Inshore in The Netherlands

From the Frisian island of Norderney in Germany (see The Kiel Canal and Frisian Islands), we sailed to Lauwersoog, a major fishing port and our first visit on Pipistrelle to The Netherlands.

The 57nm passage with a mixture of sailing and motoring, took us south west outside the Frisian islands until we reached the island of Schiermonnikoog (try pronouncing that!?), to then follow the channel to Lauwersoog on the mainland.

We finished up mooring against the long pontoon on the outside of the marina, but still in the harbour, which worked well for us.  There is an excellent visitors’ centre describing the construction of a massive dam to protect the land from flooding, and to enable the land to the south to be drained.  Within this dam there are large sluice gates, allowing the water in the lake to be emptied as necessary.

Traditional Dutch sailing barges arrived in droves, part of a rally we think, all appearing to have paying guests on board.

Just astern of us was a seal rescue boat.   Seals are numerous in the Frisian islands, occasionally being injured by fishing nets and exposed to other dangers.  Once their energy is sapped because of injury, and providing they have made it to a sandbank, they are rescued and taken to a seal recovery unit close to Lauwersoog.  Once recovered, they are brought to the harbour in crates which are placed on a special small ferry, and towed by the rescue boat out to a local sandbank populated by seals, and released.  Paying passengers witness this happy event.  The volunteers were interested to know whether we have the same sort of organisation anywhere in the UK, which we do, at Helford in Cornwall, Hunstanton in Norfolk and Scarborough in Yorkshire.

A fascinating experience before we continued our passage to Harlingen after a break because of inclement weather and wind direction.  Another long 73nm day sail.  We thought we might be able to get to the West Terschelling marina to break the passage, but our arrival coincided with low water, preventing access.  It is a further two hours from this island to Harlingen which is a major ferry port and fishing harbour on the mainland with two yacht marinas providing access to the Dutch inland waterways.

The harbour master directed us to Zuiderhaven, involving waiting for two bridges to open for us, then motoring past many Dutch sailing barges to a small marina but with sufficient room to manoeuvre and find a suitable pontoon to berth against.  We were moored very close to St Michael’s Roman Catholic church dating back to 1881.  Happily, the bells did not start peeling until the sensible hour of 09.00!  It provided a very different back drop to the marina compared to what we have been used to.

Harlingen is very interesting, and we enjoyed exploring the different waterways and marinas as well as celebrating Martin’s birthday with an excellent meal at the Restaurant ‘t Havenmantsje, where the food, service and ambience could not have been better.

After two nights we motored through a narrow channel to the Ijsselmeer, or the Zuider Zee as it used to be known.  Having locked in, we were fascinated to see so many Dutch barges sailing in this inland sea.  The water is shallow, and with our draft, we stayed in the main channels.  The distance was only 20nm, but it took most of the day with the time spent waiting at the lock, and then navigating through the channels.

After one night we moved on to Flevo Marina, Lelystad, to the north of the main town.  An extremely pleasant stop, with excellent facilities and friendly, helpful staff.  This whole area is interesting because the surrounding land is beneath the level of the Ijsselmeer.  It is a strange experience looking down on villages that owe their existence to the creation of this inland sea, bringing to mind the famous story of the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dyke to stop flooding.

From Lelystad we had a further lock to negotiate, taking us through to the Markermeer, another inland sea, and even shallower than the Ijsselmeer.  We had a strong southwest wind to contend with, and for the last stretch finished up motoring straight into it.  Our destination was Muiderzand Marina, 8nm east of the centre of Amsterdam, so useful for a crew change with good communications to Schiphol airport.

The marina is excellent, protected from the prevailing winds by trees along its western side, helpful staff, good amenities and free new bikes on loan, which made shopping in town easy.  There are also many good walks in the locality.  Martin and Janet left Pipistrelle at this point, and Bob was most grateful for their company, and assistance in so many ways, but especially in helping deliver Pipistrelle from Poland to the Netherlands when Elaine couldn’t be on board.

Also home to lots of bird life, Pipistrelle’s mast attracted many unwanted roosting birds which necessitated an urgent deck clean, followed by hoisting old CDs which are very effective at deterring birds due to the flashing reflections.  Each morning Bob walked past a coot’s nest in an old dinghy, a temporary home to Mum and Dad and two baby chicks that were hatched during the week, a lovely sight.

