At 0900 we listened as rally control gave out instructions for today’s departure from Warnemunde over channel 77. The planned noon departure had been put back to a suggested 1400 – 1500 due to the wind strength and speed of the 15 boats in our rally flotilla, suggesting we’d arrive too soon. We’re not really used to sailing too quick, so were a bit concerned that they’d overestimated our speed potential. How wrong we were.
We pottered about getting our usual jobs done, flask of soup, flask of hot water, smoked salmon sandwiches, biscuits, fruit, Doritos, orange squash, and a couple of posh pot noodles. Suzanne had also bought fresh croissants for breakfast, and a marzipan Ritter Sport for Andrew, to keep him going during the early hours.
Jerry can man can’t
About 2pm we pushed back from our berth, hit nothing (which is good as people were watching this time) and set off for the fuel barge. We arrived at the same time as a jerry with a can. He was really helpful, called on the intercom and refuelling man arrived by bicycle about 5 minutes later.
Embarrassingly he was refused service – as it is ‘verboten’ to walk around the harbour with fuel cans on show. “Ridiculous” jerry can man said to us (through clenched teeth) “verboten is the most used phrase in German. Of course it is very important that things should be verboten” and chuckled (or grimaced, I’m not quite sure) .
We inquired could we fill them on our boat and deliver them to his boat but refuelling man clarified that he could have his diesel if his cans were in bags, a bit like having alcohol but only if it’s in a brown paper bag. We furnished him with two “bags for life” and he could now legally buy diesel and walk back to his boat.
On leaving the fuel berth we headed out of the marina, slowly, sorting ropes and fenders knowing that once we were in the maelstrom of surf outside such things would be difficult. We discovered our imaginary seals were also real at this point. How embarrassing. (Listen to our podcast to hear more on that subject!)
A Crystelle Venture record
Outside the breakwater things got a bit more serious. Force 6* onshore wind was whipping up some wicked waves and we set off on a wet, bumpy reach to our first turning point. This was supposed to take seven hours but we made it in five. We ducked inshore of the wind farm following most of the other ARC Baltic boats. The waves weren’t huge but they were big enough to give us a non-tidal assisted Crystelle Venture record of 10.4 Knots momentary surfing speed.
The waves subsided, night gathered and now Andrew’s watch began. During the night the boat was barrelling along, with speeds of between 6 and 9 knots. At one point Andrew considered reducing sail area to slow down as the boat was quite twitchy above 8 knots and it was difficult to get the autohelm to steer a good course. Sustained by a bar of Ritter sport chocolate (marzipan), packet of choccy biscuits, tomato soup, four slices of bread, a penguin and turkish delight Andrew saw the night through.
Early the next day, 0700 we reached Bornholm, Denmark, standing off the harbour entrance at Ronne and waiting for permission to enter. Once the harbour radio operator woke up we were allowed in, berthing snugly against an Oyster 575 who had tailed us by a couple of miles all the way from Warnemunde but passed us at about 0500.
Follow that boat!
To keep tabs on all the boats in the Baltic rally, each boat has been kitted out with a Yellow Brick tracking device. You can follow the Arc Baltic from their pages, or even download the Yellow Brick app. It gives updates refreshed every 4 hours. You can also still view our progress on AIS.
Our daily stats
110 miles in 16 hours, a serious sugar headache and a couple of days to explore the Danish Island of Bornholm!
*Force 6 is 30 knots, 35mph, try sticking your arm out of a car window at 35mph, that’s how strong the wind is. Don’t put it out too far though, and certainly not your head…that is dangerous.
We left Heiligenhafen after a delicious, but odd, veggie breakfast. Two still warm bread rolls each, Irish butter and slices of brie, mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes and assorted dips in a waterside bakery next to the marina. Hearty fare worthy of the epic to come.
It was a gusty F4 – 5 as we slipped out of our box berth and pointed the stem towards open sea again. Except this time it’s not that open. We were nestled just north of the Fehmarn bridge, a 22m high span that we had to negotiate through with our 17.5m mast.
There should be loads of clearance, but in a moment of false jeopardy worthy of a TV documentary Andrew still couldn’t watch and steered through looking at the floor and crossing his fingers. Of course we were fine. We didn’t come to a crashing halt or cause irreparable damage to the historic monument.
After the bridge the sea calmed down and with the yankee on one side and staysail on the other we made good progress for a couple of hours – this couldn’t last.
The sea became as confused and uncomfortable as a pensioner’s driving. The rain came pouring down and Suzanne disappeared below; there’s no point in two pissed wet through travellers. Andrew started the engine because he’s impatient and was fed up of wallowing around downwind and a couple of hours later we arrived in Rostock.
Suzanne bossed the box berth, getting the ropes on first time and berthing in record time. Andrew got it in the berth nearly straight and only donated a small amount of gelcoat to the glorious German nation.
