Friday, 28 August 2009

Oh, the bells, the bells!

Meeting in the canal.

We're in Enkhuizen in Holland. Been here for three nights now, and there will be a fourth. A southwesterly force 7 is howling through the rig, even though we are birthed in the middle of the town center with lots of shelter. We are sailing on a lake, but force 7 is still a lot. Tomorrow we'll have W force 5, which will be excellent for the 26M sail to Amsterdam, where I suspect we'll stay for at least 4 days. The plan after that is to go through the North sea canal to Ijmuiden and then around the Dutch north sea coast on our way home. We still want to visit the West and East Frisian islands which we skipped on our way here.

Every town in Holland with the least bit of self respect has bells, church bells, but not the kind that goes DING DONG DING DONG. They all go klingkedidonk klang diiiiiiing etc.
They all play tunes. We've noticed it in every dutch town we stopped in, Dokkum, Harlingen, Medemblik and now Enkhuizen. Enkhuizen is the "worst", the day we got here they played for an hour straight without interruption. They have at least three towers within a mile that all play a tune every 15 minutes. Apart from the fact that we wake up to Greensleves at 3 am each morning, we still havn't found a system for when they play what. I guess it's a complicated system.

They are not only crazy about bells, they are also quite fanatic about old boats. Usually they live aboard them and they are kept in mint condition. This old steamer had a nice sound in it's whistle!

The trip to enkhuizen has been somewhat eventful. We set out from Cuxhafen in Germany at midnight to go with the tide and reach or destination in the evening, the following day. The destination was Lauwersoog in Holland some 90M west. There was absolutetly no wind whatsoever as we left the harbour and the night was clear and without a moon, so the Milky Way was incredibly bright. On our way out the Elbe river we stayed just outside the fairway, but apparantly not far enough as the german "Wassershutzpolizei" pulled us over and told us to move further away. They were very polite and friendly though. Just as we reached the Elbe estuary at around 3 am, winds picked up from S and increased to force 4-5 and we set sail. Cuxhafen had been crowded with dutch boats waiting for better weather before going home and as dawn broke I could count almost 30 sails around the horizon, but I know there were more under it. Ingeborg is by no means a fast boat, but comfortable. With force 4-5 we sailed almost upright, doing 6-6.5 knots and almost everyone past us. The only boat that we managed to put behind us was a Tayana 42, HA! At 3 pm the wind died and we motored the rest of the way. At 7.05 pm we reached Lauwerssog, 5 minutes too late for getting into the channels through the lock. It didn't matter though, as we got company from two dutch couples on the boats "Calypso" and "La Touche". Very nice people and we were to keep in touch until we reached Harlingen, where we went separate ways. The next morning we went through the lock and started our "sail" by motoring on the channels, the standing mast route through the dutch inland waterways. We went to Dokkum, a small and very charming town. Just before Dokkum we had to turn around, waiting for a bridge to open and in the narrow channel (a little bit wider than the length of Ingeborg) we got stuck in the mud and had to wait for a friendly motor boat to pull us out. We spent the night in Dokkum, as a heavy thunderstorm passed overhead. The next day we set out for Harlingen, which is on the Waddenzee, outside the channels but inside the westfrisian islands. In Leuwarden, between Dokkum and Harlingen, just as we were to pass under a bridge, the motor died and we were left drifting on the channel in strong winds. It would have been worse if it had happend after the bridge and if it was closed, but it would have been better if it had happened in the middle of the channel as we could have just put her in the mud. Now we drifted towards a rather nasty quay with large mooring poles for river barges. We were lucky though hit one of the poles amidships but managed to get a few fenders in between first. We could then jump ashore and after some hard work pulling lines to trees she was safely moored and we as well as Ingeborg were unharmed. We also got company from Calypso and La Touche. When they saw that we were in trouble they asked the bridgkeeper to keep the bridge open so they could turn back for us. It felt really good not being alone! 30 minutes work had the motor running again, air in the system and when we changed diesel filters in Harlingen we got the explanation. A nut blinding the unused intake (there are 2 intakes on each filter, but only one is used) on one of the filters had come loose and the filter was sucking air.

