Friday – Monday, April 13 – 16, 2018
Hoorn to Afsluitdijk to Vlieland
Which is what we did just a week after arriving back aboard JUANONA in our winter port of Hoorn. But, before I have us untethering from WSV Hoorn Marina, we had some wonderful reunions. First, I received the three-cheek kiss and big hug from Kase, one of the harbormasters at the club. Then Max and I spent Saturday with Deborah, Thijs and Tika at Tika’s school bazaar culminating in a another delicious dinner in their garden and a lovely, handmade gift from Tika.
On Monday some friends from across the pond–Rod, Jo, and Jo’s two sisters Nancy and Janet–dropped in during a visit with one of their daughters and her husband, leading to a fun evening and morning walk around the town.
Our timing didn’t allow for seeing all of our friends. We briefly saw Ingo but missed Martje, yet we will hopefully connect with them when we return in September/October.
Although it feels a bit early to begin our summer cruising, it truly isn’t. We sailed to the Netherlands from England’s east coast on April 17 two years ago; and this year bought similar Spring weather. With a forecasted week of favorable winds and temperatures, we readied JUANONA: filled the diesel jugs and propane tanks, topped off the water tanks, prepped the composting toilet, and ensured easy meals were on hand. And, tulips safely stashed in utensil holder in the drying sink.
and headed out the harbor
into the Markermeer on a beautiful day. Being relatively warm, swarms of pesky gnats joined us, but our spiders’ webs kept some of them at bay.
A stiff breeze
and libations close by
made for a gentle sail.
Our now traditional route exiting North Holland entails first one lock at Enkhuisen (separating one manmade lake, Markemeer, from another, IJsselmeer) then a lock-and-bridge combo (Kornwerderzand) at the Afsluitdijk, the huge dike serving as the gateway to the Wadden and North Seas.
Our destination was Vlieland, one of the Frisian islands arcing over the Netherland’s northern coast. This would be our fifth time visiting this lovely island, a perfect location for coming and going on our passages to the North and Baltic Seas.
We spent the night tied alongside a dock at the dike, then left at 0900, local High Tide, to ride the 2-3 knot current out the narrow channel. Motor-sailing, we joined the traffic lanes along the meandering channel, at one point passing an impressive rowing team with its colorful chase boat.
Being early in the season with so few boats out lessens, for me, a level of concern when tying up at the locks and in marinas. By now one would think I’d have it all down pat but, trust me, there’s no such thing when I’m involved. What I have accomplished is being pretty expert at crawling under the boom to reach the spring lines (midship), then boomeranging between port (left) and starboard (right) sides at the bow while setting up those lines and dropping the fenders overboard then gauging when to jump onto land. And, only occasionally does the Captain hear an ‘oh s _ _ t’ from his First Mate. Okay, maybe more than occasionally.
It’s not pretty but I manage… most of the time.
When docking, being able to tie-up on a hammerhead (the perpendicular top of a “T”) means simply gliding and stopping alongside the pontoon. Easy peazy (when no wind, current, or other boats fore/aft). If you can see the green bottom of our dinghy at the very end of the dock, that’s sitting on the bow, upside down where we store it when cruising for a long distance, such as a passage.
We shared the dock with a Nordhavn, a wonderful sea-going power boat.
Whenever we see one of these, and we have in many ports over here, we always think of our friends Sue and Don, the latter being Nordhavn’s Northwest Office Sales Manager. Imagine being able to cross an ocean (or two) on one of these. Hmmm, I bet I could display a bit more flowers aboard one of those…
A rainy Sunday meant a day of organizing for the passage to the Kiel Canal while constantly checking the winds for our 166 mile passage, roughly a 36-hour sail. Thinking Tuesday, April 17, offered the most favorable winds, we relaxed only to wake up Monday morning, review the winds and decide to leave right then. The only casualty entailed my not stashing the usual baked goods from Vlieland’s aromatic bakery in town. Oh well, nothing a stiff G&T wouldn’t cure when we next land in port.
Our cruising grounds this summer will be the Baltic, a sea whose coastline offers a treasure of diverse cultures, centuries of history, and lovely anchorages and towns. The easiest way to reach that Sea is the Kiel Canal whose waterway we traveled on our westbound return to the Netherlands last August.
