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Thursday, 28 July 2016

Kalvehave - Dragor (28 July 2016)

Wednesday 13 July brought a sunny morning with lighter NW winds F2/3. I was pleased about the lighter winds as for the first 10-12nm we had to carefully navigate very shallow waters where at times we might only have 0.5-2.0m below the keel. The chart showed that most of the time the channel was well buoyed but there were areas where you had to choose where to cross from one marked channel to another. We slipped our mooring at 0800 and after a mile in deep water, having passed an E cardinal Andrea spent some time searching with the binoculars for a W cardinal which we needed to leave on our starboard side and then the first starboard channel marker which was off the very small island of Nyord. These buoys often take some spotting as they are not very tall and are easily lost against the background if there is land behind them. We gradually worked our way along the various channels, which at times narrowed to no more than 10m wide as we passed between port and starboard buoys and the odd cardinal. Gradually though there were a number of other boats using the channel and this is helpful as you get more of an idea how it meanders across the sea. But you do have to keep on your toes so as not to be misled into missing a buoy and cutting a corner with unsatisfactory consequences! We had been planning to head for Rodvig but en route we decided to divert into a fjord where the harbour for the town of Praesto was at the southern edge. This again required us to resume channel watch, the last 3nm including entering the Fjord being through shallow waters.
Residential street near the town centre in Praesto
Praesto turned out to be a good choice. A small town with a street of shops, choice of supermarkets and plenty of bars and cafes. Nice to walk around, also to stretch our legs into the adjoining countryside. The following day we were on our bikes on a “panoramic route” (cycleway 454) of 30km. This took us on a loop through the countryside to the east and south of Paesto mainly on country lanes with little or no traffic. At times we looked across the sea to the channel that we had passed through and en route we did go to the tiny village of Stavreby said to have one of the country's smallest fishing harbours.
Straveby harbour
We also saw the castle ruins and the church at Slotsbakke the latter dating from the fourteenth century. The Church had some well preserved fourteenth century wall paintings as well as the extensively carved pews that we had seen elsewhere. We had expected to find a cafe en route but that was not to be, indeed we met very few people and saw only a little activity throughout the 30km.
Wall painting Slotsbakke Church
On Friday we set sail again and were able to run before the W wind of F5/6 the 16nm to Rodvig. This is a busy fishing and ship repair port as well as having a well used yacht harbour. A German skipper in the next door but one box took our lines as we edged up to the quay in what were blustery winds. A little while later we went to connect to the shore power and discovered that it was a different connector to the standard. The kind German lent us an adaptor which he had for old harbours such as these! But as he was leaving the next day we thought that we would have to move to another box if we stayed longer.
That afternoon we wandered around the adjacent fishing port and the small town. There were plenty of fish restaurants to we decided it would be impolite not to patronise them! The next morning we opted to move as the line of boxes we were in were prone to swell and the boat had rolled during the previous evening and overnight. It was again a blustery morning and in manoeuvring out of the box the anchor caught hard on one of the posts and as the boat was also taken by the wind somehow the anchor was pushed against the post and fractured in two! Andrea managed to retrieve the fluke, as it dangled from the line used to stop it rattling, but that is of little benefit as it clearly is not fit for purpose! Slightly worrying was whether this was a structural fault that might have meant it failing under load, which would not have been desirable. We continued our search for a new box and found one in the corner of the harbour, quite a tight turn to get in there, but we did.
We were now alongside a friendly Swedish couple who, we learnt, were waiting for a replacement part for their engine cooling system to arrive, their engine having been seriously overheating because of an impeller failure. We had been looking to buy postcards for a while and noticed later that our neighbour was writing some. They had found them in the local supermarket. However whilst the cost of the cards had been around 8 DKK (about 90p), a little on the high side, the postage was an extortionate 25 DKK (about £2.80)! Even the shop assistant had apologised for this!The main interest locally are Stevns Klint, unique cliffs on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Stevns Klint is claimed to be the best place anywhere in the world to view the history of when the dinosaurs and half of Earth’s species were annihilated by an asteroid 66 million years ago. We decided to cycle there and spent the morning seeing the exhibition and the cliffs themselves as well as most of the small church on the edge of the cliffs, part having fallen over in 1928. The museum also had local history items, many from the nineteenth century such as old horse drawn fire brigade appliances, a penny farthing and other early bicycles, various shop interiors and so on.
View of Stevns Klint and Church (as we passed the next morning)
A Church was built too close to the cliffs centuries ago and in 1928 part of it toppled over as did some of the cemetry! But it makes a good place from which to view the cliffs although we also walked down a steep flight of stairs to the beach to experience this little bit of historical evidence from below.
We then cycled a further mile to Stevns Lighthouses. The original one in a low rise building had been replaced in the late nineteenth century by a 72 metre tower which we climbed. There is also a disused (since 2011) coastguard station there. During the Cold war Stevsfort just down the coast was a Danish and NATO monitoring and defence installation with high tech radar and ground to air missiles. The Coastguard station had also monitored the straits observing Warsaw Pact shipping movements. We had a long chat with a volunteer about the coastguard and the changes in recent years in both Denmark and the UK.
Early on Sunday morning, before there was too much wind, we were carefully manoeuvring Whileaway to extricate ourselves from the box mooring in a very tight corner of the harbour. With considerable heaving on lines strategically attached to one of the box posts and careful use of revs (and aided by a light wind) we motored astern and got out without damage.
Even at 0730 on a Sunday morning many other boats were also leaving, aiming to make good use of the sunny but breezy morning. We were soon heading W and then N passing Stevns Klint and the lighthouse close by on a very pleasant reach with the wind generally on our beam. It was over 28nm to Dragor, our next port of call and we sailed right to the port entrance, arriving there at lunch time.
We were calling into Dragor as, at the end of this leg, we had arranged to leave Whileaway there whilst we returned to England for August. Dragor is about 6m S of Copenhagen centre; importantly the airport is between Dragor and Copenhagen. So once we had lunch we sought out the Harbour Master and confirmed that we would be arriving in about 10 days. We also talked to a helpful lady in the information office who identified the stop where we could catch the bus to the airport from and also which service we could use if we wished to get into Copenhagen itself.
We noticed that on this sunny Sunday afternoon Dragor was buzzing with many people, both Danes and tourists. Maybe it was because Dragor describes itself as one of the best preserved maritime towns in Denmark. Yellow washed houses with mostly green windows, doors and fencing with thatched or red tile roofs are closely packed into the narrow cobbled streets of the old town. 

