The North Sea shook her foggy mood this morning and there is almost a tropical atmosphere,, without the trade winds.. beautiful weather, great serenity on the water almost blue. The night has been smooth under sail, slow though. The light north east breeze keeps us going and solar cream and hat are a necessity. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we try to go on along the south coast in the attempt to reach the best point to sail to Brittany after the meeting with a young friend of Magnus, doctor who prepared a quite impressive medical kit for us.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Pea soup and traffic as tedious as in an airport... We sneak toward the harbor feeling our way as a blind man. The radar is our white cane, our faithful dog. We would never had attempted a landing in those conditions in this unknown harbour as busy as a modern airport without it. It would have been suicidal !
We feel like flying a little Cessna hovering above with the big jumbos jets waiting to sneak in between them at the order of the air controller. We have to call the harbor master, then wait at a certain point for his order to go in. Chased down by a holling demon blowing his siren in our ears, we have nearly time to turn hard to starboard toward the hidden coast when a brief tear in the fog speeds my beat heart. Just 300 meters from our bow the white glowing clay cliff (little sisters of Calais cliff) rise above us !! On top of that, really trying to give me a heart attack, the mighty ferry breaks the fog almost in our wake forcing us to veer again and race toward the deep (high water) shore.
As soon as we have the order, in between 2 ferrys we enter the harbor. The fog has disipated inside and the harbor is clear. Following a fellow british sail boat, we aim toward the marina where we find the fuel dock. We came in with the coming tide and moored to the dock at slack water to leave less than 45 minutes later with the uncoming tide. Good because Röde orm is easier to handle this way. No time lost, we leave toward the west entrance acting like old local salts now that we know the procedure ! But no need to be cocky, mister fog is waiting for us a few miles off the harbor swallowing us in his smoky mouth. But there is enough breeze downwind to hoist the booster only and make way giving a rest (not needed according to the Yanmar doctor) to the engine. Well it is a rest for the cruising kitty anyway... sailing will be slower but cheaper. However knowing that we can run the engine during 60 hours make us feel better under the late conditions of heavy fog in between this constant heavy shipping lines.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Yes the sea is grey as I figured and the sky too despite of a high pressure. The wind is weak but in a good direction which is enough to please us. We have a very nice ride during one night at 4 to 5 beaufort then the wind dies totally and a thick fog settles in. The engine needs to run had said the mechanic, well it does. We are in a heavy traffic zone and the night watches are challenging. The radar is the center of our attention, no need to point our nose outside, To avoid a night and foggy arrival at Dover, we stop at the edge of trafic line. The sea is flat, and the silent water carries the sound of the fog horns as freighters go by without interruption, it is a frightful feeling, but it is safer to stay put drifting back and forth as the tides change, We keep active radar watches all night long.
Friday, June 26, 2009
A little check down passage of 48 hours crossing the Baltic to Kiel brings us to the entrance of the Kiel canal which avoids going around Denmark to enter the North Sea. No sailing, the wind has given up as soon as we left Falstebo canal.
What a sight ! Freighters, sailing boats, old rigs disguised in charter boats, helicopter, coast guards hovering over it all. Tourist season is starting in this germanic resort town.
We arrived soon in front of the mighty lock gates. There are 2, one for commercial purpose only and the older one for pleasure crafts. We are new at the lock procedure and as we are circling in front of the closed lock we can admire a dozen of old rigs and some almost tall ships all flying the Netherland flag moored at a quay obviously for the only purpose of chartering.
After a call on the VHF, and 10 more minutes of waiting the gate opens, the white lights flashes and we enter the basin with 2 other sail boats. The water level barely changes when the second gate opens on the canal side.
I had imagined the canal as a freeway for freighters borded by industrial sites germanic style. Far from it, the traffic is few with a handful of freighters, not the giant of their kind, some pleasure boats and 2 or 3 magestic barges almost obsolete among those container ships. Through the wooded shores, we have glimpses at very nice houses and the smell of cattle let us guess the presence of big dairy farms. It is quiet, peaceful, neat when we have the canal all for ourselves.
We anchor for the night in a small lake on the side of the canal. Navigation at night is not permitted. The 50 miles long canal can be made in one day but there is 5 or 6 permitted places to stop for the night. We continue the next day after a brief stop at Rensburg, a little village where Magnus can satisfy his taste and curiosity for good geman beers as we go to the store. Sweden taxes heavely alchool and Germany became the mecca to buy booze for swedish who can go there.
We arrive at 19 at Brunsbüttel at the other end, on the Elbe river toward the North Sea. The lock gate opens before us and only for us and soon enough we are facing a big impressive and unfriendly unknown as the gate opens on a grey universe. Sky and water are united in a greyish welcome. The Elbe river is powerful, busy as ships enter the canal or go to Hamburg. The tide, new phenomenom for Magnus is still going down so we ride her and take off. It carries us at 9 to 10 knots as we sail toward the North Sea.
Magnus takes pleasure at this night navigation between buoys and freighters. For him it is his first navigation out of the Baltic and also his first experience with tides. He stays a few hours at the helm as I crashed down below a little apprehensive at the view of this grey universe and the perspective of a gloomy North Sea.