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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Burgtiefe - Svendborg, Denmark (5 July 2016)

We returned to Fehmarn Island on Monday 27 June. Our journey from the UK started with concern as our first train (First Great Western) was running 10 minutes late thus risking our connection at Salisbury. As it happened we made it only to join a train packed with muddy Glastonbury campers heading home, most of them asleep! The journey involved taxi from home to Warminster; train to Salisbury then train to Woking; minicab to Heathrow T5; Flight to Hamburg; S Bahn train to Hamburg hbf (central station); ICE train to Puttgarden; local train to Berg; taxi to Bergtriefe Marina. Left home 0840, arrived 2000LT (1900 BST), so just over 10 hours.
Tuesday was spent on shopping for stores and readying the boat together with a walk around the nearby beach.
The weather forecast for Wednesday was for a fresh breeze from the SW but some likelihood of rain overnight and into the morning. We resolved to make a prompt 0800 start but at that time the sky was universally black or dark grey and rain was coming down in stair rods with consequent poor visibility, so we decided to postpone for a while. It took until 0930 for the rain to ease but we slipped the mooring to head into what was then a strong S wind. Initially we had to motor about 3nm south but we could then turn to starboard to pick up the buoys that mark the channel that takes you through shallow water and under the road and rail bridge that links Fehmarn island to the mainland. By then the wind had turned more W but we were motor sailing. Once we had passed the shallows off the SE side of Fehmarn Island and were turning on to a NW course we unrolled the genoa and turned off the engine to begin a pleasant few hours sailing at 5-6kn towards the Danish islands. By mid afternoon we had sunshine and could see the S coast of Langeland and we began heading in a more N direction standing off but in parallel to the coast. At this stage the wind picked up becoming a NW F6 with gusts to 30kn making the sea lively, so it was pleasing that about 7 hours and 35nm after slipping our mooring we were mooring in the harbour at Bagenkop, our first port of call in Denmark.

Bagenkop harbour, Whileaway in the foreground.
Bagenkop is a traditional fishing village with ship support facilities. As fishing has reduced in scale leisure activities, mainly camping and holiday homes, have increased. We were immediately impressed by the smartly uniformed Harbour Master (complete with peaked cap) who came round in the early evening to collect the dues!
The following day, again one with grey clouds and a strong wind in the morning, we cycled round the village, inspecting the church with its model ships hanging from the ceiling and then buying some locally caught fish from the fishmonger. After that we headed into the open country towards the southern tip of the island. This part of Langeland has a unique landscape with many small round shaped hills created during the last ice age. There are some large tracts of open country and for many years wild Exmoor ponies have been allowed to roam as they do a great job of maintaining the natural landscape and are very hardy able to stand the cold and snowy winters. We were lucky enough to come across a big herd, including young foals, and they were confident enough not to be spooked as a few other visitors and ourselves came within about 4m of them.

Exmoor ponies on Langeland
The outlook for Friday was not good as the wind was forecast to be at the top end of F5 and close to our heading. But we had less than 10nm to go so we set off around 0930 for Marstal on the nearby island of Aero. It was not a pleasant trip as not only was the wind constantly towards the top of F6, but also a big sea had been set up and it was right on our beam causing the boat to roll strongly from time to time. However in just under 2 hours we were following the narrow channel towards the harbour and then tieing up within another of those perishing boxes! Aero is in the South Funen Archipelago and is just served by ferries as there is no bridge. It is about 30km long and 9km at its widest point and has a population of over 6,000. It is said to be one of the prettiest islands in Denmark. There are three towns and Marstal is the most southerly.Marstal is the largest town and has a long maritime history which is evident everywhere. It still has a small commercial dockyard and floating dry dock for repairs as well as a nautical school where navigators are taught. The town itself has narrow alleys and passageways and quite a collection of shops.

Impressive merchants buildings and cobbled streets
That evening we ate out at a small simple restaurant next to the marina. It was busy and after a while we were asked (as others had been) whether we would share our four place table with another couple. This turned out to be Jurgen and Monika, a sailing couple from North Germany, who spoke excellent English so we had a very interesting discussion with them about the disastrous referendum result and why this problem had arisen! Not surprisingly I think that they are bewildered by the logic of the decision but also mystified by the assumption that the EU will want to create a generous trading arrangement for the UK!
One excellent service on Aero is an hourly free bus service that links the three towns. So on Saturday morning we "sailed" the bus to the northern town of Soby. There some sort of local event was taking place, involving men jousting with lightweight poles whilst balancing on a couple of telegraph poles above the harbour. Needless to say there were plenty of splashes!