With the Netherlands being so eco-friendly, a barge delivering a load of seaweed almost every day, prompted the question ‘why seaweed?’.  The answer was that it is used to create paper, and an example of the finished product was duly shown!

Bob had a few days’ wait before Simon and Steve arrived from the UK.  The original plan was for them to help sail Pipistrelle as far as possible along the French coast, but the weather had other ideas.  After provisioning we had a very early start, as the plan was to traverse the North Sea Canal through Amsterdam to Ijmuiden, and then continue on south to Scheveningen, just North West of The Hague.  At 50nm, the trip included transiting an opening bridge and then a lock to the east of Amsterdam, and then another lock at Ijmuiden into the North Sea.


We were delayed at the bridge as it didn’t open until 0900, but the passage through Amsterdam was very interesting, and passed without incident.  Shipping traffic was considerable, similar to the Kiel Canal, and it was very much a matter of keeping as close to the canal bank as possible.  On arrival at Ijmuiden, we decided to continue south to Scheveningen, even though it was hard on the wind, with frequent tacking and motor sailing the last few miles.

We were met at the marina by staff in a rib, and helped into a berth in a strong cross wind.  The forecast for the next week was not good, with strong winds and rain from the south west and south.  As the coast runs in a SWl’y direction for 70nm and having discussed alternative options, Simon and Steve decided to depart the next day, which was disappointing.

As it turned out, it was a further 7 days before the weather relented, and with Elaine on board again we were able to continue our passage.  More of that in the next blog.

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The Kiel Canal and Frisian Islands

Our next stop after Heiligenhafen (see Bornholm Revisited) was the Kiel Canal, or as the the Germans call it, the ‘Nord-Ostsee-Kanal’ which links the Baltic Sea (in German the ‘Ostsee’) at Kiel-Holtenau to the North Sea at Brunsbüttel. The canal was finished in 1895, but later widened and using it instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark saves an average of 250 nautical miles.  It also avoids storm-prone seas and having to pass through the Danish Belts.

After the mighty Panama in 2011, and in 2017 the picturesque Caledonian in Scotland, the Kiel would be Pipistrelle’s third canal transit.   Unlike the first two, the Kiel has one lock into the canal, and one lock out again.  But for some vessels it’s too small …

Prior to transiting, Pipistrelle anchored in a lovely sheltered bay off the resort of Möltenort and the crew enjoyed a relaxing dinner at the Haven Hotel overlooking the bay.  It was agreed this option was far preferable to sitting in another marina!

From there it is only 2nm to the canal entrance, and after queuing with several other yachts, we entered the lock.  Once through, we had to cross the waterway at 90 deg to wait for a space on the wooden pontoons the far side to pay the transit fee of about 20 Euros at the kiosk. However, only Maestro credit cards are accepted, which we don’t have!  Frustratingly, we found Maestro to be extremely common in both Germany and Holland.  So there was a mad dash back to Pipistrelle to find cash.

We were finally clear by 10.30, and decided to complete the 52nm passage without stopping, which worked well for us.  Most stop at Rendsburg, but having passed it by midday, we continued.  The breeze was blowing from the southeast but being tree-lined on both sides, the canal was sheltered.  We moored for the night at Brunsbüttel next to a sailing ship called the Grönland which had been built in 1867, and were invited on board together with the crew of an adjoining yacht.  A very enjoyable evening was had by all.

The next morning we locked out into the River Elbe, and sailed on to Cuxhaven.  Coming back to the tidal waters of the North Sea was a sea change indeed from the practically tideless Baltic.  This was brought home by the fact that across the Cuxhaven Marina entrance a strong current was running.  After a 24 hour wait in the marina for adverse winds to pass and for a favourable current to take us out of the Elbe and on to the Frisian Islands, we set off for Norderney.   Made famous by Erskine Childers’  book ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, this was our first visit.  After another long day sail of 66nm, we sailed across the north of Norderney and through a buoyed channel to anchor off the marina, where we arrived by dinghy in time to join Ian Shipway and crew on his Southerly, Going South, for dinner at the marina restaurant.  With their shallow draft and lifting keel, they had taken the standing mast route from Ijmuiden in Holland through to Norderney, something we had wanted to do, but some sections of the canal route are just too shallow for Pipistrelle’s 2.2m draught.

