Monday, September 19, 2011

A cruise across the North sea and Baltic

North sea and Baltic 2011

Depart Pin Mill on Sunday 10th July. The strong SW winds form the previous few days have dropped to a more reasonable force 3 although the forecast is still saying 4-5. Leaving at high water we take the full, stream out of Harwich and up the Sledway towards the Shipwash buoy. We have a jolly broad reach until the evening and enjoy supper in the cockpit at there table like civilised folks calm is the sea. Sadly the wind drops further to F2 and less so we have to motor the remainder of the crossing towards Den Helder. We reach the far side of the Texel separation zone around lunchtime on Monday and as the wind continues to be light decide to carry on to Borkum. We catch a mobile signal and inform our crew Chris of our intentions. The five to six forecast reports variable 3 becoming NE 5-7 latter which we find disconcerting. The Hamburg navtex gives greater precision: variable in the evening light NE by noon becoming stronger in the evening. This gives us greater confidence since we expect to arrive around eleven. And so it turns out and we are safely tucked up before the wind and rain arrive in the evening. Chris is duly met at the ferry so all is well. Wednesday is a wash out horizontal rain all day. Walked to Lidl Thursday. Walked along the coast from town Friday. Hired bikes on Saturday and cycled to Oostland, saw a Marsh Harrier (Rohrweihe) hawking over farmland near the coast.

The forecast continues with its force 6 and 7s and accompanying squally rain. According to the met office it is an unseasonably deep low. Since there is no chance of us moving until Tuesday Chris decides to leave on Sunday and have a day in Hamburg. We see him off and continue listening to the wind and rain making just a brief foray to the Wattenmeer.

By Tuesday things have calmed down and around five in the afternoon we take the last of the ebb out of the Ems back into the north sea. The wind has swung round to the north-west and so is on the nose and even at force 4 makes a bumpy first couple of hours wind over tide. By seven we can head east along the Freisian islands and broad reaching with a new flood towards the Elbe we make great progress. Needless to say the wind soon falls light and we have to motor sail for a while. But enough of a wind returns for us to sail again and we are able to carry the tide all the way to Brinsbuttel, 115 miles in 24 hours. The first good weather in a week has brought everyone out so there is a big queue for the locks and we are kept waiting two hours in the pouring rain. When the signal is given to go there is a great rush and a large yellow and black steel Dutch ketch tries to barge past us in the lock so I have a pop at him, they slink off ashamed - quite right too. There is just enough room for us to raft up alongside a friendly German ketch. The skipper gives us a forecast for the Baltic side - the weather will go stormy again by Friday ugh!


We have a good night sleep and in the morning head for the bunker station. A commercial ship is along side so we are directed to the inside of the pontoon. This is close to the bank and we appear to stick. A line heaved to the operator however soon has us pulled alongside. After filling up we put the engine into gear and nothing! Engine goes but the boat does not. We quickly heave the lines a shore again and investigate the problem. Then gear lever and cables work but the transmission is not transmitting.


A call to the CA Kiel HLR Janet Safararovic brings the cavalry in the form of a blue boiler suited mechanic. He brings the news that the gear box will have to come off. As the fly wheel housing is integral to the gear box on our Mercedes which also incorporates two of the engines mountings this is by no means an easy task. Within three hours they are done. As luck would have it Janet and Husband Horst are out sailing themselves - returning from a trip to England they are taking the tide from Cuxhaven to Brunsbuttell while organising our rescue. We meet up with them in the evening for supper and a drink. The mechanic call next day to tell us that a spare part has been ordered from Holland and should arrive by Monday. So spend the weekend in the wind and rain tied to the jetty by the bunkering station. On Monday the mechanics come with the repaired gear box. All goes well but there is a hiatus before the engine work. On trying to start turn the key - nada. Eventually it is discovered that the main earth return to the starter motor had been disconnected when the gear box was removed and they had forgotten to reattach it. Next go engine turn but does not fire - this is more simple the stop cable had been piled out by accident. Third time  engine fires no water comes out - the seacock lever had been knocked to off. Finally all is well. On Tuesday we are off at 8 and make good progress along the canal and are at the Holtenau locks by 5pm and moored up at BKYC by 7. Most of the fleet are away so we can moor alongside and avoid the box treatment.

