Day 9 – Part 1 – Conquering fears

Monday 1 July

Pinch, punch, first day of the month

Today is the day we face our biggest potential obstacle, and my biggest fear.  Entering the Kiel lock and canal, alongside the mighty container ships that dwarf our Crystelle Venture.  

Preparation

I spent the night before, catching up on the weekly Archers omnibus whilst prepping food for the journey.  I managed to cook two meals at the same time – to save on gas – roasting a butternut squash for a curry, while roasting aubergine for a gratin.  Both yummy Abel and Cole recipes I’ve doctored slightly to work around what we have on board – i.e substitute coconut milk for double cream in the curry, and leave out the missing olives for the gratin.  I do this while Andrew finally catches up on his sleep, after our overnight passage  from Borkum the night before.

After arrival in Cuxhaven, we schlepped to the only supermarket opening on a Sunday – about a mile’s hot and dusty walk to the Real supermarket, opening at 11am.  We walked through the monthly riverside market, buying some freshly made mini-donuts to munch.  We needed to stock up on basics such as fresh salad, fizzy water and bread, and our new found cockpit favourite, tortilla chips.  We joined the small queue of locals to wait for it to open, wondering whether the pretty Hansel and Gretel tower across the car park was the local ‘Schloss’.

Andrew had discovered an issue with the gooseneck on the boom, and we really needed a chandlery to buy some washers – but again, out of luck on a Sunday.  We didn’t really choose the best day to arrive – nowhere open, the hottest day of the year touching 40 degrees – but we’d sort of lost track of the days by then and you can’t choose the weather.

Cuxshaven marina

A large marina, constructed of broad avenues with finger berths – our favourite.  Still the wind had caught us out when berthing, and my lack of fendering on the back quarter, meant Cuxshaven has left a mark on Crystelle Venture.

We washed the salt off the boat, before going to pay at the office.  There we had to buy a swipe card to use the toilets and showers.  If they weren’t there, there was a self serve machine to buy the card, to add extra money on and to pay for berthing.

This meant having a 4 minute shower for 1 euro – which was an interesting activity – trying to work out how to get the most out of those 4 minutes.  I was annoyed that I spent 30 seconds just trying to get the temperature just right.  However it can’t be denied that it was probably the best shower of the trip so far – great shower head, great temperature control, decent size cubicle and just the right power.  So couldn’t grumble, apart from the lights going out while I was still getting dressed.  

Pay as you go berthing and showering

I know it must be annoying, my fixation with food and showers, but really when you are sailing, that’s all you think about!  

Morning of departure

Departing Cuxhaven

We wanted to hit the tide just right, so left the marina bang on 9am – after putting in more fuel.  We timed this to perfection for once and were soon motoring down the river Elbe towards the Keil canal – along with a number of other much larger container ships.

White to enter

We followed just outside of the green buoys marking the channel for those larger ships.  We came upon the lock entrance within a couple of hours.  While the large container ship that had been shadowing us for the last few miles took on board their pilot to take them further up the river to Hamburg, we took the opportunity to cut behind her and to the port side of the river to get ourselves lined up to enter the lock.  We waited with a number of other yachts for the light to change from red, to green for ships with pilots, and then to white – indicating that small yachts could now enter.

While we waited, we put out the fenders and our mooring lines ready.  It said in our book ‘The Baltic Sea and Approaches ‘that we should put our fenders out down low.  We didn’t realise quite how low.  The container ship went into the lock on the right, and the white light indicated that yachts should go into the lock on the left.  That was one of my fears immediately dispelled – being squashed by a large ship in the lock.  This was soon replaced by another!

Assault on the senses

Mooring was against low small floating wooden pontoons, held to the side by large chains.  No easy to lasso cleats – but hoops – meant having to climb down onto these swaying, wet and slippy pontoons.  I clambered down and put the stern line on, and Andrew ran down to sort the front mooring rope.  We walked the boat along the pontoons to leave room for the other yachts entering behind. 

As we moved along I realised that the next set of pontoons had swung apart, and the choppy waves were keeping them too far apart for me to jump safely.  Beside the surface was green and look ominously slippy.  I could see that Andrew was struggling as we hadn’t set the fenders low enough.  I waited what felt like an age for the pontoons to come together close enough for me to cross, to help rearrange the fenders.

Entering the Kiel canal is no easy feat. Crossing major shipping lanes, jostling the tide while waiting for entry, and then the harsh and slippy pontoons bashing against the boat below fender level. It is an assault on the senses.

Finally we were set – suitably moored and fendered, just in time to hear the siren indicating that the lock was about to fill.  I looked back and saw that the lock gate had closed behind us.  Big breathe, we were in and the next stage in our adventure was about to begin.

Read Day 9 Part 2 to see how we got on in the Kiel canal.

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