The Frisian Islands are fascinating to see, very low and sandy, making them an extremely popular tourist destination, so frequent fast ferries run to and from the islands.  Numerous channels with ferocious currents flow in and out of the North Sea, and constantly moving sandbanks make for interesting navigation.  Even though we had bought new charts, the buoys were frequently not in their charted position.

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Bornholm Revisited

After Wladyslawowo, Allinge on Bornholm to the northwest made sense as our next destination, due to the weather forecasts and wind direction.  It is also far more attractive than the marinas we had visited on the Polish coast on our way east to Gdynia.  It was an overnight passage involving a distance of 150nm.  We were lucky to arrive at lunchtime the next day, as the harbour and marina was jam packed with boats 8 deep, and in the small marina you could almost cross from one side to the other from boat to boat.  We lay alongside another yacht in the harbour entrance.  So very different from last year.  But this was July and high season, and in 2018 we were there in August after the summer holidays (see blog post Bornholm via Hanö and Simrishamn – August 2018).

On the passage to Allinge we had to motor through thick green algae, considerably worse than we had seen last year, and this resulted in cleaning the main engine filter on arrival.

Our original plan was to sail on to Ystad (Sweden) and Klintholm (Denmark again), but the weather thought otherwise, and we took the opportunity to sail direct to Heiligenhafen, to the east of Fehmarn in Germany, another overnight passage of 160nm.  Yacht Technik were waiting to reinstall the radar scanner, which had been serviced by Raymarine in the UK.  This downtime also provided the chance to visit the massive main marina by dinghy, view some of the local sights and witness yet another glorious sunset.

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Poland Again

On returning to Gdynia on 12th July after a busy time at home with Elaine visiting family and friends, Bob found Pipistrelle safe and sound in Marina Yacht Park, having been closely guarded for two weeks by this old salt!

Bob had only a few hours to prepare for the arrival of Janet Foster and Martin Goodchild who would sail with him for a  few weeks. Both had sailed with us previously, Janet from the Galapagos to the Marquesas in the Pacific in 2011 (see The Galapagos – San Cristobal and subsequent blog posts), and Martin with Bob from the Azores to Ireland in 2017 (see The Last Ocean Leg).

All went well though, and having got their belongings stowed, they reprovisioned, had a wander around the surrounding area taking in the museum ships on the promenade (see previous blog) before enjoying a meal ashore.

Bob takes up the story …

The next day we slipped our lines and headed a relatively short distance across the bay to Gdansk, the principal shipping port for Poland.  We had a very interesting passage up the river to the city centre, involving Janet dipping our Red Ensign as we passed the war memorial.  We passed many different types of ships en route, and timed our arrival almost perfectly for the lifting bridge, providing access to the city marina.

Gdansk is a fascinating city with a complex history, having had periods of Polish, Prussian or German rule, and also periods of self rule or a free city.  In the 14th and 15th centuries it was a member of the Hanseatic League.  In the second World War it was invaded by Germans and led to the flight and expulsion of Polish people.  In the 1980’s it would become the birthplace of Lech Walensa’s Solidarity movement, which played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and helped hasten the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

We visited the Museum of the 2nd World War, a sobering reminder of how Poland and Gdansk suffered during this time, but we also enjoyed the many sights in the city centre, which comes alive in the evening.

From Gdansk we sailed across to Hel again for a brief stop, and from there to Wladyslawowo, a fishing harbour just short of the north end of the peninsula, which has been developed as a holiday destination.  Nothing to write home about, but a convenient place to stop prior to heading west (or in Pipistrelle’s case northwest)!  Here we met Marcin Palacz, the Cruising Association’s HLR (Honorary Local Representative) for the area, who was also sailing west along the Polish coast.

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Beyond Hel …

…to Gdynia

Having spent a relaxing evening in Hel, we had a leisurely start the following morning to sail the short distance from the peninsula across to Gdynia, a mere 10 nm away.

