On Monday 30 May we took the opportunity to explore Norderney, our first German port of call. I think that Norderney may be the largest of the East Frisian Islands but even then it is only around 8miles long and a couple of miles wide. The harbour and the ferry port are less than a mile from the smart town, Norderney being Germany's oldest spa and a nineteenth century royal holiday centre. It has some fine buildings facing the sea and a central park like square where café culture is clearly in evidence. The town was busy although a significant proportion of the visitors were noticeably older than us! In common with other East Frisian islands a significant proportion of the island (in Norderney's case about two-thirds) is a nature reserve. We spent the sunny afternoon cycling along the very quiet cycle ways and roads through the nature reserve and viewing the long sandy beaches.
|Town centre street, Norderney|
|Train heading to the harbour and ferry|
The next morning we were on our bikes along the shared footpath/cycleway to the town. The resident population of Wanerooge is around 1500 but in the peak holiday period this may be swollen by 5000 visitors. It is an interesting town with shops supplying essentials, a range of restaurants, houses dating back to the late nineteenth century and of course the main train station! Again there are very sandy beaches with interesting covered seats, a traditional promenade, an extensive nature conservation area and a very small airport. The commercial transport around the town and island consists of a variety of small electric vans or trucks, a reminder of milk floats!
Near the centre
of the town is the old lighthouse. We climbed to the top to see the
views and also looked at their historical exhibition. This included a
piece on the allied bombing of the island in 1945 when around 150
civilians and military personnel lost their lives. During WW2 the
airfield was used by the Luftwaffe and this was obviously the target
of the Lancaster bombers but it certainly appears that quite a few
non-military buildings were destroyed.
evening I had a discussion with Tom in the Office/Bar about when I
needed to leave the next morning to ensure that I safely crossed the
sand bar. Tom's advice was to leave no later than HW-2.5hrs but
perhaps no later than 2hours after HW to be on the safe side. My
immediate doubts were that would be too late, given that I wouldn't
be at the bar (the sea one!) until at least 30 minutes after leaving
the harbour and the depth under the keel at 2 hours before HW on the
inward passage was only 1.2m at minimum. Having reflected on it over
night and woken to an overcast day with a F4 NE wind forecast I
concluded that we wouldn't wait too long as after HW we would have to
cross the bar with wind against tide which would create choppy
conditions. On the other hand we only had c25nm to the beginning of
the River Elbe and the advice on this was also clear that you
shouldn't pass the fairway buoy until the tide is on the turn to give
you the flood. On this day that suggested around 1720LT. So the
earlier we crossed the bar the slower that we would have to go to
wait for the tide to turn at the Elbe. Not a straightforward
position! In the event by 1040 I had itchy feet so 40 minutes after
HW we slipped our mooring. The first half hour or so was uneventful
although the wind was stronger than forecast. However as we
approached the bar all we could see were crashing waves and a sea of
white water. We carefully stuck to the channel plunging up and down
into 1+m waves with the depth indicator fluctuating wildly and for
seemingly endless minutes reading “0” with the alarm going off.
Eventually we crawled past the final port buoy and the depth beneath
the keel slowly started reading positive numbers. Not a pleasant
experience and one we don't want to repeat. I am very glad that we
hadn't left our departure any later! We now turned into the wind and
headed further out to sea. First we had to cross the busy shipping
lanes of the R Jade (getting drenched in the first of two downpours
in the process) then we began skirting the sands around the Elbe
estuary. As it happened, 6 hours after our departure we were near the
fairway buoy (around 1645), so we resigned ourselves to fighting the
tide for a while. It lasted longer than expected and didn't tail off
until around 1830 when it quickly began to help us. At 2045 we were
tied up at the very small Fahrhafen Sailing Club harbour on the edge
of Cuxhaven. We choose this in preference to the large commercial
marina as it had been recommended by a Cruising Association member as
very friendly and informal. When we arrived there was not a soul
there but vacant berths had a green sign so we picked one. We
eventually discovered some information about the arrangements plus an
envelope to put our fee into near the gate at the end of the pontoon.
Andrea happened to be there when a member arrived to put some items
on his boat. He kindly showed her where the key to the Clubhouse was
located and pointed at what looked like a house about 50m away and
said that we could let ourselves in to use the shower and facilities!
An amazing arrangement, so trusting, and the shower in the Clubhouse
was like being in someone’s own home! Even the bar was unlocked but
we respected the arrangements and, as requested, left the place clean
|Transport arrangements in Wangerooge|
|A view from the old lighthouse|
We decided to leave exploring Cuxhaven for another time and at 0900 on a sunny Friday morning we took the tide to head 17nm to Brunsbuttel where the lock that gives access to the Kiel Canal is located. Having the tide with us and even after a brief wait, by noon we were in the lock and soon afterwards in very warm sunshine we began our motor down the canal. Soon some industrial wharves gave way to forested edges and reeded banks. The canal (officially the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) was opened in 1895 and was primarily built to enable the German Naval Fleet to get from the Baltic to the North Sea without having to run the risk of passing around Jutland. It is reasonably wide with plenty of room (40m clearance) under the elegant bridges. So now it carries significant commercial traffic and is heavily regulated.
