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.

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.

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.

Møn to Rødvig

This was a nice sail in three parts:

First we had a tricky leg to windward, which we just managed to sail without having to tack.  The wind was a solid force four and felt quite strong.  We were sailing across a very shallow area and had to follow the correct course between a series of cardinal buoys marking even shallower patches.

Unfortunately, the cardinals were small and hard to spot, and there were lots of floats with flags everywhere indicating static fishing nets.  There were so many flags that it was difficult to work out which ones might be connected.  We managed to avoid getting snagged on anything, but were relieved when we could bear away onto the next leg.

The second part of the trip was downwind, so the sailing felt a lot more relaxing, but the navigation still required a lot of concentration as we were in a narrow and very twisty channel out through the sandbanks.  The channel was well marked with buoys and posts, but even in the centre of the channel we only had about half a metre of water below the keel at times.

Finally we reached open water and were able to relax for the third section of the trip – twelve miles downwind across the bay to Rødvig, our next port on the way to Copenhagen.  By now the strong winds had built up some steep waves, so we rolled quite a lot a times, but otherwise the sailing was very pleasant.

As we approached Rødvig I made Catherine put on her waterproofs as a big black rain cloud was heading our way.  We read that the waters surrounding the harbour entrance are infested with lots of static fishing nets, so we took the recommended (slightly less direct) route in.  As it turned out we didn’t see many net flags anywhere around Rødvig compared to the forest of flags that we had sailed through that morning further south.

We found a vacant berth (indicated by a green plastic marker) in the small-boat harbour and executed a perfect box-berth mooring.  And the rain cloud missed us so we were soon back in shorts and t-shirts, enjoying the nearby beach.

Stages 1 and 2 of the route, out through the sandbanks.

To Femø

A fairly short day sailing between two islands in the Smålands area, which is a patch of sea almost enclosed by the larger Danish islands.

We were close-hauled on the starboard tack for most of the passage, then we tacked into the Femø Sund and entered the harbour along the recommended track between the shallows. The short waves and fresh wind made it seem hard work at times, and we envied those sailing downwind.

Femø was a nice island with a friendly shop in the harbour.  Later we went for a walk and found an avenue of old pear trees, with lots of fruit on.

Tracing my roots

Some of my (Tom’s) ancestors come from Marstal, a shipbuilding town on the small Danish island of Ærø.  This happened to be our first port of call in Denmark too, so it was very exciting to visit.

After the sea finally arrived back in the Kieler fiord (see previous posts) we refloated and were able to leave and sail up to Denmark.  To begin with we were very wary of shipping traffic because of the Kiel canal entrance and the nearby Traffic Separation Scheme, but in fact we saw very few ships.  After negotiating the TSS we passed three ships at anchor near Kiel lighthouse and then we set off away from the shipping lanes directly to the Danish islands.

We had a great sail in nice conditions, though gradually the wind strengthened and some rain showers came through.  We made it safely into the large harbour at Marstal, very sheltered behind a long boulder breakwater built mostly by local volunteers in the 1800s.

Once moored up, Catherine and Skip sheltered below from the rain while Tom explored the town.  Initial findings:

  • Public barbeques next to the marina pontoons, so that you can grill the fish you have just caught.  These are a common feature of Danish harbours.
  • Large shelters next to the marina pontoons, with barbeques under them.  So that you can grill the fish you have just caught without getting rained on.
  • A sea-kayak club and a rowing club.  Also both common features in Danish harbours.
  • A large maritime museum.
  • A small but nice town with narrow streets, pretty buildings and lots of hollyhocks.
  • Several shops selling stylish Scandinavian homewares.

Aground Again

We are currently in a small harbour near Kiel and are firmly aground.

We moored in this harbour two days ago to sit out a low pressure system with associated strong winds.  We had a relaxing day yesterday visiting a WW2 U-boat nearby, and when the strong winds arrived last night as forecast we were snug and smug inside the harbour.

While there are no significant tides in the Baltic, the water level does change as a result of the wind.  When we moored there was more than a foot of water below us, but when we awoke this morning the sea had dropped more than 2 feet.  The gale has blown all the water over to another part of the Baltic.

We have deployed some extra lines to try and stop Lizzie falling over, and hopefully the sea will reappear soon.  We are definitely stuck here until it does.

Through the Kiel Canal

The Kiel Canal saves a very long trip around the top of Denmark.  It is used by lots of commercial shipping, but yachts are allowed to use it too, for a bargain price of €12.

It is 97km long, and took us about 12 hours over two days.

While it did save us a lot of sailing, the relentless heat and monotonous motoring made it a bit of a gruelling two days.  Luckily Catherine was less grumpy about it than me and did a lot of the steering.

Passing ships provided interest, and our dwindling fuel supply provided some tension to the first day, though as it turned out we had plenty to reach our overnight stop at Rendsburg.

Finally we reached the locks at the far end, and after waiting a couple of hours for some ships to go through we  were allowed to lock through into the Baltic.  The lock was massive (the small ones normally used for yachts are being mended) and we shared it with a small container ship and about ten other yachts.

We locked out into the Kieler Fiord and sailed the two miles up to the city of Kiel.  It was so nice to be sailing again, with the motor off, and for once the wind was not against us!  To complete a great sail, Catherine made a very neat job of mooring us up into a box berth.