We’re here, at the start of the Rally, and we’ve a few make and mend days before we set off on Tuesday. Time to service the engine, wash the boat and polish out the scratches… (think we might need more than a few days to get those scratches out…)
Our daily stats
7 hours for 44 Nautical miles, which averages over 6 knots. Nearly our shortest trip but fastest speed.
We left Rendsberg at a respectable 0900, completing the last 19 miles of the Kiel canal with ease. The wind had died down to a reasonable F2 and Suzanne held the wheel for a couple of hours through the flat German countryside.
We expertly docked alongside the pay machine, left the engine running and paid our 35 Euros canal dues. There was a lock just opening up so we gunned the engine, raced across the canal and took our place in the queue of boats. Yet again the wind pushed us firmly into the lock and Andrew brought us to a respectable halt for Suzanne to climb down the ladder and secure the ropes. Minimal fuss.
The Danish boat behind had less luck. The lady crew was doing her impression of a waterskier; but on dry land. Attempting to stop ten tons of boat using a few tens of kilos of lady crew as a walking anchor is never going to end well. And to cap it all off she had the bowline, the front rope, so the boat was attempting to swap ends, and heading rapidly in the direction of Crystelle Venture with the lady crew trotting along like she was holding the headrope of a headstrong Grand National hopeful.
Andrew suggested to the gentleman helmsman that a stern line may be a good idea, his face lit up like a new thing had been invented and scrambled around for rope. After Andrew secured the bowline and the boat started swinging wildly around the gentleman helm suggested he’d go round again, at which point lady crew jumped back aboard and they reversed away from the quay ready to mount another viking style raid on the stark and unforgiving triumph of 19th Century German Engineering.
Exit the canal
Exit from the canal was a lot less stressful. We headed out to sea and raised the sails. It was a squally rolly downhill sail to Heiligenhafen with a maximum speed of 9.7 Knots (no tide to assist either) where we stowed the sails, headed up into the now Force 6 wind and looked for a berth.
oh no not more box berthing
There was a perfect one, so we dillied, dallied and got our ropes ready, lined it up perfectly until the German boat next door cried out whatever the German is for “stop you fool, it’s a closed berth!” and we performed an admirable controlled abort, reversing out, spinning on a sixpence and heading further into the Marina.
The next berthing experience is best glossed over. We didn’t enter straight, as we had 30 Knots of wind pushing us into the berth but we avoided chopping the pontoon in half and got some ropes on (Suzanne got some ropes on….perfectly). I’m sure we had a 4.0m wide boat in a 3.75m slot – and we arrived.
Heiligenhafen is a lovely place, a nice town square, great Italian restaurant and loads of good shops and supermarkets, including a reasonable chandlery. The 1000 berth marina has great facilities – although they seem to like giving out the wrong access code for them – and we spent a good part of the next day catching up on our laundry. And getting a hair cut.
If you can fit under the Fehmarn bridge (as you’re wedged into a bit of a corner behind the island) it’s a great place to stop either heading east into the Baltic or West back out.
Our daily stats
We took just under 10 hours to make 58 nautical miles, sailing for 5 and motor sailing for 4. We used 3 gallons of fuel. The barometer stuck around the 1021 mark all day.
We exited the lock at around 1215, with Suzanne steering and Andrew tidying up the ropes and fenders. We streamed out along with the other yachts.
Sailing in the River Dart has given us a sixth sense about ferry movements, and Suzanne twigged early that a ferry was emerging on our starboard side, only a few minutes after exiting the lock. She took evasive action, but the yacht to our right carried on oblivious, meaning the ferry turned at the last moment missing the back of their yacht by about a metre.
The NOK (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal), to give it its official title, was built with military purposes in mind – to allow the German fleet to avoid sailing around Denmark when moving from the Baltic to the North sea. It is 59 nautical miles long and can accommodate ships up to 235.50 metres (772.6 ft) in length with a maximum beam (width) of 32.50 metres (106.6 ft), and draught of up to 7.00 metres (22.97 ft), although if you are less than 160.00 metres (524.93 ft) you can have a draught up to 9.50 metres (31.2 ft).
Needless to say a fair number of these large vessels overtook or passed us on the opposite side. We’d read that if you were unlucky, the wash from these vessels could push your boat out of the water and onto the side. Despite the figures cited above, we noticed that close to the edge the canal was certainly not deep enough for those kinds of draughts, so we tried to keep in safe water between the middle of the channel and the edge. Despite this we still seemed to get spray in our faces whenever one passed.
At lunchtime we enjoyed the aubergine and potato gratin I’d made the day before, sitting out on the comfy cushions in the cockpit. The canal, for the most part, is bordered by green reeds, cycle tracks and trees. Every few miles there seemed to be a family of swans, and we saw large flocks of Canadian, Egyptian and grey geese. The occasional windmill, numerous small ferry crossings, and lots and lots of campervans.
