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Because we had Skip with us, we couldn’t just fly home to the UK like normal people.  Instead we had a three-day, twelve-stage epic public-transport journey through four countries.  I guess going overland and by ferry might have been greener than flying?

The Night Before

Lizzie was out of the water, in a cradle in the yard, ready to go into the shed for the winter.  The mast was off and all the sails had been dried and packed away.  We had a long evening of cleaning, sorting and packing and were pretty knackered when we eventually made it to bed.

Day One (two buses, three trains and a metro)

We got up early, walked the dog and left the boat at 0730, ready to catch a bus at 0800.  We had to transport a load of power tools home as well as all our clothes, so we had a heavy holdall each, some other smaller bags, and the dog.

The first bus took us to Sonderborg.   While waiting for the next bus, Skip and I went and bought some brownies from a bakery that Catherine had spotted on an earlier visit.  The next bus journey was  longer, a couple hours to Flensburg which is just over the border into Germany.  

Here we had to lug our stuff a mile and a bit from the bus station to the train station.  Luckily we had plenty of time so stopped for a rest in a park.  Skip was full of energy, so we disobeyed the “dogs on leads” sign and found a quiet corner where I could throw the ball for him.

We got a train to Hamburg, then another to Osnabruck (wherever that is) and finally another one to Amsterdam.  The first train was fine, but the second sat in the station for 45 minutes before leaving due to a “technical problem”.  This meant we missed the third train, and we thought we might be stuck in Osnabruck for the night, but another train to Amsterdam eventually appeared on the departure board.

At this point we were very glad that we had decided to break the journey in Amsterdam rather than trying to get the ferry that night, which should in theory have been possible.

On this train we got charged €40 for the dog!  We had pre-booked our tickets, and knew that technically we needed a child’s ticket for Skip, but when we tried to book his ticket it asked us how old the child was.  Should we enter his age in dog years or something?  We researched online and found that most people don’t bother with tickets for their dogs, and that you have to be unlucky to get questioned about it.  We got away with it on the first two trains, but the German ticket inspector on the third train was a fierce woman who demanded payment, so we paid up immediately.  Once the same train passed into the Netherlands the Dutch inspector was a lot more cheerful, and didn’t ask to see Skip’s ticket.

Arriving in Amsterdam at about 9pm, we dumped our heavy bags at the left-luggage lockers and took the metro out to Wibautstraat.  For once I was able to obey the “dogs must be carried on escalators” sign.  As usual Skip was amazingly unfazed by everything and really enthusiastic about boarding any form of public transport for some reason!

The Volkshotel was really friendly and seemed genuinely interested in our sailing trip, and Skip managed to charm everyone as usual.   We each had a long shower (very luxurious after the standard four minutes you get in a marina) and then had a relaxing evening in the hotel bar.  Another time we might have tried the rooftop hot-tubs, which did look good!

Day Two (a walk, a bus and half a ferry)

Free of our heavy bags, we had a really nice morning ambling back in to the centre of Amsterdam via various parks and gardens.  By 2pm we had retrieved our burdens and were waiting for the DFDS bus out to the ferry port at IJmuiden.   Having seen the weather forecast, Catherine nipped to the nearby chemist and invested in some sea-sickness tablets.

Gradually other passengers accumulated around us, for some reason pushing right up against us despite the acres of space.  I still don’t quite know how they did it, but somehow we were gradually displaced from our bench and despite being the first people at the bus stop we found ourselves in a heap on the floor, pressed in on all sides by people and luggage.

Eventually a bus showed up.  My expectations of a nice orderly English queue were also shattered as a crowd of elderly Brits elbowed us and each other out of the way in their rush to be first on the bus.  A young mother, standing with her pushchair as the grannies jostled past, sighed and pointed out that this was just the first bus of many, and that the ferry didn’t leave for hours yet…

We had sailed through Ijmuiden to Amsterdam several months before, so it was interesting to see the same sights from the road.  At the ferry port, having the dog allowed us to bypass the check-in queues (take that, rude grannies) and we excitedly boarded the ferry and deposited Skip in his kennel.