|Approaching traffic on the Kiel Canal|
Of course not quite at rest as we decided to explore the town and do some shopping and washing too. It was just 10 minutes walk into a medieval city with fine 16th century and later buildings. Being Saturday there was a market in the town square from which we obtained fresh asparagus, strawberries, local cheeses (recommended by the chatty cheese monger but very strong tasting (he said medium!) and some local cake. The rest of our requirements were met by Aldi and another supermarket. When we were back in town for another walk round later in the afternoon we were amazed to discover that nearly all the shops had closed at 1400 so it was quite quiet!
the previous day our friends Pieter and Griet in Watervogel had made
the long passage from Norderney to Cuxhaven. Pieter had messaged me
on Saturday morning to say that they would try to make Rendsburg and
we received regular updates so soon after 1830 we were delighted to
take their lines as they arrived. We had a very enjoyable sunny
|Theatre at Rendsburg|
On Sunday morning they left about 30 minutes before us heading for Holtenau (the lock that lets you into the Baltic Sea) and then on to Laboe for the night. Our destination was a little short of that at the British Kiel Yacht Club. The 20nm passage down to Holtenau was uneventful. At Holtenau there are two locks for leisure craft and two for commercial ships. Here you must also pay a fee of 20 Euro for use of the canal. But since 2014 the leisure craft locks have been out of action with major works being undertaken. So leisure craft have to fit in with the big ships in the commercial lock. It has also led to fees for leisure craft being suspended. It is thought that this is because to get to the kiosk to pay the fee requires climbing up and down a slippery vertical ladder on the wall of the lock and the authorities are fearful of the risk of accidents. Whilst this is a saving we did have to wait over half an hour to enter the lock as two ships were on their way to Holtenau and needed to be moored up inside the lock before we joined them.
It was then just a short distance to the British Kiel Yacht Club, originally established at the end of WW2 and ever since used as a base for UK military personnel to enjoy adventure training. With the wind down of the British presence in Germany it is due to close permanently later in 2016 so we had been encouraged to make what would be a once only visit. As it happened we did not cover ourselves in glory as a brisk wind on the beam coupled with Whileaway's reluctance to go astern in a straight line meant that we provided entertainment on how not to secure up in a box mooring. We did eventually get in and it turned out to be a very quiet afternoon and evening as the place was practically deserted. We did though walk back to near the locks as we had noticed on our transit that there were over a dozen tall ships at some sort of festival there so went along to view them. This entailed a walk through the old British base, long ago handed back, with married quarters now occupied by Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees given a safe haven by Germany.
Monday it was 0930 by the time that we were away, heading first
northerly out of the Kieler Forde and then turning East. The weather
forecast was for a NW F4 so that offered the prospect of some
sailing. Indeed by midday we were sailing but close hauled and
regularly tacking as the wind was NE, By mid afternoon the wind had
come round a little to ENE and increased so now it was always at
least F5 and increasingly F6 (22-27kn). Making ground was becoming
more difficult so we restarted the engine and were soon ploughing in
to strong winds and an increasingly steep sea, slowing us down
somewhat. By the time that we were on the long approach to
Heiligenhafen the wind was gusting to 30kn (F7). If coming from the
W, to gain entry to the harbour you have to pass a 2km long sand spit
then turn and return inside it along a narrow channel which we easily
picked up. Once inside the large marina it was clear that getting
into a box mooring would be tricky in this wind so we found an
alongside pontoon used for temporary moorings and the next morning
the harbour master said that we could stay there for the day.
Heiligenhafen is a large yacht, fishing and commercial harbour so it
has a busy and interesting town and harbour side. There is an interesting old church where as is the tradition in ports there were model ships hanging from the ceiling.
|Tall ships visiting Holtenau|
|Model ship in the old church|
A short distance away is a beach resort with large hotels. We looked round the pretty market square and after lunch cycled along the sand spit seeing the many birds on the protected area and accidentally disturbing a gull that had built its nest on the edge of a footpath to a viewing platform which was just open for a few hours each day.
|Part of the sandspit|
We also cycled to the beach resort but were unimpressed with that! A fish supper seemed appropriate given the fishing activity! We later discovered that Watervogel had arrived and so had a quick catch up; they are heading to the E coast of Sweden for a month or two so it will be our last meeting with them.
On the following morning we made the short journey to Burgetiefe on Fehmarn Island where we are leaving the boat for a couple of weeks to return to the UK. For the first time since we left Sneek over two weeks ago we had a wind that didnt have E in it! It was NW so we had a pleasant sail running before the wind under the rail and road bridge and into the harbour. It was though another day where the wind was strong gusting to F6 so getting into the box was a challenge but we eventually made it with the help of a guy on the pontoon who took our bow lines.
our last day we visited the yard in nearby Burgstaaken where we will be leaving Whileaway
in the winter and which is about 2km away. This is another old fishing port with a busy town centre. Fishing is still an activity as is tourism, including a historic U boat.
|Main street Burgstaaken|