Dragor - cobbled streets, yellow washed houses (some thatched) and hollyhocks!
In the middle ages large herring catches were landed at Dragor and in the 1700s it was home to Denmark's second largest commercial fleet. It has also been the site of Denmark's oldest pilot service for more than 300 years. So it has character!
The next day we motored across the Oresund which separates Denmark and Sweden, first running parallel to and then turning north to pass under Oresund Bridge. Of great interest to us as we have seen it so many times in that Swedish thriller “The Bridge” and indeed some other recent Swedish and Danish television thrillers. 
Past the Oresund Bridge
Our journey was just 12nm, the destination being Malmo, Sweden's third city. There are a number of large and small marinas and we had opted for the one of the newest and smallest, Turbinhamnen, which lies close S of the new “Turning Torso” tower, a prominent part of a twenty-first century development that replaced disused docks and shipbuilding yards. 
Twisted Torso tower
We choose to walk into the city and learnt that it was fairly well spread out! We did eventually find our way past the castle and into the many shopping streets and saw the attractive and busy squares, historic churches and other buildings. We learnt fairly quickly that Swedes are not averse to barging their way through without a hint of apology; and also that their banks do not deal with money. If you need that you have to get it from a cash machine. The latter came to light when we went into a branch of Swedbank to see if we could change some notes which are due to be withdrawn next June. After about five minutes of a seemingly confused conversation with a young member of staff it became clear why they couldn't help; it was because the bank didn't handle cash except that being issued through their cash point! I found this difficult to comprehend and I did say “but you are a bank are you?”. Yes, definitely a bank and they can deal with all kinds of electronic payments (mobile pay using your mobile phone is more noticeable in both Denmark and Sweden than elsewhere) but not receiving or dispensing cash!
A full day in Malmo was sufficient and next morning we cast off heading 20 nm N for the island of Ven which is just inside Swedish waters in the middle of the Oresund. Our Cruising Association sources said that the main harbour can get busy at weekends with rafting up required. But this was Tuesday, albeit very sunny and in the middle of the school holidays. Even so when we arrived at 1300 we were amazed to enter a very congested harbour with boats rafted three or even four out. We decided that this wasn't our cup of tea as if it was busy and congested now it would be worse by late afternoon. So we rapidly left and started heading NE towards the main shipping lanes at the N end of the Oresund and after adjusting our course to avoid a tanker heading S and a container ship N, by 1500 and after 31nm we were moored in the Swedish harbour of Helsingborg. Helsingborg is just over two miles across the Oresund from the city of Helsingore in Denmark. Ferries shuttle backwards and forwards every 15 minutes.
Helsingborg is a modern city but with some medieval buildings and a castle tower. In the morning we went on a walking tour of the city centre helpfully following the leaflet identifying the main buildings and statues of interest. 