Catherine had promised that our ferry cabin TV would have a special channel allowing us to watch Skip and the other kennel inmates, but disappointingly our cabin didn’t even have a TV.  There was, however, a great view of the port of IJmuiden from the deck of the ferry and we spent ages looking at the various interesting ships and gas platforms that were scattered around the harbour.  Eventually the ferry set off, and as the motion didn’t seem too bad we headed to the canteen for our pre-booked “all you can eat buffet”.

The food wasn’t too bad, but annoyingly they tried to pull what is known in the trade as “a Ryanair”: although the price we’d paid included “all you can eat” it didn’t include any drinks at all, not even tap water.  A sealed bottle of still water sat on the table to tempt us, but it was labelled “€6.50” so we refused to give in and tried to eat our money’s worth of salty food without any drink.

As the evening progressed the waves got quite large, and the captain announced that we would be heading West across to the UK and then up the UK coast, rather than heading in a straight line to Newcastle.  The waves splashed over the boat in an impressive way, and they closed the outside decks at the front of the boat, but the motion was pretty benign compared to anything we’d had on Lizzie and we had no problem sleeping!

Day Three (more ferry, a bus and three trains)

We arrived in Newcastle and retrieved the dog from the kennels.  He seemed pleased to see us, and relieved to have a pee ashore, but not unduly stressed by the ferry ride.

We got the bus to Newcastle train station, worrying because we knew we were too late for our pre-booked train.  Catherine had booked the train using the official app, but a bug in the app had showed her the trains in Danish time for some reason!  She had told the app to book an 11:15 train, but the ticket arrived saying 10:15.  Luckily it turned out that the 10:15 train was cancelled anyway, so we were able to catch other trains, with an extra change to cope with the usual UK rail disruption, and eventually arrived back in Glossop.

Lizzie gets lifted out

We had decided to leave Lizzie in Denmark over the winter, to give us the option of more baltic sailing another year.   After reading lots of good things about Augustenborg Yacht Harbour from the Cruising Association (who have a brilliant Baltic Layup Directory), we contacted Anders to reserve a spot in one of his sheds.

Now we were finally here we had a busy time getting everything dry and ready to go into winter storage.  The mast had to come off, and so the boom and all sails had to be stored below decks.  The sun finally came out for the last day so Lizzie went into her shed lovely and dry.  Anders and the rest of the boatyard staff were all very jolly and amazingly efficient – we had to head off early the next morning after she was lifted out, but they kindly sent us a picture of “Lizzie in the house” as they termed it(!):

 

Assens to Augustenborg – torn sails, tired sailors

At least it was sunny, eh?  The wind was pretty fresh  – we’d got our smaller (#3) genoa hoisted, and were beating southwards, but we were only an hour out of Assens harbour when I head the grating rip of sail cloth and saw the clew of the genoa ripping away.  Tom rushed to furl it up before any further damage occured, but it looked like it was a simple case of old age, the sail cloth itself was worn through.    Without any foresail Lizzie can’t sail to windward, so we had the choice between hoisting the big #1 genoa – much too large for these conditions – or our storm sail.   We’d only ever used practised using the storm sail once before when we first bought Lizzie 4 years ago, and it hanks on with large loops over a furled genoa, and an annoying shackle at the base that we’ve now vowed to change to a snap!

We carried on tacking, impressed at how well balanced the boat was with such a tiny foresail and full main, but our speed was significantly slower than before.  It was going to be a long day…  The main struggle was with the waves: short and steep, they stopped lizzie dead every minute or so.  It was impossible to know whether to risk the big genoa to give us more power.  In the end, infuriated by the slow progress and uncomfortable motion we lowered the storm jib, and then in a complicated manoeuvre which involved unfurling and lowering the damaged sail we swapped the #3 for the #1 on the roller furler.  All pretty wet work for Tom on the foredeck whilst we plunged and rolled around on the sea 🙁

We were aiming for Als Fjord – about 25 miles to the southwest, specifically Augustenborg at the far end where we were planning to leave Lizzie for the winter, so this was our last big trip.  We had already decided to stop at the northern end of the fjord at a sheltered anchorage called Dyvig.  It was only a day sail from Assens, but we’s begun to wonder if we’d get there in the daylight.  The entrance to Dyvig is unlit and very narrow, so we made sure there was a back up option if we arrived after dark, but with more sail hoisted we made much better progress, and managed to work the wind shifts and currents well to make headway into the wind.  A few squalls as evening came had us reefing both the main and the genoa, but we made it through them intact (just very wet) and turned into the blissful calm of Als Fjord.  What a contrast from outside!