Our berth was booked at the new Marina Yacht Park to the north of Marina Gdynia, built in what was previously the President’s Basin.   The marina only opened in May this year and we chose it for its security and safety, of paramount importance when leaving Pipistrelle unattended for any length of time.  We would be flying home and be away for two weeks.

Marina Yacht Park is a huge development with waterfront apartments, offices and a hotel.  Berthing rates we found to be very reasonable for a two week stay, though more expensive than the other, much smaller and crowded marina.  We were astounded at how much space was available and all in all can thoroughly recommend it to other cruisers.  In fact, two yachts we know subsequently spent some time there on our say-so.

As we were escorted in by a rib which came out to meet us, a military parade was underway on the promenade Nabrzeże Pomorskie and the brass band was playing ‘When The Saints Come Marching In’.  It was as if the band were heralding our arrival!

The Polish warship built in Cowes …

Then, with just two days to go till we departed for our flight, it was a busy time preparing Pipistrelle for her ‘holiday’.  Apart from maintenance and cleaning, this unfortunately involved lugging laundry to the nearest laundrette in town about 1km away because the marina facilities were not yet up and running.  Though time consuming, we did have a good lunch while the machines were running!

Fridge and freezer defrosted, bags packed and shore power switched off (our solar panels being powerful enough to keep the batteries topped up), we locked up and headed out of the marina to the awaiting taxi to take us to Gdansk airport and the Wizz Air flight home.

For various reasons, Elaine would spend six weeks in landlubbing mode at home, while Bob would return to Pipistrelle after two weeks to start the passages westwards with friends.

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To Hel and …

… sailing to a deadline.

An early start was called for in order to progress eastwards to our first stop along the Polish coast.  Consequently we left Swinoujscie at 05.30 for our next stop Kolobrzeg, some 50nm away.

We had allowed ourselves five days, and a maximum of six to reach Gdynia, just north of Gdansk.  An achievable target without much of a buffer, provided everything went in our favour, but sailing to a deadline and risking not getting the flight we had just booked is stressful.  So would we go to Hel?!

To sail this particular coast in any northerly winds in excess of F5 is not recommended, because the few safe harbours have shallow entrances with breaking seas and can be impossible to access.  Fortunately for us, for this first leg we had fine weather and a gentle SSW breeze, which petered out altogether in the afternoon.  Having motored down the long channel entrance, we berthed alongside the fishing harbour wall.  Similarly to Kröslin, positioning Pipistrelle to be able to get on and off easily proved challenging!

Signs that Kolobrzeg was part of the Hanseatic League still exist with typical red brick Gothic buildings in the busy city centre.  Otherwise its sandy beaches and long pier make it a popular tourist destination.

Taking advantage of the good conditions, we decided to press on and finished up with another very early start to sail just over 80nm to Łeba.  The passage was uneventful with various wind shifts, sailing combined with motoring, some swell but with the unusual sight of a Polish submarine off to port heading in the opposite direction.  Łeba marina is accessed through a narrow channel.  The entrance is tight and the facilities slightly run down, so apart from being a handy stopover, for us it had little more to commend it as we didn’t have time to go to the beach.  But Łeba is at the eastern end of the Słowiński National Park with its big lakes and towering sand dunes which we did catch a glimpse of while underway.

Next up …. going to H E L.  

As mentioned, the first part of the coast is a stunning sand dune area.  The 60nm sail just under genoa in fine but cool weather proved lively with up to 25kn wind.    We gybed to continue in a south easterly direction along the Hel peninsula, then around the headland and into the well protected marina.  We had telephoned in advance, called up just before arrival, the harbour master was at our allotted berth to greet us, credit card machine in hand to take our money, and we could relax – in H E L.

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The Rügen Rally

Run by the Cruising Association Baltic Section, the Rügen Rally started in Stralsund on 18th June and finished just over a week later on 25th June in Swinoujscie, western Poland (formerly Swinemünde).  As well as being ‘dressed overall’ Pipistrelle flew burgees of the Cruising Association, of the Rügen Rally, of the Ocean Cruising Club, the Offshore Cruising Club, and last but not least, the small ships’ burgee celebrating 25 years since Durnkirk, given to Elaine by her father.

