A holiday on Spiekeroog

Lizzie in the mud in Spiekeroog harbour.

Apart from running aground briefly, our trip along the inside of the German Friesian islands was very successful.

We left Borkum on Sunday evening and crossed a watershed on each of the next four high tides.  After each one we anchored out of the channel, sheltered by all the sandbanks that the falling tide left dry.  Luckily all the high tides were in daylight so no night navigation was required (the withies are not lit, though they do have reflective tape on).

We even managed to cross two watersheds in one tide, making a total of five, behind the islands of Borkum, Juist, Norderney, Baltrum and Langeoog, and we reached Spiekeroog harbour on Tuesday morning.

We were now only 25 miles from the entrance to the Elbe river, and were nearing the end of the islands. The entrance to the Elbe is notoriously rough so we decided to stay in Spiekeroog and await benign weather conditions.

The next few days were all strong Easterly winds (as usual for this summer), so we just chilled out on the boat in the harbour and explored the island.

The harbour dries out at low tide, but the bottom is very soft mud so the boats just stand up in it.



On Wednesday we were weather-bound in Lauwersoog.  Catherine took the bus into Groningen for the day, leaving Skip and I to work on the boat.

One of the jobs which I didn’t have time for before we left Ipswich was to replace the fuseboard and add some more switches.

The old wiring had accumulated over 40 years and we had added to it, meaning that it had some annoying quirks. For example, we had to switch on the compass light in order to use the depth-sounder, and there was no way to turn off the AIS receiver other than switching off everything at the main isolator.

Spaghetti behind the old fuse panel. It still looks quite like this.

It took all day to unwire the old panel and wire up the replacement.  It was a fun day’s work except towards the end when I got annoyed at only having the type of soldering iron that you heat up in a fire (in our case on the gas hob).

Lizzie’s low tech soldering iron.

By the time we left for Borkum at 5am the next day, almost everything worked again.  Except the autohelm and the chart plotter, but I had Catherine to steer and we use the Android tablet instead of the chart plotter at the moment.

Since arriving in Borkum I have got those two things working and fixed a couple of other niggles.

New switch panel and volt/ammeter. Awaiting better labels, and I had better fill in the hole soon or Catherine will tell me off.


We have met two interesting singlehanded sailors so far in this trip, both of them Dutchmen.

The first was in Lowestoft, and was on his way north to Norway by a much more direct route than us.  He had a relatively modern (1990s?) boat and had made lots of interesting modifications himself, including installing a Torqueedo electric outboard, a movable solar panel, Dyneema rigging and a self-designed carbon fibre wind-vane steering gear.  Everything had to be lightweight.  We have occasionally checked his progress via AIS since, and he has successfully reached Norway now.

The second was in IJmuiden and was sailing a Contessa 26, the same model as our boat.  In fact, his boat was the most similar one to Lizzie which we have ever seen, with almost identical  layout and joinery in the cabin.  He had done a lot of refurbishment himself and it looked beautiful.

He was sailing in company with his parents who were sailing a Contessa 32.  His dad was a massive Contessa fan and this had obviously rubbed off on the son.  He claimed the boat was really easy to singlehand, even with a spinnaker, but he got his first boat aged 4 and was now in his mid 20s so has probably had more practice than us.

He had a wind vane steering system which was very similar to the one I’m halfway through building, and I got some good ideas for simplifying the design.

He was flying a large pennant on the backstay with a single large spot on it. Apparently this is the standard signal denoting a solo sailor, and sometimes means the lock-keepers are sympathetic.

Here is a rubbish photo of a similar pennant on another boat which I saw more recently:

Wind Power

We are currently moored in Borkum harbour beneath two onshore wind turbines, each rated at 1.8MW.  They are probably generating that now and are  audible, but not too annoying.

To Germany!

We motored all the way from Lauwersoog to Borkum in light winds.

We had been waiting for a weather window for a couple of days, but the wind was stuck in the northeast, exactly the direction we wanted to go. This meant that not only would we have to tack, but that the wind would be against any tidal streams that we used to help our progress. Wind against the tide kicks up waves, which are uncomfortable and slow us down as we had discovered in our last attempt.

There was a short period when the wind went westerly, but it was very strong and gusty so we decided to stay in port.

The best we could find was a brief window when the wind was really light, so wouldn’t affect us much. We don’t normally plan to rely on the motor but were fed up with waiting around so decided to go.

We left at 4:45am to catch the tide, and saw a lovely calm sunrise as we were heading out along the fairway behind the islands.

We were able to motor faster than expected so were early for the tidal stream along the coast, but after pushing against the last of the ebb for a couple of hours we gradually speeded up as the flood started.  By the time we were in the Huibertsgat channel near the entrance to the river Ems we had over 2 knots of tide with us.

The sea was fairly flat, with just some swells to make us roll sometimes. Sadly I’d not reconnected the autopilot yet after rewriting the fuse board so we (mostly Catherine) had to hand steer the whole way.

We arrived at Borkum harbour several hours ahead of our tidal deadline of 1730, which was good because after we arrived the wind picked up – from the northeast of course.