Traditional challenge in Soby!
 The town is small but attractive. We then took the bus back, stopping off for a few hours at Aeroskobing which is half way up the northern coast. Aeroskobing is described as probably the most well preserved Danish town of the eighteenth century although it dates back to the middle ages.

Looking towards the harbour in Aeroskobing
Aeroskobing has cobbled streets, beautiful flowers (plenty of hollyhocks) and many small well preserved houses with some interesting details and curiosities! It is recognised as a site of national significance but not with standing that it seems to be lively and interesting.

Old house and newer three wheeler run about!
Returning to Marstal we met Jurgen and Monika again, looked over their lovely seventy year old restored yacht and chewed over politics and sailing over a beer!
Through Saturday/Sunday night it seemed to rain continuously but amazingly about 0900 it stopped and we prepared to slip our mooring. I checked the weather forecasts from two sources. They gave similar but not identical results with SW wind speeds of around 8-9 metres per second (the common unit in the Baltic). That equated to Beaufort Force 5, so an assumption that we might get gusts to F6. Our passage was going to be about 25nm W to Faaborg on the island of Fyn. For about the first hour and a half this involved following buoyed channels that kept us in water with a minimum depth of 2.5-3m (we need 1.4m absolute minimum). After that 90 minutes we then had about two and a half hours in deep water (up to around 30m) before approaching Fyn between the islands of Avernako and Lyo and then Knoldon and Bjorno. This again involved careful navigation as we skirted areas of shallow water and isolated rocks.
Our departure started well enough with a pleasant F4 W breeze but as our journey progressed this increased to F5, then F6 (11-14 m/s) with gusts to F7 (15m/s, 33kn). We could see big storm clouds around us and the wind also became more W so we were motor sailing just off the wind at times. I did head further W than planned trying to seek some shelter from the NW part of the island of Aero and when the wind was over 30kn and still climbing I did discuss with Andrea seeking refuge in the harbour at Soby that we had visited the day before. But we decided to carry on and the wind began to abate and towards the end of the passage we did get shelter from the islands as we passed them. But this was the third consecutive passage where we have had winds of F4-5 forecast and F5-6-7 delivered so we will be even more cautious about the forecasts in the coming weeks!
We found plenty of space in the town harbour at Faaborg and picked a box next to a Danish couple. As the afternoon wore on the sun came out and the wind dropped. The next day gradually became warm and sunny too so we had plenty of opportunity to explore an interesting small town. It retains its maritime heritage with a few fishing boats, ferries to smaller islands, ship repair and servicing facilities and visiting historic sailing ships carrying small numbers of cruising enthusiasts (about 20 people is typical). Just along from the harbour front is  a new harbour bath; this has a new wooden pier and harbour staircase enabling people to easily take a swim in the Baltic sea.

The pool at Faaborg
The town itself has many cobbled streets and attractive medieval and later merchants houses with an attractive central square and one town gate from the middle ages. We particularly enjoyed climbing the recently restored bell tower of the Holy Spirit Church, the only part remaining from the original 1450 building.

From the bell tower
In the evening we ate at the cafe on the harbour side which has its own fish smokery (we also ate at a similar establishment in Aeroskorbing - who says that you can have too much of a good thing?). The fish of your choice is served with a traditional Danish potato salad. We also had some prawns (apparently called shrimps in Danish) smoked with garlic and some without. 
One thing that we have noticed is that food and other costs in Denmark are noticeably more than at home and in Germany and the Netherlands. With the collapse of the £ caused by the Brexit vote costs may be 20-30% higher, probably a more reasonable 10-20% higher pre-Brexit vote. One factor is that Danes are paid noticeably higher wages, especially at the lower end of the scale and this rightly feeds through to costs. They also pay higher taxes but, as we have been reading in a book "A Year of Living Danishly" they get higher quality health and social support plus a much better standard of living in return. It is not surprising that polls show Danes at or near the top of polls for the happiest and most contented peoples in the world.
Overnight and Monday morning bought the forecast lighter winds but a leaden sky. So at 0900 we slipped the mooring to head 16nm west to Svendborg, also on Fyn island. As we left the harbour a British yacht arrived - just the second that we had seen in our five days in this part of Denmark. An uneventful passage passing between islands and under a 33m high road bridge led us to the very busy commercial harbour in the centre of the town. It soon began to rain heavily and with a forecast of a gale overnight and into the next day we committed to staying two nights. Between the spells of heavy rain we walked around the large shopping centre, a mixture of old and new, more workmanlike than traditional.
Old house - ill fitting windows and doors!
For tomorrow we have established that we can take the train to Odense, one of the largest cities in Denmark and the home of Hans Christian Andersen and plenty more besides.

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