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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Rostock - Burgstaaken (24 September 2016)

On another warm sunny morning we started our exploration of Rostock. A city of over 200,00 people with an interesting historic centre surrounded by a ring road heavy with traffic. Rostock had been heavily bombed in World War 2 and then suffered at the hands of concrete slab building during the the DDR (East Germany) era. It does have a large student population which gives it a lively feel although this is offset by empty shops and buildings and wide open (and empty) spaces. Nevertheless we were interested to see Marlenkirche, the only church to survive WW2, with its 12 metre high astrological clock built in 1472 showing the exact date on which Easter falls every year. The integral discs last for 130 years, the next one due in 2017. The clock is apparently the oldest one of its type in the world still with its original mechanisms.
Astrological clock completed 1472
There was little else of particular note apart from two remaining city gates and the impressive 13th century Rathaus.
With the temperature at 27C in late afternoon (incredible for the Baltic in mid-September) we dined out on excellent fish in a restaurant on the waterside.
A relatively early start the next morning, casting off at 0745, as we had a fair distance to cover to our next destination, Wismar. A still sunny morning as we motored up the river to the mouth at Warnemunde. Rostock industry gradually gave way to reed beds and tree lined banks and then back to industry with the ferry terminals (from Sweden, Denmark and Finland for certain), a naval base, cruise liner ports, ship repair yards and plenty of other marine activities. For the first 5+nm we didn't see another boat but then in the last mile we met three incoming ferries, the ship that services the marine cardinals and buoys, ferries crossing the river, a naval service boat and a small support ship.
Once clear of the mouth we turned W and for the coming hours we mainly motor sailed with the help of a light following wind until we turned into the bay at the foot of which is Wismar.
We had completed over 44nm by around 1545 when we docked at the sailing club at Westhafen. 
Wismar is a smaller and more compact town than Rostock. It is a short distance through a wide bay and still has some commercial shipping, mainly coasters from Sweden and Poland delivering timber and other goods so far as we could see. There is evidence in the shape of cranes, warehouses and other buildings of greater marine commerce including shipbuilding in the not too distant past. There are three major docks and half of one, the Westhafen is now occupied by the yacht club that we berthed at. Another, the Alter Haven, also has some space for fishing and larger vessels whilst the third, Uberseehafen, is largely derelict except for a small municipal marina in the corner. The Alter Haven is steadily being regenerated with warehouses and mills turned into flats, fishing boats selling their wares from the boats, new shops and quite a few restaurants. There is some way to go but it looks promising. 
View from the Tower towards the Westhafen
Wismar became a Hanseatic League town in the 13th century and its buildings clearly testify to a prosperous place for hundreds of years after that. The town and some surrounding areas then spent most of the 16th and 17th centuries as part of Sweden and there is evidence of that too, including two baroque Swedish heads which stand on mooring posts guarding the entrance to the harbour. (These are replicas, the originals having been damaged by a Finnish barge in 1902, one original being in the town museum). Then in 1945 the town was bombed by the RAF and finally Wismar was in the former East Germany until 1991 which is why not everything about the town is satisfactory. But it is a UNESCO heritage site with a superb central market square dominated by a magnificent Rathaus. It is said to be the largest remaining medieval town square in Northern Germany. 