North Sea video

A bit late, but here is a short video clip that Catherine recorded a few hours into our North Sea crossing a few weeks ago.

Hindeloopen – First attempt at box berth mooring

We had a nice sail in great conditions from Enkhuisen to Hindeloopen.  Force 3 and flattish water until the last few miles.  Of course we were close hauled all the way because (like every day for the last few weeks) we were trying to go NE and the wind was from that direction.  Luckily Catherine likes helming upwind – the boat powers up and heels over, and it and feels like you are going fast.

There were loads of people out sailing because it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, but no sign of the commercial barge traffic that we saw on weekdays further South.

We arrived in Hindeloopen in mid afternoon and pulled over at the quay by the harbourmaster’s office.  Our new temporary mooring technique of motoring forwards against a stern spring worked well, and I went in to talk to the harbourmaster.  He directed us to a box berth in the marina.

Box berths are a common feature of the Baltic and the tideless parts of the Netherlands, but so far we’d managed to avoid mooring in one.  You moor your bow against a quay and tie your stern to a post on either side.  All the local boats have a wooden rubbing-strip around the outside so that they can slide against the piles as they enter without scratching their paint, which made me suspicious that mooring neatly in a box berth might not be trivial.

There was a strong crosswind on our designated berth, but luckily no boats on either side.  Lizzie is much narrower than most boats, so it would probably be impossible to attach both lines as we entered the berth.  We managed to put a line over the upwind post and made it into the berth ok, but I failed to tighten the line fast enough to stop the bow from crashing into the quay.  Oh well, only a slightly bent bow-roller.

Catherine quickly got the bow lines on and then were at least attached to dry land in a stable position.  It took several more minutes of manoeuvring before I was able to lasso the other post.  Then I realised that the posts had little ledges on to stop the lines falling into the water, but managed to retrospectively poke one of ours up onto the ledge with a boathook.

I’m not looking forward to trying to leave – Lizzie doesn’t manoeuvre well at the best of times, and the outboard motor doesn’t put any prop-wash over the rudder which means that she doesn’t turn until she is moving quite fast.  Hopefully there won’t be too many neighbouring boats to hit.

Anyway, Hindeloopen seems nice.  Mini canals and old buildings.  Very twee and full of German tourists.  Lots of nice cafes selling good pancakes.


Amended Plans

The osmosis treatment has overrun by several months, but hopefully now the end is in sight and we might have Lizzie back in the water in a few weeks time.

Because we have already missed a big chunk of the sailing season we have decided to postpone installing the exciting electric propulsion system until the winter.  Instead we are planning to buy a petrol outboard, which should be a lot quicker to install, meaning that we can set off as soon as possible.

Our new cruising chute from Kemp (e-sails.com) has arrived and looks great.  We are in the process of making a snuffer for it.

Dog Travel Rules

We are planning to take our dog with us on our sailing trip.  He has an EU (Irish) pet passport and is fully rabies vaccinated, so most of the border crossings should be simple.

Our intended route is something like:

  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Back to the UK from one or more of the above countries.

This page summarises the rules as I understand them, and gives links to the information sources that I have used.  Please don’t rely on this without checking on the official websites for yourself!  In all cases, these rules apply to non-commercial transport of up to 5 dogs accompanied by their owner.


From another EU country this is simple: just need to have a passport and valid rabies vaccine.  The original vaccination must be at least 21 days ago, but it is ok if a booster was given more recently than that.




Seems like there are no rules other than the standard EU ones if you are moving between EU countries, except that there is a list of banned “dangerous dog breeds”.  This list includes Staffies and Staffie crosses.



The same EU rules apply.  You do not have to enter at an official “Traveller’s Point of Entry” unless you are coming from outside the EU.

If you stay longer than 4 weeks you must register your dog.  There is also a list of banned dog breeds, like Pit Bulls and American Staffies.



Usual within-EU rules apply.  If you are coming from Norway the rules are similar.

“The animal must enter Sweden at a customs station, where you must report to a customs officer that you are bringing a pet animal.”  Note that this is not the same as having to enter at one of the two “Entry Points” (which are airports in Gothenburg and Stockholm).



You need all the usual passport and rabies stuff.  However, unless travelling direct from the UK you also need to have a certificate from a vet showing that the dog has recently had tapeworm treatment.  This can either be:

“given in the country of departure no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours before entering Norway”


“regular treatment every 28 days and the dog has been treated minimum two days before entering Norway”

This applies even for Norwegian dogs that have been on a day trip to Sweden!  The first option is the most common one.

If you are coming from Sweden and your papers are in order then you are allowed to use the green channel at customs.

As usual, there is a list of banned breeds.



Back to UK

This is the hard one.  The main problem is that you not only have to enter at one of a handful of official entry points, you also have to arrive on a registered carrier.  So you are definitely not allowed to sail back from Europe with your dog on board.

The general consensus seems to be that the lowest stress option is to fly to Paris and then cross the channel in a car on the Eurostar train.  There are companies which will come across the channel in a dog-transport van to collect you and the dog.