Other than two, for-sure ports of call due to weddings we’ll be attending this summer, our itinerary promises a flexible route and timing. Which is a good thing as we tend to do that fairly often, based on weather and last-minute recommendations. As demonstrated above. So, onto our passage…
Monday-Tuesday, April 16-17, 2018
Passage to Kiel Canal
An offshore sail removes the opportunity for a quick retreat to the shelter of a safe harbor. I believe that could serve as the correct destination for ‘passage’. For me, I define one as sailing through the night. Not being a night-owl I tend to start shutting down when it gets dark. So, staying awake, much less remaining alert, as the night closes around me can be daunting.
But, sailing close to a coastline helps on the alert factor because it’s when I am most nervous doing a passage. I’d rather be out in the middle of an ocean. There, at least, you’re not too worried about buoys, small fishing boats, wind farms or oil rigs, all being obstacles to avoid. Just freighters/tankers far out at sea, which now are easy to spot thanks to AIS (Automatic Identification System) providing all the info one needs to make decisions on whether to adjust one’s course or not.
So, there’s always some trepidation when our route places us within 20 miles or so of the coast. At least, designated shipping lanes keep the big guys out of the way of the small ones. Actually, it’s the other way around. And, if we’re crossing any of those lanes, we’re required to do so on a 90ª (perpendicular) course to minimize our time in the shipping lanes. German patrols are reported to issue 1,000 Euro fines on the spot for failing to obey. Definitely an incentive to go by the rules.
We untied the lines on a morning decked out in a brilliant blue sky and jolly yellow sun. As we rounded the eastern end of Vlieland we took a last peek at the sandy stretch of its windward beach then set our heading for 70º, a heading we’d pretty much follow until reaching the entrance of the Elbe River.
When planning our departure we had two tides to work around – exiting Vlieland and arrival a day later at the Elbe River – both with the capability of affecting our speed by 2 to 4 knots. This may not seem like much but when you average just over five, you’re talking a 50% or more drop in speed. For full disclosure when I say ‘we’ here, it’s a royal one as Max does the math.
And, to give you an example of the machinations to match departure and arrival with the most favorable current, first you check the areas’ tide charts listing the times of high and low tides. Then you adjust that to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time (UT), adjusting for any daylight savings hours. Finally, you reconfigure times back to local time (Central European Time or CET) to coordinate scheduled passage-making.
The result began with our departure just before 10:00 a.m. Monday. We motored the six miles to the North Sea on the outgoing tide from Vlieland. From there we set sail for Germany aiming for a 9.00 a.m. arrival at the buoy marking the entrance to the Elbe River to travel with the ingoing tide.
A forecast promised a decent wind for the afternoon, one that would taper off during the evening only to return early morning for the final leg. At one point a good wind, favorable current and smooth seas gave us a whopping 10.6 knots (!) compared to our normal 5 to 6 knots boat speed.
Like most sailboats, JUANONA appreciates wind over diesel, as do humans, especially those who’ve listened to a droning motor for hours upon hours.
With the two of us passages have become fairly routine, routine in that there’s no set schedule for watches other than someone always being up on deck or, if cold, down below but going above every 10-15 minutes to check the horizon and winds. During the day both Max and I tend to be up and about. As night falls the one who’s most tired will head below for two to three hours while the other keeps watch for any wind change, to obstacles, such as oil rigs, the latter lit like a huge candle on the ocean’s surface.
If it’s only a one-night passage the napping of one to three hours versus a steady sleep doesn’t drain me as much as a longer offshore voyage with just the two of us. And, if Mom Nature presents us with good wind and sun, you get happy sailors.
Wednesday morning we continued riding the current to the west end of the canal arriving at the entrance with several other sailboats and a large training vessel.
Having been here before and (my) not messing up ‘locking in and out’ provided a healthy dose of confidence. Plus, so few boats due to the earliness of the season gave us plenty of space to maneuver and tie up.
I jumped off, put the spring line (middle one) through the dock rings then fixed the bowline. Meanwhile Max handled the stern line. Which is when we saw our ‘greeter’ to the canal.