Helsingborg street with buildings dating from medieval period onwards
We also found a fishmonger and then an excellent cheese shop where the proprietor talked to us about Swedish cheese and of course insisted we sampled any before we bought. He also talked about English cheeses and we discovered that Stilton was very popular at Christmas with Swedes and he sold a huge quantity of that and Red Leicester. He thought that the English made the best Cheddar cheese so he stocked that all the year round. He sold us award winning Swedish Blue cheese from a local producer and it was very good. He also had some excellent very fresh green olives which again had to be sampled before purchase.
He asked about our plans for the rest of the day and we said that we were thinking of cycling somewhere. He recommended Sofiero about 7km along the coast. This is billed as Sweden's “most beautiful palace and park” originally created in 1865 and open to the public from around 1900 when it ceased to be available to royalty. The gardens and the park were pleasant but we have seen much better elsewhere!
Harbourside art Helsingborg
On Thursday morning we set off after 0900 and before 1000 we were tying up in a box in Helsingore. During the day we explored the city centre – more medieval buildings than across the water – and a much larger town centre. Also a medieval church with cloisters. There were very many Swedish visitors with wheeled suitcases who had come across on the ferry to buy alcohol. Sweden has high taxes on alcohol and most of it is retailed through a state owned company. We had noticed the previous day that all the (limited supply) of beer in a small supermarket in Helsingborg was no higher than 3.3% alcohol!
After lunch in a French bistro (Moule Marinieres – not as salty of course as traditionally) we went to the impressive Kronborg Slot (Castle) which dominates the city and the Oresund. It is famous for being the setting (Elsinore) for Shakespeare's Hamlet of 1602 and so not surprisingly there is an exhibition of famous actors who have played in a production of Hamlet here over the last 100 years. Various players also act out short scenes around the castle courtyard and elsewhere during the summer months. 
Kronborg Slot dominates the harbour and the Oresund
The castle is UNESCO world heritage listed. It is a very substantial building the first parts of which were built in 1420. Apart from various rooms and apartments and the Ballroom (built 1585 the longest in Scandinavia and where banquets apparently consisted of 65 courses) we also visited the Casements, chilly low ceilinged dungeons which stretch under a large area of the castle. These were used as barracks and storage areas, the soldiers being able to stay there and escape any bombardments as well as fire on any attackers. A very interesting tour the only negative part being having to keep out of the way of the jostling Japanese tour groups!
I had read that Gilleleje, about 12nm to the N was an old attractive fishing village gradually expanding to take in more yachts so I thought that worth a visit. However when we arrived about midday on the Friday it was to discover a harbour already very full! The reason became apparent a little while later – it was day one of a two day jazz festival. We rafted up alongside a Swedish boat.
It is certainly true that this is a fishing harbour with probably the biggest fleet that we had seen in a single harbour in Denmark. 
Just a small part of the fishing fleet
There are older thatched buildings and a few attractive streets but the town has quite a lot of modern development. There is a busy shopping street and also many stores, including an excellent fishmonger, around the harbour.
Think that we will stick to the Bromptons on the boat!
As this was also the fourth day of sunshine and the temperature was now in the mid-20s the town and adjacent beaches were very busy. However we were in ringside position to listen to the jazz throughout the evening; and of course we were able to buy smoked fish for our meal.
A sailor on a Swedish yacht next to us asked if we has visited Molle in Sweden. He said that it was worth visiting, a small harbour close to the end of the peninsular north of Malmo. Get there by noon he suggested. It was only about 11nm across the Oresund from Gilleleje and we left around 0830 and for over an hour had a pleasant close reach sail before the wind died. Arriving at the harbour we discovered how small it was but we managed to get alongside the quay. By early afternoon we had four boats rafted outside us as did our only other neighbours on the short quay. Immediately alongside us were a Swedish family who were based in the Archipelago (on the E coast around Stockholm). I had a useful chat with them about when high season was for that area. I had already learnt that schools in Sweden have only limited holidays around Christmas and Easter but that schools are usually closed in June and July. The advice we had from this sailor was that in June as the sea was still a little chilly, the tempo was slow to pick up. July was very busy but in early August it became much quieter and the sea was still warm. So if, as planned, we go that way next year we will be at home in July and away from early August again.. This was the warmest day of our Baltic trip with the temperature around 27C. This is a small village but apparently full of holiday homes. On a sunny Saturday there were plenty of holiday makers around the harbour and on the nearby beaches. 
Molle harbour from the top of the hill
In the afternoon we took the cliff walk alongside the coast which took us through woods, scrubland with sheep and alongside a golf course to the end of the peninsular at Kullaberg where there is also a lighthouse. This whole area from just outside Molle is a nature reserve and thus protected from development, with of course excellent views. Some of the footpath was quite difficult terrain but we felt that the three hour walk was a good workout as well as offering interesting views.
We had advised the boats that tied up outside of us that we wished to leave at 0900 on Sunday morning. So around then boats started slipping their moorings and we were soon underway. It was another sunny morning with blue sky and a flat sea with very little wind so with the other yachts we were motoring S losing about 1 knot to the prevailing current in the Oresund. Our plan was to see if the island of Ven was less crowded than when we called in about 5 days previously but if not to head for the nearby Swedish port of Landskrona. We weren't surprised to find Ven still busy and not being keen on another busy harbour we went on a further 5nm (32nm in all) to Landskrona. This town has some commercial docks as well as the ferry to Ven and is easy to spot as there are half a dozen wind turbines on an island just to the south of the buoyed channel entrance. After a sailing club there is a very small marina (well just three pontoons really) fringed by some new flats on one side and old converted warehouses on the other; and there was plenty of space. 
Whileaway in the harbour at Landskrona
This is clearly a working town but with wide cobbled streets and some impressive historical buildings. But in addition signs of some economic decline with empty shops and areas awaiting redevelopment. In addition there was a fine Citadel which we walked around as well as an artificial beach and areas where people could swim in the sea. We also saw electric trolley buses (the signage claiming that it was running off 100% renewable electricity) and buses that were running, so they said, off biogas.
The Citadel
The following day we motored 15nm across the Oresund to Copenhagen having decided to stay at the sailing club that runs Margretheholm marina. This marina is not in the most attractive location, being close to the major power plant for the city, but it did have a good access, space and, as we were to learn, an interesting walk or cycle into the city.
On the Monday we decided to walk to the city and this gave us the opportunity to see many of the city centre sights. Apart from the extensive waterside these included the new (just opened in 2016) pedestrian/cycle opening bridge Inderhavnsbroen; the picturesque Nyhavn, Hotel d'Angleterre; Parliament; Stock Exchange; Law Courts; Stroget (the main shopping street); the oldest street in Copenhagen; Paper Island with its street food outlets; old military bases now converted to offices or residential; and many canals reminiscent (but on a smaller scale) of Amsterdam! 
The following day we made use of Copenhagen's excellent cycle paths and went to Christiania (the 1970's created commune on redundant government land); both sides of the main canal; the cycling snake taking you between buildings at a higher level; the Torve Hallerne kbh food market (where we had a very nice lunch); Botanical Gardens; Amalienborgslot (home of the current queen); and the Little Mermaid (of course, but over rated perhaps). Most memorably we visited Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Saviours Church) built in the seventeenth century and with a striking interior. But more striking was our decision to climb the 95 metre bell tower, 400 steps, the last 150 spiralling up outside the tower giving you about five 360 degree views as you wind your way round. The steps narrow to the point where they disappear at the very top! So there you are, squeezed between the tower and a narrow railing but with sensational views across the city. 