                                                 Tokomaru2 moored Utklipan

Wednesday is wash day the first in a month. On Thursday we have a fine sail to Rodbyhavn a broad reach under full sail in F5 from NW. Fifty miles in 8 hours one of the best for many a year. I would not however have wanted it to go on any longer.   There is not much to be said about Rodbyhavn but as the wind increased to F6 the next day we stayed in port. The sail on Saturday was very pleasant with a more reasonable NW 4-5 we scooted along with just genny and mizzen. Just as we were approaching Gedser on the southern tip of the island of Falster it looked like we were going to be hit by a rain squall. Mercifully it passed us by  and we were able to moor in a "box berth" - our first - without much difficulty. This harbour is very popular with visiting boats and soon all available berths were taken up with much rafting besides.    On Sunday the wind had dropped to virtually nothing so we had a restful motor on a calm sea to Klintholm 35 miles further on. Arriving around 6pm we found the harbour seemingly full. We joined a couple of other boats and anchored off since it was completely calm. Interestingly about another ten boats were able to fit into this "full" harbour afterwards including a fine old Baltic trading ketch. The next day at around 11am we motored in to a half empty harbour and were able to practice our box entering skills. Shortly afterwards it became very foggy and we were pleased we had decided to take the day off.


Tuesday 2nd of August, Up at six and out by seven. Clear blue sky no fog and no wind. We took this opportunity to motor all the way to Ystad in Sweden around 58 miles arriving 12 hours later. We saw fog banks swallowing Denmark but they did not effect us. We had to dodge few ferries but otherwise an uneventful day apart from being invaded by millions of tiny flies - mercifully not biting. Ystad was pretty full but we managed to raft up to a large American motor yacht. In the morning we moved into a box explored the town and shopped. This is a very busy marina with much manoeuvring for space would not want to di it in anything larger that our 36 feet though many did with much use of bow thrusters. On Thursday we continued eastwards unfortunately into an easterly wind. It was only 10 miles but with tacking we sailed 17! We were quite pleased to get into the tiny harbour of Kasebrega even though it had an adrenalin rushingly  narrow entrance open to the east. Mooring turned out to easy just stepping ashore with line along side a conveniently high wall. It was interesting to see the standing stones depicting a Viking long ship.

                                                         White tailed Eagle

The following day we had a 50 mile sail to Bornholm. Unfortunately just before departure we discovered a weeping leak from the diesel tank. Some epoxy was hastily stuck over it and we set off. We arrived around 4 at Tejn an unprepossessing fishing harbour which had the benefit of an easy entrance and mooring arrangement. I contacted my friend Kaare whom I had know from teaching in Africa 30 years ago. He gave us a quick tour of some of the more quaint ( and crowded) harbours and entertained us for the evening. Unfortunately we were on a bit of a mission and a good forecast that could not be forgone so promptly on Saturday morning we headed off on the 50 mile trip to the tiny island of Utklipan on the SE corner of Sweden. We had a fine sail with wind on the quarter arriving around seven before the forecast strong winds picked up. The island has a very snug basin, originally built for fishing boats. So we had a peaceful night as half a gale from the SW blew about our ears. It tipped with rain as well as blew in the morning so we stayed the day and enjoyed a pleasant walk when things brightened in the afternoon. On Monday we sailed just with jib and mizzen up the east coast to Bergkvara where we anchored rather than squeeze into the marina for the night. On Tuesday we motored northwards on the inside of the island of Oland again setting out early to escape strengthening winds in the afternoon. In the event it it remained calm all the way with just a little breeze forming as we approached Kalmar. We had a rest day here and it blew quite strongly as we went sightseeing round the town. On Thursday it again went completely calm again and we had to motor again all the way to Borghom on Oland 17 miles northwards. With some trepidation  we topped up the diesel tank as the weeping leak with a bit of extra epoxy seemed to be under control. In addition to the 50 litres we put in the tank we decided to put a further 20 litres in a jerry can and lo this too began to leak and the contents had to be put in the main tank.