Immediately upon exiting the lock all the sail boats took a left-hand turn and docked at a small town marina in Brunsbüttel and its welcoming daffodils after 30 hours at sea.
Always a relief to stretch one’s legs ashore after being in a confined space remedied by a stroll into town to check out the grocery store and to snap a quick photo for Ellen :)
Just to remind us exactly where we were, all we had to do was look to the other side to witness container ships and cruise liners going in and out of the lock.
To get a better picture of this canal, here are some quick facts…
- Since the 7th century, desire to make trade routes more efficient spawned interest in a canal.
- In the 18th century the Danish King Christian VII started the process by completing the Eider-Canal in 1784, a 27-mile waterway as part of the 109-mile one linking Kiel to with the mouth of the Eider River.
- 100 years later, both commercial and naval concerns prompted further development with construction beginning in 1887.
- In 1895 the German Kaiser Wilhelm II opened the canal, which connects the North Sea and Elbe River at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau.
- Originally named after his grandfather as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal, the name changed to simply the Kiel Canal (in German, Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) in 1948.
- Initial depth was 30 ft deep, 72 ft wide at ground-level, and 220 ft wide at water-level.
- 28 years later the canal was expanded to 36 ft deep, 144 ft wide at ground-level and to 335 ft wide at water-level to accommodate larger commercial vessels.
- The third and most recent expansion occurred in 1966 with the widening of both the ground-level and water-level widths to 295 ft and 532 ft respectively.v
- What’s really cool is this canal is recognized as the most heavily used artificial seaway in the world.
And, here’s a screen grab from the Internet that shows the full length,courtesy of GOOGLE MAPS. Not the best depiction but gives you an idea of the route. Brunsbüttel is in the SW corner with Kiel in the NE corner.
Wednesday-Thursday, April 18-19, 2018
Brundsbüttel to Laboe
As a recreational craft strict rules guide our usage of this waterway, ensuring we don’t obstruct the real purpose of the canal: keeping trade flowing efficiently. For one, we can only navigate during daylight hours, and even then only during specific times. A table listing times for us to navigate based on time of the year stipulated we could be under way between 0400 and 2030.
Secondly, our speed couldn’t exceed 8.1 knots per hour. We could use sail to help power us along as long as we hung a black cone in our rigging indicating as such to oncoming vessels.
Thirdly, we could only stop overnight in designated areas, such as one of the marinas along the way or off to the side at a mooring site (the latter being what we did).
And, fourthly, we had to monitor a particular VHF Channel while under way, a channel that changed during various segments of the canal.
For larger recreational craft (65 ft or more) or exceeding 10 ft in draft, additional rules come into play.
Of course when approaching/using/exiting the two locks at either end, more directives apply, specifically relating to the lights alerting boats when and when not to enter.
But, saying all of that once you’re in, it becomes rather zen-like. With calm waters and clear traffic rules, cruising the canal offers a relaxed, if sometimes unexciting venture to reach the other end. Adding in pastoral banks on either side, often with folk walking or cycling on paths bordering the canal with the occasional swan gliding by and, well, it’s a bit idyllic.
Every now and then we’d pass a shoreline indicating more activity.
However, coming upon huge ships in such a narrow passageway always provides a thrill, and an awareness of how I never ever would want to be this close out at sea.
By Thursday morning JUANONA landed at Kiel-Holtenau’s waiting dock. Having paid our transit fee of 18 euros back in Brunsbüttel, we were all set to lock out. Within 30 minutes a friendly lock-keeper provided instructions for our entering and exiting the lock, which we accomplished without any dead-as-a-doornail critter to avoid.
We had reached our true starting point of this summer’s cruise–the Baltic Sea, which promptly christened me when jumping onto a spring-board pontoon (think trampoline-y) with the bowline at the Laboe marina I just managed to fall in!
Which obviously provided the Captain numerous giggles that he (unsuccessfully) tried to tamp down during our walk to and from town. I guess I should be thankful he didn’t have a video of it… and that the marina offered an amenity that makes me want to go down on my knees and kiss the floor they sit on.
And, considering my current state, they were a godsend.
Next, some Baltic ports of call… without any unplanned body splashes (I hope).