We were able to bear away and reach down the fjord as far as Dyvig – the entrance to which proved to be the highlight of the day – a tiny channel (maybe 10m wide) through into a peaceful lagoon beyond where we gratefully dropped anchor – all under sail with no need for the motor.  We were very grateful for the shelter as the wind gusted strongly all the next day.  Lizzie was very snug so we inflated the kayak and went for a paddle around the lagoon and a nice walk to the nearest town to stock up.

The following day was calmer and we sailed our last leg of the summer down the fjord.  About half way down the fjord divides into the famous Als Sound to Sonderborg, and Augustenborg Fiord, where we were bound.  It was a beautifully sunny day and a nice relaxing sail until a last minute panic by Tom marred the final approach into Augustenborg harbour!

We tied up safely in our last box-berth of the summer and could finally relax… except we had just a couple of days to clean and dry everything ready for winter storage, dismantle the boat ready to go into a shed, and pack all our belongings ready for an epic three-day public transport journey back to the UK.

Weather-bound in Assens

Today it is blowing force six and pissing down with rain.  We are snugly moored in Assens harbour and won’t be doing any sailing until the weather calms down.

We have booked our winter berth in Augustenborg, which is thirty miles to the south of here.  Lizzie will be stored in a nice dry shed over the winter. Our lift-out is booked for a week today, so we are in no hurry.

There are a couple of nice-looking anchorages on the way, so we will amble southwards in a day or two when the weather is a bit more cheerful.

Another up-wind slog

We eventually left the very nice (but unfortunately-named) town of Middelfart and headed south.

The wind in the narrow Snævringen channel was gusty and sometimes very strong, so we stopped to pull in a couple of reefs which reduced our angle of heel to something a lot more civilised.  We managed to find the un-buoyed small channel past the island of Fænø, at least close enough not to run aground, even though it wasn’t exactly where the chart shows.

Twenty minutes later the wind was down to a steady force three and we were hardly moving, so we took the reefs out again and had a nice sail down the rest of the channel.

Once we hit the more open water of the Bredningen we were hard on the wind, which was back up to a solid force four/five and sending sizeable and steep waves in our direction.  The sailing was uncomfortable for the first couple of miles because the waves kept on nearly stopping us – we kept lots of sail on to power through them which meant we were heeled right over once more.

As we reached deeper water the waves died away and we had a much more pleasant sail, and the wind later freed so that we were almost able to point in the direction were were trying to go.

The original plan had been to head for an anchorage a couple of miles up a river on the west side of the channel, and then head across to Assens (on the east side) the following day.  The waves picked up again as we neared that area, so we abandoned that plan and headed straight to Assens.

The last few miles into Assens were hard work – we were close hauled again and heading into some steep waves.  The channel and sandbanks are not marked by buoys, but Catherine managed to pilot us straight into the harbour very accurately.  We paused in the lee of the breakwater to get our sails down, and motored in.  As soon as we were inside the water was flat and the wind seemed much lighter, leaving us wondering whether we had imagined the conditions outside.

Samsø

A long sail, and much nail biting whilst trying to avoid ridiculously fast ferries (traveling at 38 knots!) brought us to the island of Samsø.

Nice harbour – but the highlight of the day was a foot long Danish pastry that Tom managed to find on special offer minutes before the supermarket closed.  We demolished it in a single sitting.

Lizzie gets to Sweden (briefly)

It was a while ago now, but we made a quick trip across the Øresund to Höganäs in Sweden – partly just an excuse to get out another courtesy flag.  A great idea as it turned out as we had a whole pod of porpoises escort us there:

Just one of the playful porpoises that kept us company in the waves
Despite being part Swede, it turns out Tom had never been there! I made him compensate for this lack of patriotism with some flag waving…

A lovely anchorage off Æbelø, and a wet dog

We had a slow but very relaxed sail downwind from Samsø to the island/peninsula of Æbelø.  We were goosewinged and running dead downwind for most of the day, in light winds, mostly with Fred the autopilot steering.

