PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

4 thoughts on “PASSAGE PLUS

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