I have no idea why the Italians are so proud of their leaning tower. In Holland every building leans and they all lean in different directions. Most hoses arte very old. A house built in the 19th or even 18th century is considered to be "new". It's not rare to see houses from early 17th century, or even 16th century. As the boats, the hoses are kept in mint condition and are preserved very well. It really isn't hard to imagine what it must have looked like here a couple of centuries ago.

Harlingen is a nice town on the coast, inside the islands on the Waddensee. The Waddensee is shallow and always changing so you need the very latest charts and navigational warnings. During low tide a lot of the Waddensee is dry and even the fairway is only 1-2 feet deep, so you need to cross during high tide. Harlingen is not tide free and there are no pontoons, so you need to use long lines. It was a really nice place though. We stayed two nights before crossing the Waddensee to the locks at Kornwerderzand before entering into Ijsselmeer. We then sailed to Medemblik, a very, very nice and charming town on the western side of Ijsselmeer. Ijsselmeer is by the way a lake, a man made lake with a dam separating it from Waddenzee in the northern end and another dam separating it from another manmade lake in the south. From there we sailed on to Enkhuizen, another charming but rather big city.

We've been here for 3 nights now, working a bit on the boat. We installed a new holding tank among other things. We've also been listening to Joshua Slocums "Sailing alone around the world" on CD and taken turns reading "Slumdog millionaire" by Vikas Swarup out loud to eachother. Really nice! Tomorrow, hopefully, Amsterdam is waiting!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

We've got to get out of this place...

We've been here for... almost five days now. In Cuxhafen that is. Unless the water is crystal clear with dolphins jumping across the bow and barebreasted mermaids serve you breakfast every morning, five days is too long!

We sailed from Spodsbjerg in Denmark to Holtenau in Kiel. Holtenau is a nice little harbour in a calm area with buatiful old houses, and it's just next to the Kiel canal locks. We had absolutely no wind on the way over and the 60M we're done by engine. We arrived in the middle of a thunder squall and rushed below like drowned kittens.

The next day we went through the locks, it was uneventful and over before we knew it started, a bit of an anticlimax. We continued on to Rendsburg, a nice little town about 1/3 of the way through the Kiel canal. Again, motoring, as sailing is prohibited in the canal. In Rendsburg we found Ingeborg's sad looking sister.
She's aparently been laying there for ten years and looks like she's in a bad shape, although not beyond rescue, yet.

The next day we continued to Brunsbüttel, which is in the other end, the Elbe, or North sea end of the canal. On our way there we broke the traffic regulations of the canal! There meeting places or "exchange areas" as the germans call them, along the way, with signals indicating if it's OK to enter and leave, or to only enter but not leave etc. As we aproached one of them, there was a red flshing light, which means danger, enter but don't leave. We had two large sailing boats in front of us, a large german river barge and a german SAR boat and they all ignored the signal. We thought; when in germany, do as the germans. We would soon get the explanation to the signal though. On the other side of the meeting place there was a large railway bridge. Just as we went under the bridge, five police helicopters crossed the canal at low altitude and disappeared behind the forest on our right side. A few minutes later they appeared again, behind us and lined up over the channel. They then sped up and all of them flew under the bridge before disappearing around a bend in the canal... After all this excitement, the rest of the day was wonderfully boring. We didn't have high hopes for Brunsbüttel, but it was a pleasent surprise and quite coasy. We spent two days there, waiting for better weather, before leaving for Cuxhafen, a trip of 17M. Finally, the weather improved enough and we continued with the tide out the river Elbe, again by engine in headwind of force 5. With the wind against us and the tide, creating choppy seas, we were almost dead in the water at times but still did between five and eight knots over ground. We arrived in Cuxhafen just before lunch. That was thursday last week and we've been here since then. We've had westerly winds of between force 5 and 6 and during the weekend it peaked at force 9. Not good for us, as we are heading west. We're waiting here together with a whole bunch of dutch sailors on their way home. Tonight though, we'll leave. The winds have dropped and during the afternoon today they'll veer to south or southeast. Perfect! We'll leave tonight for Norderney, one of the westmost of the East Frisian Islands. Distance from here, around 70M The reason we'll leave tonight is that the appraoch is difficult in darkness, so we'll have to arrive during day. We also have the tide to consider. I guess the first part will be by engine again, as they have thretened with very light winds during the early night. Winds will pick up after midnight though, so it looks like it'll be a lovely night of sailing.

