds with 2 other boats, till eventually we were let through at 6pm and a short while later were in the Baltic Sea proper, almost as dramatic a transition as exiting from the Kiel Canal. A following wind enabled us to make a somewhat late arrival in Gislövsläge, where the overpowering smell of fish was highly reminiscent of the time spent in the Lofoten Island with Robert Fellows in 2011. But any port in a long passage and we had broken the back of the route to Ystad.
A few hours sail the next day, found us just outside the rather nerve wracking entrance to Ystad Yacht Harbour, a seemingly impenetrable wall of boulders suddenly revealing the hidden entrance and the leading marks into our final destination. A few minutes and we are finally tied up at our journey's end. Oli's boots sont arrivés.
I have just come back from Sweden after putting the boat ashore for the winter courtesy of the local yacht club and harbour master. We had to hire a mobile crane and build our own cradle out of timber, a bit nerve wracking, but it seems sturdy enough. Now I can sleep at night knowing the the boat is secure and an eye or two being kept on it. I can now start dreaming of next year's cruising plans and all the places it would be great to visit in 2014.