Part of the central market square
 We also visited four churches, St Nikolai Kirche, the largest and only remaining intact of the three red brick churches that dominated the roof-scape before 1945; Heiligen Geist Kirche, originally a hospice dating from the 13th century; St Marien Kirche, originally built in the 13th century but all that remained after the 1945 bombing was the steeple; and St Georgen Kirche, again bombed and then left in ruins in the time of the DDR, its shell has now been reconstructed and it is used for concerts and public events. So quite a change in church use in about 70 years.
Although a lovely sunny evening there had been a little cloud in the sky that day and it looked as though, after 11 days of sunshine, the very warm spell was coming to an end. The following day there was more cloud in the sky and the forecast was for strong breezes of F4 and F5 for our 30nm trip to Travemunde. We cast off just before 0900 and for the first few hours headed north out of the bay. As we began to lose the shelter of the land the wind and the waves increased until eventually we were coping with winds of F5 gusting to the top end of F6 and wave heights of around 1.5-2.0m. Naturally we were sailing fast at times but once we turned to head W, for the last final 90 minutes or so we had the E wind right behind us as we surfed with the waves.
Travemunde is a coastal resort at the mouth of the Trave river which leads to Lubeck. It is a thriving holiday resort and a very busy car and commercial vehicle ferry port with regular departures to Scandinavian and other Baltic ports. To our surprise the various marinas had few spaces but we did eventually find a place for a couple of nights. We were at the end of a pontoon adjacent to the main channel so the ferries passed very close to us.
Ferry manoeuvering in channel, going astern to dock.
On Sunday we took the bus to spend time in a founding city of the Hanseatic league which also has over 1,000 historic buildings, some dating back to the 12th century. Another World Heritage Site which also suffered bombing, in 1942, but also famous for its marzipan. We spent a day looking at the impress city centre with streets lined with medieval merchants' houses and spired churches. 
Street with Merchants' houses.
 The 13th to 15th century Rathaus is apparently widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany; the very substantial Gothic Marien Kirche has the world's highest brick vaulted roof and was the model for dozens of churches in Northern Germany; and there are two remaining city gates, the Holstentor which appears to have a sag and the Burgtor. 
Holstentor City Gate
We found Willy Brandt House, an exhibition about the life and work of the Lubeck born former Berlin Mayor and then West German Chancellor very interesting both for what it said about him (for example he was an exile in Norway and then Sweden from the early 1930's until the end of WW2) and the events he handled including the Nazi years, War Crimes Tribunals, the Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall, his European commitment and his philosophy of Ostpolitik. 

By Monday morning the strong winds of the two previous days had abated and so we left and headed around 12nm E to the smaller town of Neustadt. This time it was a pleasant sail in a NE 3/4 on our beam. We tied up in the old harbour and strolled around a busy but ordinary town! 
Quay close to town centre
The following day we cycled along the coast stopping for coffee at the small holiday resort of Pelzerhaken and then for lunch at the larger resort of Gromitz. The cycle route was very varied from well built promenades to mud tracks (thankfully dry) through woods.

Sculpture en-route
It was another sunny September day so there were plenty of other cyclists and walkers. We passed by a number of mobile home and caravan parks as well as apartment blocks and hotels in the main settlements. There were signs that these were originally small villages but clearly much holiday development had taken over. Not surprising as the sandy beach was virtually continuous.

On Wednesday morning we headed NE along the coast motoring against a NNE wind until we passed a headland where the coast changed to a NW axis and we were able to sail to the small resort of Grossenbrode where there is a large lake accessed through a narrow channel. We were now just 5nm from our final destination and so Thursday was spent beginning the process of laying up Whileaway. There was just a light breeze so we spent a couple of hours taking down the sails and putting them in their bags for the winter. Then we began cleaning and other chores.

Friday was already warm at 0900 as we headed the short distance to Burgstaaken. We were able to tie up to the company pontoon and continue our preparations for the removal of the mast and the lift out on Saturday morning.

The mast is lifted off
 In the succeeding couple of days we completed our list of maintenance and related work before, on Tuesday morning we drove the 450 miles to the Hook of Holland and the ferry to Harwich.

