Day 10 – heaven in Heiligenhafen

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. 

Minimal fuss

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.  

approaching the pontoon to pay the canal fees
Paying the canal fees

Viking raid


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


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.

Day 9 – Part 2 – Kiel canal

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.

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.