A couple of times our GPS dropped out – for no apparent reason. We’ve since spoken to others who had exactly the same happen on the canal, around 57 km along. You know exactly where you are on the canal, as there’s a small km sign every half a kilometer.
The wind was gusting and the trees were bending, and the wind grew in intensity as we travelled down the canal. As we turned to port to follow the entrance into Rendsburg the wind snatched Suzanne’s pink Musto hat, and despite it being clipped on, tugged it away and into the canal. There was no time to retrieve it.
By the time we reached the marina in Rendsburg, the gusts were approaching force 6. We searched for a berth against the side, but were left with only box berths to choose from, in the most difficult position with the wind conditions.
We girded our loins, set our lines and made to enter. This time we had help from the pontoon, and we moved under the separating rope into the next berth. It was horrific weather, and it took about half an hour – but finally we were in.
We checked in at the marina, which had a small shop and chandlery all in the same space. However there were no washers for the goose neck on the boom. There was nothing for it – a DIY store was the next option. The nearest was a couple of miles away, so we decided to walk. We started off walking by the water out of the marina, and into the old part of town, this was soon followed by leafy suburbs and then into poorer suburbs until we ended up at the immigration holding centre – in what looked like former barracks.
Ordinarily we might have been concerned walking round in such neighbourhoods – but with Andrew’s ripped trousers, and our travel weary clothes and faces – we probably scared most people who saw us!
Finally we found the orderly, pristine and huge DIY store on a retail estate. Andrew found what he needed, and we trailed back, in the rain, Suzanne nursing blisters.
Our daily stats
We left Cuxhaven at 9am and were berthed in Rendsburg at 5.30pm, so spent a total of 8 hours 30 minutes underway. We travelled 50 nautical miles, averaging 5.9 knots. We motor sailed for 45 minutes and motored the remaining time (you’re not allowed to sail in the canal), so using around 7 gallons of fuel.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
‘Goldeneye’ had moved in. As the yacht that had moored behind us in the night departed, so the large motor boat arrived and with bow thrusters working over time, not so silently taken its place. Behind it lay a raft of about 4 yachts. All blocking a quick and easy exit from our berth beside the jetty.
With a tactical bit of springing off, we glided out past all the boats, and made a smooth exit out of Borkum harbour. Clearly this was the spot where German boats made to for the weekend. We thanked our good fortune in arriving a day earlier, and not having to jostle for a berth.
We put all three sails up, and beat in the light winds, under an azure cloudless sky. Suzanne took the opportunity to practice her upwind sailing, using the tell-tales to guide her steering. The going was slow, and the wind farm refused to be shrugged off. Eventually, around 3pm, we put on the engine and stowed the gib and the stay sail.
Knowing we were in for at least a 20 hour sail, Andrew took a rest around 5pm. At 6.30pm we reviewed our situation. We hadn’t been able to refuel in Borkum, as the nearest place was 8km by bus (or bike), and lugging two containers full of diesel all that way, hadn’t seemed like a great idea. However the wind shift that had been forecast, had not yet materialised, and it looked like it might have gone back to 6am. We needed to decide what to do.18 gallons – did we have enough fuel to get to Cuxhaven if we needed to motor all the way?
We started to move towards the island of Norderney, where fuel would be available, and at that point was off to our starboard side. Checking the chart more closely, we realised that the depth of water in the harbour was too close to our own depth – and the addition of tide still came up a little short. None of the other islands in between had fuel – due in part to some being without cars. We just had to hope that the westerly wind would come in due course. We would never run out of fuel, but we were keen not to get caught with a close to empty tank and a rough sea. We had experienced that once before, and the upshot had been a tow back into harbour by the inshore lifeboat….
On board dining
We dined on beetroot, onion and feta wraps – delicious. Another great recipe tried and tested. By 9.30pm we were crossing the river Jade estuary, the tide with us. Around midnight we started to sail, beating again, to save fuel and to let Suzanne get some shut eye! Around 1am the Jade tidal stream and sailing on a port tack wasn’t giving the progress needed. Starboard tack gave us good progress, but we needed the engine to cross the Traffice Separation Scheme. Back on went the engine.
At around 1.45 am the engine was off and we were back to sailing, and Andrew was treated to a phosphoresence display around 2am before it started to get too light again around 3.
Sailing with just the main, to keep our speed down to make sure we hit the River Elbe at the right time. At 4am, Suzanne brought Andrew a hot chocolate. The sky was glowing red with a crescent moon. The barometer continued to fall, and it was still 18 degrees.