The city from Vor Frelsers Kirke
Unfortunately a German lady half way up the last 150 steps couldn't cope any more and was clinging to the tower with her eyes shut! We did manage to get down again just before noon and the bells and the carillon sprang into life. We have been up quite a few high buildings including other cathedral and church towers, lighthouses etc but none have quite equated to this. 

Close up of Vor Frelsers Kirke spiral tower
 On Wednesday the sky was overcast for our short 8nm journey S along the coast, under the airport flight path returning to the harbour at Dragor. We are leaving the boat here until early September and we found the space that had been reserved for us. At a cost of under £13 per day (usual daily rate around £18) this is good value for money. As a comparison it is a little less than a summer berth on the west coast of France and a lot less than on the south coast of England where it would cost at least £25 - £30 pd (£17 - £20 average cost if you have an annual contract).In addition Dragor is only 15 minutes by bus from Copenhagen Airport from where we fly to Bristol on Friday evening.
Looking back on the last five weeks we have covered just under 400nm, making our total so far this year just over 850nm. From Amsterdam, through the Markermeer and the Ijsselmeer and then the North Holland Canal to Delfzijl. Then out to the German East Frisian Islands, Norderney and Wangerooge, down the River Elbe and then the Kiel Canal and into the Baltic Sea. We visited some German ports, including Fehmarn Island and then our first port of call in Denmark was Bagenkop on the island of Langeland. From there we visited the islands of Aero, Fyn, Agerso, Femo and lastly Sjaelland, including Copenhagen. We have also visited some ports on the Swedish W coast including Malmo. When we return in September we plan to head S again as we will be finishing at Fehmarn where we will be leaving Whileaway for the winter.

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