                                                 Fire at paper mill

After arriving at Borgholm we took a walk through the nature reserve to the kings summer palace and adjacent ruined castle. No luck on the bird front unfortunately. Friday was again blustery - it's weird how the days alternate between force 6 and calm - so we enjoyed another rest day changing our mooring arrangement from stern buoy to alongside as the guest harbour had only ten boat s instead of the 100+ it has accommodation for. This makes getting on and off much easier. We ate out at the youth hostel cafe £6 for a pint of beer which we shared!  Saturday's sail was a very boisterous affair fairly hard on the F5 ENEly wind. The forecast promised a slight veer and decrease but as usual it perked up. We had chosen an anchorage or nature harbour as the Swedish pilot book calls it called Kiddeholm and we were mightily glad to be in even after the adrenalin rush of a strong wind from behind blowing into the narrow entrance. A beautifully calm spot in outstanding scenery. We had hoped to progress on Sunday but inspecting the engine produced the horrifying result that the diesel leak had got considerably worse and around 40 litres of diesel had been deposited in the bilges. We decided to go to the nearby town of Oscarshamn a couple of miles away to see what could be done. Several days were spent between the town marina and one a couple of miles away trying to locate an engineer who would look at our problem. While waiting we purchased several jerry cans and into them pumped the contents of the bilges. Eventually on Tuesday a guy came to look and with some horror decided the tank could not be removed. With only 30 or so litres in the tank it does not leak much so we decided to live with the leak maintaining just a small quantity of fuel in the main tank topping up from jerry cans as necessary until we haul out at the end of the month.

                                                                Helicopter water bomb

So much for the theory. We sailed on to the natural harbour of Utlango. The genny roller decided to give us some gyp. But we continued regardless. Very tranquil it was and we had a swim using the dink and outboard for the first time in months. Somehow the carburettor flooded so we had to row home. In the morning we motored off in the calm enjoyed the sight of a White tailed eagle and then stop. The engine gave up. With at light and favourable wind we decided to carry on and see if we could fix the problem. Evidently the recycled fuel had blocked the filters. We made slow progress and managed with the last of the of the wind moored up at the beautiful island of Uto. We had alerted the harbour  master and he had agreed to give us a tow in but in the event it was unnecessary.

                                                                  Red Squirrel

On Friday we sailed on the 6 miles to Vastervik. The SE wind was favourable but at F6 rather more than we like. With rain accompaniment  we reached Huges marina and with Ido's HM's helped  a tow was arranged to help us moor. Joachim their engineer suggested we clean the fuel supply over the weekend and if that did not work he would give us a hand on Monday. Tom arrived that afternoon but it continued to rain and blow so it was not until Sunday that we could work on the engine. "polishing" the fuel was deemed pointless so it was all dumped - 80 litres! New clean fuel was purchased new filters fitted and with heroic efforts from Tom and much bleeding of the fuel system the engine was running by teatime. Onto the "Brig" restaurant for a celebratory supper.

                                                              Lynx and cub

On Monday (22nd Aug) we motored in a light southerly to the beautiful natural harbour of Langholmen. This was our first attempt in Tokomaru at rock anchoring and we found an idyllic spot were we could also fix up a wild BBQ. Tuesday was another motor in light and variable winds giving us another chance to flush clean fuel through our system. This time to the natural harbour on  Maro. The dramatic bumping into a rock near the entrance did not add to our peace of mind. However the scenery and pilotage were fascinating. Just after leaving we enjoyed a very good view of a white tailed eagle sitting on a lighthouse. In the morning we again found that diesel had leaked. It seems the mild rocking had encouraged the seepage. We were down to only 10 litres so we topped up with our remaining 10. Thus we gingerly made our way through some narrow channels to Oxelosund.

                                                       Oxelosund guest harbour, autumn

We spent the rest of our time here. We were visited by the OCC rep Martin Westin who happened by and saw our flag. He made some suggestions for places to haul out and we eventually obtained a quote from Saltomarin. As the fishing harbour was not very convenient we motored the mile up the harbour to Brandholmen where the English educated mariniero helped us moor up, a first in Sweden. The original mooring turned out to be rolly so he moved us to a small concrete mole which gave us greater protection. We spent most of the next week doing laying up chores such as extracting the last remaining diesel from the bilges. On Wednesday 7th September we motored back to Saltomarin with just a few litres of diesel remaining in the tank. They were not ready to haul us out but did come to look at the tank which I had made accessible as possible. They indicated that this was do-able over the winter. We therefore decided to have a brief sojourn in Stockholm over the weekend before flying home on Thursday.


We had a very pleasant time staying in the apartment of Tom's girl friend Nina while they were away in Italy. Saw all the usual sights. The island of Skepsholmen were having their "big day".

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