Æbelø is just about an island, but is joined to the shore by a thin bit of low lying land which you can apparently walk/wade along depending on the water level.  The anchorage was very scenic, and there were about five other yachts spread out along a mile or two of the shoreline so it didn’t feel crowded.

We inflated our canoe and went ashore.  The island seems mostly uninhabited, though there are a couple of houses.  There are twenty-foot high mud cliffs behind most of the beaches, then a lot of beech forest and some open areas grazed by deer.  Skip enjoyed playing on the beach as usual, but was far too interested in the deer to be allowed off his lead anywhere else on the island.

I carefully prevented Skip from swimming because we were about to go back to Lizzie to sleep and I didn’t want a wet dog trying to climb into my bed all night.  Unfortunately, Skip got a bit enthusiastic when climbing back on board Lizzie and jumped prematurely, ending up in the classic “front paws on yacht, back paws on rapidly-moving-away-canoe” position (we’ve all been there).

As the gap widened, Skip couldn’t stretch enough and disappeared with a splash.  After what seemed like ages, he he resurfaced and I dragged him back into the canoe by his harness.  We managed to get him warm and approximately dry before bedtime, and luckily this doesn’t seem to have put him off either canoeing or swimming.

To the land of Odde

After an uneventful night in Sweden we woke at 6am to make the most of the forecast southerly wind. There wasn’t much of it as we left Höganäs, so after some attempts at sailing we gave up and motored out across the shipping lanes.

There were quite a few ships in the Øresund, travelling in both directions (in separate lanes) and at different speeds, and we had to pick our way carefully between them all.

After we had safely made it across to the Danish side, Catherine went back to bed for a snooze while I imagined that I was singlehanding.

The wind picked up to a perfect force 3 reach, and the coast just to our south sheltered us from waves.  I stopped the engine,  lashed the tiller and went below to put the kettle on.

Lizzie sails herself in these conditions, so we trundled along for the next few hours while Catherine slept and I watched for ships, adjusted the sails and played with the dog.

I had diligently checked the navigation warnings the previous night and discovered that there was a military exercise taking place in the area which we were planning to sail to.  It wasn’t clear whether the whole area was actually closed, but anyway it was due to finish by 2pm.

We were overtaken by a small warship, and as we approached the area they were parked at the corner of it and we passed close by them.  A military helicopter was buzzing around and two RIBs full of marines went past.  We heard fast jets in the distance.

A few other yachts were around and nobody told us off, so we headed on towards the military area, which due to my amazing planning (luck) we entered at five minutes past two, just after their exercise had ended.

Catherine had woken up by this point, so we had some second lunch and I experimented with our electric auto-pilot (“Fred”) which we haven’t used much on this trip.  He worked well, so I continued pretending to single-hand all the way to the harbour entrance, with Fred steering most of it.  The wind had picked up, so we did most of the last few hours at 5+ knots, which is fast for Lizzie.

I started the motor and lowered the sails, then with my crew on duty again we executed a perfect box-berthing manoeuvre in Odden Havn.

The Sjaellands Odde is a thin peninsula sticking out of the top of the island that Copenhagen is on.  There are lots of holiday houses here, and lots of nice coastline, and not much else.

Wrecks, you say? Tom goes for a dive…

On our sail from Aero to Troense the chart showed a cluster of wreck buoys alongside a diving symbol – the wreck turned out to be a motor torpedo boat sunk in 6-8m of water, so Tom though he’d have a go at free-diving it.

We took down all sails and started the engine as I wanted to be able to manouever the boat easily into the wind and stay nearby whilst he was overboard, and hoisted our “A” flag (diver overboard).  Tom meanwhile donned his wetsuit (mostly for anti-jellyfish protection) and his ridiculously long fins.

Tom comes up from a dive – the yellow buoy behind marks one end of the wreck

Visibility was rubbish, but apparently you could vaguely make out the outline of the ship.  It was a first for me too, being genuinely single-handed on Lizzie underway – I was quite glad when Tom was safely back on board!

Just a word about Troense – we anchored off this quaint little harbour and the locals were so friendly, one passing fisherman assured us that we could row ashore and use their club facilities for free, which was very kind.  Great views too!