By the end of our 2016 cruise we had travelled 1,121nm sailing on 45 days and staying on board for 77 days. Our journey had taken us from Amsterdam, through the Netherlands, the East Frisian Islands, the Kiel Canal, the German Baltic coast, various islands in Denmark, part of the west coast of Sweden and back to Germany. The weather had been a little bit indifferent early in the year but September had been marvellous with almost three weeks of unbroken sunshine. Next year we are thinking of varying the times that we are away and heading up the east coast of Sweden towards Stockholm.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Dragor - Rostock, Germany (13 September 2016)

Having had August at home we started our journey back to Whileaway on the evening of Monday 5 September. This time we took the car as near the end of the month we would be getting Whileaway laid up for the winter and we had gear to bring home. Our journey took some organising.
We left Wiltshire at 1800 on Monday night immediately after a Board meeting that I needed to attend. We then drove nearly 200m to Harwich, arriving at 2145 and soon on to the Stenna Line ferry. We were off the ferry and cleared border control at the Hook of Holland by 0830. We drove through Netherlands and Germany (mainly on motorways)  to Burg on Fehmarn Island a distance of about 400m arriving there at 1545. After a little delay as our contact was not at the yard that afternoon we eventually put the car into one of the yacht halls to await our return in Whileaway and sorted out a few details. We then had time for a beer and an early supper in Burg, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. We walked to the town station and caught the local 1844 train to Puttgarden on the north of  the island, where shortly afterwards we boarded the 1905 ICE train from Hamburg to Copenhagen. Having boarded, the train rolled on to one of the regular ferries for the 45 minute crossing to Nyrobing in South Denmark. So having just boarded the train we had to alight and go to the passenger area on the ferry! The ferry company made much of the fact that we were travelling on one of a fleet of the most environmentally friendly ferries in the world, amongst the features being a big bank of batteries enabling the ferry to store power for later use.

Scandlines Hybrid Ferry
Once across the water we re-boarded, had a quick passport check and the train then continued to Copenhagen arriving on time at 2222. From outside the station we caught the 5A bus towards Sundbyvester Plads and at the Dresundsve stop we changed to the 350S to Dragor.
We were on Whileaway in Dragor harbour at 2330 just under 29 hours since leaving Wiltshire.
Apart from the loss of a fender (don't know why) Whileaway was just as we left her. After all the usual checks, refitting some gear that is stowed away when we leave her and reprovisioning at the local shops we slipped our mooring at just after 1130 on Wednesday morning.
We headed south towards the small town of Rodvig which we had visited in July. It was a sunny day with just a little cloud and for a while we were able to sail but then the wind dropped and being on the nose we decided that it would be quicker to motor. We were about half way to Rodvig, crossing from one part of the Danish coast to another when Andrea noticed three seemingly identical naval ships heading north on a parallel course about 2nm to the E of us. We were watching them, interested in what they may be up to, when the VHF radio burst into life with "Whileaway this is Polish Warship Resko". I returned the call and Resko requested that we switch to a working channel. The next call from ORP Resko was blunt "Whileaway change course 10 degrees West". I called back "Polish warship Resko this is Whileaway, confirm alter course 10 degrees west, over". There was then a little delay and the answer came back that there was now no need for a course alteration! so we pressed on. Naturally we kept watching the three ships wondering what they were up to in what were Danish territorial waters. They certainly manoeuvred around, sometimes circling, sometimes stopped before eventually they set off S heading back from whence they came. We could only assume that they were on some sort of exercise, perhaps hunting a submarine? Later we established that the ships were Minehunter/Minesweeper class so perhaps they were supposed to be finding dummy mines?
Arriving at Rodvig just before 1800 we were surprised at how empty the harbour was. On our last visit in mid-July the harbour had been three quarters full when we arrived at lunch time! This pattern of quiet empty harbours stayed with us throughout the following days, so much more pleasant than being with the crowds! When we had visited Rodvig before we had visited Stevens Klift and other places so this time we just required an overnight stop.