At 4.15 were were on the edge of the Scharhorn Riff, just outside of the River Elbe – we put the engine on and followed the buoys. By 7am we could see the city of Cuxhaven, with pristine green lawns leading down to beach huts and sandy beaches. Nautical shaped blocks of flats, and new and old lighthouses. We paralleled the large container ships in the main lane until we turned, at last, into Cuxhaven SVC marina. We easily found a berth with a green sign, and were confident we would do, as we’d watched a stream of yachts exit as we approached – all heading towards the Kiel canal.
By 8.15 we were berthed, next to a Dutch ship with steering problems, and briefly to a British boat who took off not long after we arrived. I’m sure it wasn’t anything we said! We again donated a scratch of gel coat to the berth side – a lack of fenders and a speedy windy entry being to blame.
Our daily stats
We were underway 19 hours and 30 minutes, and made 111 nautical miles, averaging 5.6 knots. We managed to sail for a total of 5 hours, with the remainder motor sailing, using 7 gallons of fuel, and 15 engine hours.
If you’ve seen the Resistance to Interrogation phase of TV’s “SAS are you tough enough” you’re coming close to our journey from Oudeschild to Borkum. It’s the part where they blindfold contestants, play white noise at them and occasionally give them a slap. If you add a cold North sea, Northerly wind and occasional buckets of water being thrown at you that’s pretty much the story of this sail.
A clean exit
It all started well enough, a good clean exit of the box berth to the stunned admiration of the French boat opposite “sacre bleu” he was heard to utter “zat Rosbif, he knows how to drive ze bateau…” or maybe our reputation had got around.
We took on diesel and did a thirty point turn (Read Andrew’s upcoming book “simple things made to look difficult”) to get out of the marina to the amazement of two other British members of the Cruising Association “that bloke” he whispered “does he really knows how to drive that boat??”
We’d had consistent Force 4-6 Northerly winds whipping up a North Sea frenzy and so the “sneaky shortcut” between the Islands was out of bounds, due to it being a foaming wall of white water and breaking waves. So it was the long way round, adding an estimated 15 miles. We saw Cloggie Commandos Careering around in inflatables, a landing craft and another submarine, quite entertaining.
As we turned and emerged from behind the shelter of the island the seas got worse, much worse with short, steep, high waves. Every time we climbed up one and fell onto the next we pretty much stopped, so even with a Force 5 powering the boat we made slow progress. We resorted to the engine to maintain momentum. Cue sixteen hours of droning diesel, water breaking over the decks and the boat pitching, rolling and slamming like a bucking bronco.
Andrew’s account to Neptune
During early morning the waves slowly subsided and we could turn eastwards to our intended course and past each of the islands towards Borkum. As we stopped slamming and started rolling Andrew was violently seasick, projecting his orange squash well clear of the spray dodgers, hull and deck and proclaiming it in fact made him feel better.
We arrived at 0630 the next day and parked on the commercial pontoon, moving later to a nice snug corner berth.
Borkum was OK, a commercial port with wind farm boats and (randomly) a New Orleans Jazz band paddle steamer complete with band and singer. It was a comfortable haven while we prepared for the next leg, towards Cuxhaven.
Our daily stats
We were underway for 20 hours, and made 119 nautical miles, averaging 6 knots. We sailed for an hour and motor sailed the rest, which meant we got through an eye watering 13 gallons of fuel. Only to arrive at a harbour with no fuel…
2 in a boat is our podcast that brings you the sailing and travel world of Suzanne and Andrew on their aged yacht Crystelle Venture.
You’ll join us along the way as we prepare for our longest sail yet, from Dartmouth, UK to St Petersburg, Russia. Our route takes us across the North Sea and around the Baltic this summer, a round trip of about 3000 nautical miles.
With a fab intro music written by our talented nephew, Joseph Turner, and artwork by our equally talented daughter, Jessica Caballero – it’s something of a family affair.
Warts and all live recording of our time sailing across Lyme Bay to Portland. Ever wondered what goes on during those long hours in a small cockpit on a yacht? Now’s your chance to eavesdrop and find out what Andrew and Suzanne get up to!
Just where have our 2 in a boat washed up now? They’ve spotted submarines, been boarded by the Dutch authorities, and now want to buy concrete sheep. Listen in to find out what on earth/on sea, has been going on.
At last our 2 intrepid sailors have made their way to the gateway to the river Elbe and the prospect of the Kiel canal looms. But what are our 2 in a boat talking about? Borkum, bikes and boys! Listen in to hear about their journey from Borkum to Cuxhaven, and all manner of other discussions.
Today is the day our 2 in a boat face one of their biggest fears, and most anticipated parts of their journey to the Baltic – going into the Keil canal (NOK). Find out how they got on in today’s episode.
Today we find our 2 in a boat preparing for the first official leg in their Baltic rally – from Warnemunde, Germany to Bornholm, Denmark. What have they done in the past few days and what are their thoughts on the rally? Join them on Crystelle Venture to catch up with our 2 in a boat.