Saturday, 28 April 2012

Waiting in Helgoland

The wind indicator reads over 30 knots as we sit against the floating dock with 3 German weekend boats rafted outside us. That is to say that the boats are tied alongside us such that the crew of the outside boat have 4 boats in succession to walk across to reach the shore. The next two rafts up the dock have 5 boats and 7 boats respectively and every other spot in the harbor is similarly jammed.

Tomorrow is Sunday so they probably all leave for Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. At any rate, tomorrow we must somehow worm our way out of our spot against the dock inside the three other boats to suffer on a close reach northbound. If we wait for lighter weather we suffer even more from northerly gales forecast on the Norwegian coast in 4 days time. Isn't sailing fun!?

This tiny resort island is unusual in Europe for having no VAT, no duty etc. We refuelled of course at EURO1.15 a liter and rerummed at EURO9.95 a liter. Not the lowest prices we've ever seen, of course, but a bargain around here. Alas we don't need any Rolex watches.

And it IS cold!

L & MA
Helgoland, Germany

Thursday, 26 April 2012


In Bermuda a year ago, we shared the St. George’s anchorage with Bert and Marlene Frisch aboard their boat Heimkehr.  They were returning from the Caribbean toward their home in Germany where a dock awaited Heimkehr right in front of their house - a dock that Traversay III might like to share.

In planning a spring visit to Hamburg, we realized that Bert and Marlene's town was on the Oste river, a tributary of the Elbe which leads to that city; thus a visit began to seem quite practical.

Because of a complex winding entry over a shallow bar where the Oste meets the Elbe, it is necessary to enter at least 2 hours after low tide and while the tide is rising.  This in turn dictates when you must leave your previous stop, in our case the picturesque town of Gluckstadt [German: Lucky Town}.

Dike and farmhouse from river
A look at the chart was almost enough to discourage the enterprise altogether but with Mary Anne on chart and binoculars and me steering, we managed to get past the tricky, current washed entrance.  Mary Anne's competence in German then got the three bridges opened in succession as we made our way along the narrow winding river. She modestly suggests that whatever she had said, the bridge would have opened as that is how bridge tenders habitually react to approaching boats. It was so tranquil that it seemed our only observers were the many sheep walking along the high dikes. The sheep are employed thus to compress and strengthen the dirt making up these essential dikes which over the years have protected, and occasionally failed to protect, the countryside from a series of devastating floods.  The houses and farms we glimpsed along the way had their lower halves hidden by the intervening dikes , an appearance typical of the region which reinforces the impression of how low the land is.
Traversay at Oberndorf

After an hour and a half motoring up the Oste, we reached the town of Oberndorf - the heart of the Oste as Das Oberndorf Lied puts it.  Marlene was waiting on the dock to take our lines and help us secure our boat.

The Frisch house with Canadian flag
It is difficult with words and pictures to adequately describe the warmth of the welcome given us by this little town! There were dinners to be shared, invariably involving the seasonal regional delicacy of fresh white asparagus. We toured the local area meeting various town characters and seeing sights like a high hanging ferry built by the same Monsieur Eiffel who built the tower.  We dined at "53 North". Interestingly, the town is on the same latitude as Edmonton, Canada where Mary Anne and I grew up.  Drinks with the yacht club led to the singing of various songs and to our receiving a gift book of local history from the mayor.

The Eiffel Ferry
The regional newspaper Niederelbe-Zeitung even sent a reporter to interview the crew of the first Canadian boat [we believe, anyway] to visit the Oste river. 

In a few days, we will leave German waters behind bound for Norway.  We take with us more memories than either of us imagined possible when we arrived a few short weeks ago.

Cuxhaven, Germany

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Traversay III at City Marina
The purpose of these words is really just to frame a few pictures of our stay in Hamburg.

Our marina is situated in the very centre of the city.  The harbour hosts everything from the very largest of container ships down through canal freighters, tugboats, long skinny tourboats to our (relatively) tiny sailboat.

Every day we find another touristy thing to do.  An entire morning got us through 2 1/2 floors of the 8 floor international maritime museum.  An entire day can be spent wandering over bridges and along canal shores.

Yesterday we visited "miniature world".  The words "model railway" would massively understate the place. The photos are too static to convey the real impression conveyed.  Tiny trucks drive along highways with turn signals blinking at the appropriate moments.  Tractors push airliners back from the gates at the airport,disconnect and allow the aircraft to taxi off to the runway.  The aircraft then accelerates down the runway to a crescendo of noise and takes off.  And, yes, the aircraft, taxi and runway lights are all doing their thing.  At the airport, fuel trucks, passenger buses and catering trucks are all doing appropriate things as the aircraft come and go.

In the Scandinavian section,a large cruise ship sailed into the fjord and harbour and, later, back out again.  I snapped a picture partly obscured by a harbour crane in the foreground.

Oh, did I mention the occasional fire that draws a very mobile fire brigade out of their station, down the road and into action with hoses and ladders?

Needless to say, this is a popular outing!  You can book ahead or stand in line for an hour if you arrive after 9:30am.  It opens to the throngs of spectators from 7:30am to about 11pm.
From our boat - not a miniature!

I have no idea what will happen today!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

On to Hamburg

As is no doubt clear from the Position Map, we are now in Hamburg.  This picture, taken somewhere near the middle of our North Sea crossing, will no doubt look familiar to nephew Paul and brother-in-law Larry who have actually stood on offshore oil platforms.  There are over 1000 of these structures in the North Sea and, by the time we arrived at Cuxhaven at the mouth of the Elbe River, we felt we had seen most of them.

Our first impression of Germany was that it is a very clean and tidy place.  Our first impression of sailing in Germany is that there are masses of other boats and you have to be alert all the time to keep from running into anyone.

A tiring 9-hour trip up the river brought us here to Hamburg. It is a city of great beauty.  We are reminded by the cold and rain that it is not yet sailing season here in Northern Europe so we will linger a few weeks before moving on.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Waiting out a gale

Lowestoft Seaside
On April 2, a flat calm day of endless motoring led us out of the Thames estuary north to the east coast seaside town of Lowestoft.  While Lowestoft is possibly not the most scenic spot we have encountered to date, the force 8 to 9 NE gales [40 knots / 75 km/h winds] in the forecast  were a powerful inducement to settle in and stay a while.  It is unpleasant to try to make to windward in even 20 knots of wind and Cuxhaven, Germany is 300 miles to the northeast of us.

20 metres away along the dock lies the training ship John Jerwood waiting out the same gale with 12 sea cadets aboard.  Captain Watkins, a retired navy officer, seems just as averse to suffering in bad weather as we are.

                                                                    *   *   *
TS John Jerwood
Today Colin Watkins and first mate Becky visited us for a while.  Colin, it turns out, has raced 2 round-the-world Whitbread [now Volvo] ocean races, one as captain.  Lots of Cape Horn and Southern Ocean stories were traded. His were better than ours!

We may get going Thursday evening . I'm trying to turn strong winds (from various directions) and everything from sun to snow into an acceptable early season passage to Germany. ... will see.  The John Jerwood will now, it seems, stay until Sunday. This is due to the complex logistics of buses for the cadet crew-change and harbours up the coast that can only be entered on certain states of the tide.  I'm certain they will be more comfortable in port than we will be at sea!