Beautiful sunny September morning in Rodvig harbour
The next morning was again sunny and we watched the swallows flying low over the water catching breakfast. before setting off to the S again, this time just 25nm to Klintholm on the S coast of the Island of Mon. We sailed nearly all the way there, admiring Mons Klint, the unusual sheer sided white cliffs, more of which later. Klintholm is a popular passage port for vessels heading W/E or E/W in the S Baltic Sea. The harbour has some relatively new holiday homes and the settlement around the "Havn" has quite a few houses plus a holiday camp site, a small supermarket and a few restaurants. It is a very pleasant place to stop.
On Friday morning we decided to explore the east side of Mon. we decided to begin by cycling 17km to the main town of Stege. The town has plenty of old streets and buildings and lies alongside the waterfront.The main street had a variety of shops and a nice feel to it.

Limited selection of products in this shop?
After a coffee and a look around we were next to head east across the island to Mons Klint which we had passed the day before. This would involve a 20km cycle ride and so Andrea proposed enquiring about the bus service. There was an hourly service and on asking the driver (with the assistance of a local - who it turned out was an ardent follower of Wiltshire crop circles!) it was not a problem to take our folding bikes on the bus. So 45 minutes later we arrived at Mons Klint. The geology is that about 70 million years ago Denmark was covered by ocean. The chalky ocean floor was raised above sea level before the last ice age reached Denmark about 12,000 years ago.Ever since then the cliffs have been eroding and at present rates the cliffs and the island of Mon will disappear in about 50,000 years. Mons Klint is also known for its Peregrine Falcons (breeding here having vanished from Denmark for 30 years), wild orchids, the black spotted blue butterfly (seen nowhere else in Denmark) and of course many fossils. Unfortunately we didn't see any of these particular features!
Mons Klint
We walked down the 500 steps to the base of the cliffs and then along the very narrow beach to the next steps about 2km along. We completed the loop back to where we had left our bikes and then cycled about 15km back to Klintholm. That evening we had an excellent meal in a very friendly Italian restaurant close to the harbour - with a little musical interlude provided by the chef/proprieter!
On Saturday we had another warm sunny day and at 0930 we slipped our mooring and started heading W towards the estuary that leads towards Stubbekobing on the island of Falster. We were able to sail close hauled for about three and a half hours before putting on the motor and turning north into a narrow buoyed channel between the islands of Mon and Falster. Stubbekobing was pleasant but sadly quite run down with empty shops and houses despite some signs of industry. A bright spot was the traditional ferry still operating between Stubbekobing and the island of Bogo.
Histoic Bogo Ferry
So the following day we set off back down the channel and then W  along the coast to Gedser. Another warm sunny day and more sailing with a SW wind around F3/4. As we neared Gedser we could see the ferries (between Germany and Denmark) moving up and down the buoyed channel. We crossed that channel and left a drying bank to port turning up towards the harbour. Plenty of room again as we chose an alongside berth. A walk around Gedser revealed some interesting buildings, a mixture of old and new, but again it looked as though there had been better times in the past. Indeed an exhibition in the ferry terminal showed that the heyday was in the 1960's and 1970's with busy ferry crossings and a railway terminal. Gradually other ferry routes and bridges developed and the trade declined although a regular ferry service is still sustained. After a lovely day another beautiful sunset.
Sunset Gedser
The following morning we spent time on domestic issues - clothes washing and boat maintenance. After lunch we cycled N to the town of Nykobing F (The F to distinguish it from other Nykobing towns in Denmark). This seemed thriving with plenty of attractive buildings and people about in the town centre. It also had plenty of industry with what looked like grain silos, sugar beet processing plants and so on. But by the time we got back to Gedser we had cycled just short of 50km (over 30m) so quite tiring on our Bromptons. 
Traditional houses Nykobing centre
Tuesday 13 soon produced another warm sunny day. We left after taking on diesel and were soon sailing due S with a variable E and then SE wind. So we sailed most of the 26nm to Warnemunde, dodging the Scandline ferries at times and then began motoring the 7nm down the Warnow River to Rostock.Initially it was a very industrial and maritime landscape but this then gave way to reed beds before we rounded a bend and then began to see the buildings of Rostock in front of us. This was to be a two night stop so plenty of time to explore the city the next day. 
Approaching Rostock