Not since the ARC in 2008, that took us across the Atlantic, have we taken part in a rally, and cruising in close company with 16 other boats forming a flotilla was a new experience.  It was a great way to sail in a different area, albeit experiencing narrow, shallow channels which we probably would not have attempted had we been on our own.   Fortunately, several boats had detailed knowledge of these inshore waterways and were able to provide valuable guidance.  Even then we needed to focus carefully on navigation so we didn’t go aground.

From Stralsund the itinerary took us to Kröslin then Wolgast, Ueckermünde and finally across the border to Poland and Swinoujscie.  The route had been carefully planned by Nicholas Hill, the rally captain, and Fay and Graham Cattell were on hand ashore at every stop to direct each boat to its berth.

We headed off as a group through the lifted Ziegelgraben Bridge towards Kröslin.  Recognising the distinctive lines of a non-rally yacht called ‘Südwind’ we managed to get a couple of photos.  Yes, a Square Meter yacht, slightly bigger than Overlord at 150 sq.m.

Kröslin was a two day visit, with a tour of the Hanse boat factory at Greifswald followed by lunch and a wander round the historic town – another of the medieval Hanseatic League sites.  For us, the factory tour was an eye opener – the first time we had seen mass production boat building.  Among others, the Hanse owns Moody, Dehler, Privilege catamarans and Sealine motor boats.  We also came across what for many would be an insignificant ‘Rolly Tasker’ sail loft near the factory.  But it was significant for us because we had visited and had work done at their sail loft in Phuket, Thailand (see Refit at Yacht Haven Phuket  – Phase 2).

After a communal BBQ at the marina, extolling the virtues and ease of use of the laundry facilities (as a connoisseur of laundries around the world, that takes some doing) we were ready to leave.  Kröslin may be out of the way, but for German weekend sailors it is within fairly easy reach of Berlin by road.  The marina is large, well equipped, has a travel lift as well as sheds for winter storage.  Both marina and yard are extremely professionally run.

Our departure from Kröslin was calculated to tie in with the opening times of the ‘Blaues Wunder’ (Blue Wonder) bascule bridge, just before Wolgast, a short distance of about five miles away.  The fleet rafted on both sides of the quay.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to look around the old castle as we left the following morning for a daysail to Ueckermünde, our last port of call in Germany.  We even managed to give the sails an airing for part of the time!  Otherwise we were concentrating on the whereabouts of other participants, and taking in the scenery, notably going past the remains of the Karnin Railway Bridge in the middle of the River Peene.  Constructed in 1933, the bridge itself was destroyed in 1945, only the lifting segment still standing.

The entrance to Ueckermünde is narrow and follows a channel to the quay where we tied up to the port side along with the rest of the fleet.  Here we had a couple of days to explore the pretty little town on foot and relax in warm sunshine.

From Ueckermünde it is a relatively short sail across the Szczecin Lagoon to Swinoujscie just over the border in Poland.  Trying to stay in convoy and single file, as requested for a photo call, with the smallest boats at the front and the largest at the rear (Pipistrelle) was easier said than done.  Fortunately the weather was benign and we motored the whole way, preserving some semblance of order.  Herding the fleet into berths in the rather small and tight marina at the north end of the long approach channel was another challenge for the organisers.  All was well and the rally ended with a meal ashore at a bistro in the marina and then an impromptu BBQ with a few friends under the trees close to the pontoons on our last evening.

After saying our goodbyes to old and new acquaintances, the following morning we were up at dawn to continue eastwards in stages towards Gdynia.


Boats, boats, boats and assorted scenes!


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Stralsund in June

We approached Rügen from Klintholm (see Klintholm Scenes) late afternoon and navigated through the narrow winding channel separating it from the neighbouring island of Hiddensee.  It became obvious that with Pipistrelle’s draft, the small, shallow marinas at Vitte (Hiddensee) and Wiek (Rügen) were not suitable for us, despite offering shelter and picturesque settings.

So we anchored in relative protection off Schaprode bay instead, and waited for the rain and wind forecast for the following couple of days.  It came.  We battened down the hatches and went nowhere.

Put into perspective, Rügen is Germany’s largest island by area, located off the Pomeranian coast in the Baltic and belongs to the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.  With its sandy beaches and varied landscapes, it is a very popular tourist destination, day trippers using frequent ferry services to and from nearby Stralsund.