And now, a few words about Cuxhafen. It's not a bad place really. It's an old resort with lovely old hoses and nice beaches that keep disappearing and coming back as the tide changes. The town is quite big and it's divided into two parts. The center is quite modern with lots of shops and you can find everything you need. The older parts, the resort and beachfront are lined with beatiful old and large houses, small hotels and restaurants. There seems to be a lot of tourists here, but most are germans. There is no information in english anywhere! It's expensive here though. They charge you €2.80 to enter the beach. €20 per night in the marina and then nothing's included, you pay extra for electricity, water, showers etc. The only thing that's reasonably cheap is restaurants. Prices are about 10-30% cheaper than home, and you get served twice as much food. The day before yesterday we visited the yacht club's own restaurant and had a fishplate for two. It was a mountain of food and we could barely finnish half of it. We got a doggy bag and had lunch for the next day. This made our extravagant dinner quite cheap after all.

There are two main marinas here, the SVC (Sergler Vereinung Cuxhafen) which we're in. It's just a marina, all services but quite boring. Very sheltered though. Then there's Cuxhafen city marina, almost in the center and it looks really coasy. Max length over all for entering is 20 metres and you have to pass under a bridge that opens between 6.00 and 21.00. Both marinas have pontoons so you don't have to worry about the tide during your stay.

A typical Cuxhafen house with one of the churces in the background.

/Hampus, aboard S/Y Ingeborg in Cuxhafen, Germany. Waiting anxiously to leave.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

I'm sitting in bed drinking tea and eating cookies. We're off! It's friday today and we've been on our way since monday. Last week was a bitch, we finnished the mast, installed a new calorifier, a new VHF, packed, shopped, stepped the mast, bought a million little things that we needed for the boat and came out a lot poorer. I don't think I was in bed before 1 am any night last week. And we're just going for a two month trip, Imagine if we were going to be away for five years!

Anyway, we're on our way now. What a relief! We left Malmö five days ago in nice winds but with a grey sky and rain threatening to break out any minute. Lotta's family came along for the short trip to Falsterbokanalen, the place where I first started to sail dinghies. With just an hour to go the sky opened up and we moored alongside the pontoon looking like drowned cats. We stayed there the entire tuesday. We had to buy a new winch for the genoa halyard and mount it on the mast. That night we had dinner with my parents who live nearby. Falsterbokanalen is a man made channel and it saves you around 13M if you're going south, or north. At 1100 on wednsday, as the bridge opened, we passed through and we were on our way! The 33M sail to Klintholm on Mön in Denmark took 9 hours in very light winds but beautiful sunny weather with a sea that looked like mercury. We motored the last 15M. Klintholm was expensive, 34€ for one night and then we spent another 250€ on 200 liter diesel and the "hafenmeister" (harbourmaster) only spoke german!

The captain!

At thursday we were off again, this time through Smålandsfarvandet to the small island of Femö, also in Denmark. Again, hardly any wind and it took all day to sail the 30M. The small marina was full and we anchored just 100 metres off the beach, together with 13 other boats. The night was very calm and we took the dinghy ashore and went for a walk. Friday (today), we set sail for Spodsbjerg on Langeland (long land), another danish island. It probably got it's name from it's shape, the danes are predictable. A lot cheaper than Klintholm and plenty of room. The sail today was in force 4-5 winds and we made good speed under mizzen and genoa on a broad reach. We got a head current as we aproached Langeland and the seas we're quite choppy. I cut my hand, knocked my head on the main boom and we spilled sauce from the lunch stew all over the cockpit. On top of this, some (probably the previous owner) had removed the vent hose to one of the diesel tanks from the deck vent and we had filled the cabinet where we keep all our drinking glasses with diesel. We didn't notice this until I handed Lotta a glass mixed with lemonade and diesel. She had an extra mouth full before noticing that something was wrong. She still tastes like diesel when I kiss her... All the glasses are in a bucket of water in the cockpit and it seems like they'll be odor free. The locker is worse off though, but that's a project for tomorrow.

Oh yeah! Tjis is how the mast turned out, varnished and ready. More details later.