As it looked as though the weather was going to remain unsettled with increasingly strong winds, we decided to take advantage of a gentle northerly to get us to the safety of Stralsund City Marina – about a three hour sail.  Of course, the wind piped up, making getting alongside challenging but with helping hands to take our lines, all was well.  Next to the marina lies the old harbour with its ‘Lotsenhaus’ or pilot house, the modern Oceanarium as well as the former Reichsmarine naval training ship, the Gorch Fock.

Being ahead of most other yachts gathering in Stralsund for the start of the Cruising Association ‘Rügen Rally’, gave us the chance to get our bearings and do some exploration of our own.  We treated ourselves to dinner ashore on our first evening and quite by chance stumbled upon ‘Zum Scheele’ which must be the best restaurant in town – very enjoyable on a balmy summer’s eve.  Wednesday evenings see competitive racing from the marina which draws the crowds.

We knew Stralsund had been part of the old Hanseatic League from 13th century (see Lübeck post) and would therefore boast an abundance of historical buildings in the red brick Gothic style.  Sadly, many had fallen into disrepair as part of East Germany (the GDR) from 1949 to 1990.  Then, more emphasis was put on constructing prefabricated ‘modern’ apartment blocks when the main industry was shipbuilding for the Soviet Union.  After reunification in 1990, the old town was restored, the apartment blocks were renovated and upgraded.  In 2002 Stralsund was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Having lived and worked in Mannheim (West Germany) for 14 years until 1988, Elaine had never before visited this part of the country, the GDR being out of bounds to West Germans, and cut off from Western Europe.  With today’s freedoms taken for granted, it was hard to remember the repression of just thirty years ago.

So back to Stralsund in 2019.  We explored on foot and were rewarded with fascinating sites and sights.  Before setting off on the Rally, we did a walking tour around the old city.  The photos are a collection taken over a few days.

Typical historical buildings

Dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, St Nicholas church is one of three Lutheran churches in Stralsund, located to one side of the old market place, very close to the City Hall.   The old city wall still exists with various watch towers.

While Bob climbed to the top of the tower at St Mary’s with other courageous folk to be rewarded by a fantastic view of the city, marina and Rügen beyond, this was definitely not for the fainthearted or those with no head for heights!

Consequently, Elaine stayed at ground level and took in the beautiful church interior while listening to wonderful organ music.

Worth a special mention are two other ‘events’ that neither we nor the Rally organisers had any influence over.

The first was the, for us, surprising gathering of assorted naval vessels, helicopters and other hardware for what turned out to be the German Armed Forces Day.  Even the Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel was there on the podium giving a speech, relayed on a big screen.  This is after all part of her constituency.  Unfortunately, the weather was poor, but that did not prevent an army style air sea rescue demonstration taking place right in front of us.

The second was the absolutely astounding full moon which rose just behind the Rügen bridge.

Having dressed Pipistrelle overall to herald the start of the Rügen Rally and done much socialising with other participants, it was time to head off on our course towards Poland.

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Klintholm Scenes

Pipistrelle’s first two outings of the season took us 30 nm ENE from Fehmarn to Gedser in Denmark where we anchored in more or less the same spot as we did last September.  A leisurely day, we motored all the way in warm sunshine and had a quiet night before setting off early next morning in a fresh breeze.  The next destination was Klintholm on the Danish island of Møn which has now become something of a favourite, because we spent some time here on two occasions in 2018.

This 35nm run was mostly under sail, with the wind picking up nicely to a NE 18kn off Klintholm marina.  Main and genoa safely down and furled, warps and fenders at the ready, we found a berth alongside.   Judging by the weather forecast we would be in the marina until the following Tuesday, so five nights in total before we could head towards Rügen, our next destination.

Having paid our dues, we sought out the local well stocked but small supermarket we remembered from last year, only to discover the building had gone.  Apparently, a fire had destroyed it in late September and it wouldn’t be replaced.  Instead a minimarket has opened for buying essentials.

Inevitably after launch there was still a long ‘to-do’ list of tasks below decks, and the variety of lashing rain, cool temperatures and strong winds played in our favour.  Greenpeace ‘Beluga’ paid a long visit to the marina; fog was a feature after a fairly warm day, as was the appearance of a periscope and conning tower just off the entrance one evening!  Interest was high, cameras came out and the craft came into the marina, revealing itself as a small submarine escorted by ribs, part of the Greenpeace entourage.  A heron was standing by too!

The public bus service from Klintholm is excellent.  This time, we decided to visit Stege, about 15 km away, on the Saturday afternoon and have a look round as it’s the main town on the island.   Dating back to the 12th century, it was an important herring port with town gates and of course a church.  The herring trade has long since died off, a sugar factory in operation for 100 years till the 80’s has closed and these days Stege relies heavily on tourism.

Pleased we had made the effort to go, we caught the bus back, looked again at the weather and it still appeared that Tuesday was the day to slip the lines.  However, on Sunday morning, all had changed and the window had moved to sailing that day, or being stuck for days, a risk we could not afford to take.   So we made the snap decision to go, and within an hour we were ready, forfeiting 2 days in the marina but also the opportunity to meet Andreas and Susanne again on Ma Brummi, who were we thought leaving Fehmarn that morning. As they say ‘Time and tide wait for no man’.

Sad though it was not to see our friends, the decision was good.  We had a great sail under genoa, arriving in Rügen early evening.  Looking at the forecast for the next few days, we would have been in Klintholm until Thursday earliest, cutting it all a bit fine to join the CA (Cruising Association) Rügen Rally we had signed up for.

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Recommissioning 2019

Having left Heathrow on the ‘redeye’ to Hamburg on 16th May, we collected our hire car for what turned into a wet drive to Fehmarn to be reunited with Pipistrelle and move into the apartment owned by our lovely landlords (see All Stops to Fehmarn – September 2018) where we would stay while we were doing the recommissioning work.

Exhausted when we arrived in Burgstaaken, we had an early night and went to the yard the following morning.   Once the covers were off in the shed, the serious work began to prepare Pipistrelle for the sailing season – in principle the reverse of the decommissioning procedure last September with a few additions.

Laying up in an albeit unheated shed paid dividends.  The teak deck needed no treatment in contrast to last year when we spent 6 weeks cleaning it after launch, there were no rust marks on the stainless steel.  And down below it was refreshing to see there was no build up of humidity, so no mould or damp.

Polishing the topsides went smoothly, largely thanks to the loan of electric polishers by Andreas, as did the antifouling, apart from applying primer to some areas before rolling on the black.  Though extremely tiring, that was the relatively easy part.

The mast had been removed for the first time for 10 years, giving us the opportunity of seeing it in the horizontal and finding some areas in need of TLC in the form of priming and painting.  Refitting 3 sets of spreaders and accompanying stays, D1’s and D2’s was done at this stage.

After 10 days, Pipistrelle was moved out of the shed in good weather to be thoroughly hosed down before launch.  The new calorifier (water heater) was installed the same day.

Red Letter Day – 28th May – Launch

As Pipistrelle disappeared out of the yard, down the lane on her trailer towed by a tractor, closely followed by the mast balanced on a trolley, we followed to the dock to antifoul to the underside of the keel and generally be on hand for launch.  After the boat, it was the turn of the mast to be craned into position, a complex manoeuvre, handled with care by yard employees with the help of Andreas, Susanne and Bob all pulling strings (literally).

With the stays attached to the turnbuckles and loosely tensioned, we moved Pipistrelle a little way down the harbour to do some tensioning, attach the boom and put the sails back on board.  These had been in winter storage off site.


Over the next couple of days, we took Pipistrelle to the marina at Burgtiefe and the below decks ‘workshop’ was gradually transformed into living space again.  Thankfully we were still staying at the flat and moved on board again on 31st May.

A week in the marina followed, with a few cosy evenings and the rig being expertly tensioned by a professional company from Heiligenhafen about 30 km away.  We reprovisioned, handed back the hire car, said various goodbyes and waved ‘Aufwiedersehen’ to Fehmarn.

Naturally, all the hard work was punctuated by a certain amount of relaxed socialising with German and English friends – German because Elaine speaks the language fluently having lived in the country for 14 years some time ago, English because Fehmarn is a favourite place for British yachts to overwinter and the Cruising Association has a thriving Baltic Section.

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